Back in Hershey on Saturday night the Bears had no easy task taking on the Portland Pirates, who had 89 points coming into play. With bones and bruises starting to heal for the Bears approaching playoffs, they fell short against Portland, 4-3 in Overtime in the only meeting between the two clubs in this season, in Hershey.
Returning to the line up to stimulate the Bears were Andrew Gordon and Steve Pinizzotto, who returned from the injured list on Friday. Also with the addition of goaltender Braden Holtby being assigned from Washington Saturday morning, it would give the Bears fire power back to use against Portland.
Holtby enjoyed his stay in the NHL while it lasted, posting a 9-2-2 record with the Washington Capitals and earned the NHL Player of the Week honors. He also celebrated his first NHL shutout blanking the Edmonton Oilers, 5-0 at Verizon Center.
As spectators would have anticipated, the Bears’ offense would rule the opposition early on. 1:34 into the contest the Bears would fire two shots on net, with the second being a goal for Andrew Joudrey from the face off circle.
The goal was mainly generated after passes were bring fed to the point, and sent back in deep behind the net to break up the Portland defense.
Minutes later, Portland would answer back on a power play goal from Matt Ellis. He tipped a rebound into the net, past Holtby after constant pressure on the man advantage.
The scoring affair would continue 3:03 following Ellis’ tally. Similar to Portland, on the power play Patrick McNeil scored for the Bears blasting a cross ice pass into an open net. With the primary helper coming from Francois Bouchard, Hershey retook the lead at 2-1.
In the final five minutes of the period Hershey failed to tally on a five-minute power play after a boarding penalty was assessed to Marc-Andre Gragnani. The scoring affair calmed after McNeil’s goal, and would be the final strike going into intermission.
Hershey would again have the opportunities to tally a man up, possessing a 5-on-3 power play for 1:49 in which they couldn’t score on. But, they managed to capitalize on a 5-on-4 advantage eight minutes later.
Andrew Gordon is most publicized in Hershey for the hard work he does standing in front of the net, screening the opposing goaltender. Gordon would succeed doing the same against the Pirates, standing in front of the net and shooting a rebound shot past Leggio off a McNeil shot.
The goal gave the Bears a two-goal advantage moving forward in the middle frame past the mid-minutes.
Portland would answer back to cut the lead within one with 5:23 left in the stanza. Off a sloppy defensive play in the neutral zone, it enabled Paul Byron to receive a beautiful back-door pass in front of the cage and fire it past Braden Holtby.
It would be the final tally of the middle period and lead to a 3-2 intermission.
With the Bears having to protect a one goal lead for twenty minutes, Portland would never manage a major opportunity on net within the first half of the final period.
Following a back and forth third period with equal opportunities, Andrew Joudrey was handed a two minute penalty after a high stick to the face of a Pirate. On the power play for Portland, T.J. Brennan fired a one-time dart past Holtby to knot the game up, 3-3.
It would set the stage for veteran Mark Parrish to score 2:51 into overtime to seal a sudden death win for Portland over Hershey.
It was talked about among many before and after the match about Portland being the favorites to win the Atlantic Division and make a strong playoff run. Portland, affiliated with the Buffalo Sabres, have a perfect combination of veteran leadership and rookies along with tight defense and solid goaltending. Even without power forward Mark Mancari and other key players, they continue to find a way to win and remain a strong contender for the Atlantic lead moving forward.
The Bears look to extend their five game point streak to six, battling the Syracuse Crunch Sunday evening at Giant Center. Game time is at 5 p.m. in Chocolate Town.