The Hershey Bears’ offense struggled once again Sunday night at Giant Center, registering only one goal in their 2-1 loss to the Worcester Sharks. Hershey was stifled by Sharks goalie Alex Stalock, who turned away 30 of 31 Hershey shots on goal. A third period goal by Hershey forward Jeff Taffe was not enough, due to Hershey’s 2-0 deficit through two periods.
Bears goalie Braden Holtby also performed well in net for Hershey, recording 19 saves on 21 Worcester shots on goal. With the lockout finally resolved, tonight might have been Holtby’s last game at Giant Center.
“Been a lot of games played here,” Bears and potential Washington Capitals starting goalie Braden Holtby said. “I don’t know if it’s going to be my last or not, but it’s been a lot of fun here.”
“I thought we played fairly well, couple goals that could of easily went in, but it didn’t. They buried their key chances and we just weren’t focused enough to bury ours.”
Worcester grabbed a 1-0 lead with 1:41 remaining in the first stanza, connecting on the power play. Sharks defenseman Matt Tennsyon pinched in from the blue line, received a feed from forward Jon Matsumoto following a scrum in the corner, and ripped a snap shot past Holtby for his third goal of the season.
Hershey competed well with Worcester throughout the first period, outshooting the Sharks 13-11. The Bears had one power play opportunity, but managed to register only one shot on goal. Worcester goalie Alex Stalock had a strong first period in his 20th game this season, stopping all 13 Hershey first period shots on goal.
Worcester added another goal in the second period, extending their lead to 2-0. Sharks forward Jon Matsumoto tallied his 9th goal of the game, as he ripped a shot above Holtby through a screen. The goal was reviewed as it hit the post and caromed in, but the goal was upheld.
Steve Oleksy dropped the gloves later in the period, squaring off against Brandon Kearns. It helped turn the tide as Hershey began to compete much harder following the fight.
“I think so,” Hershey coach Mark French said of Oleksy’s fight changing momentum. “If I’m being totally honest I was wondering if we were a little scared. We were certainly playing like it a little bit. We were playing on our heels, I don’t know if their fourth line scares a little bit, but that seemed to get some life into us.”
Hershey didn’t register a shot on goal until the 9:55 mark of the second period, but from that point on the Bears dominated play. Aided by a few power plays, Hershey fired eight shots on goal in the second frame compared to Worcester’s two, and just missed finding the back of the net past Stalock multiple times. Hershey held Worcester to only two shots on goal in the period, the lowest total to this point in the season, with the lowest shots against total of three this season on December 8th against Hamilton.
Hershey killed off a carryover Worcester power play to begin the third, and then found twine past Stalock to cut the Sharks lead in half at 2-1, 4:48 into the third stanza. Bears forward Jon DiSalvatore drove wide on an offensive rush then centered a pass to Jeff Taffe who cut to the net and buried it past the Worcester goalie for his eighth goal of the season.
The Bears battled throughout the third period, including hitting a few posts, but couldn’t beat Stalock. A late power play with 1:41 remaining in the third period, gave Hershey life, but they couldn’t score, even with an extra attacker in the final minute.
Hershey hits the road for two games this week against Bridgeport and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Playing outside of Giant Center has been a recent occurrence for the team, winning six straight contests away from home.
1. Attendance: 10,168
2. Bears Injuries: Dmitry Orlov and T.J. Syner
3. Hershey Healthy Scratches: Garrett Stafford (veteran scratch), Matt Clackson, Matt Pope and Mattias Sjogren
1. Jon Matsumoto (one goal, one assist, plus one, one shot on goal)
2. Alex Stalock (30 saves on 31 shots)
3. Matt Tennyson (one goal, three shots on goal)