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.