By: John Sparenberg
During his six-year career with the Hershey Bears, defenseman Dean Arsene hoisted the Calder Cup on two occasions, once in 2006 and once in 2009 when the club disposed of the Manitoba Moose in the finals.
On Saturday night, Arsene, known as the “Mayor of Hershey” during his time in Chocolatetown, returned as part of the St. John’s IceCaps, and with the help of Raymond Sawada, a member of that Moose club who assisted on the vistors' game-winning goal, the IceCaps finished up their five-game road swing with a 2-1 win over the Bears at Giant Center.
Outshot in nine of their ten previous outings this season, the Bears jumped out to a 3-0 shot advantage in the opening minute of play when their starting fivesome, comprised of forwards Jeff Taffe, Barry Almeida, and Garrett Mitchell and defenseman Tomas Kundratek and Julien Brouillette, provided early pressure on the IceCaps’ keeper, Mark Dekanich, with Almeida getting the best chance. All of that pressure developed after Arsene, who normally doesn’t take too many chances, looked to take a bit of a gamble by running at Mitchell at the Hershey blueline, springing Taffe and Almeida into the IceCaps’ zone as a result, but as he explained after the game, it wasn’t such a risk after all.
“It wasn’t like I was thinking about running anyone. That’s just our forecheck and the way our defense stands up on the strong side. I was able to read the play, and it’s just the way I play. I wasn’t trying to do anything too much. When you start doing that, you can kind of get burned; that’s just the way our forecheck is,” said Arsene.
Shortly after the visitors survived the early attack, they went on the offensive themselves, evening up the shot totals at three, with Eric O’Dell getting a couple of quality bids against Bears’ netminder, Dany Sabourin; but Sabourin, making his first start since October 28th, was equal to the challenge and kept it a scoreless game entering the second period.
In the second stanza, Sawada had the Icecaps’ first shot on goal, a point-blank bid, but Sabourin superbly swatted away the bid and kept the game scoreless. Sabourin, who had been outstanding until that point by stopping the puck and controlling his rebounds, made a fatal mistake at the 5:19 mark. Initially, he stopped Derek Meech’s shot from the point, but kicked the rebound into the high slot between the circles. Unfortunately for the Bears, O’Dell was there to gather in the puck and while fighting off Brouillette’s backchecking efforts, buried the biscuit over the glove of Sabourin who made a gallant effort to atone for his misplay.
Later in the period, with exactly four minutes left on the clock, the IceCaps’ Derek Whitmore took a pass from behind the net from Jason Jaffray, who also played for the Moose on the 2009 team, apparently beat Sabourin with a sizzling shot and even raised his hands in celebration, but the red light never went on and play continued.
Before the teams headed to the locker room for the second intermission, the Bears knotted the score at one when the tenacious Taffe, following his own dump-in to the rear boards, forced Meech to release the puck quicker than he wanted to. Taffe’s efforts forced the puck onto the stick of Matt Pope, who promptly put a pass onto the stick of Almeida who was left unattended and deposited the puck into the net for his second goal of the year.
“He (Taffe) put some good pressure on me. We had a bit of a lapse there, and that’s the way it goes,” said Meech.
In the final frame, Pope, in forechecking mode in the St. John’s zone, inadvertently high-sticked Carl Klingberg, drawing blood, but not drawing a penalty call from referee David Banfield. The play went on, but when the next whistle stopped play, linesman Tom George conferred with Banfield, and at that point Pope was banished to the penalty box for a double minor penalty for high-sticking.
The Bears penalty killers were excellent at this critical juncture in the game, not allowing a shot until 3:15 had elapsed in Pope’s penalty, and that shot was a harmless shot from the point that was easily stopped by Sabourin. However, exactly 20 seconds later, the Bears allowed the eventual game-wining goal when Meech meandered down from his point position and potted his first goal of the season.
“He was kicking really nice and playing really well all night,” said Meech of Sabourin.
We were getting a bit desperate there; it’s always a little bit frustrating when you’re not scoring on the power play. But it was a good play by Johnny Albert. He came down the wall and made a good pass to me. I just got it by him (Sabourin) on the post. We needed one and we found a way in the end.”
After the game, Arsene offered his thoughts on whether fatigue (the Bears were coming off a tough win on the road in Wilkes/Barre-Scranton the night before) and freshness (the IceCaps had been idle since a matchup in Manchester on Wednesday night) factored into the outcome of Saturday’s contest.
“I think it played into it,” admitted Arsene. “Anytime you have to go to Wilkes--I played up there a ton of games--and it’s a difficult game. We haven’t had a great road trip yet; we were 1-and-3 going into tonight, so we wanted to go out with a bang. I think those factors definitely contributed to it.”
Dekanich missed all of last season with an ankle injury.
With the exception of Sabourin in net, the Bears went the same lineup that they iced in Friday night’s win. The scratches were Ryan Stoa, Ryan Potulny, and Dmitry Orlov (all injured), and Patrick McNeill, Stanislav Galiev, and Jonathon Kalinski (all healthy).
Among the IceCaps’ scratches was Aaron Gagnon, who played against the Bears in the 2010 Calder Cup Finals while a member of the Texas Stars, and tallied the Stars’ first goal in games two and five of that series. Sawada and current Bear, Mathieu Beaudoin, were also members of that Stars squad.