Following three losses last weekend, the Chocolate and White got back to their winning ways post NHL lockout. The Hershey Bears (30-24-3-5) pulled two games over .500 at home (16-14-3-2) in their 5-2 win over the Adirondack Phantoms (24-32-2-3).
“We did what we needed to do,” said Hershey Bears coach Mark French. “I don’t know if it launches us into anything other than trying to keep our focus on the next game.”
Goalie Philipp Grubauer improved to (10-5-1) since joining the Bears, registering 36 saves on 38 shots. He’s solidified himself as the number one goalie in the Bears’ roster, and is a lock to become Hershey’s starting goalie come playoff time.
“He was excellent,” French said of Grubauer. “His weekend was phenomenal; he played really well for us. He’ll need to continue to play well going forward.”
“To be honest, I’m just having fun out there right now,” said Grubauer. “When I have fun out there, I play my best, I’ve noticed over the years.”
The Adirondack Phantoms dominated the first period, outshooting Hershey 12-1 in the opening 16:21. The Phantoms managed numerous chances in their first power play of the period, forcing Hershey Grubauer to make some big saves. Following the hot Phantoms start, Mark French was forced to call a timeout in an effort to change the momentum.
“Part of it was to settle it down a little bit,” said French. “A part of it was trying to impart some urgency. As a coach you’re always running the line and you want it to be like a game seven mentality, kind of with that level of desperation. You don’t really say it to the players, but you just expect that they have it. For me it was all about puck battles and puck races early, we certainly weren’t winning many of them.”
“I didn’t think we could wait five minutes, I thought something might happen if we didn’t wake up a little bit and get ourselves composed and regrouped.”
Grubauer made some huge stops in the first frame, including two saves on Adirondack forward Jason Akeson, the Phantoms leading goal scorer with 13 on the year.
Even with a dominating first period where the Phantoms doubled Hershey’s shots (14-7), the Bears cashed in on the final minute. Forward Peter LeBlanc potted his seventh goal of the season, depositing a rebound following an original shot on net against Adirondack goalie Brian Boucher.
The first period featured point play from the Phantoms’ offense, with defensemen recording 9 of the Phantoms 14 shots in the first period. With the win, Hershey improved to 23-8-2-3 when scoring first and 18-3-0-2 when leading after the first period.
The Hershey Bears struck for two goals in the second period, with the goals occurring only 1:08 apart. Forward Ryan Potulny potted his 13th of the season 3:24 into the period, followed by Jeff Taffe’s 17th goal of the season on the power play just over a minute later.
Hershey dominated the second stanza, outshooting the Phantoms 13-7. Hershey converted on one of their three opportunities on the man advantage and Boyd Kane recorded his 498th career point in the American Hockey League.
Forward Casey Wellman padded the Bears lead to 4-0 4:06 into the third period, ripping his 13th goal of the year past Boucher. It was Hershey’s second power play goal of the game, as their 16th ranked power play entering the game continued to improve.
Adirondack would end Philipp Grubauer’s attempt at a second straight shutout later in the third period, as forward Marcel Noebels registered his eighth goal of the season assisted by Garrett Roe and Jason Akeson.
The teams shared goals in the second half on the third stanza, as Jeff Taffe tallied his second goal of the season and fourth point of the net, followed by Garrett Roe’s seventh goal of the season with 1:55 remaining.
“We needed two wins, we knew it coming into it,” Bears forward Jeff Taffe of the four point weekend. “A slow start tonight, but obviously [Grubauer] played two great games together to help us out.”
Hershey hits the road next weekend in a critical matchup against the Connecticut Whale.
“I think we really embrace the road games,” Hershey forward Jon DiSalvatore said. “I don’t think we’re phased by the fact that we finish on the road. I think we’ve been pretty solid on the road.”
1. Attendance: 10,856
2. Hershey Healthy Scratches: Danick Paquette, Matt Clackson, T.J. Syner, Brett Flemming and Patrick Wellar
3. Bears and former Adirondack Phantoms enforcer Matt Clackson has not played in a game since February 23rd against the Flyers minor league affiliate
4. St. Patrick’s Day Jersey Auction Post Game:
a) Garrett Stafford: $1,000
b) Philipp Grubauer: $2,600
c) Dmitry Orlov: $1,650
d) Boyd Kane: $4,050
1. Jeff Taffe (two goals, two assists, plus two, two shots on goal)
2. Philipp Grubauer (36 saves on 38 shots)
3. Dmitry Orlov (two assists)