The Long Ride Home: BEARS 3, Monsters 2 (SO)

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Dany Sabourin stops Lake Erie’s Mike Connolly from in-close in Tuesday night action from Quicken Loans Arena. The BEARS won in a shootout, 3-2.

It’s a good thing that the ol’ time clock isn’t punched on a daily basis by the HERSHEY BEARS players.

The accounting department would have to figure out an awful lot of time-and-a-half.

For the second consecutive game, for the seventh time in the past 12 games, and for the fourth consecutive game in which Dany Sabourin started in goal, the game took more than 60 minutes of play to decide.  This time, the BEARS came out on top, winning a 3-2 battle against the Lake Erie Monsters at the “Q” in Cleveland, Ohio.

This was an excellent game to watch.  It featured a BEARS team battling to pile up points early in the new month; a Monsters team thrilled to be playing someone other than the Abbotsford Heat; a special teams battle that was heavily weighted against the visitors; and a BEARS team with one-third of their lineup trying to do damage to the team for which they used to wear the opposing jersey.

It could have gone completely wrong if the BEARS didn’t shake off some early adversity.  A nice play by rookie center Paul Carey kept a clearing attempt alive in the Monsters’ offensive zone.  Seeing room, Carey darted toward the slot and sent a snap shot past Sabourin’s blocker.  The goal came on Lake Erie’s first shot of the night, 42 seconds into the contest.

A back-breaker…yes?  Not this time.

Former Monsters Steve Oleksy and Mike Carman, along with Carman’s linemate Matt Pope, helped turn a bouncing puck in the neutral zone into a two-on-one rush from just inside the Monsters blue line.  Carman held the puck and picked a spot underneath goaltender Calvin Pickard’s glove for the tying goal.

If it sounds like the BEARS should have had more to shake off than just the early goal against, you’re correct.  Prior to Carman’s equalizer, a five-on-three power play was handed to the Monsters when Jon DiSalvatore and Kevin Marshall took penalties 64 seconds apart.  The penalty kill began a perfect night by allowing the Monsters just one shot on this advantage.

That was a key turning point for the BEARS.  A high-sticking penalty on Lake Erie’s Brad Malone gave HERSHEY its second power play, and they made it count.  Barry Almeida had a slam-dunk rebound with 4:33 left in the first period, after newcomers Casey Wellman and Peter LeBlanc worked to put the puck on net.  Pickard left the rebound right in front for Almeida to bury his fifth goal of the season.

All in all, it was a very nice turnaround for a team that hasn’t scored more than one first-period goal since a four-tally outburst against the Connecticut Whale on January 13.

HERSHEY grabbed even more momentum after having to kill yet another two-man advantage late in the first period, and its carry-over portion early in the second frame.

But, in an instant – literally – the Monsters tied the game right afterward.  Off of a clean face-off win from Gary Steffes, Monsters defenseman Thomas Pock ripped a one-timer past Sabourin’s glove.  Bang.  2-2 deadlock.

This score would hold all the way through regulation, even after the BEARS were forced to kill three more Monsters power plays.  Sabourin was outstanding in goal, as was Pickard, through the remainder of regulation.

Lake Erie dominated the overtime, in my opinion.  For at least 3:00 of the 5:00 of four-on-four, the Monsters had the puck in their possession.  The hosts outshot HERSHEY 6-3 in the extra session, but without any further scoring, such began the shootout.

Lake Erie head coach Dean Chynoweth elected to have his team shoot first.  Carey was up, but Sabourin made the save with his blocker.  After Garrett Stafford and Andrew Agozzino both missed the net on their attempts, Ryan Potulny came down and flipped a shot past Pickard to give HERSHEY the lead.  Once again, whatever the BEARS did, so did the Monsters – and Markus Lauridsen slipped a shot five-hole on Sabourin in the third round.  Ryan Stoa and Bill Thomas were each turned aside, while Jeff Taffe followed with a shot that beat Pickard over the glove.  Sabourin needed to stop Malone’s shot in the fifth round, which he did with a nice butterfly save, and the BEARS earned a huge two points.

So let’s break down some important pieces of information, now that the six-hour ride home is complete and the team is home resting (but yours truly is right back to the grind!):

1) The BEARS finish the regular season with a perfect mark of 3-0-0-0 on Tuesdays.  I seriously think this is a cool stat, considering that the Tuesdays that were on the BEARS’ schedule this year were either A) the end of three games in four nights (no more “four-in-fives” this season, remember?), or B) the beginning of a LONG trip (12/11, the first of two in St. John’s, which ended a stretch of five games in seven nights).  The team had one of those to Charlotte last year.

2) The BEARS have played 18 consecutive games in which no more than three goals were allowed.  That’s impressive.  A team that is still finding its goal-scoring touch can’t afford to allow a ton of goals.  Braden Holtby, Philipp Grubauer, Dany Sabourin, and the HERSHEY defense corps all need praise for that – not to mention the shot-blocking and penalty killing of players like Ryan Potulny, Garrett Mitchell, Mike Carman, Kevin Marshall and Jon Kalinski to name a few.

3) The BEARS have now played 26 one-goal games.  In those contests, the team is 11-10-3-2.  Only Houston (29) and Worcester (27) have played more.

4) Dany Sabourin has played four straight games beyond regulation.  In those games, he has a 1-2-1 record with a save percentage of .967 and a goals-against average of 1.88.  That’s just cruel to not have a 4-0-0 mark with those numbers.

5) Sabourin has allowed two goals or less in seven of his last eight starts.  BUT… he is 3-3-1 in those games.

The team returns to practice on Thursday at HERSHEYPARK Arena to begin preparation for home games against the Binghamton Senators and the Norfolk Admirals this weekend.

Hope to see you there!  GO BEARS!!!!

-Stucc

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