By Brian Ring
Hartford, CT, December 9, 2011 – Ryan Potulny scored two goals and added an assist, and Chris Bourque added a goal and an assist, to lead the Hershey Bears to a 5-3 victory over Connecticut Whale Friday night at the XL Center in Hartford.
Keith Aucoin recorded three assists for Hershey, which had to hold off a furious third-period rally by the Whale, who received a goal and an assist from Mats Zuccarello.
“We hit some (goal) posts, we had some good chances early,” said Whale head coach Ken Gernander. “Of course we made a mistake or two that led to goals…but they stayed with it until the end of the game.”
The Whale and the Bears had played a scoreless first period, despite Connecticut being afforded three power-play opportunities. The Whale allowed the Bears’ league-leading power-play one chance, in a frame that saw Hershey outshoot the Whale by an 8-4 margin.
Former Whale Tomas Kundratek opened the scoring, giving the Bears a 1-0 lead at 13:52 of the second period. Kundratek beat Connecticut goaltender Chad Johnson (22 saves) with a high snap shot for his second goal of the season, assisted by Jacob Micflikier and Potulny.
Hershey took a 2-0 lead with their dangerous power-play at 16:22 of the second, when Potulny slapped a shot past Johnson’s glove side. Aucoin and Bourque, the AHL’s top two leading scorers, both assisted on the goal. Bourque’s pass across the slot to Potulny in the right circle left little chance for Johnson.
The Bears capitalized again on the power-play to put Hershey up 3-0 at 9:40, as Bourque’s slap shot from between the hash marks went between the pads of Johnson. Aucoin received his second assist of the game on the goal, with Patrick McNeill also earning a helper.
Matt Pope scored for Hershey just 32 seconds later to up the Bears’ lead to 4-0. Former Wolf Pack Matthew Ford and Christian Hanson each assisted on the goal.
The Whale finally broke through at 11:36 of the period to begin a third period comeback attempt, as Kelsey Tessier tipped Tim Erixon’s shot past Hershey goaltender Dany Sabourin (21 saves).
Kris Newbury got Connecticut to within 4-2 at 12:49, stuffing a loose puck underneath the pads of Sabourin, with Mats Zuccarello and Andre Deveaux getting the assists.
The Whale found themselves within a goal with just over three minutes to play in the final period, when Zuccarello tipped another Erixon shot up and over Sabourin. Deveaux recorded his second assist of the night on the tally.
The Bears, however, withstood the Whale comeback attempt and iced the 5-3 win with an empty-net goal by Potulny with less than a second remaining.
“That [third period rally] was our best ten minutes of the game,” said Gernander. “We put the number one power-play out on the ice too many times tonight, and that’s costly in itself.”
The Whale will be in home action again Saturday night, when they play host to the rival Providence Bruins for the first time this season (7:00). The game will be the first of five games to be televised live this season on WCCT-TV.
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Hershey Bears 5 at Connecticut Whale 3
Friday, December 9, 2011 – XL Center Veterans Memorial Coliseum
Hershey 0 2 3 – 5
Connecticut 0 0 3 – 3
1st Period- No Scoring. Penalties-Ford Her (hooking), 1:56; Newbury Ct (high-sticking), 5:31; Lacroix Her (high-sticking), 8:24; McNeill Her (closing hand on puck), 14:56.
2nd Period-1, Hershey, Kundratek 2 (Micflikier, Potulny), 13:02. 2, Hershey, Potulny 5 (Bourque, Aucoin), 16:22 (PP). Penalties-Erixon Ct (hooking), 4:16; Valentenko Ct (holding), 6:54; Parlett Ct (tripping), 14:56; Sabourin Her (tripping), 19:32.
3rd Period-3, Hershey, Bourque 12 (Aucoin, McNeill), 9:40 (PP). 4, Hershey, Pope 3 (Ford, Hanson), 10:12. 5, Connecticut, Tessier 2 (Erixon, Redden), 11:36. 6, Connecticut, Newbury 8 (Zuccarello, Deveaux), 12:49. 7, Connecticut, Zuccarello 8 (Erixon, Deveaux), 16:59 (PP). 8, Hershey, Potulny 6 (Aucoin, Kane), 19:59 (EN). Penalties-Brouillette Her (hooking), 0:25; McNeill Her (delay of game), 3:22; Newbury Ct (goaltender interference), 8:38; Wellar Her (roughing), 12:49; Deveaux Ct (roughing), 12:49; Hanson Her (high-sticking), 16:44; Bell Ct (hooking), 17:10.
Shots on Goal-Hershey 8-9-10-27. Connecticut 4-10-10-24.
Power Play Opportunities-Hershey 2 / 6; Connecticut 1 / 7.
Goalies-Hershey, Sabourin 6-4-1 (24 shots-21 saves). Connecticut, Johnson 8-4-2 (26 shots-22 saves).
Referees-Mark Lemelin (41).
Linesmen-Kevin Redding (16), Paul Simeon (66).