Saturday, March 31, 2012

Ice Caps Melt Chocolate and White 3.31.12

The Hershey Bears’ seven-game winning streak melted away on Saturday night at Giant Center when they fell to the St. John’s IceCaps, 3-2.

Mike Carman, obviously enjoying his time on the top line, gave the Bears a 1-0 lead at 12:36 of the first period when he deflected a point shot by Sean Collins past Chris Carrozzi, St. John’s netminder, who was making his first AHL start of the season.

Patrice Cormier, whose clearing attempt was intercepted by Collins, which led to the Bears’ goal, made amends less than four minutes after his miscue when he buzzed a rising wrister by the catching glove of Bears’ netminder Dany Sabourin. Cormier’s caper, his 16th of the season, was notched while his club was shorthanded.

Arturs Kulda’s second period goal gave the IceCaps a 2-1 lead, and Cormier added his second goal of the game in the third period to give the visitors a 3-1 lead.

In the last minute of play in the third period, with Sabourin on the bench in favor of an extra attacker, Ryan Potulny extended his goal-scoring streak to five games with his 28th goal of the season, but the Bears could not get the equalizer and fell to defeat in regulation for the first time since a 6-1 setback to IceCaps in St. John’s on March 9th.


Saturday was the 84th birthday of hockey legend Gordie Howe, whose son Mark, a scout for the Detroit Red Wings, attended tonight’s game.

Sabourin, who was making his 9th straight start in net for the Bears, yielded his first third period goal in seven outings when he allowed Cormier’s second goal of the game.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Bears Clip Checkers 03.24.12

The last time the Charlotte Checkers visited Giant Center during last year’s Calder Cup playoffs, an overtime goal by Nicolas Blanchard crushed the Bears’ playoff hopes and sent them to the golf course for the summer. However, on Saturday night at the same venue, Tomas Kundratek’s bone crunching hit on Blanchard in the third period knocked him from the game and propelled the Bears to a 2-1 win, their 5th straight victory.

Up until the time the Kundratek hit was registered at exactly the six minute mark of the third period, the Bears had created little in the way of offense against the Checkers and goaltender Mike Murphy, but trailed only by a goal largely in part by goaltender Dany Sabourin, who was making his 6th straight start between the pipes for the Bears. However, the situation changed less than two minutes later when Chris Bourque intercepted a clearing pass at the Charlotte blueline and found Cody Eakin who managed to beat Murphy from close range to tie the game at a goal each.

“I tried to go down low to Kaner and the guy got his stick on it,” said Bourque. “I don’t know if he was trying to ice it, but I just gloved it down and snapped a high pass to Eakin and he was behind the D and all alone.”

Twenty-one seconds after Eakin earned his 12th goal of the season, Sabourin, on his side, repelled Riley Nash’s attempt to give his club back their lead and kept the game tied at a goal apiece.

“The shot was coming on my blocker side and I was trying to deflect it in the corner, but it hit the inside of my blocker instead and bounced right back to his stick. The puck was bouncing and he really couldn’t get a good shot. I put my glove in front of it. I’m just glad I stopped it,” said Sabourin.

A boarding penalty to Charlotte’s Sean Dolan at 13:58 sentt the Bears’ potent power play unit, which had been denied in their three previous chances by the visitors, on the ice for another try, only this time with the game in the balance. Murphy and company managed to keep the Bears at bay for the first forty-seven seconds of the advantage despite some pressure. But then during a stoppage in play, Bears’ head coach Mark French made a tactical decision and called for a timeout instead of waiting until the end of the game. The move paid dividends when the man his teammates call “Potsy”, Ryan Potulny, potted his 25th goal of the season.

“I thought that one unit had generated some good offensive chances early in the power play. I thought it was a good time to utilize it to try to keep those guys out for two minutes. We had changed a little bit of the strategy of what we had wanted to do in the power play in the zone, and we just wanted to talk as a group and get a quick breather so those guys could play the full two minutes,” explained French.

Despite the fact that the Bears played the last 1:34 of the game shorthanded due to a Zach Miskovic penalty and the fact that the Checkers had pulled Murphy for an extra attacker, Sabourin and his supporting cast weathered the storm to give the club their 36th win of the season.

Sabourin, who stopped 30 shots to notch his 16th win of the season and has backstopped the Bears to wins in his last five starts, acknowledged that he is playing very well, but refused to shoulder all of the success himself.

“It’s a streak as a team because guys are blocking shots and diving to keep the puck out,” Sabourin said,” “They hung in there tonight, so every win we get is because of the team.”

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Bears Bounce by Albany in Shoot Out 3.17.12

Though Saturday night’s game between the Hershey Bears and Albany Devils was played on the St. Patrick’s Day holiday, it was a game more fitting of another holiday-Halloween.

The contest consisted of a seemingly endless series of pucks clanging off the goalpost, combined with some bizarre bounces which led to a peculiar and almost surreal type of atmosphere; but in the end it was the Bears, backstopped by goaltender Dany Sabourin who prevailed with a 3-2 shootout win.

Sabourin, who is now undefeated in his last four starts (3-0-0-1), made his third straight start for the first time this season.

“He’s been good,” said Bears’ coach Mark French regarding his decision to start Sabourin instead of Holtby. “If you look back at the Springfield game, he let in one goal, and then you go St. John’s and he was very good in the shootout loss, and then you come back to last night where I thought he was really strong. Tonight, we opened it up in the third period to really try and push, and we gave up some glorious opportunities the other way and he made some game-saving saves. The one in overtime on (Peter) Harrold on the back door was a great save.”

Defenseman Tomas Kundratek was the offensive hero for the Bears in regulation, scoring a pair of goals, both by benefit of fortuitous bounces. Kundratek, who totaled four points (1g, 3a) against the Phantoms on Friday night, has scored as many points in the two games this weekend (6) as he did in his previous 24 matches.

Sabourin, who credits his recent success to the extra work he does in non-game scenarios, told me he wasn’t originally supposed to get the start, but was given the nod because of Holtby’s impending recall to the Washington Capitals. He made two sparkling stops within a span of 32 seconds early in the third period: one a sliding save on a backhand bid by Tim Sestito followed by a glittering glove save on Joe Whitney.

“I think practice tells you how you are, and I’ve been feeling good in practice the last few weeks and working hard in them, and it’s showing in games,” said Sabourin.

In the shootout, Cody Eakin used his patented move to give the Bears a 1-0 lead in the second round, and then Boyd Kane followed up Eakin’s effort by craftily sliding a puck by Kinkaid that beat him five-hole.

“I don’t know. I can’t remember,” said Eakin about whether his move is an original or a modified version of someone else’s move. “I was doing it in junior a lot and I just come down and fake a slapshot, and that usually freezes the goalie, and I slide it one way and back through the five-hole. It’s just one of things that you end up doing and it’s been working for me, but the last little while it hasn’t, and I kind of shied away from it, but tonight it worked. Hopefully I can continue to get that rhythm back.”


Kinkaid, who beat the Bears in a shootout earlier this season at Giant Center, played his college hockey at Union College in New York state, the same institution that former Bears netminder Kris Mayotte (2008-2009) tended the twine for.

Eakin’s shootout goal broke a 0-for-18 drought for the Bears in the shootout.

The Bears improved to 2-1 in their three games contested on St. Patrick’s Day since their move to Giant Center.

The Bears scratched Hershey scratched Andrew Carroll, Jacob Micflikier, Christian Hanson, and Graham Mink (all injured), in addition to Zach Miskovic and Joel Rechlicz (both healthy).

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Bears Slash Phantoms 3.16.12

Former Hershey Bears’ goaltender, Jason Bacashihua, who was in goal for the Adirondack Phantoms on Friday night at Giant Center, always sports a caricature of the ‘Friday the 13th’ movies iconic Jason Voorhees. However, it was the Bears who unleashed an offensive monster of their own against Bacashihua and the Phantoms and slashed their way to an impressive 6-3 victory.

The Bears’ attack began early in the first period when Tomas Kundratek converted a rebound of T.J. Syner’s backhand shot to give the home team a 1-0 lead at 2:50. Syner was signed by the Bears this week after recently finishing up his college career at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, and picked the assist during his first shift he was suited up as a Bear.

“I was pretty nervous, and there were a lot of emotions going through me,” said Syner after the game. “I just tried to create some opportunity. I dumped it in and Mitchell got on it real quick and made a great play up front and I got a stick on it. The goalie made a great save, then Kundratek put home the rebound.”

Kundratek’s goal was the only one of the stanza for either team, but the Bears nearly had a second one in the eighth minute when Garrett Mitchell, after taking a peek during his pursuit of the puck while short-handed, found Cody Eakin cruising down the slot. Unfortunately, Eakin’s bid was rejected by Bacashihua.

“I saw Cody coming, and I just tried to get it to him so he could do his thing and score a goal. It didn’t work out that time, but I just try to make the plays," said Mitchell.

Early in the second period, the Phantoms, fueled by a Matt Ford goal and assist, took their first and only lead of the game, but a short-handed goal by Mitchell turned the tide back in the Bears’ favor. Mitchell, on a 2-on-1 with veteran Chris Bourque, made the high-percentage play and put the puck on the net, and he was rewarded for his effort with his 6th goal of the season.

“The puck was spinning like a top, and I couldn’t get it to sit. The ice was getting chewed up pretty good, so I just did my best to try to get it to lay flat. It ended up taking a funny bounce and rolled over Bacashihua’s shoulder.”

Both his goal and his peek-pass to Eakin were plays Mitchell probably wouldn’t have made earlier in the year when he was still trying to find his niche in the team and while he was struggling offensively.

“Hockey’s a funny game, and I know any of the guys in here will tell you when you get a little bit of confidence and you feel that you can make that play, it does go a long way. Even if it’s psychological, it seems a lot more than it really is,” said Mitchell.

The Bears added three more goals in the second period, all assisted by Kundratek, to register the first time they’ve scored more than two goals in a period since January 14th when they struck four times against Binghamton in the third period en route to a 6-4 win.


Hershey scratched Andrew Carroll, Jacob Micflikier, Christian Hanson, and Graham Mink (all injured), in addition to Zach Miskovic and newcomer Daniel Koger (both healthy).

The last time that the Bears scored more than two goals in a period on home ice was on January 7th, against the Phantoms when they scored three times in the third period to break up a 2-2 tie.

Dany Sabourin, who collected the win on Friday night by making 31 saves, recorded his first regulation win at Giant Center since he beat the Phantoms on January 7th when he stopped 28 of 30 shots.

Bacashihua was making his first start against the Bears since leaving the club after the 2009-2010 season.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Bears Cruise by B-Sens 3.3.12

The Hershey Bears “MPG” line comprised of Graham Mink, Kyle Greentree, and Ryan Potulny have a lot of AHL miles on them, with the trio possessing a combined 1,178 games of AHL experience among them. On Saturday night at Giant Center, the well-traveled trio was offensively efficient like a well-oiled hybrid, with each member of the group collecting a goal in the Bears’ 3-0 win.

The Bears got off to a decisive early 10-0 shot advantage, but had nothing to show for it until Kyle Greentree’s slapshot from high in the slot gave them a 1-0 lead at 12:44.

“Minker (Mink) did a good job of getting it to Potsy (Potulny), and Potsy cradled the line and drew three guys to him and then made a nice play back to me. Then I saw Minker in front of the net, and I just wanted to make sure I got it on net,” said Greentree.

The goal was the fifth of the season for Greentree, who has had a rough season which began with an injury earlier in the campaign that sidelined him for a long period, but he has found the back of the net in two of the last three outings.

“Coming off an injury like that, it took me a little bit to get everything back,” Greentree said. “I feel good now, and it’s not like I wasn’t getting chances. I was just in a bit of a rut. I knew it was going to come, and it’s nice to see my hard work finally paying off.”

Potulny, who captured the Calder Cup last season in Binghamton with the Senators gave the Bears a 2-0 lead at 14:50 by grinding out his 21st goal of the season, going hard to the net and then pushing in a rebound of a Mink shot by B-Sens netminder, Mike McKenna.

In the second period, the Bears lost some of their momentum from the first period by taking a couple of penalties, but Mink salvaged the frame by netting his 16th goal of the season with 44.4 seconds left in the stanza.

“It was a great play by Cody (Eakin) to step up in the neutral zone after the guy misplayed it,” said Mink. “Then we went in on 2-on-1, and Cody pulled the goalie and the defender over to him and slid it to me. I tried to put it five-hole. He got a piece of it, but it trickled in. He (goalie) wasn’t too happy about it, but it trickled in.”

Mink’s marker was his first at Giant Center since December 28th against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins when he struck on the power play 10:44 into the first period in an eventual 6-5 shootout loss.

“I try to score every night. I was just glad to score and get enough for us to win,” Mink said.

Going into the third period, the only question that remained was whether Bears’ backstopper Braden Holtby and his mates could keep the Senators off the board, and that question was answered in the affirmative when he stopped all six salvos the visitors sent his way and earned his 20th win and third shutout of the season.


The Bears scratched D.J. King and Zach Miskovic (both healthy) in addition to injured forwards Jacob Micflikier and Christian Hanson. Micflikier was the team’s leading scorer this season against the B-Sens coming into tonight’s game, registering eight points (2g, 6a) in five outings.

Potulny’s goal was the Bears’ first tally struck when the club held a lead in eight outings. Prior to Potulny’s putaway the last time that the Bears lit the lamp with the lead was when he tickled the twine late in the third period of the Bears 5-1 win over the baby Pens on February 12th.

John Walton, the Bears former radio announcer who left for the same position with the Washington Capitals this season, attended the game.