By: John Sparenberg
The Hershey Bears entered Friday’s night’s matchup at Norfolk Scope against the Norfolk Admirals riding a three-game winning streak despite being the fact that they had been outshot handily in two of those encounters and had registered double digit shot totals in only one stanza during the run. However, despite both of those trends continuing on Friday night, the Bears saw their winning streak come to an end at the hands of the Admirals, 5-1.
Dany Sabourin, who was pulled in his last start on Sunday at Giant Center against the Syracuse Crunch after allowing three goals on 13 shots in just over a period of work, made the start in goal for the Bears and was tested early and often in the opening frame. He was able to hold off sixteen of the seventeen shots he faced and yielded only a slam dunk goal by Dan Sexton, who simply had to put the puck into an open net as Sabourin and the rest of the defense bought defenseman Sami Vatanen’s fake slapshot.
On the other end of the ice, Sabourin’s counterpart in the Norfolk net, Frederic Andersen, needed to make only five saves, none of which were of high quality variety, to keep the Bears off of the scoreboard after twenty minutes of action.
“We’ve had some lower shot totals in those games (the three wins), it was less concerning in those games than it was tonight,” said Hershey head coach Mark French.
The Admirals increased their lead to 2-0 at 6:08 of the second period when Vatanen, on a slick cross-ice feed from Patrick Maroon, blasted a one-timer by Sabourin on a five-on-three manpower advantage. Maroon actually contributed to another goal later in the frame, but this time it was at his club’s expense when his attempted clearing pass was intercepted by Jeff Taffe at the blueline; the veteran Taffe then proceeded to walk in unimpeded to an area just above the left faceoff circle before uncorking a low laser that eluded Andersen low to the glove side at 12:49 to make it 2-1 Admirals.
“I was just in my position, and I think it was one of those situations where he just didn’t see me out there and the puck just popped out to me. That’s kind of a tough play (for Maroon) as a forward when your back is turned,” said Taffe. “The defenseman went down to block the shot, and I don’t think the goaltender really saw much of it.”
Entering the sixth minute of the period, the Bears still only trailed 2-1 and had limited the Admirals to only seven shots on goal after the Vatanen goal, but then at the 6:33 mark, Sabourin allowed a terrible goal to Maroon which had been launched from along the left wing boards and just above the goal line, a goal which knocked the wind out of the Bears’ sails and allowed the Admirals to easily sail their way to a victory.
French said his club didn’t make any particular adjustments to their game that resulted in the Admirals decrease in their shots-on-goal total after the opening period, but instead, simply adjusted their own game to stem the tide in the shot department.
“I think it was more of our ability to find ourselves and get into the game a little bit,” said French. “We were certainly the less urgent team early, and that was indicated by the shots in the first.”
On the subject of Sabourin’s play, French gave credit to Sabourin for recovering from last Sunday’s outing, but still acknowledged that the Maroon goal was a big blow to his club.
“I thought he was good early, and as much as we shouldn’t have been in the game, we were into it up until that third one.”