HARTFORD, Conn. – The Hartford Wolf Pack were hanging on by a thread in a pivotal game against the Hershey Bears on Saturday night. After letting a 3-0 lead slip away, the Wolf Pack only made it to a skills competition based on the great work by goaltender Keith Kinkaid, who made 41 saves and stopped all three Hershey shooters to lift his team to a 4-3 decision in the final meeting between the teams at XL Center. Pheonix Copley suffered the loss as Ty Ronning scored the only shootout goal, making 19 saves.
It ended up being a familiar story for the Bears, whose struggles on the road have been well documented. Hartford scored three straight goals to open the scoring, with two quick goals from Nick Merkley and Christiano DiGiacinto in rapid succession followed by a goal from Anthony Greco in the second. Two of the three goals were scored on the power play, and with Hershey’s recent scoring woes, it seemed like the Bears may be heading for another tough loss early on. However, the Bears would score a pair of power-play goals after Cody Franson was hit with a high stick, drawing blood and sending the veteran defenseman to the locker room. Hershey capitalized twice, with Garrett Pilon and Mason Morelli doing the honors. The Bears would even the game on a net mouth scramble with Brett Leason finding Mike Vecchione in front of the net for the tying goal.
The difference was Kinkaid, who made several incredible saves after the tying goal including a key set of saves on Pilon on a breakaway in the overtime period. Pilon was stopped once, got his own rebound, and was denied by the webbing of the glove by Kinkaid to keep the Wolf Pack in this one. Hershey doubled up Hartford in shots 44-22 for the game but could not find the game-winner, keeping the home team in it long enough to pull off a win in a skill competition. However, Hartford’s inability to get the game won in regulation dulls the impact the game might have had on the standings as the teams are only separated in the standings by 0.012 percentage points.
Hartford hosts the Utica Comets on Monday, before visiting the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins on Wednesday to close out the month of March. Those will be key games to watch in terms of points percentage.
The Bears will be next in action on Friday when they take on the Charlotte Checkers for the first in a pair of games at Bojangles’ Coliseum and will look to stay within striking distance of third place.
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