HERSHEY, Pa. – Different goaltender, same result for the Providence Bruins against the Hershey Bears.
The two teams met up for the sixth and final time this season on Easter Sunday at Giant Center, and this time it was Brandon Bussi earning his first AHL shutout in just his second game in the league as the Bruins earned a 1-0 decision in the Sweetest Place on Earth.
It’s the fourth time this season that the Bruins have shut out the Bears, having done so once earlier this season in Hershey and twice in Providence. Without the usual heroics from Troy Grosenick, who was recalled to the NHL, the fresh faces in the Bruins’ lineup from the college ranks proved to be the difference as Michael Callahan’s first AHL goal proved to be the lone one of the day. Bussi made all 26 stops while Pheonix Copley made 27 of 28 in the loss.
The two teams played a fairly pedestrian game that saw a mostly defensive-minded game as is so often the case in this season series. Callahan’s goal came with just over six minutes to play as he picked up a rebound and narrowly beat Copley on the stick side. The loss is a crucial one for Hershey, who has lost three straight games after a fairly solid weekend where it appeared the team had overcome its struggles and dropped them into fifth place narrowly behind Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. It sets the table for a key 12th and final matchup between the two teams on Tuesday evening at Mohegan Sun Arena, with the winner walking away with a firmer grasp on fourth place and home-ice advantage in a potential playoff series between the two teams.
“Our first period was not good enough,” an exasperated Bears head coach Scott Allen said after the game. “We addressed the situation and came out, I thought from then on it was an even game. In our last three games, we’ve scored one five-on-five goal, again, not good enough. This is playoff hockey and we’re privileged to play these games down the stretch because that’s the way the game goes, when you’re talking about playoff hockey it’s 0-0 going into the third period it’s anyone’s game, I thought we did a terrible job coming into our D-zone on the game-winning goal.
You can’t put yourself in that position with two and a half minutes left taking a penalty. You can debate the call, Providence is known as an embellishing, diving team, did he embellish it? I’ll let someone else judge it. Regardless, you can’t put yourself in that situation and we did, and they were able to close it out with the power play.”
Allen’s frustrations with the end of the game happened when Mike Sgarbossa was flagged for tripping with just under three minutes to play after a stretch where the whistles were seemingly put away. The penalty left Hershey with precious few moments to play with the goaltender pulled, although the team did make a good push to try and even the score. Hershey doesn’t make any progress on clinching a playoff spot with the loss as their magic number stays at four points, but their destiny remains in their own hands in terms of making that official this week. Tuesday’s matchup looms large to help punch their ticket without relying on help from out of town.
“We have to score,” Allen said when asked about the upcoming tilt. “We’ve talked about this a lot. We for the most part keep games close, and that was the case today. It was a 0-0 game the whole way through. I don’t question our defensive side, our defensive commitment, but it’s about creating opportunities to score and then bearing down and scoring. We’re looking off opportunities to shoot pucks, we have great opportunities to shoot and we make that extra pass, we can’t do that. We have to take advantage of what we earn out there, what’s given to us, and we have to find a way.”
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