It is no lie the Hershey Bears in many instances this season have struggled to put forth a complete game, 100-percent effort against the opposition. However in a 3-2 shootout loss against the Connecticut Whale, effort was no where near a concern for the Chocolate and White.
The Bears blasted 11 shots on goal in each period and an addition four shots on goal in a five minute overtime period. Philipp Grubauer stood tall denying four of five Whale shooters in the skills competition, but lost the shootout regardless, 1-0.
Minutes prior to the skills competition, Grubauer was given a practice round in OT when the Whale were awarded a penalty shot. At the sudden death’s 3:18 mark, Christian Thomas was given a chance to win the game on a free breakaway following a Patrick McNeill hook.
Thomas appeared to run out of room and rushed a quick shot on Grubauer, which he easily turned aside. It’s ironic the match could have ended on a penalty shot considering the game’s first minor was whistled with 16:25 remaining in regulation.
Referees Jeff Smith and Dave Lewis allowed both sides to play exciting, end-to-end hockey with few interruptions.
The Whale opened the scoring 5:32 into the contest with a sharp-angle backhander on Grubauer. Nick Palmieri flipped a soft shot Grubuaer may wish to have back, as the infamous “Brass Bonanza” sounded early at the XL Center.
With 7:44 left in the opening frame, Nicolas Deschamps answered with is first goal with the Chocolate and White. Deschamps looked the send a pass through the low-slot, but instead it was deflected off a skate blade and into the Connecticut net.
Nearly a full period later with 8:15 left in the second, Ryan Potulny hit pay-dirt for Hershey. Boyd Kane made an excellent play several steps inside the left point to feed a wide-open Potulny. He ripped a perfect snap shot to the blocker side of Jason Missiaen to give the Bears their first lead of the night. Kane’s primary helper on the goal was his 499th career American Hockey League point.
But with just over 55 seconds left in the stanza, Connecticut scored to knot the game at 2-2 before intermission. After an excellent play to keep the puck in the offensive zone at the center point, Blake Parlett sent a shot through a heavy screen and into the net.
With each team pressing for late game heroics, Potulny made a large defensive contribution to avoid a late third period goal against. With Grubauer scrambling in the blue paint, the puck momentarily ended up behind him with two Whale forwards crashing the net. Potulny dove behind his goaltender to block a loose puck on the goal line to heroically keep the game tied.
Both teams picked up a well deserved standings point, but Kris Newbury tallied the lone shootout goal leading to a 3-2 win for Connecticut. Although Hershey did not earn the “W”, it was nothing short of a productive night in the standings. With losses to Binghamton and Albany, the Bears gain ground on two teams barely standing on the outside of the playoff picture.
Hershey falls to eighth in the conference behind the Whale by one point. However, the Bears still have one less game played than CT.