Hershey, PA – Philip McRae’s third-period goal turned out to be the game-winner Saturday night at Giant Center, as the Hartford Wolf Pack won their second straight game, defeating the Hershey Bears by a score of 5-4.
Leading 3-1 going into the third period, the Wolf Pack held on through a wild third in which the two teams combined for five goals.
The loss was only Hershey’s second in regulation on home ice all season (10-2-3-1), and only the Bears’ second in regulation in their last 14 overall (9-2-2-1).
“I think we’re just sticking to our game plan,” McRae said, “forechecking harder, staying in on the puck, and everyone’s working hard and pulling together.”
The Bears got the only goal of the first period, converting on the game’s first power play, created by a delay-of-game call against Michael Joly at 11:37.
Paul Carey opened the scoring at 12:09 on a shot from the left side of the slot, after Liam O’Brien fed him a pass from below the goal line. The goal, Carey’s seventh of the season, stretched his AHL season-best point-scoring streak to 17 games (6-12-18).
The Wolf Pack would have a big second period, though, scoring three times on eight shots against Bear goaltender Joe Cannata, who would finish the night with five goals-against on 21 shots.
Steven Kampfer’s first Wolf Pack goal tied it at 1:38, on a power play that carried over from the first period. Ryan Graves fired a shot from high in the slot that hit Joly in front and deflected to Kampfer, who beat Cannata to the glove side with a sharp-angle shot from below the right faceoff dot.
Chris Summers got credit for his second goal of the season, and second in the last three games, at 5:35 to put the Wolf Pack ahead. Summers took a pass from Tanner Glass on the left side and unloaded a shot that Cannata stopped but could not control and Carey, trying to clear the puck out of the goal mouth, inadvertently put it into his own net.
Nicklas Jensen then increased his team-leading goal total to 10 in a four-on-four situation at 9:15, making the score 3-1 Wolf Pack. Mike Paliotta sent a cross-slot feed to Jensen in the right circle, and his one-timer went off of a sliding Cannata’s left pad and into the goal.
The Bears started the third-period scoring early, as Travis Boyd cut the lead to 3-2 just 54 seconds in. Christian Djoos set up the right handed-shooting Boyd in the left circle, and his shot found the top corner on the glove side of Wolf Pack goaltender Magnus Hellberg (25 saves). That goal came five seconds after a Hershey power play expired.
The Wolf Pack answered at 4:18, on Ahti Oksanen’s first career AHL goal, in his fourth game with the Wolf Pack. Matt Carey sent the puck to the front of the net from the right-wing corner, and Oksanen deflected it past Cannata.
The Hershey power play cut the margin back to one at 8:40, with Adam Tambellini off for tripping. Chris Bourque was credited with the goal, after his pass from the right-wing boards hit Kampfer’s leg in front of the net and caromed in behind Hellberg.
McRae then scored his third of the season at 13:02, putting a backhander up under the crossbar after a Carey feet sent him behind the Hershey defense.
“Carey made a great play through the middle, sending me in on a breakaway, and I was able to just make a quick move on him (Cannata),” McRae said.
That goal loomed large, as Hershey came back only 40 seconds later, with Nathan Walker scoring on a 2-on-1. After taking a lead pass from Hubert Labrie, Walker moved down the right side and used Brad Malone as a decoy, before snapping a shot past Hellberg’s stick side.
The Bears could never come all the way back, however, despite getting Cannata to the bench for an extra attacker with 1:55 remaining, and the Wolf Pack improved their record on the season to 9-14-3-1.