HERSHEY, Pa. – Tim Kennedy and Jim O’Brien each scored twice and Nate Schmidt added three points, as the Hershey Bears finally solved Hartford Wolf Pack goaltender Yann Danis and came back from two separate two-goal deficits in a 6-4 win in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Semifinals on Friday night at GIANT Center.
The game again started well for Hershey, as the hosts struck for the game’s first goal. Kennedy would get a whack at his own rebound at the net front and chipped the puck behind goaltender Yann Danis at 5:19.
But Hartford answered right back on a three-on-two line rush. Oscar Lindberg pulled up on the right half-wall, sent a short pass to a trailing Chris Bourque, who in turn made a behind-the-back pass that Joey Crabb one-timed past Philipp Grubauer at 7:33.
Bourque would then add his second goal in as many nights against his former club, stepping into a puck that deflected to him at the left point and ripping it past Grubauer at 10:26.
Hartford’s fourth line of Ryan Haggerty, Chad Nehring and Shawn O’Donnell would then combine to pad the Wolf Pack lead at 13:27. The trio worked hard in a net-front battle, and Nehring would slip a bouncing puck into the net for the 3-1 advantage.
The Bears began the second period in a similar fashion, as Kennedy would draw the Bears within one. Liam O’Brien joined in to move the puck along to Conner, who fed Kennedy in the slot from the right side. Kennedy snapped a shot past the stick of Danis at 3:40 for his third goal of the postseason.
Shortly afterward, the Wolf Pack would restore their two-goal edge. Mat Bodie let a shot fly with traffic set up in the slot. The puck hit Grubauer, deflected up and over him and into the net at 8:58. Pheonix Copley would come on in relief at that point.
Just 11 seconds later, the Bears would respond. Schmidt carried down the left wing, sent a pass to his right for Chris Brown and then headed for the net front. Brown’s low shot was redirected by Schmidt through the pads of Danis, pulling the Bears within one.
Jim O’Brien would tie the contest at 15:33, one-timing a feed from Casey Wellman into the upper-left corner on the Bears’ second power play of the night.
Jakub Vrana undoubtedly made the play of the game with 1:17 left in the period. He knocked down a pass from the left corner, then skated into the slot and sent a hard shot past Danis, putting Hershey in front for the first time in the game.
The Bears held the lead through the third period, and with Hartford working on a power play late in the game, Jim O’Brien stole a pass at center and hit the empty net with 58 seconds left for a 6-4 score. The Bears held on to the final horn and evened the series at one game each.
Copley stopped all nine shots he faced in 31:03 of work and earned his third win of the postseason (3-1-0). Grubauer made 13 saves on 17 shots in 28:44 of action and earned no decision. Danis falls to 4-3 with 23 saves on 28 shots.
The series now shifts to the road, as Hartford will host Hershey for Game Three on Sunday, May 10 at 3:00 PM and Game Four on Monday, May 11 at 7:00 PM. Due to their own venue being unavailable, the DCU Center in Worcester, Massachusetts will serve as the Wolf Pack’s home rink for these two games. Fans may listen to the M&C Foreign Car Parts pre-game show beginning 40 minutes prior to puck drop each day on the Bears Radio Network of affiliates WQIC-FM 100.1, WKBO-AM 1230, via the iHeart Radio app (WHP-AM 580) or online at whp590.com or theahl.com.
Game Five of the series returns to Chocolatetown on Wednesday, May 13. Face-off is set for 7:00 PM. Individual tickets for this game (Game “EE”) go on sale tomorrow, May 9 at 10:00 AM at the GIANT Center box office, by calling (717) 508-BEAR or online at TicketMaster.com.
NOTES: The Bears scratched G Keegan Asmundson, C Joel Broda, RW Stan Galiev, D Tomas Kundratek and D Jon Landry… Hartford scratched D Kodie Curran, G Cedrick Desjardins, D Dallas Jackson, G Jeff Malcolm, LW Chris McCarthy, G Jason Missiaen, RW Josh Nicholls, C Ryan Potulny, D Steve Spinell, LW Nick Tarnasky and D Daniel Walcott…Hershey finished the night 1-for-3 on the power play and 3-for-4 on the penalty kill…RW Chris Conner extended his point streak to three games (1-4-5)…The Bears have scored 16 goals over their last two Friday games…Hershey posted its second four-goal period of the playoffs in tonight’s second period…The Bears earned their league-leading second shorthanded goal of the playoffs on Jim O’Brien’s empty-net goal.