The Hershey Bears entered Friday night’s matchup against the Adirondack Phantoms seeking their 50th win of the season, and after a seesaw battle, the boys from Chocolatetown escaped from Glens Falls with a 5-4 overtime win.
The Phantoms, the only team in the AHL that can boast of placing three blemishes on the Bears’ record, gave the visitors all that they could handle in the oscillating affair, twice grabbing one-goal leads after falling behind early in the contest.
The Bears took a 1-0 lead on a goal by Jay Beagle at 4:34. Beagle pounced upon the rebound of a Mathieu Perreault point blank attempt, and poked the puck behind Phantoms’ netminder, Johan Backlund, to pot his 11th goal of the season.
Less than two minutes after Beagle’s goal, an outstanding individual effort by Alexandre Giroux led to his 34th marker of the campaign, an unassisted tally.
“I was coming from the bench and the guy bobbled,” Giroux said. “The guy in the zone was standing still, so I tried to make a move on him. Then, I didn’t have enough speed to go around the defenseman, so I stopped and took a shot between his legs. I don’t think the goalie saw it.”
Greg Amadio’s cross checking infraction at 9:50 put the Phantoms on their first power play, and ultimately put them on the board for the first time, with defenseman, Marc-Andre Bourdon, lighting the lamp at 11:32.
Steve Pinizzotto’s punishing hit on Bourdon behind the Phantoms’ net, which put Bourdon on his back, resulted in his defensive partner, Sean Curry, taking a double minor penalty on Pinizzotto at 16:02.
Curry’s aggressive actions gave the Bears a golden opportunity to finish out the period on a positive note by potting a power play goal, but Adirondack’s penalty killing unit thwarted those plans and the teams retreated to the locker room after twenty minutes with the Bears leading, 2-1.
The second period belonged solely to the Phantoms, who netted the only two goals of the frame, including a soft goal that went in off of the back of Bears’ netminder, Michal Neuvirth.
“I thought we played well in the first, and came into the locker room with the 2-1 lead,” said Bears’ head coach, Mark French. “I thought in the second, we were dominated physically, and lost a lot of battles and races to the puck.”
In the forgetful second period, the Bears did not officially test Backlund for the first time until 10:25 into the frame. In all, the high-powered Bears’ offense put just three shots on net in the period, with Andrew Gordon garnering the only shot on net by a forward.
Early in the third period, Hershey captain, Bryan Helmer, was whistled off by referee, Jamie Koharski, for a cross-checking penalty on Phantoms’ forward, Stefan Legein. After realizing that he was being penalized, Helmer blew a fuse and drew an additional unsportsmanlike conduct penalty as well as ten-minute misconduct.
“Sure, the guy embellished it,” said Helmer. “He got in my way when I had a chance to get the puck out of the zone, and then they got a great scoring chance because of that. I just lost my cool, and I shouldn’t have done that, but that’s the stuff you learn by.”
With Helmer in the penalty box, Steve Pinizzotto struck with in shorthanded mode, netting his 11th goal of the season, and fourth in short-handed style.
“They tried to dump it in, and they missed the puck,” Pinizzotto said. “Wellar made it a good play by throwing it up to Joudrey, who dove and sent me in on the breakaway, and I beat him low to the glove side.”
Pinizzotto, who of late seems to be able to draw the wrath of his opponents even quicker while sporting the protective cage apparatus that he wears after being injured in a scrap against Albany, wishes he could drop the mitts, but has found another way to contribute by putting up consistent offensive numbers.
“It sucks that I can’t fight, particularly against team like this who want to put on a show for their fans,” Pinizzotto admitted. “The points are starting to come now, which is good, and I feel that I can do a lot to help this team out.”
Ironically, just as Helmer’s first penalty was about to expire, Legein struck on the power to give the Phantoms another one-goal lead.
Amadio, making amends for his earlier actions, drew an interference penalty on Phantoms’ defenseman, Joey Mormina, at 10:37.
While Mormina waited out his sentence, Giroux struck again on the power play at 11:58 to tie up the affair. For Giroux, the multi-goal effort was his second in his last two games played in Glens Falls.
“We know what we have to do when we come here. It’s always a battle and these guys always play really, really hard, and they are particularly intense against our line,” said Giroux.
“I thought all night we moved the puck well, but didn’t shoot enough. Then we were shooting and they were blocking the shots and getting in the lanes; but, on my goal, Miskovic made a great play to Aucoin and he did what he always does, finds me in an open spot.”
Giroux’s goal would be the last of regulation and the teams needed extra time to settle the score in the topsy-turvy battle.
Justice was served for the visitors from the Keystone State when Helmer roofed a wrist shot over the fallen Backlund just 1:33 into the session, giving the Bears their 22nd road triumph of the season.
“I thought the guys played really well in the third period, responding from a bad second period,” said Helmer, who watched the majority of the third period from the penalty box.
“Bourque and Pinizzotto made the play on the overtime goal, and I actually had two chances. The first one I put right in his pads, but I got a second chance, and put it in the net. It’s nice when you can come back and chip in like that.”