SYRACUSE, New York – Brett Connolly scored what proved to be the game-winning goal on a two-man power play advantage, sending the Syracuse Crunch past the HERSHEY BEARS by a 4-3 final score on Saturday night at the OnCenter War Memorial Arena.
Shorthanded goals were the story of the first half of the game, as Syracuse got on the board first with the BEARS on a power play. Holtby fired a pass around the corner boards but it was stopped by J.T. Wyman on the right half wall. Wyman whipped a shot on goal that was tipped over Holtby’s shoulder by Mike Angelidis at 11:23 for a 1-0 lead.
Tyler Johnson scored his third goal in two nights to give Syracuse a 2-0 lead at 5:36 of the second frame. From in close, Johnson one-timed a pass over Holtby’s blocker off a pass from Cory Conacher.
The BEARS clawed back to within one on a shorthanded goal of their own. Leading a two-on-one rush on a penalty kill, Jon Kalinski carried down the right wing and fed a perfect saucer pass into the low slot for a streaking Garrett Mitchell. Mitchell tipped the puck under Crunch netminder Riku Helenius at 7:20.
Barry Almeida, who scored his first goal in the final regular-season game of 2012, scored in the first game of the new season to knot the score at 14:36 when he finished a tic-tac-toe passing play led by Jon DiSalvatore and Jeff Taffe.
But Conacher gave Syracuse the lead heading into the second intermission, when he whirled around between the hash marks and fired a loose puck over Holtby’s shoulder through traffic.
Connolly’s power-play strike came in the early minutes of the third. With Steve Oleksy and Garrett Stafford taking penalties just 13 seconds apart, Connolly was set up for a blast from the center point that eluded Holtby at 5:02.
After three separate incidents of tempers heating up, Conacher ran into Holtby and drew an interference call, handing the BEARS another man advantage. This time DiSalvatore cleaned up the rebound of Tomas Kundratek’s shot from the left point at 13:04 to again cut the deficit to one.
The BEARS tried to get Holtby off for an extra attacker late, but Syracuse kept the pressure on and held on for the win.
Holtby made 28 saves on 32 shots in taking the loss, while Helenius finished with 23 saves in earning the win. HERSHEY finished the night 1-for-8 on the power play and 6-for-7 on the penalty kill.
The BEARS will play next Friday, October 19 at 7:05 PM on the road against the Binghamton Senators. The club opens their home schedule on Saturday, October 20 with a 7:00 PM faceoff against the Rochester Americans. The first 8,000 fans will receive a team schedule magnet, courtesy of PNC Bank. Tickets for this game and all HERSHEY BEARS home games are on sale at the GIANT Center box office, by calling (717) 508-BEAR, or online at TicketMaster.com.