Ethan Frank scored twice, but the Hershey Bears (22-7-2-1) fell to the Providence Bruins (18-6-5-2) 4-3 on Saturday night at Giant Center, bringing an end to Hershey’s five-game winning streak.
Despite the loss, the Chocolate and White ended the calendar year of 2022 with the American Hockey League’s best record for the season.
The Bears jumped out to a quick 1-0 lead when Mike Sgarbossa skated into the offensive zone and fired a shot into the pads of Providence goaltender Keith Kinkaid who was unable to cover the puck as he fell on his back in the crease. Ethan Frank jammed home his 12th of the season at the 27-second mark, for Hershey’s fastest goal of the season. Mike Vecchione earned a secondary assist on the tally.
Luke Toporowski tied it for the Bruins at 11:31 with a backhand shot from the high slot that beat a screened Hunter Shepard and ended his shutout streak that began on Dec. 21 at Lehigh Valley, at 112:15.
Despite Hershey outshooting Providence 19-4 in the second period, the Bruins took a 2-1 lead at 11:04 when Jakub Lauko threw the puck on net from the left of the goal line and it deflected off the mask of Shepard into the net.
Providence took a 3-1 lead at 13:09 when Marc McLaughlin scored with Shepard down on the ice.
Frank netted his second of the game at 15.22, while the Bears were on the power play. He controlled a loose puck at the side of the net and fired it into the open cage for his team-leading 13th goal of the season. Vecchione and Sgarbossa received assists.
The Bears pulled even with another power-play goal at 5:39 of the third period when Kevin O’Neil one-timed a pass from Sgarbossa in the slot and beat Kinkaid low to the stick-side for his first career AHL goal. Sgarbossa’s helper was his third of the evening, matching a previous career-high. Connor McMichael also earned an assist on the goal.
Providence tallied the eventual game-winner on a power-play goal at 7:05 by Chris Wagner, putting the visitors ahead once again for the goal that became the final score.
“We thought we scored a goal in the third period but the ref called it off but we had 41 shots against a pretty good hockey team so I’m happy with the way the guys played,” Hershey coach Todd Nelson said.
As to what Hershey’s captain was told about the no-go goal call, Nelson said, “The ref thought the puck hadn’t crossed the goal line before the goalie got knocked over. We watched the video and it was a tough call because it happened so fast and those things happen in this league.”
Shots finished 41-21 in favor of the Bears. The Bears were 2-for-9 on the power play, while Providence went 1-for-3 with the man advantage.
Hershey returns to action when the Charlotte Checkers visit GIANT Center on Saturday, Jan. 7 at 7 p.m.
Going into the game the Bears were 16-1-0-0 when they held the opponent score-less through the game’s first 20 minutes. They were also 9-0-0-0 at home when they blank the opposition in the first period.