Eyeing his tenth “W” in his first American Hockey League season, Philipp Grubauer drew the start for the Hershey Bears against the Adirondack Phantoms. In front of another sell out crowd of 10,856 at Giant Center, Grubauer stopped 36 shots as the Bears cruised to a comfortable 5-2 win against the Phantoms.
Although the outcome went in Hershey’s favor, it was the Phantoms dominating puck possession during the opening stanza. Hershey started the game with a horrible tempo and pace, allowing Adirondack to buzz their offensive third of the ice. The Phantoms started the game on a 12-1 shot run and drew two first period power plays.
Despite great puck movement and a series of shots on the young Grubauer, ADK failed to hit pay-dirt in the first 20 minutes. With 5:39 remaining, Head Coach Mark French mercifully burned his only timeout with his squad beginning to consistently turn pucks over in the defensive and the neutral zones.
French after the game explained his decision to burn his lone timeout in the first period. “For me it was all about puck battles and puck races early. We certainly weren’t winning many of them. I thought we reset well.”
Following the timeout, Peter LeBlanc capitalized for the Bears with 45 seconds left on the clock to give his club a 1-0 lead. Sarcastic cheers reigned down to the ice as Hershey quickly tallied their second and third shots of the game in the final minute of the period. Suddenly LeBlanc turned the sarcastic yells into those of enthused excitement after scoring on his own rebound.
Phantoms’ netminder Brian Boucher kicked away the first scoring bid by LeBlanc, but failed to corral his second attempt.
Shots after 20 minutes were 14-7 Adirondack, as the Chocolate and White disguised in St. Patrick’s Day green somehow possessed a 1-0 lead.
The Phantoms’ momentum-breaking goal against in the final minute of the first period has a large impact on their second and period performance. Hershey quickly turned the tide with two quick tallies in the second frame’s opening five minutes by Ryan Potulny and Jeff Taffe.
At the 3:24 mark, Boyd Kane forced an excellent turnover while on the forecheck near the offensive corner. He quickly sent a quick pass to Ryan Potulny camped in the slot of the net. He blasted a point-blank chance past Boucher to give his team a 2-0 lead.
Only 1:08 later, Taffe scored on a 4-on-3 man-advantage to cap a 3-0 advantage. Casey Wellman, low near the goal line sent a cross-ice feed for Jeff Taffe to one-time into the net. It was the first of two power play goals on the night as Hershey suddenly opened a quick three point gap.
Into the third period, the Bears looked to add icing on the cake against the AHL’s worst team in the standings. With 15:54 left in regulation, Wellman tallied his 13th of the season on the power play with a slap shot from the left point. There was not a heavy screen set in front of Brian Boucher, as the shot beat him clean.
However just 20 seconds later, Adirondack broke Philipp Grubauer’s bid for a franchise record. Throughout Hershey’s 75 year old franchise, a goalie has never recorded back-to-back shutouts in back-to-back days. With a clean sheet the night before, Adirondack’s Marcel Noebels spoiled Grubauer’s stab at history with a goal against. Grubauer simply explained his play by saying, “I’m just having fun out there” after the game.
But with 7:11 remaining in the hockey game, Taffe hit pay-dirt for the second time of the night after finishing a 2-on-1 rush with Dmitry Orlov.
The Phantoms’ Garrett Roe scored a meaningless goal with 1:55 left on the clock to complete the scoring, leading to a 5-2 Hershey victory on home ice.
The Hershey Bears will now pack their bags for New England with an important road trip on the horizon. In three nights next weekend, Hershey will face off against Connecticut, Manchester and Worcester.