Stingrays fall 4-3 in overtime in their home opener.
Bears Build on Wednesday’s Win, Avoiding Elimination (Again)
The hockey gods smiled on Hershey tonight. Facing elimination, the Hershey Bears pulled together a solid 4-1 win over the visiting Baby Pens. It gets even better: the Bears earned that win while also going a perfect 9/9 on the penalty kill (here’s a hint: the Pens went 1/4 on their PK, with 5 fewer penalties called). It didn’t hurt that the Pens seemed to be a bit of a hot mess tonight, for reasons unknown (hey, it happened to Hershey last Saturday – we’re not judging).
Though things started off slowly (there were less than 10 shots on goal combined in the first period), by the third period this game looked much more like one might expect a meeting of the Bears & their 12-game rivals from the regular season might appear. However, despite the improved pace (and Kevin Marshall taking two separate penalties to give the Pens a sporting chance), the only goal of the night for the Pens was a holdover from the previous period – a tally by Jason Williams that shattered goaltender Dany Sabourin‘s bid for a shutout with just 2:10 left in the second.
Speaking of Sabourin, he deserves plenty of credit for the flawless penalty kill the Bears recorded tonight. His glove should probably receive the seventh man award for the evening, despite the fact that his leg pads were heavy on the rebounds. At the end of the night, he had blocked 22 of 23 shots – good enough for a .957 save percentage.
Now, there’s been a lot of well-deserved flailing about ATO (recently-in-college) players in the Hershey lineup over the last month. Most of them are now serving as Black Aces, but Cameron Schilling is proving to be a solid addition to the Hershey blueline in his brief tenure with the Bears. Tonight, he saw both power play and penalty kill time while experienced veteran Julien Brouillette was a healthy scratch. Schilling repaid the show of faith by scoring his second goal of the playoffs (and his professional career) with 2:34 left in the first period. Fittingly, the goal came off of one of his trademark slapshots. While his hands are most definitely his Persian Flaw, overall he’s acclimating very well to the AHL game.
The other necessary mention of the night is Captain Boyd Kane, who came within a few inches of a hat trick this evening (Chris Bourque ended up scoring the final empty net goal, but not before giving Kane a crack at it). Kane’s first two goals were the game-winner and the insurance, scored at 7:52 of the second & 10:07 of the third, respectively. They were also both power play tallies, pushing the Bears to a success rate with the man advantage that they haven’t seen since Keith Aucoin‘s recall to Washington. In the words of Head Coach Mark French, “in these types of games, you need your captain to step up and to put some people on their shoulders, and he did precisely that. He’s been doing that for a couple of months now.”
Hershey will play Game 5 in Wilkes-Barre tomorrow night. The puck drops at 7:05, and the game will be available on both AHL Live (video) and WHP 580 (radio stream). The winner of Game 5 will proceed to the Eastern Conference Semifinals, where they will play the St. John’s IceCaps.
Photos: As always, a collection of images from tonight’s game will be going up over the next 48 hours on the author’s flickr. The Quarterfinals collection should be complete by Sunday.