PHILADELPHIA – The Hershey Bears may not be going anywhere fast unless they can reverse their fortunes against the Philadelphia Phantoms.
Philadelphia blitzed the Bears, 5-2, at the Wachovia Spectrum Friday evening and picked up their third win against the Bears’ in the four games the clubs have played this season.
On the move after taking out visiting Binghamton on home ice on Wednesday, the Bears (15-11-0-2, 32 points) surrendered an early lead to the Phantoms (20-8-1-0, 41 points), who rolled up three second-period goals on Hershey goaltender Frederic Cassivi. The Phantoms are the third AHL club to win 20 games so far this season, joining Providence and Chicago.
Hershey interim head coach Bob Wood, who won his AHL head-coaching debut in the Bears’ earlier visit to Philadelphia in November, did not find the outcome all too surprising.
“We knew it was going to be a tough battle tonight,” Wood explained. “We knew it was going to take 60 minutes, and we didn't give the 60 minutes, so you get the outcome that we got tonight.”
Hershey veteran Grant Potulny admitted that he lacked an explanation for the Bears’ struggles with the Phantoms so far this season.
"I'm not going to take anything away from that team. They're one of the top three teams in the league, probably. We just, for some reason, don't have what it takes against them. I don't know why we have these lapses against them.”
Part of a Philadelphia club that had shuffled its lines this week in practice, two Phantoms assembled two-goal evenings – Stefan Ruzicka going 2-1-3, and captain and former Bear Boyd Kane reaching the 10-goal mark this season – to power the Phantoms’ offence.
Ruzicka’s two strikes came over the Phantoms’ power-play chances.
Philadelphia had entered the game a troubled team on the power play after going scoreless on the man-advantage over three games last weekend.
Philadelphia head coach Craig Berube praised Ruzicka, a bit of an enigma in his Philadelphia tenure.
“I thought that Stefan Ruzicka was really moving his feet and strong on the puck. When he does that, he's a tough guy to stop.”
Berube also liked his club’s work on the power play.
“I thought it got moving the puck better and clicking like it was. Hopefully, it does (continue), because we'll need it.”
Ryan Potulny, who managed two assists despite his line with Steve Downie being put to bed after Downie took a second-period game misconduct as the third man in a scrum involving Potulny, concurred with Berube.
“It was nice to get the power play back going. We moved the puck well. In the past, we were just trying to force everything and not take our time. Tonight we took our time, moved the puck, shot the puck at the net and good things happened.”
Rookie centreman Jonathan Matsumoto supplied the host’s go-ahead goal four minutes into the second period to scuttle what had been a 1-1 game at the first intermission after Kane and Hershey’s Louis Robitaille had exchanged opening-period tallies.
But Philadelphia then used three goals – Matsumoto followed by Ruzicka’s first and Kane’s second – in a 7:24 to blow the game open.
“We kind of fell asleep,” Grant Potulny said, “and they kept playing. All of a sudden, it's 4-1. those are the lapses that, if we're going to be a team that really does get a chance to be in first place and jump up where we want to be, we've got to stop doing that."
Brian Boucher’s 27-save evening featured a busy 13-shot third period as the Bears mounted a futile comeback. Jason Morgan blistered a shot from between the high circles to bring the Bears to within 4-2, but Ruzicka’s second marker six minutes later put the Bears to sleep for the evening.
Berube’s break-up of his lines included splitting up the Matsumoto-Darren Reid twin-billing that had terrorized opposing AHL defences at the season’s start.
Matsumoto departed to centre a line with Ruzicka and Pete Zingoni Reid took the right side of a Kane-Jared Ross pairing.
“I thought that Matsumoto's line had some good jump,” Berube said. “They had the puck a lot, and they're three quick guys who can all stickhandle and make plays.
“I didn't mind the lines. They were okay.”
Kyle Greentree, who went out with a knee injury in the previous Bears-Phantoms match in Hershey two weeks earlier, had completed that original Matsumoto-Reid pairing.
With Greentree still out of the line-up until at least the end of the month, Berube tinkered.
“That (original Matsumoto-Reid) line had chemistry. When Greentree was down, I didn't see a lot happening. I thought I'd just move it around and try something different. I try to keep pairs together as much as possible.”
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