On Saturday evening, the Hershey Bears played host to the Albany Devils, as the American Hockey League playoff race begins to heat up. The Bears entered holding the three spot in the East Division, and fifth place in the conference. On the outside looking in prior to Saturday’s game was the Albany Devils. They entered holding the grueling nine seed, only one point behind the Mancshester Monarchs who hold the final playoff spot in the East.
Dany Sabourin tended the net for Hershey marking back-to-back starts for the back-up netminder since the second and third games of the season back in October.
Just over the midway mark of the opening frame, Tomas Kundratek off an offensive zone draw fired a shot low to the ice that deflected its way through a screened Keith Kinkaid. The Bears for the second straight night drew first blood and took a 1-0 advantage. Aside from throwing nine shots on Sabourin in the first 20 minutes, the Devils’ forwards were held to check as Hershey carried a 1-0 lead into intermission.
Into the middle frame, both teams exchanged a countless number of close scoring chances. At the 3:34 mark Peter Harrold was sent to the sin-bin for interference, putting the Bears on their second man-advantage. The old phrase that states “The goalie must be the best penalty killer” came into action. Kinkaid stopped four scoring chances in the slot where he had to make athletic, sprawling saves to deny the number one power-play in league from another tally.
After being held scoreless for over 29 minutes, the Triple-A Affiliate of the New Jersey Devils finally broke through Sabourin. At the 9:10 mark, Matt Anderson entered his offensive zone on a 2-on-1 rush. He snapped a quick shot that beat Sabourin short-side to tie the game at 1-1. As mentioned before, Kinkaid was the Devils’ best penalty killer in the second frame. However with 5:03 remaining in the stanza, Brad Mills moved up in his team’s ranks with a shorthanded goal. After a Stephen Gionta shot, Mills crashed the next and tucked in the loose puck behind Sabourin to give the Devils their first lead of the night. They carried the 2-1 lead into the third period.
The Bears came into the final period with a 3-13-1 record when trailing after two periods. Through the frame, Albany was fighting for insurance and Hershey was simultaneously fighting for the equalizer. It took the majority of the period, but at the 16 minute mark Tomas Kundratek delivered the Hershey faithful their wish with his second goal of the game. With all four lines forechecking hard, Kinkaid who was outstanding all game made a terrible positioning mistake. After moving out nearly to the high-slot to stop a Ryan Potulny shot, Kundratek potted the rebound into a vacant net to burn Kinkaid for a second time.
Both teams earned a well-deserved point, as the game was forced into a sudden-death overtime period. Entering Saturday, the Bears led the East Division in after-regulation defeats with four overtime setbacks, and six losses in the skills competition. The Devils, however, were flip-flopped with six overtime losses and four shootout defeats.
Back on November 19, 2011, earlier in the season between the two teams, Albany prevailed in a 6-5 shootout win against the Chocholate and White. After a scoreless overtime period on Saturday, nearly four months later the Bears sought revenge in the shootout against the Devils.
Unlike the shootout that took place in November, the Bears elected to shoot second rather than first. Bottom of the second round, Cody Eakin put a unique move on Kinkaid and scored after he faked a slapshot and went slow with a wrister. Matt Anderson tied it for the Red and White in the top of the third inning. Bears’ captain, Boyd Kane stepped up and scored the game-winning shootout goal in the bottom half of the third, leaving it up to Dany Sabourin to secure the win.
Sabs stopped defenseman Eric Gelinasin the fifth and final round to send the Devils home with a 3-2 shootout loss to Hershey. Sabourin went on to claim the number one star honors with 29 saves on 31 shots. It propelled the Bears to their fourth straight win on home ice.
The Hershey Bears return to the ice the next night with a rematch against the Albany Devils at 4 p.m. Unlike the night before, the Albany Devils will have home ice, as they host the Bears in the Capital District for the first time since October 21, 2011.