Power Play Strong, But Bears Struggling

The Hershey Bears (25-21-3-5) entered this weekend with an opportunity to make up solid ground in the Eastern Conference playoff race. They would play three games, including contests against a Binghamton Senators team that lost numerous key players to the NHL, the Adirondack Phantoms who are the worst team in the AHL, and the underachieving Albany Devils.

Hershey battled back to force overtime on the road against the Binghamton Senators Friday night, but would fall in a shootout. The Bears struck for three third period goals following a 3-1 deficit through two periods, but were outdueled in the skills completion. The Hershey power play was a driving force for the comeback, registering two goals from Jeff Taffe and Jon DiSalvatore in six opportunities. Hershey net minder Dany Sabourin padded aside 35 of Binghamton’s 39 shots on net.

The Bears’ power play starred again in their home victory over the Adirondack Phantoms Saturday night, adding two more goals on the man advantage. Hershey scored in each period and registered goals in all three phases of play. Defenseman Patrick McNeill netted his third goal on the season in the first frame as he banked one past Phantoms goalie Scott Munroe. He was attempted to clear the puck while on the penalty kill, but the puck took a funny bounce of the glass near the side boards and found twine as Munroe left his crease in anticipation of playing the puck.

Hershey forward Ryan Potulny continued his strong play of late in the second period, recording his ninth goal of the season on the man advantage. Ryan Stoa tallied his ninth of the season in the third period, also on the power play, to add an insurance goal 10:42 into the final frame. Bears goalie Philipp Grubauer totaled 40 saves in his first career AHL shutout.

Sunday night’s game is one that Hershey would like to forget rather quickly, as the Bears allowed three straight goals to begin the game and could never recover in their 6-4 loss to the Albany Devils on the road. The Bears’ trademark defensive game failed them and goaltender Philipp Grubauer, who registered only 24 saves on 30 shots.

Hershey’s power play tallied two more goals with the man advantage, scored by Ryan Stoa and Ryan Potulny. The forward line of Boyd Kane, Ryan Potulny and Casey Wellman registered a combined plus three, but was the lone bright spot for the Bears. Wellman registered Hershey’s two even strength goals.

Hershey goalie Dany Sabourin sat out Sunday’s game following an injury Saturday night, in a game he didn’t even start. Brandon Anderson, who has played for the Reading Royals of the ECHL this season, served as Grubauer’s backup on Sunday.

Hershey returns to action on the road next Friday against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, followed by two home games against the Norfolk Admirals and Syracuse Crunch on March 2nd and 3rd.

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

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