While “X” marked the spot in Wilkes-Barre Township with the Penguins celebrating a playoff berth, the Hershey Bears aimed to inch closer in a battle against the Springfield Falcons.
65 minutes was not enough for either side, leading to Hershey’s 12th skills competition of the 2013-14 campaign. Ryan Stoa became the AHL leader in shootout goals, but the Bears dropped a 4-3 decision in five rounds.
Although Stoa is mainly known for is lethal shootout move, he opened the game’s scoring only 7:29 into the contest. On an offensive rush, he waved a quick snapshot that beat Mike McKenna to give Hershey a 1-0 advantage. But less than two minutes later, the deadly Falcons’ power play unit quickly erased the Bears’ lead.
With 10:50 left in the opening period, Michael Chaput finished a combination passing play and appeared to beat Philipp Grubauer five-hole.
Springfield tacked on a second goal to gain a 2-1 edge before first intermission. A back door play pulled Hershey’s defense out of position with 4:24 left on the period clock, leading to Jean-Francois Jacques’s 15th goal of the season into a wide-open cage.
The Chocolate and White answered in the middle stanza with two quick, unanswered tallies to grab a 3-2 lead. On a David Kolomatis blast from the point at the 4:53 mark, Jeff Taffe stood in the goal-front and received the deflection for a power play goal. It snapped an 0-for-12 power play scoring drought for the Bears during their recent road trip.
Only 57 seconds later, Kris Newbury gave the Bears their second lead of the night. After Dane Byers was denied on a quick breakaway chance, Newbury followed the play and twisted a loose puck towards the net. A lucky deflection in front off a Falcon skate blade put Hershey on top.
But in the final minute before the expiration of the period, Springfield tied the game at 3-3. Sean Collins on a simple even-man offensive rush threw a shot towards the glove side of Gruabauer. Grubauer grasping at air, couldn’t find the biscuit and yielded a shot he likely should have stopped.
Each team fanned on various third period power play chances, sending the game to overtime and eventually the skills competition. Stoa and Casey Wellman scored in the opening two rounds, but Grubauer could not hold his own, stopping only two of five shooters.
Although the Norfolk Admirals won in regulation and tied the Bears in points, Hershey has the tiebreaker in hand with a 30-28 advantage in wins excluding shootouts.