Potulny’s Two Goals Not Enough

Ryan Potulny hadn’t scored since an early January home contest against the Binghamton Senators. He found the score sheet twice in Hershey’s 4-3 shootout loss to the Norfolk Admirals (20-24-2-1) Sunday night at Giant Center. The Hershey Bears (23-19-3-3) scored three goals in the third period to erase a 3-0 deficit after two periods, but only managed one goal in the shootout, but picked up a meaningful point in the standings.

“I thought we were the better team in the first and second [period],” Hershey Bears head coach Mark French said after the game. “We sucked on the power play and that took the life out of us.”

Hershey goaltender Dany Sabourin (7-7-2, 2.56 GAA) was a victim of a few turnovers by the Bears’ defensemen, but totaled 18 saves on 21 shots on goal. Admirals’ net minder Igor Bobkov (9-13) opposed Sabourin, registering 31 saves on Hershey’s 34 shots on net.

Norfolk entered tonight’s game 28th in the AHL with 41 points, also in the cellar of the Eastern Conference. The Admirals average 2.41 goals per game, 26th in the league allow 2.96 goals per game, good for 21st in the AHL.

The Admirals grabbed a 1-0 lead 14:16 into the first period, cashing in on a deflection. Norfolk forward Patrick Maroon deflected his 13th goal of the season past Sabourin following a point shot from defenseman Sami Vatanen.

Hershey earned two power plays in the first frame, but couldn’t find twine past Bobkov. The Bears outshot Norfolk 12-7 in the first period.

Norfolk extended their first period lead to a 2-0 advantage 8:32 into the second period, following a defensive zone turnover from the Bears’ Cameron Schilling. Admirals’ forward Peter Holland then tracked the puck and ripped his 16th goal of the season past Sabourin.

The Admirals added another even strength goal with 2:38 remaining in the second stanza, on Dan Sexton’s third goal of the season. Norfolk forward Patrick Maroon recorded the assist on Sexton’s goal, his second point of the game.

Hershey would enter the third period down 3-0, needing to send a game past regulation when trailing after two periods for the first time this season.

“I think the players did most of the talking,” French said of the second intermission.

The Bears came out blazing in the final period, striking 1:42 into the third stanza. Hershey forward Barry Almeida ripped his sixth goal of the season past Bobkov, following a nice feed from AHL assist leader Jeff Taffe.

“Our backs were against the wall, down 3-0,” Almeida said of the comeback. “You don’t want to roll over there; you want to come out hard and just work them down low and try to get pucks to the net, simple hockey.”

Ryan Potulny brought the Bears within one with 9:25 remaining in the third stanza, and tied the game with 34.4 ticks left on the clock. Recent acquisition Casey Wellman recorded assists on both of the goals by Potulny.

“That’s huge,” French said of Potulny’s effort. “I thought he worked really hard and competed hard. It was nice to see him get rewarded; obviously Ryan can do all those others things in terms of working hard and being a good penalty killer, but if he’s not scoring that hurts us. It’s nice to see him get two big goals.”

“We were frustrated with the way we played,” said Hershey forward Ryan Potulny. “We showed character, that’s what it comes down to. We battled back and managed to get a point out of the game, that’s big when you’re coming down the stretch and trying to get points and get in the playoffs. It shows good character for our team.”

Hershey outshot the Admirals 3-0 in overtime, but just missed beating Bobkov on a few occasions. Norfolk bettered the Bears in the shootout, as forwards Patrick Maroon, Josh Brittain and Luce Caputi all tallied goals for the Admirals. Forward Peter LeBlanc registered the lone shootout goal for Hershey.

Hershey hits the road for three straight games away from Giant Center before their next home game, scheduled for February 23rd against the Adirondack Phantoms, AHL affiliate of the Philadelphia Flyers.

Game Notes

1. Attendance: 9,425

2. Bears Injuries: Dmitry Orlov and Mattias Sjogren

3. Hershey Healthy Scratches: Kevin Marshall, Matt Clackson, Evan Barlow and Jonathon Kainski

4. Danick Paquette did not return to the game following an injury in the second period

5. Hershey forwards Ryan Stoa and T.J. Syner didn’t see much ice time in the third period, as Mark French elected to use three forward lines

6. The overtime game was Dany Sabourin’s fifth straight game that went past regulation

Three Stars

1. Ryan Potulny (two goals, plus two, eight shots on goal)

2. Patrick Maroon (one goal, one assist, four shots on goal)

3. Peter Holland (one goal, plus two, three shots on goal)

You can follow Matthew on twitter @m_speck and email him at mspeck21@yahoo.com with any questions or comments.

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