By: John Sparenberg
In the previous meeting this season between the Hershey Bears and Bridgeport Sound Tigers in the aftermath of “Superstorm Sandy”, the Sound Tigers offered free admission of their fans to the contest. That night, the home club sprinted by the Bears in front of a sellout crowd of better than 8,000 patrons and pelted goaltender Braden Holtby with 42 shots in a 3-2 win.
Last night at Giant Center, in front of more than 8,000 Bears’ boosters at Giant Center, the Bears responded to a Sound Tigers’ game-tying goal early in the third period by storming back with three straight goals to end the contest and emerged with a 5-2 win.
The Bears, who were outshot 42-21 in the previous encounter, enjoyed a decisive 11-4 shot advantage in the opening period last night, but a goaltender’s best friend, the goal post, saved them from facing a first-period deficit when Blair Riley’s odd-man blast at 16:42 rang off the iron. At the next stoppage of play, the play went to video review with referee Terry Koharski ultimately ruling that the puck did not go in the net.
Holtby, making his 12th start of the season, had his shutout bid ended at 5:50 of the middle frame when his inability to cleanly snare Johan Sundstrom’s shot with his glove resulted in a rebound the Sundstrom subsequently pushed by him to give the visitors a 1-0 lead.
It looked like the teams were going to enter the third period with Bridgeport still boasting their 1-0 lead, but a late goal by Zach Hamill with only 33.1 seconds left knotted the game up at one. The sequence leading up to Hamill’s goal started when his linemates, Jeff Taffe and Jon DiSalvatore, combined on a play. Taffe sent a nifty backhand pass from along the boards to DiSalvatore, who was stationed all alone in the high slot, but DiSalvatore shanked the shot, and the puck ended up behind the net where it was retrieved by a Sound Tiger. The tenacious Taffe hurried the defender’s clearing pass and the puck skidded to DiSalvatore, who backhanded a pass of his own to a wide open Hamill, who hammered it home.
Early in the final frame, the Bears had a full two-man two-minute power play, but managed only a single shot on goal. Luckily, only five seconds after the Sound Tigers’ players were uncaged and before they could rejoin the play, defenseman Tomas Kundratek’s slapshot along the ice eluded Bridgeport netminder Anders Nilsson at 6:01. However, less than a minute later, the Sound Tigers climbed back into the game when Jordan Hill fought off a Kevin Marshall hip check along the boards and then proceeded to the crease area where be beat Holtby to make it a 2-2 game.
Near the midway point of the stanza, the Sound Tigers enjoyed a lengthy two-man advantage of their own, but the Bears’ penalty-killing unit was up to the task and allowed only a couple of harmless shots which Holtby was able to commandeer.
Taffe then started the Bears’ three-goal storm at 14:22, targeting the glove side of Nilsson and hitting a bull’s-eye with a blast from the left wing circle. Patrick McNeill’s power-play goal, launched from nearly the same spot as Taffe’s tally, also struck pay dirt to Nilsson’s suddenly exposed glove side, and DiSalvatore’s empty-net marker gave the Bears their final margin of victory.