The battle of the Bears and the 2013 Calder Cup Playoffs kicked off Friday with a tremendous 5-2 win over the Providence Bruins. Continuing from late regular season success, the power play unit tallied a trio of goals including two on both ends of a 5-on-3 advantage.
In the best of five series, Hershey quickly jumps to a 1-0 lead and has stolen home ice advantage from the AHL regular season champions.
Immediately out of the starting gate, the Chocolate and White flooded the offensive zone with a great sense of urgency and intensity. Playing with urgency should be a common postseason expectation regardless of playoff seeding. But scoring four goals and running future NHL netminder Niklas Svedberg was far from expected Friday night.
The scoring outburst started with 6:23 left in the opening stanza on the power play. Hershey went to work on their first man advantage of the Calder Cup Playoffs after Jordan Caron was whistled for an interference infraction.
Towards the back end of the power play, Bruins’ penalty killer Garnet Exelby gave the puck away via a lazy clear attempt from the corner boards. The puck was quickly gobbled by Jeff Taffe in the slot, and centered a pass to a wide-open Joey Crabb. The turnover fooled Svedberg out of position, leading to Crabb’s first goal of the postseason into an empty net.
The Bears entered first intermission leading 1-0 and carried a 14-11 shot advantage into the dressing room.
But quickly into the middle frame, the playoff opener would not remain close for much longer. Only 4:43 into the stanza, Casey Wellman capitalized on a 5-on-3 power play to open a two goal deficit. Following minors 23 seconds apart, the Bears were handed a glorious opportunity to hit pay-dirt once more against the All-Star Svedberg.
From the bottom of the left face off circle, Wellman banked a shot off the skate of Bruins’ defender Matt Bartkowski and into the cage.
Then moments later with 17 seconds remaining on the secondary Providence minor, Jon DiSalvatore cashed in to quickly open his team’s lead to a 3-0 margin. Following a Tomas Kundratek shot from the point, DiSalvatore deflected the biscuit into the cage. 6,541 spectators in Providence were stunned to silence, as they watched the American Hockey League top regular season team fall into a 3-0 hole. DiSalvatore’s goal later proved to be the game-winner.
Finally with 10:37 left in the middle frame, Niklas Svedberg received the hook after being scored on for a fourth time. Right off an offensive zone face off, Dmitry Orlov tallied his team’s first even-strength goal of the contest. Michael Hutchinson entered the game in relief and denied all 11 shots he faced through 29 minutes of game action.
The P-Bruins finally broke into their goal column with 6:04 left in the stanza to trim the Bears’ lead back to three. Jamie Tardif beat Philipp Grubauer with a laser of a shot to awaken the Dunkin’ Donuts Center crowd. Following a questionable and lengthy goal review, the tally was confirmed minutes later by referees David Banfield and Trevor Hanson.
Former Bear Christian Hanson then made the game interesting with a strike only 3:54 into the third period. Hanson used his speed to punish Hershey’s defense after a flubbed clearing attempt. Although the two-goal lead is infamously known as the worst lead in hockey, the Bears continued to pursue an offensive attack to cut remaining time.
Grubauer stymied the Bruins for the rest of the game, as Michael Latta added an empty net shorthanded goal in the final seconds to cap a 5-2 Hershey victory. The Bears take over home ice advantage with a road victory in game one. Both teams will rematch this Sunday for game two at 3:05pm before traveling to Chocolate Town USA for the third meeting on May 4.