Going into Friday night’s matchup between the Hershey Bears and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins at Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza, a lot of the talk about the game was that it was going to be a “statement game” for the clubs who are likely to meet in the Calder Cup Playoffs.
But due to the plethora of power plays doled out by the referees, it was hard to tell if a statement was made. However Hershey goaltender Dany Sabourin, who will likely be recalled to the Washington Capitals after the game, made a big statement for future NHL work with his performance in net, but he and his mates eventually fell to defeat despite his outstanding effort, 3-2.
Sabourin was spectacular in the first frame and foiled twelve of the thirteen shots he faced, including four quality stops with the Pens playing shorthanded, but a Geoff Walker backhanded power play deflection goal gave the home club a 1-0 lead at 19:08.
Early in the second period, after a shift that featured a series of turnovers in the Bears defensive zone, Bran DeFazio was allowed to walk out from the goal line and backhanded a shortside shot behind Sabourin at 7:42. DeFazio’s goal would be the only goal allowed in the contest on which you could remotely fault Sabourin.
Immediately after the DeFazio goal, Bears’ head coach Mark French elected to use his timeout in an effort to settle down his troops. After their impromptu meeting, the boys from Hershey promptly went into battle mode and responded with a goal by Kyle Greentree at 10:20.
In the seconds leading up to the marker, Greentree and his linemates, Boyd Kane and Mike Carman, had a strong shift, controlling and cycling the puck along the boards in the WBS zone with each member of the unit touching the puck. Eventually, the biscuit made its way to the point where defenseman Patrick McNeill launched a slapshot that Greentree redirected from high in the slot to get the Bears on the board at 10:20.
“We did a good job getting some chances (on that shift),” said Greentree. “Patty got a good shot off, and I got a stick on it.”
Forty-one seconds later, with the Bears on a power play, Greentree was goal-getting again when he took advantage of a turnover by Pens’ netminder Brad Thiessen to tie the game at two at 11:01. Early in the advantage, a Bears player lofted the puck high into air in the direction of the crease from along the boards where WBS goaltender Brad Thiessen tried to steer it out of harm’s way; unfortunately for Thiessen, he cleared it right onto the stick of Greentree who promptly deposited it into his net.
“It was just a dump-in that came off his right pad, and I was just fortunate to be in the right place at the right time,” said Greentree.
The Bears had a couple of short 5-on-3 manpower advantages late in the middle session, but the Pens held them at bay which resulted in a tied game entering the third period.
Midway through the third period, the Pens had a 5-on-3 of their own for 1:38 due to a Kevin Marshall cross-checking penalty, but thanks to some strong penalty killing, particularly from Andrew Carroll, the Bears weathered the storm and allowed only one shot on goal during the sequence.
Another undisciplined penalty by Marshall later in the third period gave the home club a conventional 5-on-4 power play. Just under a minute into Marhall’s sentence, Ben Street sliced in front of Sabourin and tickled the twine to give the Pens the eventual game-winning goal at 13:58.
Nick Petersen’s empty-net power-play goal at 19:44, with Sabourin on the bench for an extra attacker and Chris Bourque in the penalty box, finished out the game’s scoring.
In the end, the Bears proved that they could play toe-to-toe with the Pens in the Pens’ barn, but after the game, Greentree was unsure if that was a positive that could be taken from the loss.
"I guess if you look at it that way, we played some good hockey here and there tonight. It was 2-2 going into the third, and then something that we didn’t want happened. But this time of year, we want to make sure that regardless of who we have in the lineup we’re getting the job done. They’ve got injuries and we do too, so we can’t make excuses, and we’ve just got to worry about what’s going on in our own dressing room.”