The Hershey Bears finished up their three game road swing in royal fashion on Sunday, surviving a nine round shootout to outlast the Manchester Monarchs, 3-2, at Verizon Wireless Arena.
Hershey net minder, Michal Neuvirth, was outstanding while collecting his 5th win of the season and 1st away from the friendly confines of Giant Center, stopping 47-of-49 Manchester shots. The 49 shots against represented a season high for the Chocolate and White.
Graham Mink, scoring his league leading 10th first goal of the game, tallied on the power play just 51 seconds into the game to stake Hershey to an early 1-0 lead. Mink’s goal, with Manchester goaltender, Jonathan Bernier, as the victim, was his 31st of the season, tying his career high set in 2006-07 with the Worcester Sharks.
Manchester tied the game late in the first period when Trevor Lewis beat Neuvirth on the power play at 18:11.
The Monarchs managed the only goal of the second period, another late period strike, with veteran Marty Murray doing the damage at 19:30. Murray, after a beautiful fake by Tom Preissing froze the Hershey defense, gently guided the biscuit into then yawning cage.
Alexandre Giroux, on the power play, tied the game at 3:58 of the period with his historic 50th goal of the season. Giroux, who reached the 50-goal plateau for the first time in his pro career, became only the 5th player in the 71 year history of Hershey hockey to hit the half-century mark.
In the first three rounds of the shootout, neither Neuvirth or Bernier fared well, with each goalie stopping just one of three attempts. However, in rounds four through eight, Bernier and Neuvirth successfully faced down the challenge of each shooter, setting the stage for the ninth inning heroics of Keith Aucoin, who bested Bernier in the top of the frame. Neuvirth jammed the efforts of Manchester’s Justin Azevedo, Manchester’s last hope to seal the deal for Hershey.