Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Walker and Pens Waddle by Bears 12.28.11

Although the logo on the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins’ uniforms is a penguin, the Baby Pens are apparently living a cat’s life as the visitors overcame a two-goal third period deficit and emerged with a 6-5 shootout win over the Hershey Bears at Giant Center on Wednesday night.

The win by the Penguins was their ninth straight triumph at Giant Center, a streak that dates back to last season.

After a scoreless first period, the Penguins tallied the first goal of the game when Eric Tangradi tickled the twine 1:21 into the second period.

Hershey’s Graham Mink (power play) and Cody Eakin countered Tangradi’s goal to give the Bears their first lead of the game, but a goal by Geoff Walker with just over a minute after Eakin’s marker tied it up at two entering the last minute of the second period.

In the eventful last minute, WBS’s Zach Sill struck with his club in shorthanded mode, but a power play goal by Hershey’s Tomas Kundratek at 19:38 sent the game into the third period tied at three.

Power play goals seventy-five seconds apart by Chris Bourque (4-on-3) and Ryan Potulny gave the Bears a 5-3 lead less than eight minutes into the third period, but the pesky Pens sent the game into overtime and eventually the shootout when Tangradi (at 11:02) and Nick Petersen (at 18:07) put pucks behind Bears’ netminder, Dany Sabourin.

Ironically, the shootout went nine rounds and ended with Walker beating Sabourin on the Pens ninth attempt.

Notes-Potulny has a point in each of the five games he has played this season against WBS.

The game drew a sellout crowd of 10,801 and improved Hershey’s average through 17 home dates to 9,250 which is nearly double the average AHL home attendance (5,023).

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Bears Pound Pens 12.27.11

The Hershey Bears scored early and then often against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins on Tuesday night at Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza and pounded the Pens 6-0.

In their first action after the Christmas break, the Bears blitzed out to a 1-0 lead only 2:35 into the game when defenseman Tomas Kundratek was left all alone in front of WBS netminder Brad Thiessen and converted a centering pass from Matt Ford into his 5th goal of the season.

Before the first stanza was over, Kundratek’s fellow defensemen Julien Brouillette and Patrick McNeill also found the back of the net to give the Bears a 3-0 after twenty minutes of play.

In the middle frame, the Pens outshot the Bears by a 3-to-1 ratio (9-3), but thanks to some stellar work from the goalposts and from Bears’ backstoppper Braden Holtby, the Bears carried a 3-0 lead into the third period.

Jacob Micflikier’s power play strike 6:26 into the third period was followed by a pair of capers by Cody Eakin and gave the Bears the final 6-0 margin of victory, increasing their lead to four points over the Penguins and the Norfolk Admirals for first place in the AHL’s East Division.

Notes-The Bears have outscored their opponents in the first period this season, 47-23.

The Bears have not allowed a first period goal to the Pens in the last three games between the clubs.

Tonight’s game marked the seventh time this season that the Bears have received goals from at least five different players in a game.

Hershey’s six-goal margin of victory was their second of the season (7-1 win over Portland at Giant Center on December 3rd).

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Bears Singe Sound Tigers 12.17.11

No Graham Mink? No problem.

The Hershey Bears, skating without Mink, one of the league’s premier power play performers, still managed to pot three power play goals and cruised to a 5-0 shutout win over the Bridgeport Sound Tigers on Saturday night at Giant Center.

Christian Hanson started the scoring for the Bears by netting his first goal in 20 games to stake the home club to a 1-0 lead at 8:56 of the first period with his fourth goal of the season, a power play marker.

“I was getting my chances, but the puck just wasn’t going in,” said Hanson of his struggles. “It was nice to contribute and hopefully I will continue to be able to do that going forward.”

Hanson’s goal came after he received a crisp pass from Chris Bourque, Hershey’s power play quarterback, who was at his customary point position. Hanson knocked the puck down with his stick and then sailed a shot by Bridgeport netminder Kevin Poulin.

“The one-timer wasn’t possible because it was coming across body from (Chris) Bourque, but he made a nice play to find me in the seam. I knew Kane was in front, and I just wanted to get it on net as quickly as possible, and Kaner made a nice play on the screen and the goalie didn’t see it,” said Hanson.

Later in the period, Hershey captain Boyd Kane, who sat out of his club’s previous two games with a minor injury, turned diligent defensive work into offensive output when he netted his 9th goal of the season at 10:54 and beat Poulin on a breakaway after blocking Ty Wishart’s shot at the Bridgeport blueline.

In the middle frame, Bridgeport came out buzzing and outshot the Bears 5-0 in the early going, and 16-7 overall, but they could not beat Hershey netminder Dany Sabourin. Sabourin, who remained stellar all night long, made his best save of the night in the seventh minute of play when he snuffed out Casey Cizikas’ backhand bid on a semi-breakaway.

Matt Ford tacked on a late period goal to give the Bears a 3-0 lead after forty minutes of action. The sequence started with a faceoff in the Bridgeport zone between Ryan Potulny and Bridgeport’s Trevor Frischmon.

Frischmon controlled the draw in the faceoff circle and then whirled around and erroneously fired a perfect pass behind his own net right onto the stick of a surprised Bear, Jacob Micflikier. Micflikier drifted slightly to his left and then threaded a pass to Matt Ford in the crease area; Ford subsequently proceeded to push the puck into the net behind Poulin who seemed incensed that Ford had completed his mission while surrounded by three Bridgeport defenders.

Ryan Potulny then put the Sound Tigers on ice in the third period with a pair of power play strikes in the first half of the final frame which gave the Bears three power play goal on six opportunities on the evening. Counting tonight’s impressive showing with the extra man (3-for-6), the Bears are a combined and 8-for-25 (32.0%) in their six games and post a 4-1-1-0 record without Mink’s services.

“It’s pretty much the same personnel,” said Bourque when explaining the reason for the success. “Mink’s a big body in front, and he’s so good at tipping pucks and making screens; but we’ve got other guys who fill in that spot, and tonight they were able to get some good lanes for shots from the point. I thought Jake (Micflikier) did a great job of getting in the goalie’s eyes and taking away his vision on the shots from the point.”

Notes- Sabourin, who stopped the last 20 shots he faced against the Portland Pirates on December 3rd at Giant Center, has now stopped 52 straight shots at the venue.

Hershey scratches were Graham Mink (veteran), Kyle Greentree (injured), and Maxime Lacroix, Zach Miskovic, and Patrick Wellar (all healthy).

The Bears now lead the league in wins (12) when leading after two periods.
Bourque and Keith Aucoin, who garnered an assist on Potulny’s first goal, have now each tallied at least a point in 23 of the Bears’ 28 outings.

Hershey’s seven game-winning goals this season at Giant Center have been scored by seven different players (Hanson, Bourque, Kane, Micflikier, Mink, Dimitri Orlov, and Potulny).

The Bears have outscored their opponents 24-11 in first period at GC on the season.
Kane’s goal was the Bears 100th of the season.

The Bears three largest margins of victory have occurred with Sabourin in net: tonight’s game, a six-goal verdict over Portland on December 3rd, and a seven-goal verdict over Syracuse on October 23rd.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Pens Put Bears' Win Streak on Ice 12.10.11

There’s a reason that hockey games are played on the ice and not on paper, and Saturday night’s matchup between Keystone state rivals Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and Hershey Bears at Giant Center was a good testament to that.

The baby Pens entered the game without the services of Jason Williams who had been recalled to Pittsburgh prior to the game, as well as a couple of other key cogs to their engine who were also recently recalled. Additionally, backup goaltender Scott Munroe was tending the twine. While the Bears entered the game on a four-game winning streak and have recently been playing some of their best hockey of the season, it was the baby Pens who prevailed with a 4-2 win.

After a scoreless first period in which the Bears decisively outplayed and also outshot the visitors 15-10, the teams entered the first intermission with neither team able to put a goal on their side of the scoreboard.

In the middle stanza, it was the Bears who lit the lamp for the first goal of the game with their solid second line combination of Matt Ford, Andrew Carroll, and Ryan Potulny all factoring into the goal, with Potulny doing the goal-scoring honors and garnering his 7th goal of the season in the process at 7:38. The sequence started seconds before the Potulny put-away when Carroll craftily redirected a centering pass from Ford in the direction of Munroe and the puck then slithered toward the goal line before defenseman Carl Sneep steered it away. However, the Bears kept the puck in the WBS zone with Ford eventually gathering it in along the back boards. Ford then proceeded to backhand a pass to Potulny who buzzed a shot by Munroe, with Carroll providing a strong screen in front of Munroe to help in the effort.

Hershey’s lead lasted just over four minutes before the pesky Pens tied the game when Ben Street found an open avenue on the blocker side of Bears’ backstoppper Braden Holtby and squeezed a shot by him at 11:48, just 14 seconds after the Bears had successfully killed off WBS’ third power play of the game.

Within the first four minutes of the final frame, the Pens scored on two of their first three shots to essentially put the game out of reach for the Bears. First, it was Eric Tangradi who tickled the twine on a soft backhander from the bottom of the faceoff circle only 46 seconds in, and then it was a Bryan Lerg one-time laser from between the faceoff circles that did the damage.

The Bears pulled Holtby in the final three minutes of regulation, but it was all for naught when the Pens were awarded an empty net goal at 17:55 when referee David Banfield correctly ruled that Hershey’s Graham Mink had intentionally knocked the net off its moorings.

The Bears added a goal by defenseman Tomas Kundratek in the final minute of a play, which extended his scoring streak to five straight games and also gave rough-and-tumble forward Joel Rechlicz his first point of the season, but it was too little too late for the Bears who fell to 13-7-3-2 in suffering the setback.

Notes- Hershey’s scoreless first period was only the second such occurrence on Giant Center ice this season; the other occasion was also a loss against the baby Pens on October 22nd.

The Bears outscored their opponents 19-7 overall during their four-game winning streak, including 10-0 during the second periods of those four outings.

The game marked the first time this season that Potulny only scored one goal in a game. In three previous games, he scored two in each game.

The Bears scratched injured forwards D.J. King and Kyle Greentree, in addition to healthy scratches Garrett Mitchell, Danny Richmond (veteran), and Zach Miskovic (for the sixth straight game).

Washington Capitals’ coach Dale Hunter and his assistant coach Jim Johnson, the former head coach of the Norfolk Admirals, watched the game from the Bears’ suite along with Bears’ President and GM, Doug Yingst.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Bears Slip by Sound Tigers 12.4.11

The Hershey Bears finished off a perfect three-game weekend on Sunday evening in Bridgeport, Connecticut at Webster Bank Arena by edging the Bridgeport Sound Tigers 3-2.

The win by the Bears, their 12th of the season, marked their first three-game winning streak since the first three games of the campaign, and move them into a three-way tie with the Norfolk Admirals and the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins for first place in the AHL’s East Division, but Hershey has one game in hand of each of those rivals.

Bridgeport’s Trevor Frischmon scored the only goal of the first period, but early in the second period, Hershey’s Keith Aucoin took charge and wrested the control of the game to the Bears’ side.

Aucoin, who led the league in points (34) and assists (30) entering the game, netted his 5th goal of the season at 2:50 of the middle frame and then added a shorthanded strike less than three minutes later to give his club a 2-1 lead.

Aucoin’s first goal broke his streak of sixteen consecutive assists, and his shorthanded salvo was the Bears’ first since October 7th when they notched two “shorties” against the Binghamton Senators in their season opener.

Before the buzzer sounded to end the second period, the Bears had increased their lead to 3-1 when Jacob Micflikier beat Bridgeport backstoppper Kevin Poulin from a tough angle. Micflikier’s goal, his 9th of the season, broke a seven-game goal scoring drought for the native of Winnipeg, Manitoba who scored 29 goals for the Charlotte Checkers last season.

In the third period, the Bears survived a late 5-on-3 Bridgeport power play and eventually yielded another goal by Frischmon, but hung on to claim their 7th road triumph of the year.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Bears Pounce on Pirates 12.3.11

The Portland Pirates, not landlubbers and obviously not teddy bear lovers after tonight’s game, fell 7-1 in a ferocious Hershey Bears attack Saturday night at Giant Center thanks in large part to the 10,000-plus teddy bears that were flung onto the ice on the Bears’ annual Teddy Bear Toss night.

After a tentative start by the Bears which included yielding the first goal of the game for only the fifth time this season and the first time in 10 games, a goal by Portland’s Ryan Duncan, the Bears evened the contest up when former Pirate Graham Mink gave the home fans the opportunity to unleash the bears. Mink buzzed a shot by the blocker of Portland goaltender Jason Pogge at 16:28 with the Bears on a power play. Mink’s marker was his 9th of the season, eight of which have been struck at Giant Center.

After the avalanche of bears that were thrown onto the ice after Mink’s goal, the officials elected to send the clubs to their respective dressing rooms while the stuffed animals were collected, and the ice was then resurfaced before the teams resumed play with 3:32 left on the scoreboard clock for the first period.

After the teams returned to the ice, neither team was able to score as the 3:32 ticked away, but 6:28 into the second stanza, thanks in large part to veteran Ryan Potulny, the Bears grabbed back the lead that they had earlier relinquished. Potulny skillfully utilized his veteran guile to garner his 3rd goal of the season.

Potulny’s linemate Jacob Micflikier started the sequence by carrying the puck just inside the Portland blueline where he slammed on the brakes. After coming to the sudden stop, Micflikier saucered a centering pass to Potulny who was cruising down the slot, where he looked to have a play on the puck, but wisely elected to let it go to winger Matt Ford who put a perfect pass on the tape of Potulny who had outraced a Portland defender to the crease area.

Following Potulny’s plundering of Pogge, the Bears added second period goals from Matt Pope, Julien Brouilliette and Mink, and third period strikes from Matthew Ford and another from Potulny to cruise to their 11th win of the season.

Notes- Hershey scratches were defensemen Danny Richmond (veteran) and Zach Miskovic (healthy), and forwards D.J. King (injury), Garrett Mitchell (healthy), and Kyle Greentree (injury).

Former Capital and current goaltending coach of the organization Olaf Kolzig attended the game.

Mink has scored the Bears’ first goal of the game six times this season at Giant Center.