HERSHEY, Pa. – Ryan Potulny led the way with two third-period goals and helped the HERSHEY BEARS storm back from three goals down to earn a point in a 4-3 shootout loss to the Norfolk Admirals on Sunday evening at GIANT Center.
The Admirals grabbed a 1-0 lead on the only goal of the first period. Working the puck across the blue line, Jordan Hendry set up Sami Vatanen for a slap shot into traffic. Patrick Maroon got enough of a stick on the shot to deflect it past Dany Sabourin at 14:14.
The BEARS would earn two power plays in the first period and one early in the second, but the Admirals penalty kill held tall. Norfolk then padded their lead when Peter Holland sent a low snap shot underneath Sabourin’s glove at 8:32.
A miscue behind the BEARS net allowed Maroon to tip the puck into the slot where Dan Sexton was uncovered. Sexton beat Sabourin with a shot over the blocker at 17:22, increasing Norfolk’s lead to 3-0.
The BEARS were then forced to kill off a two-man disadvantage, a portion of which carried over into the third period. Succeeding, the hosts went to work on their comeback. Jeff Taffe picked up his league-leading 32nd assist of the year when he fed the slot for a wide-open Barry Almeida. The winger ripped a shot past Norfolk netminder Igor Bobkov and under the crossbar for his sixth goal of the season.
The BEARS played patiently for another eight minutes before cutting their deficit to one. Casey Wellman maintained possession in the right circle long enough to allow Potulny to get free in the slot. Wellman spotted Potulny with a perfect pass, and Potulny’s wrist shot sailed past Bobkov at 10:35.
With time ticking under the final minute of regulation, Sabourin was pulled for a sixth attacker. Wellman again led the rush up ice, again finding Potulny in the high slot. From just outside the left faceoff circle, he sent another hard snap shot past Bobkov, tying the game with 34.4 seconds left in regulation.
The BEARS had two glorious opportunities to win the game in overtime. With 30 seconds left, Boyd Kane hit Taffe for a breakaway, but Bobkov held his ground and made a blocker save. Just as the period expired, Potulny’s deflection attempt was thwarted by Bobkov.
The Admirals earned goals from Maroon, Josh Brittain and Luca Caputi in the shootout, enough to top Peter LeBlanc’s tally and earn the extra point.
Sabourin, who made his fifth consecutive start that required extra time, fell to 7-7-2 with 18 saves on 21 shots in regulation and overtime. Bobkov improves to 9-13-0 with 31 saves on 34 shots through 65 minutes of work.
The BEARS ended the night 0-for-4 on the power play and were perfect on the kill of Norfolk’s two chances.
The BEARS will travel across the border for a Friday night contest against the Hamilton Bulldogs. The puck drops at Copps Coliseum at 7:30 PM. The team returns home on Saturday, February 23 for a 7:00 PM matchup against the Adirondack Phantoms. “Chocolate-Covered February” continues, and all fans will receive candy upon exit courtesy of the HERSHEY Company. Tickets are available at the GIANT Center box office, by calling (717) 508-BEAR or online at TicketMaster.com.