The Hershey Bears picked up their third straight win Friday night, defeating the Bridgeport Sound Tigers 5-2. Four third period goals pushed the Bears over Bridgeport, with Jeff Taffe registering the game winning goal. Hershey outshot their opponent for only the third time this season, outshooting the Sound Tigers 32-24. Bears goalie, Braden Holtby was strong once again in net for Hershey recording 22 saves on 24 shots.
“We seem to be gaining momentum with each of the wins,” said Bears coach, Mark French of the importance of Hershey’s winning streak. “The Toronto game we mentioned that it was probably important to just get a win, it really didn’t matter how the process was. In Norfolk we played well and we were able carry that momentum through tonight.”
Bridgeport took a 1-0 lead in the second period on Johan Sundstrom’s sixth goal of the season. Sundstom potted home a rebound following a save by Braden Holtby.
The Bears answered at the 19:26 mark of the second period, with Zach Hamill ripping the puck past Bridgeport goalie, Anders Nilsson. Jon DiSalvatore, who recently registered his 500th career AHL point, fed Hamill for Hershey’s opening marker.
“I think the goal at the end of the second was big,” said French. “I thought we had played really well up to that point in time and then they’re able to score. If you can score in the first and last minutes it’s really important for momentum. I think Hamill’s goal there near the end certainly gave us a little bit more jump to our step.”
The Bears’ held the majority of the puck possession and offensive zone time through two periods, outshooting Bridgeport 21-13.
Hershey grabbed a 2-1 advantage following a 5-on-3 power play, finding the back of the net 6:01 in into the third period. Tomas Kundratek ripped a slap shot past Nilsson for his fifth goal of the year.
Bridgeport answered Hershey’s goal with one of their own, tying the game at two 6:48 into the third period. Sound Tigers defenseman, Jordan Hill recorded his second goal on the season with the assist credited to Colin McDonald.
Hershey then killed off a key 5-on-3 Bridgeport power play, providing a boost for the rest of the game.
“The guys did a great job,” said Bears forward, Jeff Taffe of the timely penalty kill. “[Ryan] Potulny had a huge block there; they made a lot of great plays. Once you kill that penalty it just energizes, not only our team, but the whole building there.”
The Bears added three more goals later in the third period, both coming during even strength play. Jeff Taffe and Patrick McNeill fired shots past Nilsson, giving Hershey a 4-2 lead. Jon DiSalvatore added an empty net goal to cap the Bears’ win.
“I kind of ran myself out of options there,” said Bears forward, Jeff Taffe of his game winning goal which he slapped past Nilsson. “I’ve done that before, it’s kind of one of those things where you just try to get a good shot on net. They actually got back. I thought it was a clear 2-on-1, but by the time I looked up they had guys back checking. PMAC [Patrick McNeill] was even up in the play with us.”
“I think guys are playing to their roles now a little bit better,” said French. “We’ve been getting good goaltending all year, but now we’re getting scoring from guys that were expected to score. We’re still keeping the puck out of the net, so we’re doing a good job defensively.”
Hershey returns to Giant Center tomorrow night to face the Norfolk Admirals, which is also WGAL Teddy Bear Toss night. Fans are encouraged to bring their teddy bear and throw them on the ice when the Bears register their first goal.
1. Attendance: 8,594
2. Hershey injury scratches: Garrett Stafford, Jonathon Kalinski and Ryan Stoa
3. Bears healthy scratches: Matt Clackson, Mattias Sjogren and Julien Brouillette
4. Patrick McNeill was paired with Dmitry Orlov on defense, a pairing that has had success since McNeill’s return to the lineup
1. Jeff Taffe (one goal, one assist, plus two, three shots on goal)
2. Zach Hamill (one goal, one assist, plus two, one shot on goal)
3. Jon DiSalvatore (one goal, two assists, plus two, four shots on goal)