The Hershey Bears sought their first win of the weekend in a three games in three nights finale against the Portland Pirates. A win for Portland would have punched their ticket to the 2013 AHL Postseason. A win for Hershey would of kept their playoff hopes and dreams alive for the moment.
The Pirates entered play as the most penalized team in the American Hockey League and lived up to their reputation with ten minors against Hershey. The Bears cashed in on a season high five power play goals to cruise to a 6-3 win in Portland. Joey Crabb earned first star honors with a hat trick, and Jeff Taffe earned five helpers en route to his team’s blowout.
Despite a combined nine goals at the Cumberland County Civic Center, neither team hit pay-dirt until the middle frame. For the second straight night, Hershey kicked a field goal in the second period.
Only 28 seconds into the stanza, the scoring onslaught all started with Tomas Kundratek. After being sidelined the night before, Kundratek bombed a shot from the center point on his team’s third power play of the night.
Minutes later with 15:30 remaining on the period’s clock, Peter LeBlanc displayed a National Hockey League quality goal after a pretty passing play with Jon DiSalvatore. Entering the offensive end on a rush, DiSalvatore slipped a saucer pass in the air to LeBlanc, breaking towards the net. LeBlanc’s tip near the backdoor gave his team their second power play strike.
But with 2:04 left in the frame, Portland suddenly pulled within one. Maxim Goncharov weaved with the puck from the half-boards to the high-slot. He backhanded a quick shot low to the ice of Philipp Grubauer to get his team on the board.
Just as the arena public address announcer belted out the one minute warning, Joey Crabb scored his first of an eventual three goal night. On the man-advantage, Jeff Taffe looked to throw a shot on goal from the right face off circle. The shot was deflected off a leg and caromed right to Crabb on the backdoor. He potted his fourth of the season before Chad Johnson could move across his crease in time.
After 40 minutes, Hershey carried a 3-1 lead and possessed only 15 shots on goal. 15 seemed a bit low of a number considering overall play throughout the first two periods was clearly dominated by the Chocolate and White.
Into to the final frame with Hershey banging on the door for insurance, the Pirates again pulled within one goal with 13:11 left in regulation. Troy Bodie from the bottom of the face off circle fooled Grubauer with another backhander low to the ice.
However the Bears answered with another three goal frame lead by Crabb and the power play unit. Crabb scored the next two goals with one being on the man-advantage to give his team a 5-2 cushion. Both his tallies stood at the 7:50 and 15:13 mark of the third. All game long he positioned himself low near the bottom of the face off circle when on the power play, and looked to snipe a shot following a cross-ice feed through the defense.
With 3:35 left in regulation and Hershey comfortably on top, Portland’s unnecessary parade of minor penalties continued until the finish line. Dmitry Orlov joined the PPG party with a shot from the point beating Johnson clean.
The Pirates’ Troy Bodie tacked on a meaningless power play goal in the final minute to complete the scoring of a 6-3 Hershey blowout.
The Norfolk Admirals and Connecticut Whale began their respective matches an hour before puck drop in Portland. During second intermission of the Bears-Pirates duel, news broke that both the Admirals and Whale were handed regulation losses.
Suddenly Hershey is within two points and have a game in hand against Connecticut. The Bears also trail Norfolk by a deuce, but are even in games played. Keep in mind the Manchester Monarchs are even with Hershey in the standings and are also looking to sneak into a playoff position.