Providence, RI-Hershey forced Sunday's game into overtime with under two minutes to play in regulation, then won it just over three minutes into the extra session. The win gave Hersey a commanding two-games-to-none series lead over Providence in the first round series of the Calder Cup Playoffs.
Providence Bruins leading 4-3, Bears coach Mark French pulled his goaltender in favor of the extra attacker. With just 1:29 to play in regulation, Joey Crabb scored his second goal of the series to even the score. The goal came after some tic-tac-toe passing from Jeff Taffe and Dmitry Orlov that led to Crabb having an easy look at the back of the net.
The extra session was just over a minute old when Bruins defenseman Garnet Exelby was whistled for high sticking. That led to a power play chance for the Bears, the final team to make the playoffs from the Eastern Conference. After a few good scoring chances, the Bruins failed to clear the zone which led to Jon DiSalvitore's one-timer from the left side. The puck sailed into the back of the net before Bruins goaltender Niklas Svedberg had a chance to cover that side of the net. It was the second goal of the series for DiSalvitore, the former Providence College star. Peter LeBlanc's pass set up the one-timer with the helper being the fifth of the series for LeBlanc, the University of New Hampshire product.
The sequence in overtime did not come without controversy. Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy believed an obvious icing call on Hershey went uncalled by linesmen Brian MacDonald and Todd Whittemore. "It's a disgrace. It was a clear icing call. It was a bad call," said a frustrated Cassidy.
Like game one, Hershey drew first blood when Ryan Stoa scored just 3:14 into the first period. Stoa took a pass from LeBlanc as he was skating along the Bruins blue line and came in in alone on the Providence net. Stoa went backhand and lifted it over the sprawling Svedberg.
Graham Mink, a healthy scratch in Friday's game one, evened the scored for the Bruins at the 9:05 mark of the first stanza. Carter Camper and Mark Bartkowski assisted on the score.
Hershey regained the lead with a power play tally by Nicolas Deschamps at 14:56 of the opening frame. The goal was the result of a pretty redirection by Deschamps off a Nate Schmidt shot from the point. LeBlanc picked up the secondary assist.
Just over a minute into the second period, Carter Camper came down the right side and wristed a shot past Bears goaltender Philipp Grubauer. The rookie goaltender got a piece of it, but the puck trickled into the net. Jordan Caron made the play happen with a nice move in the neutral zone.
Midway through the second period, the Bears and Bruins would trade scores just 21 seconds apart. Chris Bourque had a hand in both goals. The former Bear turned the puck over in his own zone with it landing right on the stick of Hershey's Garrett Mitchell who would bury it past Svedberg. Bourque would quickly redeem himself blasting a slap shot from the point past Grubauer off a nice feed from David Warsofsky.
The score remained knotted at three until Graham Mink gave the Bruins their first lead of the series with just 6:42 left in regulation. The former Hershey Bear tipped in a centering pass from Camper who was in the left corner. Camper had a goal and two assists on the game. The lead lasted until the heroics of Crabb with just 1:29 to play in regulation.
The Bruins penalty kill remains a clear concern, allowing Hershey to go five-for-ten on the man advantage so far in the series. The inability to kill penalties is a major reason Cassidy's club finds itself down in the series. "We need to kill penalties better. It starts with clearing pucks. For some reason, we just can't clear the puck on the penalty kill," said the first year coach.
Cassidy said he'd reassess the team's game plan midweek. He doesn't think his team is as far off as it was Friday night. "Maybe we'll realize that if we play like that and we get a little puck luck, defend a little better, clear a puck here and there, maybe it might go the other way for us."
Cassidy's team is in a hole and now has to win three games in a row to advance. "We've been a good road team all year. We wouldn't be the first team to come back."