On Wednesday night at Giant Center, the Providence Bruins finally ventured out of New England for the first time this season, and the Hershey Bears, who also beat the Bruins on Thanksgiving Eve in 2009 were thankful for that as they defeated the Bruins 4-3 to break a four-game winless streak.
The Bears, who had scored the first goal in 12 of their 16 games prior to tonight, allowed just 18 seconds to elapse off the Giant Center scoreboard before they lit it up with a goal by Chris Bourque. Bourque combined with fellow New Englander Keith Aucoin and one-timed a shot by Providence netminder Anton Khudobin, who entered the game leading the AHL in saves, to give the Bears a 1-0 lead. Bourque, on his off wing, one-timed a pass from Aucoin, but did not get all of the puck which created a changeup-like effect on his shot, a factor that played heavily in his strike.
“It came a little funny off my blade,” said Bourque. “I didn’t expect it to go in, but those are the bounces you need to get to win games and it was a pretty good start for us. It was nice to be able to build off that.”
Later in the stanza, Hershey goaltender Dany Sabourin allowed a soft shot from David Warsofsky that emanated from halfway up the right wing wall.
“It was one you have to stop. I was drifting back and worried about the guy driving the net, but I really had to play the shot,” Sabourin said.
Rookie defenseman Brett Flemming gave the Bears the 2-1 lead that they carried into the first intermission when his shot from the blueline eluded Khudobin.
Ryan Potulny, playing in his first game since October 8th and his first ever game at Giant Center wearing the Chocolate and White, started the sequence by winning a faceoff in the Providence zone. After the faceoff win, winger Jacob Micflikier gained control of the puck and sent it back to Flemming at the point. Flemming then drifted along the blueline to the boards where he launched a wrist shot that evaded Khudobin thanks to the other winger on the line, Graham Mink, who was coasting through the slot as the shot trickled through.
In the second period, the P-Bruins had a magnificent chance to tie the game right off the opening faceoff, but Sabourin spoiled that bid by snaring Kyle MacKinnon’s shot with his glove hand. The Bears held the Bruins to only five shots in the second period, but Sabourin recovered from his first period misplay and stopped another quality bid by MacKinnon later in the period.
“I bounced back and felt good at the beginning of the game, too, then that goal came,” said Sabourin. “You have to just live with it and move on. The guys played a great game in front of me.”
The Bears enjoyed an 8-3 shot advantage throughout the first 16:43 of the second stanza, but despite that advantage they were unable to lengthen their lead. Then Providence defenseman Ryan Button was sent to the “sin bin” for slashing, giving the home team their first full power play of the night. On the advantage, the Bears peppered Khudobin with four shots before defenseman Patrick McNeill, who kept the puck alive in the Providence zone seconds earlier with a nice keep-in, potted his first goal of the season at 17:35.
“It was kind of a lucky rebound,” said McNeill, who scored on his 25th shot of the season. “Aucoin threw it across to Graham Mink who got a good whack at it. The puck came out of the high slot and I just happened to cruise in from the blue line at that time. I got a couple whacks at it and I even hit it with my skate and I finally willed it in.”
Bears’ captain Boyd Kane gave his club some breathing room 34 seconds into the third period, but the Bruins answered with a goal by Josh Hennessy to make it a one-goal game again at 4-3. However, the Bears never relinquished that lead and came away with the win, which was their first since a November 9th shutout win over Binghamton at Giant Center.
“It’s huge to get out of that rut we were in there,” said Bourque. We were getting one point, but had not been able to get those two points to have a regulation win. Now we want to get some points and catch up in the standings.”
The Bears have scored at least one PPG in all nine of their home contests.
Zach Hamill, the P-Bruins’ second leading scorer this season (6g, 7a), sat out the game to serve a one-game suspension.
Hershey scratched injured players Sean Collins and Kyle Greentree, while the healthy scratches were Danny Richmond, D.J. King, Matt Pope, and Garrett Mitchell.