HERSHEY, Pa. – Dane Byers scored the game-winning goal 3:52 into the third period, and then played strong defense late against a Portland Pirates onslaught of pressure to help the Hershey Bears skate to a 2-1 win on Saturday night at GIANT Center.
Both goaltenders Philipp Grubauer and Louis Domingue stopped all shots they faced in the first period. The Pirates played a stronger period, having had to kill two Hershey power plays.
The Bears finally solved Domingue in the second period, and it took a pretty deflection to do so. Domingue flagged down a dump-in behind his net and actively played the puck toward the point. Cameron Schilling blocked it down and promptly aimed a low shot at the stick of Peter LeBlanc, which was down inside the left circle. The puck ramped perfectly into the far right corner past Domingue’s blocker hand at 5:22 for a 1-0 lead. The goal was LeBlanc’s 10th of the season.
But on the very next possession, Portland would tie the score. Tobias Rieder worked the puck from the left corner toward the point. Brandon Gormley was there to fire a shot on net that Grubauer padded down. The rebound came right to Brandon Yip, who lunged out to wrap the puck around an outstretched Grubauer at 6:14.
The score stayed even until early in the third. Byers, stationed in the high slot, was the recipient of a beautiful pass from Matt Watkins who had to work the puck away from two Pirates players on the left boards. Watkins snapped a pass toward Byers, who then labeled the lower-right portion of the net with a hard slap shot for his sixth goal of the season.
The Pirates would get Domingue to the bench for a sixth attacker and had two chances to fire the puck on net during the final 50 seconds of play, but Byers made two lying blocks to keep the Bears in front until the final horn.
Grubauer made 30 saves and improved to 8-5-1, while Domingue stopped 34 of 36 shots but fell to 6-6-2.
The Bears improved their home record to 17-6-1-3 and their overall mark to 25-16-3-3 with their tenth consecutive victory at GIANT Center.
The Bears remain home tomorrow, February 9 for a 5:00 PM faceoff against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. The first 4,000 fans will receive a knit cap courtesy of PSECU. Tickets for this and all remaining home games are available by calling (717) 508-BEAR, by stopping into the GIANT Center box office or by visiting TicketMaster.com.
NOTES: The Bears injury scratches were RW Stanislav Galiev, D Tomas Kundratek and RW Garrett Mitchell…The healthy scratches were LW John Mitchell, D Patrick Wellar and LW Derek Whitmore…Hershey finished the night 0-for-4 on the power play and 2-for-2 on the penalty kill…The Bears’ home win streak is the second-longest in the AHL this season, with the Texas Stars holding a 12-game streak…It is also the Bears’ second-longest since the AHL-record 24-game streak of 2009-2010.