Hershey Takes Down St. John’s (But Everyone’s Here for the Freebies)

Posted March 22, 2012

There are a few ways to guarantee a full house in Hershey: Bring on the Baby Pens, Bring on the Playoffs, Bring on the specialty jerseys, & Bring on the HersheyPark Passes.  Winning streaks can cause a nice, solid boost to attendance, too, and tonight’s 3-2 defeat of the St. John’s IceCaps marked the fourth W in a row.  In a moment of above-the-fold recognition, please note that Dany Sabourin‘s been in net for all of them.

Dany Sabourin reaches for a loose puck (and subsequently got run over for his trouble; Festerling would leave the game with an injury acquired during the hit). (All Photos Credit: M. Richter)

Tonight’s game fell squarely into the “Attendance by virtue of Snazzy Giveaways” category, boasting a weeknight sellout crowd during the first week of spring.  It didn’t hurt that it was the IceCaps’ first visit to Giant Center, either, especially when the Bears lost to the Winnipeg affiliate twice at the beginning of the month on the road.  One of those losses was 6-1, and featured a hat trick by IceCaps center Patrice Cormier.  It was a bad weekend, with the team missing five of their top nine forwards due to injury or recall (Chris Bourque has since returned to the lineup, the rest are still MIA from the Bears’ locker room).

So, now you have the history between the two teams (all two games worth).  And you understand why the crowds turned out in droves when it was gorgeously sunny and warm outside.  Therefore, I can give you a bit more information about the game tonight.

Boyd Kane gets mobbed by his teammates after scoring a short-handed goal near the end of the first period.

The Short Version:

There were 30:16 Good Minutes, and 29:44 Not-So-Good minutes.  The Bears got lucky, and they scored one more goal during their initial “good” period than the IceCaps managed in the second half of the game.  The end result was a 3-2 regulation win, with goals by Mike Carman, Boyd Kane, and a game-winner by Ryan Potulny.

The Longer Version:

Hershey won on the strength of their special teams (some Power Play, more Penalty Kill), their goalie (Dany Sabourin got second star of the night for a reason), and a solid dose of blind luck.

To truly understand the importance of special teams in tonight’s game, one needs to start with the list of penalties assessed.  For a game with no fights and no game misconducts, there were a lot of entries on the penalty list – eight minors called against each team, for a total of sixteen.  The fact that the Officials Supervisor was watching the game from the press box may have had something to do with that – there were certainly a number of instances where a potential altercation was short-circuited.

We said "No Touching!!" (Tomas Kundratek did not get the memo)

So, special teams.  In shiny and eye-catching numbers, Hershey’s Penalty Kill went a perfect 6 for 6.  The first unit of Kevin Marshall, Sean Collins, Kane, and Potulny not only kept the puck out of their own net, but they managed to put it past the St. John’s goaltender, Eddie Pasquale.

In slightly less shiny numbers, their Power Play was 1 for 6.  There are still some movement issues going on there, and performance was drastically better in the first half of the game, but at least they’re managing to score on occasion. Ryan Potulny gets the credit for tonight’s PP tally, which coincidentally also happened to be the game-winner.

For the sake of number-crunching harmony, the Bears balanced the books by opening the night with an even-strength goal.

Movers & Shakers (AKA – A Few Personnel Notes)

Matt Tendler, standing next to Dany Sabourin (6' 4") & Boyd Kane (6' 2")

The Bears continue their quest for “Most Players Officially Listed @ 5′ 8″ in the AHL” with the signing of goalie Matt Tendler.  As noted previously on Caps Outsider, there’s been a bit of a crunch going on in net within the Caps organization.  Due to a rash of injuries down in South Carolina, Braden Holtby‘s call-up left the Bears scrambling for a backup goaltender.  The answer has come in the form of Tendler, who was signed to an Amateur Try-Out contract with the club this morning.

Let me make it clear – I’m not ragging on Tendler for his height.  There are several contemporary examples of great goaltending in the less-than-6’ club, most notably Shawn Hunwick of the University of Michigan.  I’m merely pointing out a trend in Hershey’s roster, which currently includes four players who list between 5′ 8 and 5′ 9.  Keith Aucoin also fits that category, but he’s currently living it up in Washington (and scoring goals left & right).

In other news, recent acquisition Daniel Koger played his second game in a Bears uniform tonight.  He joined Maxime Lacroix and D.J. King on the fourth line.  At the end of the evening, all three of them had perfectly blank stat lines.  Let’s hope the trend doesn’t continue, although a 0 in +/- is better than a negative.

Stingrays Update

Down South, the Stingrays fell to the Florida Everblades 4-3 in regulation.  It’s the first of 3 games between the only two teams in the South Division who have not yet secured a playoff berth.  At the moment, they sit perfectly tied at 77 points and a .575 winning percentage.  By the end of the weekend, expect the tie to be broken.

Billy Sauer is currently shouldering the goaltending load for the ‘Rays, but with luck both Daren Machesney and Philipp Grubauer will be rejoining the healthy list before the end of the season.

Update: Wednesday night’s backup goaltender for SC was listed as Joey DeBono.  More information on him when/if we have it. Per Joseph Zakrzewski, DeBono is an adult rec league player from SC – no CHL/NCAA/Pro background. Hence a non-existent HockeyDB.com profile, and a somewhat confusing EliteProspects.com profile.  Best of luck, Joey!

Photo Gallery: As usual, a more complete photo gallery for this game will be going up on the author’s flickr over the next 36 hours. Enjoy!