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.