Longtime fans of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins already know what Hershey Bears’ goaltender Dany Sabourin is capable of, having witnessed his 30-win season in 2005-06when his outstanding work tending the twine for the baby Pens earned him the Baz Bastien award as the best goaltender in the AHL. On Saturday night, they were eyewitness to some more of his solid work as he backstopped the Bears to a 3-2 road win over the Penguins.
Sabourin got off to a rough start last season in his first season as a Bear, but eventually regained his form and finished with a solid 14-9 record. However, he struggled in two losing outings against his former club, including an October 30th outing at Giant Center where he only lasted 9:51 when he yielded way to backup goalie Todd Ford after allowing three goals on only seven shots.
“Those types of things are always there a little bit, but I came into this year thinking it doesn’t matter which team we’re playing. I knew they beat me last year, but that’s in the past. I’m just focused on looking forward, and I was pretty happy with my performance tonight. It was a team win where everybody played well and showed up,” said Sabourin, who finished with 23 saves and made his best save of the night in the first period when he beat down Bryan Lerg's shorthanded breakaway attempt.
In keeping with the night long “bounce theme”, the Bears benefitted from a fortuitous bounce in attaining the game’s first goal at 11:27 of the first period. With the puck high along the boards and just inside the blueline, WBS’ Eric Tangradi attempted to clear his zone, but Christian Hanson was able to get his puck on the attempt and the puck found its way to Kyle Greentree, who was stationed at the top of WBS goaltender Brad Thiessen’s crease. With little room to operate, Greentree stickhandled in a phone booth and skillfully slid a backhand shot behind Thiessen.
The Bears lead lasted exactly four minutes until the Pens’ Brian Gibbons went coast-to-coast with his team in shorthanded mode to knot the contest at one with an unassisted goal, but the visitors quickly regained their one-goal lead only twenty seconds after the Gibbons goal when Matt Ford intercepted a clearing attempt high in the WBS zone and then fluttered a shot on net that bounced off a stunned Thiessen and into the net.
The Pesky Penguins knotted the game at two when veteran Niko Dimitrakos, making his WBS debut, dented the twine 1:06 into the middle frame, converting a nice centering pass from Colin McDonald into his first goal as a baby Pen.
Things quieted down after Dimitrakos’ goal, but the Bears were presented with a glorious opportunity to take command of the affair just past the midway point of the session when they earned a 5-on-3 advantage for 1:09. Before the Bears went to work on their mission, head coach Mark French, with his team mired in a 0-for-6 power drought in this young season, called a timeout to talk strategy with his troops. However, despite the chalkboard talk from their coaches, the Bears squandered the opportunity, mostly as a result of excessive passing and minimal shooting (unofficially three shots on goal during the sequence).
“It’s one of those things that early in the year where you haven’t had a lot of time to practice,” said French. “So I thought it was good to use your timeout to make sure that everybody knew what their responsibilities were. I thought we had some pretty good chances to score on the 5-on-3 but the bottom line is that it didn’t go in. Oftentimes when you don’t score on those opportunities it comes back to bite you, but fortunately today it didn’t."
Christian Hanson, who scored his first goal as a Bear (shorthanded) in Binghamton on Friday, had a splendid chance at his second of the season in the fifteenth minute of the frame, but his breakaway forehand attempt was gloved by Thiessen and the game remained tied entering the third period.
Early in the final frame of regulation, the Bears finally put a positive number on their power play stats with Keith Aucoin doing the goal-scoring honors. Aucoin, after taking a pass from Ryan Potulny down low, had an option to pass to Matt Ford, but decided against that option and buzzed a blast by the glove of Thiessen at 3:33.
“The 5-on-3 was pretty frustrating. We had a couple of good opportunities, but the rebounds bounced to the side and to them. We stayed confident in ourselves and remained upbeat because we knew we’d get another chance, and we capitalized. It was kind of 2-on-1 and I saw him there, but the d-man actually played it really well. My last option is always to shoot, and knew I had to get it up and I was able to get it up over his glove,” said Aucoin.
Notes- The Bears scratched defenseman Zach Miskovic and Brett Flemming and forwards Joel Rechlicz and Graham Mink (veteran scratch).
The Bears have only allowed a thrifty 13 shots against in the first period of their two games this season.
Hershey defenseman Patrick McNeill left for the dressing room area in the first period after absorbing a hard hit, but later returned to the game.
Penguins forward Zach Sill missed the game, serving a suspension for illegal hit to the head that he laid on Miskovic at Giant Center in a pre-season game on October 1st.