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).