With games passing by and the hockey season progressing, the Hershey Bears began thinking about their tittle defense in the coming months. The past few weeks the Bears have put together a seven-game winning streak and currently have the fourth best record in the AHL .
Great teams that are capable of winning the Calder Cup must know how to over come adversity. Bears’ goaltender Dany Sabourin suffered a knee injury coming into the weekend, and will be out of action for the remainder of the season. Likewise, the Bears’ other goaltender, Braden Holtby was day-to-day with a lower body injury. Hershey would have to over come the adversity of being down two goaltenders in the bulk of the season’s schedule.
Saturday, in Hershey, the Bears would have to take on the Manitoba Moose of the Western Conference. The Bears took three points out of four against Manitoba several weeks ago in Winnipeg. The two evenly matched teams would go head-to-head in a Saturday night showdown at Giant Center, both coming off wins in their previous games of Friday. Hershey made their way back to Giant Center last night after their 5-3 win over the Albany Devils in Atlantic City. Meanwhile, the Moose downed the first place Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins Friday and stunned them with two early first period goals in their 3-2 victory.
Just 4:32 into Saturday’s duel, Hershey capitalized with an early power play when Dmitri Kugryshev wristed a shot home a centering pass from Boyd Kane for his fifth goal of the season to give the Bears an early 1-0 lead.
Third string goalie Todd Ford stopped all seven Manitoba shots in the first period, while his counterpart, Eddie Lack, who had a goal against average of 1.98 coming into Saturday, made 11 stops in the first 20 minutes.
Just 43 seconds into the middle period, the Bears would score early again and take the early momentum. An initial shot on Lack was bobbled and Kyle Greentree batted the rebound into the net to give the Bears a two-goal lead. Five minutes later, however, Manitoba’s Ryan Parent scored his first of the year on a fluke goal to cut the Bears’ lead in half at 2-1. 2-1 hockey game.
The middle stanza began to tick off and run bye past both teams. The tempo of the game began to slow down as either team started lacking any major scoring opportunities on net. However, hockey is a game where momentum, flow, and tempo can change immediately. With 4:43 remaining in the middle period Keith Aucoin put the Bears back up by two. Just 53 seconds later, Francois Bouchard gave the Bears a commanding 4-1 lead with under four minutes left in the period.
Following the goal, Moose head coach Claude Noel would make a decision to burn his lone time out. The decision would go on to benefit the Moose for the remaining minutes in the period. The Moose responded when Bill Sweatt cut the lead in half, and with three seconds left in the period Mark Flood scored to pull the team within one at 4-3.
As the third period started the tensions began to rise between the two bitter teams. Midway through the period, Manitoba forward Jordan Schroeder tied the game on a power play goal when his slap shot beat Ford to tie the game at 4-4.
After things went unsettled at the end of regulation and the five-minute overtime, the teams would settle the score with the shootout. A scoreless shootout heading into the seventh was put to an end, as Kevin Connauton finally gave the Moose the 5-4 victory.
The loss for Hershey would tack on a single point in the East Division standings, and add to their lead regarding second place. With WBS’ loss in regulation, the Bears pulled with in eight points of the division leaders.
The two teams return to the ice today at 2 p.m. at the Giant Center.