The Hershey Bears (28-24-3-5) entered this weekend with loads of momentum following a comeback win against the Eastern Conference leading Syracuse Crunch last Sunday. However, this weekend, all that energy was deflated as the Bears dropped three straight divisional contests. Following two losses to the Norfolk Admirals on the road Friday and Saturday, Hershey fell to the Binghamton Senators (36-17-1-5) in the waning seconds, as forward Derek Grant potted the winning goal with 2.3 ticks remaining in regulation to complete the third period comeback.
Hershey dropped their first contest when leading after two periods (20-1-2-2), even with an 18 shot, two goal second period. Bears’ midseason trade additions Peter LeBlanc and Casey Wellman shined for the Chocolate and White, as they both netted goals in the second stanza. Philipp Grubauer (8-5-1) played strong in net even though he allowed three goals, totaling 27 saves on 30 shots.
“I thought the second period with the amount of chances we had, it would have certainly been nice to give ourselves a little bit more of a cushion, getting that third goal,” Bears coach Mark French said. “I thought we failed to do that. I thought our play changed a little bit in the third period if you think about how we were being successful in the second period, it was really by controlling the play in the offensive zone.”
“I thought the tables started to switch maybe when we got a little bit too protective and stopped making the push, especially territorially with the offensive zone play.”
The Senators grabbed a 1-0 lead 11:09 into the game, striking while on the penalty kill. Following Jeff Taffe’s errant pass which defenseman Dmitry Orlov failed to keep in the zone, the Senators went on a two-on-one offensive rush. Binghamton forward Jean-Gabriel Pageau notched his sixth goal of the season on the Senators 16th shorthanded goal of the year, following a cross-crease feed from forward Corey Cowick.
Both teams earned a power play chance on in the first stanza, but neither could find the back of the net. The Senators outshot Hershey 9-8 in the frame, and forward Matt Pope highlighted Hershey’s physical play, recording an open ice hit on Binghamton forward Wacey Hamilton.
“I thought all three of them brought us good energy,” French said of the fourth line effort from Pope, Mike Carman and Jonathon Kalinski. “Jon [Kalinski] after not making the trip [to Norfolk], some fresh legs. I thought he [Kalinski] was a good catalyst for getting us going, and I thought both Pope and Carman were certainly both strong in the first forty minutes.”
“He had his head down,” Pope said of his big hit on Hamilton in the first period. “It’s one of those ones you only get once a season, you’re just licking your chops, put everything you can into it.”
“I’m always looking for a hit like that, because obviously it doesn’t only get the fans going, but it gets the team going as well.”
Hershey dominated the Senators in the second period, outshooting Binghamton 18-9, along with an even strength goal from Peter LeBlanc and a power play goal from Casey Wellman just 3:04 later in the frame. Hershey just missed their season high in shots for one period with 18, one shy of their 19 shot performance against the Manchester Monarchs on February 2nd.
“It was certainly a nice power play goal,” said French of Wellman’s performance. “When we were playing well I thought he was a big part of it, certainly would have been nice to get that third goal.”
The Senators tallied two goals in the third period, with the goals coming only 3:34 apart. Forward Shane Prince registered his 15th goal on the season on the power play following Ryan Stoa’s tripping penalty and Derek Grant scored with 2.3 seconds left just after their power play expired, following Patrick McNeill’s slashing penalty.
“I thought it was a legitimate call on Patty McNeill,” said French. “Not his fault, but a legitimate call. A puck goes to the corner and you’re kind of in a situation where if we would have pressured it a little bit more, I think we probably could have ate the two seconds up. You got to hold the slot area and we had a little bit of duplication on the net front guy and probably not enough awareness of Grant off the backdoor.
Hershey returns home for two weekend games next Saturday and Sunday, facing the Bridgeport Sound Tigers and Adirondack Phantoms.
“It’s about being mentally tough and getting ourselves in the situation to play our best possible game in the next game we play.”
1. Attendance: 10,367
2. Bears Injuries: Danick Paquette
3. Hershey Healthy Scratches: Matt Clackson, Mattias Sjogren, Brandon Anderson, Brett Flemming and Patrick Wellar
4. Hershey forward Lines
Barry Almeida-Jeff Taffe-Jon DiSalvatore
Boyd Kane-Ryan Potulny-Casey Wellman
Ryan Stoa-Peter LeBlanc-Garrett Mitchell
Jonathon Kalinski-Mike Carman-Matt Pope
5. With the loss, Hershey fell to 5-4-3-1 on Sunday games
6. Hershey coach Mark French expects some roster movement with the three goalies currently on the roster
1. Derek Grant (game winning goal, plus one, five shots on goal)
2. Casey Wellman (goal, minus one, six shots on goal)
3. Philipp Grubauer (27 saves on 30 shots)