Holtby’s 27-Save Effort Busts Phantoms

With 20 games already in the rear view mirror for the Hershey Bears, they faced the Adirondack Phantoms on Saturday night in Hershey. It was a peaceful bus ride home from Syracuse last night for the Bears. Andrew Gordon’s two goals, and Dany Sabourin’s 25 save effort lifted Hershey to a 5-1 win over the Syracuse Crunch.

Meanwhile, Hershey’s East Division rivals, the Adirondack Phantoms, are off to their worst start in franchise history. With 21 games in the books, the Phantoms have only celebrated three wins this season. A record of 3-16-2-0 is worthy enough for the Phantoms to be the American Hockey League’s worst team so far this season. Last night Adirondack hosted the Norfolk Admirals at the Glens Falls Civic Center. Despite the Phantom’s quick two goal out burst to start the game, they fell to Norfolk, 6-3.

Coming into Saturday night’s game, one of the few bright spots for the Phantoms was rookie Erik Gustafsson. Gustafsson leads the team in points with 15, but is the second worst on the Phantoms in plus/minus. On the Hershey side, their power play has an excellent 25 percent success rate at home. Special teams could have been a big factor coming into Saturday.

Referee Chris Brown gathered both Steve Pinizzotto and Eric Wellwood at center ice to drop the puck on game number 21 of the season for Hershey. Chris Brown was busy early on, he sent Francois Bouchard to the box for Hershey, two minutes later after he sent Adirondack’s Joonas Lehtivuori. Both teams with an early chance to capitalize on special teams, but couldn’t do so.

With both teams still struggling to get any great opportunity on net, Matt Clackson of the Phantoms and Patrick Weller of the brown and white decided it was time to try and spark their team. With 12:03 remaining in the period, a fight between both heavy weights, dominated by Weller lead to Hershey setting up the offensive fore check in front of Adirondack goaltender Johan Backlund.

With 6:40 remaining in the first, the fore check capitalized for Hershey. Boyd Kane snuck into the slot, between the two face off circles and tipped in a beautiful feed from Steve Pinizzotto. Hershey’s seventh shot of the game was a point blank shot, nothing Backlund could do about it, as the Bears took a 1-0 lead.

That would be the only tally for either team in the first period. The Bears out shot Adirondack, 9-7, but the time of possession number for Hershey, blows out the amount of time the Phantoms had the puck in the opening stanza. Braden Holtby, just assigned from Washington stopped all seven shots he faced, including a save earlier in the period forcing him to go to his splits.

The Bears are 5-0 this season when leading after one period of play, how ever the Bears are also 3-5-0-1 this season in one goal games.

Adirondack came out in the second period with one thing on their mind, reversing the time of possession numbers. The Phantoms came out of the locker room, but didn’t generate any shot on goal in the first five minutes. Shortly after, Zach Miskovic was sent to the penalty box for a trip, sending Adirondack on the power play. The Phantoms had fired two excellent shots Holtby, but the bears netminder turned them a side with no problem.

As the game approached its midway point, the Bears scored on the power play. Crisp passing, set up by Brain Willsie at the point, lead to a quick shot by Andrew Gordon in close on backlund gave the Bears a 2-0 lead.  Just 20 seconds later, Hershey rookie Dmitri Kugryshev scored on a rap around, just beating the Phantom’s net minder short side. The Bears now had a 3-0 lead, as Kugryshev had his first goal of the season.

After two periods the Bears lead the Phantoms 19-17 in shots, as Holtby bids for his first shut out of the season. In the stanza, Hershey did a great job winning the 50-50 battles for the puck a long the boards, causing offensive rushes for the chocolate and white.

As the third period play began, the Bears were looking for insurance to try and secure a win. Thirty-two seconds into the period, Kane tapped home a rebound in the blue paint, and Hershey took a 4-0 lead on his second goal of the game. Later, play began to open up and both teams faced an equal amount of offensive rushes, and chances on net.

The Giant Center clock began to wined down, as a near sell out crowd at Giant Center stood to their feet to salute the Bears, who are now 3-0 in the season series against the Phantoms after the 4-0 victory.

The Bears are back in action again tomorrow night when they conclude the in a matchup with the Charlotte Checkers at 7 P.M. at Giant Center.

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