By: John Sparenberg
Midway through their encounter with the visiting Lake Erie Monsters on Friday night at Giant Center, the well-behaved Hershey Bears had to be feeling pretty good about themselves.
Up until that point the home club had been outshooting, if not outplaying, the visitors and had enjoyed the only four power plays of the contest; but the second half of the game saw the Bears’ bad side emerge in the form of the “penalty monsters.” This resulted in six consecutive power plays for the visitors, including three five-on-three advantages, that turned the tide of the game and allowed the Lake Erie Monsters to emerge from the contest with a 3-2 victory.
The Bears drew first blood when their captain, Boyd Kane, banked a power play shot off of a Monsters’ defender in the crease area, and the puck then trickled over the goal line at 12:39. Kane’s goal with his eighth of the season and was his 200th point as a member of the Bears.
With the crowd still buzzing from Kane’s caper, Bill Thomas, a former Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguin in the 2008-09 season, who had scored three of his eights goals in his lone season with the baby Pens at the Bears’ expense including his first and last tally in the Black and Gold, finished off an odd-man rush with Mike Sgarbossa at 12:54 to tie the score at one.
Then the Bears started beating a steady path to the penalty box that began with a penalty to defenseman Patrick McNeill at 12:02. Less than a minute later, McNeill’s fellow defenseman, Julien Brouillette, joined him in the “sin bin” giving the visitors a two-man advantage for 1:17.
Facing the dire situation, Hershey’s bench brain-trust of head coach Mark French and his trusty assistant Troy Mann sent out the trio of forwards Boyd Kane and Ryan Potulny along with rookie defenseman Cameron Schilling in an effort to stave off the situation.
Kane, Potulny and Schilling did a masterful job in not allowing the Monsters a shot on goal before McNeill was released from his sentence, but before McNeill could rejoin the play, and only two seconds after he was released, Sgarbossa’s fake slapshot from between the circles was bought hook, line, and sinker by the Bears’ penalty killers, as well as by goaltender Philipp Grubauer, which allowed Andrew Agozzino to pound the puck into a wide open net from the bottom of the left faceoff circle at 14:05.
The Bears avoided falling behind even further when they killed of another power play late in the second period, but early in the period, their dark said emerged again, beginning with a high-sticking penalty to Jeff Taffe at 1:43. Taffe was then joined in the penalty box only 20 seconds later when Jonathon Kalinski was whistled off the ice for a major penalty for elbowing. Included in Kalinski’s sentence was a game misconduct.
Given their second chance in a 5-on-3, the Lock Monsters allowed only 29 seconds to click off of the scoreboard clock before capitalizing when Sgarbossa, who had registered the primary assist on both of his club’s prior tallies, played the role of goal-scorer and netted his 14th goal of the season when his shot slithered off of Bears Defenseman Kevin Marshall and over Grubauer at 2:32. After the goal, Kane took out his wrath on one of the night’s referees in verbal fashion and received an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty as a result, but his teammates bailed out their captain and kept the score at bay at 3-1 in favor of the visitors.
The Bears went on to receive the last two power plays of the event and took advantage of the situation when Taffe, with Grubauer on the bench in favor of another attacker, narrowed their deficit to a single goal. However, that was as close as they would get on this evening.