The Hershey Bears picked up another win as they continue to rise in the Eastern Conference standings, defeating the Norfolk Admirals 4-0 Wednesday night at Giant Center. Two even strength goals from Mattias Sjogren and Ryan Potulny along with a third period power play marker from Tomas Kundratek aided the Bears to their third win in four tries against Norfolk to this point in the season. Bears goalie Braden Holtby earned a shutout in net for Hershey, stopping all 35 Norfolk shots on goal.
“I think he’s finding certainly a comfort level with his play,” said Hershey Bears coach Mark French of Holtby’s recent play. “I thought his performance was excellent tonight.”
Prior to the game, the Hershey Bears inducted seven players into the inaugural class of the Hershey Bears Hockey Club Hall of Fame. The seven players inducted were Lloyd S. Blinco, Arthur Fausnacht, Ralph Keller, Willie Marshall, Frank Mathers, Mike Nykoluk and John B. Sollenberger. The Bears will commemorate the first every Hershey Bears Hall of Fame Class with plaques on the wall in the concourse of Giant Center.
“It’s pretty neat to see those guys that obviously led the way here,” said Bears forward Boyd Kane. “Some of them many years ago and most of them have pretty amazing careers. That’s pretty impressive to see the names that came through here.”
“I don’t ever put myself in anyone’s category that’s played before me,” said Bears goalie Braden Holtby of climbing the charts in the Hershey record books. “Those are the founders of the game that I look up to still.”
Holtby also recorded his second shutout in the last three games, continuing his dominant play in goal for Hershey. He definitely seems like a goalie ready to lead Washington to a postseason run when the lockout hopefully concludes.
“Shutouts I feel are a misleading stat,” said Holtby. “There’s a lot of games where you can’t do anything on no matter how good you’re feeling. It has to do a lot with luck and the way the team plays in front of you and we did a great job tonight.”
The Bears took a 1-0 lead 11:35 into the first period on a deflection by Mattias Sjogren. He registered his third goal of the year, following a shot on net from defenseman Julien Brouillette. Norfolk controlled most of the puck possession during the first stanza, outshooting the Bears 12-8.
Hershey added to their lead in the second period, with Ryan Potulny capitalizing on a rebound in front of Norfolk goalie Igor Bobkov. Bears forward Jeff Taffe stripped a Norfolk defenseman of the puck and then fired a shot on the Admirals goalie, which Potulny quickly followed up. With the assist, Taffe registered his assist streak to a league best of seven.
Hershey struggled at the beginning part of the second period, not even recording a shot on goal eleven minutes into the second stanza. The Admirals once again earned the majority of the scoring chances in the second frame, outshooting the Bears 13-6. Washington Capitals lockout casualty and Hershey Bears goalie Braden Holtby continued to prove he’s ready for NHL action, stopping all 25 shots on goal by the Admirals through two periods.
The Bears took a 3-0 lead 14:42 into the third period, striking on the power play. Hershey defenseman Tomas Kundratek ripped his ninth goal of the year past Bobkov. Bears’ forwards Jon DiSalavatore and Ryan Potulny recorded assists on Kundratek’s third period marker.
“I liked the way we came out in the third [period],” said French. “Didn’t like the way we came out in the second, but that’s concerning a little bit. It seems to be a bit of a trend, especially our starts and second periods. Usually starts with one bad play that kind of gives them momentum and an extra-long shift.”
Bears captain Boyd Kane added another power play goal late in the third period, his sixth of the season.
“We obviously didn’t get off to a good start,” Bears captain Boyd Kane said. “We’ve turned it around here the last ten-twelve games and we’re playing way better hockey. It’s tough to climb the standings with teams getting extra points and teams getting into overtime, but we’re doing our best and we just got to keep going.”
Hershey returns to Giant Center on Saturday, taking on the Springfield Falcons, AHL affiliate of the Columbus Blue Jackets.
1. Attendance: 10,936
2. Hershey Injury Scratches: Ryan Stoa, Dmitry Orlov and Jonathon Kalinski
3. Bears Healthy Scratches: Garrett Stafford, Evan Barlow, Matt Clackson and Brett Flemming,
4. Stanislav Gailev returned to the lineup following his time with the Reading Royals for the majority of December.
1. Braden Holtby (35 saves on 35 shots)
2. Ryan Potulny (one goal, one assist, plus one, one shot on goal)
3. Boyd Kane (one goal, plus one, four shots on goal)