Saturday night the Hershey Bears returned home to face the Connecticut Whale at Giant Center. As if the Bears’ offensive hasn’t been challenged enough as of late, they would have to battle the Whale with no Jeff Taffe, Ryan Potulny and Evan Barlow in the lineup. Philipp Grubauer earned his second start of the season in Hershey and gained his first ever shootout win in a 4-3 victory over the Whale.
Grubauer commented on his first AHL win, comparing play in the American League to the ECHL. “The speed was the thing I have to get (most used to) right now. It’s a whole different situation up here. In Reading everybody kind of ran around and up here it’s so structured. It’s going to take a little time, but it’s going to be good in a couple of week”, said Grubauer.
Connecticut jumped out to an early 10-3 shot advantage over Hershey in just the first half of the period. Grubauer quickly proved why he was reigning ECHL Goaltender of the Month with the Reading Royals. However on the Whale’s eleventh shot of the game, Kyle Jean hit pay-dirt on the young 21-year-old netminder.
Jean entered the offensive zone with speed on an even-man rush and put a forehand-backhand move on Grubauer. A low shot just inside the left goal post gave Connecticut a late 1-0 lead at the 17:07 mark of the opening frame.
But only 28 seconds later, Garrett Mitchell found the equalizer for Hershey. He sent a low, sharp-angle shot on net that alluded Whale’ goaltender Jason Missiaen. Both teams were even at 1-1 following 20 minutes. Connecticut carried a steep 13-6 shot advantage.
Into the middle period, before fans could make their way back to their seat, Hershey took their first lead of the night. At the 17 second mark, Jonathon Kalinski tallied his first goal as a Hershey Bear off a quick point-blank chance in front of the net. Despite the goal coming just over a quarter of a minute into the stanza, it was the lone goal in the middle period for either side. Hershey carried a 2-1 lead into the dressing room after 40 minutes.
Hershey was given a two-man advantage for 1:06 in the third period to try to gain a two goal lead. The Whale successfully killed off all Bears’ power plays to keep the game at 2-1.
The failed power play chances went on to haunt the Bears, as Connecticut pulled even with 8:04 remaining in regulation. Kelsey Tessier redirected a Tommy Grant shot into the Bears’ net to silence the Giant Center crowd of 10,409.
With Hershey’s power play immensely struggling to generate goals, Connecticut looked to their shorthanded unit to take a late 3-2 lead. Chad Kolarik banged in a rebound for the Whale to give his team a heroic late lead. However, the Bears were still on the power play and finally tallied a PPG to tie the game. Zach Hamill blasted a one-timer with 5:16 left in regulation to knot the game back up, 3-3.
Both teams headed to a five minute, sudden death overtime period. 65 minutes proved not to be enough, as both teams were to decide who gets the “W” in a shootout. Garrett Stafford and Stanislav Galiev both tallied in the shootout, as Grubauer stopped four out of five shots in a 2-1 shootout victory.