Hershey returned home to Giant Center Saturday night to face the Bridgeport Sound Tigers for the first time in the 2010-11 campaign. With the rematch already set for the following Sunday, in Bridgeport, it would be the only meeting in Hershey between the two clubs this season.
Just two seasons ago, the Tigers were members of the East Division and would visit Hershey on a monthly or even weekly basis. Since departing for the Atlantic Division in 2009, the last time both hockey clubs met was the 2010 Calder Cup Playoffs last Spring, where Hershey eliminated Bridgeport from the playoffs in just the first round.
Patrick McNeil was sent to Hershey Saturday morning from the Washington Capitals to take part in the game against the Sound Tigers. Ironically just over a minute into the contest, McNeil scored for Hershey on a snap shot from the blue line with Sean Collins and Keith Aucoin tallying the assists to give the Bears an early 1-0 lead.
Bridgeport would tie it up on a costly mistake by Bears’ netminder Braden Holtby just moments later. Hershey was shorthanded after a Kyle Greentree penalty, and Holtby tried to clear a loose puck up the middle of the ice. The pass was quickly stolen away by Justin DiBenedetto and fired a shot past Holtby to knot the game up at one goal aside.
The scoring affair would only continue, but in Hershey’s favor. Bears forward Steve Pinizzotto stormed the net and jammed a shot past Mikko Koskinen on the Bears’ fifth shot of the game. Bridgeport would protest goalie interference on the play, but it stood as a 2-1 Hershey lead, shy of ten minutes into the game.
A one-goal lead soon became a two-goal lead, as Joel Rechlicz tipped home a shot from the point to make it 3-1 Hershey on his first AHL goal. The lead would only be again cut to one goal, as David Ullstrom scored for the Sound Tigers on a delayed penalty just 62 seconds later.
Shots were once 7-1 in favor of Hershey during the opening 20 minutes with play being dominated by the Bears’ fury offense. Towards the end of the period, play evened out between both clubs as the shot totals were more even at 8-5 Hershey after one period.
Play would begin in the middle period, and in very similar fashion. Pinizzotto scored his second of the night as he blasted home a loose puck in the slot to double the Hershey lead, to 4-2 at 3:44. That would mark the end of the game for Koskinen, as Joel Martin came into the game in relief to settle the Hershey offense.
Despite the goal, Bridgeport would go onto what they had done all night long, and that’s respond. Exactly two minutes later, Robin Figren scored to, again, shrink the Bears lead down to one.
After minutes of back and fourth play, Boyd Kane scored for Hershey after jamming a Francois Bouchard shot into the net. Kane’s 17th goal of the season would open the game back up to two goals for the third time in just forty minutes of hockey.
After two periods, the Bears lead the Sound Tigers 5-3 on the scoreboard and lead in the shot column 20-13 after a relatively even second period. After a shaky start, Bears’ netminder Braden Holtby began to settle in stopping a 2-on-1 along with other scoring chances that came his way.
The third period was off and running with the Bears beginning the final 20 minutes up two goals. Following a David de Kastrozza penalty, Ullstrom scored his second of the night on the power play to cut the lead back down to one at 5-4.
Hershey was forced back onto their heels, and had to again protect an one-goal lead. As the period began to run out, Kane tallied his second goal of the game to seal up the Bears’ 6-4 victory for Hershey in front of 10.742 fans at the Giant Center.
The Bears close out the weekend Sunday, when they host the Charlotte Checkers for the eighth meeting of the season at 7 p.m.