The Hershey Bears (23-19-3-2) topped the Eastern Conference leading Binghamton Senators (28-13-1-3) by a 4-3 score at Giant Center Saturday night, hanging on in the third period for their 11th home win of the season. The Bears’ power play tallied two goals, breaking through against the Senators’ penalty kill, which entered the game second in the AHL at 88%.
“It was a little hit or miss at times,” Hershey coach Mark French said of facing the Senators penalty kill last time. “When we had the opportunities to attack seams, we weren’t aggressive enough in those seams, we didn’t take advantage of times when we could really bring the puck to the net, I thought we did it better for the most part today.”
Philipp Grubauer (4-3, 2.03 GAA) earned the win in net for Hershey, recording 23 saves on 26 shots.
Senators’ goalie Robin Lehner opposed Grubauer, and entered the game with the AHL lead in save percentage, at an exceptional .948. Lehner turned away 25 of Hershey’s 29 shots on goal, in his eighth loss of the season.
“They had a few big forwards up front,” Hershey forward Jeff Taffe said of Grubauer’s performance in net. “Obviously a top team right now, they know how to get pucks to the net and how to win. Overall he stood his ground tonight and they didn’t have too many second chance efforts.”
“We wanted to maximize our shots,” said French. “We average the least shots on goal in the league, so we wanted to make sure they were quality. When we had opportunities, we wanted to make sure we had traffic.”
The Bears grabbed a 1-0 lead 6:22 into the first period, scoring on the power play, which entered at 16.3%, 17th in the AHL. Hershey Captain Boyd Kane tallied his 10th goal of the season, scoring in his second straight game. Kane netted a power play goal against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton last Sunday, but he was a healthy scratch in the Bears last game, on the road against the Lake Erie Monsters.
The Senators answered back on the penalty kill, tallying their 12th shorthanded goal of the season, tops in the AHL. Following Garrett Stafford’s turnover at the blue line, Binghamton forward Jean-Gabriel Pageau raced down the ice for his 3rd goal on the season, beating Grubauer on a breakaway.
The Bears took back the lead with 6:09 remaining in the first stanza, converting on Cameron Schilling’s fifth goal of the season, following a great setup by AHL assist leader Jeff Taffe. The assist was Taffe’s 30th on the season.
“He scored two Saturday nights in a row now by activating,” French said of Schilling’s recently play. “We want our d to play defense, we want to play the blue line. But if they’re going to go, we want them to be decisive about it and go at good opportunities.”
Hershey’s fore-check played a big role in the first period, helping the Bears maintain possession in the offensive zone for numerous stretches through the first frame. Both clubs registered ten shots on net apiece.
The second period featured four goals, two for each club, in a highly intensified battled. Binghamton Forward Derek Grant tallied his 14th goal of the season 2:29 into the second period to open the scoring in the second stanza, and defenseman Brett Lebda closed out the scoring in the period with 1:49 remaining in the period.
Hershey tallied their two goals in in between Binghamton’s makers, scoring first on even strength and then on the power play. Forward Jeff Taffe tallied his 10th goal of the season on a scramble in front of Lehner 4:20 into the frame, and Jon DiSalvatore banked in his 13th goal of the season of a Senators defenseman , set up by Taffe’s league leading 31st assist.
Taffe’s goal came only 16 seconds after Danick Paquette’s fight in his first game as a Hershey Bear. Paquette fought Binghamton forward Darren Kramer, as both players landed big punches in the bout.
“It was a pretty special night,” Paquette said. “It was my first call up actually, I was pretty pumped up. I knew my teammates needed a little bit [of energy], so I asked him at the faceoff. I just made trouble out there with everybody and he had no choice to ask me to fight.”
The Senators outshot Hershey 12-8 in the second frame, but entered the third period trailing 4-3.
The Bears shutdown Binghamton in the final period, improving to 17-0-2-1 when leading after two periods.
“We’re a good defensive team,” said French. “We’ve got good goal-tending. We play a ton of one goal games and maybe we’re getting comfortable in those situations, in those tight moments because we’re so familiar with doing it. I think the framework of our defensive game has been pretty good.”
Hershey returns to Giant Center for a matchup against the Norfolk Admirals, AHL affiliate of the Anaheim Ducks.
1. Attendance: 10,368
2. Bears Injuries: Dmitry Orlov and Mattias Sjogren
3. Hershey Healthy Scratches: Evan Barlow, Matt Clackson, Patrick Wellar and T.J. Syner
4. The Hershey Bears recalled T.J. Syner prior to Saturday’s game
5. With the win, Hershey improved to 3-0-1-0 in the month of February
1. Jeff Taffe(one goal, two assists, plus one, three shots on goal)
2. Jon DiSalvatore (one goal, one assist, plus one, three shots on goal)
3. Boyd Kane (one goal, minus one, one shot on goal)