HERSHEY, Pa. – Evan Rankin tallied a hat trick for the Syracuse Crunch, but the Hershey Bears forced an 11-round shootout and prevailed, winning 4-3 on Wednesday night in front of a sold-out crowd of 10,801 at GIANT Center.
Syracuse took just 31 seconds to grab the lead, a play led by a great pass from Crunch center Mike Angelidis. The veteran made a backhand pass through the legs of a Bears forward, sliding the puck to the left point where Artem Sergeev took a shot into traffic. The puck deflected to the left, and Rankin was there to bury the rebound past Bears backstop David Leggio.
Cameron Schilling later stole the puck in the Syracuse end of the rink, promptly feeding Brandon Segal on the goal line. Segal fed Nicolas Deschamps, who then walked out from behind the net and snapped a shot past a surprised Kristers Gudlevskis at 5:16 to tie the game.
It would be Rankin again at 10:54 who put the visitors back on top. Angelidis would be denied by Leggio’s pad on a backhand chance in close, but the rebound came to Rankin who deposited the puck into the net.
Gudlevskis made a key save on Jeff Taffe near the end of the first period to help Syracuse hold their 2-1 lead at the intermission, and again robbed Taffe point-blank with his blocker early in the second. Shortly afterward, Rankin would complete his hat trick when he tapped a second-effort pass from Angelidis past Leggio from the top of the crease at 7:49.
With time winding down in the period, the line of Deschamps, Segal and Ryan Stoa would once again grind out a cycle play behind the Syracuse net to bring the Bears back within one. Deschamps found David Kolomatis with a pass, and the blueliner sent a slap shot through traffic and past the blocker of Gudlevskis at 18:01.
The Bears completed their comeback with 3:02 left on the clock. Kolomatis and Nate Schmidt worked to get the puck deep in Syracuse territory. Segal did the rest, scoring on a wraparound by slipping a shot inside the left post.
After failing on an overtime power play, the Bears took command by scoring on the first two chances in the shootout. Stoa kept his season perfect with his fifth shootout goal to start things off, and Stan Galiev followed up with a snap shot past Gudlevskis’ glove. The Crunch would get second and third-round goals from Rankin and Cedric Paquette to tie the shootout. The next seven shooters on each team were denied, setting the stage for John Mitchell to make a nifty fake to his backhand to beat Gudlevskis, leaving the puck slide off his stick with one hand and over the line.
Leggio stopped Dmitry Korobov in the last of the 11th round to send the Bears off the bench in celebration.
Leggio improves to 6-7-2 with 29 saves, while Gudlevskis falls to 5-2-1, making 34 saves.
The Bears improve to 11-9-2-3 on the season and are one point out of fourth place in the East Division.
Hershey will play its last two games before the Christmas holiday this weekend, with a pair of games against the Worcester Sharks on Saturday, December 21 at 7:00 PM and on Sunday, December 22 at 5:00 PM.
The first 5,000 fans through the gates on Saturday will receive a Joel Rechlicz bobblefist figurine courtesy of UGI. On Sunday, the first 3,000 fans will receive a pint glass courtesy of Labatt Blue. Also on Sunday, the Bears will wear Christmas-themed jerseys to be auctioned off for charity following the game.
Individual tickets for these and all Hershey Bears home games are on sale at the GIANT Center box office, by calling (717) 508-BEAR or by visiting TicketMaster.com on the internet. Information on season tickets, group tickets and flex plans for the 2013-2014 Hershey Bears regular season is available by calling (717)508-BEAR.
NOTES: The Bears injury scratches were D Chay Genoway, D Tomas Kundratek, RW Garrett Mitchell and D Patrick Wey…The healthy scratches were LW Josh Brittain and D Brett Flemming…Hershey finished the night 0-for-4 on the power play and 4-for-4 on the penalty kill…LW Ryan Stoa pulled into the AHL lead in shootout goals, with his fifth on five opportunities…RW Brandon Segal has posted five points (2-3-5), one game-winning goal and one game-tying goal over his last two contests…The Bears came back from a second-period deficit for the second time in as many nights…"Mr. Hockey", Gordie Howe, was in attendance at the game.