Bears’ Power Play Takes Center Stage

The Hershey Bears finished off a weekend sweep against the Connecticut Whale at Giant Center, capping it off with a 5-0 win Sunday night. Hershey’s power play unit connected for three first period goals and Philipp Grubauer came in on relief for Dany Sabourin after the first period and played excellent in net. The young Capitals’ goalie prospect recorded 23 saves following Sabourin’s injury in the first stanza.

“I obviously liked our start,” Bears coach Mark French said. “I liked our power play; I guess most of our offense came in our first period. The one thing we got this weekend was nice contributions from the Kalinski-Mitchell-Almeida line and that continued on today. I think we’re going to be a team that needs depth scoring and we were able to find it and that’s probably the biggest result of why we were able to generate more offense.”

“I think we were sharp. We had Ryan Potulny in the lineup today that we didn’t yesterday and that obviously helps. I thought we were really sharp in both units. I think it was just about execution more than anything.”

The Hershey Bears found themselves on the scoreboard early in a period, hitting pay dirt just 42 seconds into the contest. Forward Barry Almeida scooped up a Connecticut defensive zone turnover and ripped it past Whale goalie Cameron Talbot for his third goal of the season.

“Barry’s a player that at the NCAA level was a point producer,” said French of Almeida. “Maybe developing a little bit of confidence down in Reading certainly helped.”

The Bears penalty kill unit entered tonight 24th in the AHL at 14.2% and came up large in the first period. The Hershey penalty killers minimized Connecticut’s chances during a five-on-three penalty kill early in the first period, providing momentum throughout the rest of the game.

The Hershey power play went to work through the rest of the first period, netting three goals in four chances. Bears offensively defenseman Tomas Kundratek got it started 11:58 into the first stanza with his 12th goal of the season, firing a slap shot past Talbot. Jon DiSalvatore roofed a shot past Talbot 15:39 into the period and Tom Poti potted one past Talbot for his first career AHL goal with 1:09 remaining in the first frame.

“I thought he was very efficient,” said French of Poti. “He avoided contact; you could see his overall skill level. I thought it was a very successful comeback for him.”

The Bears’ man advantage unit went three for nine on the night and Hershey’s penalty kill played a big role as well, stopping all four Whale power plays.

“It was puck movement,” Hershey forward Ryan Potulny said of the efficient power play. “We didn’t hold on to it, we weren’t selfish. If the play was there we made the play and sometimes it just seems to happen, there’s no rhyme or season. I think the key was puck movement and shots.”

Hershey dominated the first period, quite possibly their best period at Giant Center this year, outshooting the Whale 17-4, along with killing two Connecticut power plays.

“In a game like that you want to stay on your toes,” said Potulny. “If you sit back on your heels sometimes you get into trouble. I think [Philipp] Grubauer came in and did a heck of a job of making some big saves for us. It’s easy for the guys on the bench to get up for that, when your goalie comes in and makes some big saves for you.”

The Bears padded their lead to a 5-0 advantage in the third period following a quiet second period, capitalizing on a two on one offensive rush. Barry Almeida fed Garrett Mitchell who potted his ninth goal on the season past Talbot.

“Obviously guys are feeling good,” said Potulny. “A night like tonight and last night you have to build off of that and stay positive.”

Hershey hits the road on Wednesday for a contest against the Worcester Sharks.

Game Notes

1. Attendance: 10,452

2. Bears Injuries: Evan Barlow, Dmitry Orlov and Jeff Taffe

3. Hershey Healthy Scratches: Alex Berry, Matt Clackson, Brett Flemming, Stanislav Gailev, Garrett Stafford and Mike Carman

4. Tomas Kundratek sat out the third period due to an upper body injury

5. Hershey goalie Dany Sabourin was removed from the game following a lower body injury in the first period as a precaution according to Bears coach Mark French

Three Stars

1. Barry Almeida (one goal, two assists, plus two, one shot on goal)

2. Tomas Kundratek (one goal, one assist, three shots on goal)

3. Ryan Potulny (two assists, one shot on goal)

You can follow Matthew on twitter @m_speck and email him at mspeck21@yahoo.com with any questions or comments.

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