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Bears Take Down Admirals, 5-2

Two East Division foes tangled for the first time this season on Wednesday night at The Scope in Norfolk. The visiting Hershey Bears prevailed with a 5-2 triumph over the home-standing Norfolk Admirals.

Meeting for the first of three times in the next nine nights, the two teams went back and forth fairly evenly in the early minutes of the first frame. Hershey had the game’s first power play at 6:32 of the period when Nate Guenin was ushered off for cross-checking Hershey’s Evan Barlow behind the Admirals’ net.

The Bears would go on to hold the Admirals without a shot on goal for more than 11 minutes after the call on Guenin.

Norfolk had a late flurry of offensive-zone presence, but it was the Bears that scored first. Mathieu Beaudoin won a battle along the wall high in the offensive zone, keeping the puck alive and pushing it to Zach Hamill down low on the right side. Hamill sold Norfolk netminder Igor Bobkov on the shot, then deftly dished the disc to T.J. Syner going to the net. Syner had an easy tap in with 54.7 seconds left in the first, his second goal of the season.

Norfolk drew even at 7:39 of the second period when Kyle Palmieri scored his seventh goal of the season, but the Bears needed less than five minutes to re-take the lead.

Evan Barlow curled around the back of the Norfolk net and found Jon DiSalvatore cruising into the slot area. Barlow fed the veteran winger, but Bobkov had the answer for the first shot. DiSalvatore calmly collected his own rebound and tucked it behind the Norfolk netminder.

DiSalvatore’s go-ahead goal came just after Bears goaltender Braden Holtby made a great stop on John Kurtz’s bid from the top of the crease.

Less than a minute after DiSalvatore’s strike and on their very next shot on net, the Bears pushed their lead to 3-1. Patrick McNeill, finally back in the lineup after being a healthy scratch for much of the early going this season, netted his first of the season with a point shot through traffic that found purchase behind Bobkov.

Hershey took that two-goal lead into the third, but the Admirals pulled to within a goal when John Mitchell got a stick on a Gabe Guentzel point shot and tipped it past Holtby at 6:48 of the final frame.

The Bears endured some anxious moments midway through the stanza when Kevin Marshall was sent off for interference at 10:45 and Steve Oleksy for tripping at 12:49. Bears captain Boyd Kane made a terrific play to sweep a loose puck from the goalmouth during the Marshall minor, and Holtby held firm for the four-minute duration during which Hershey played a man short.

Norfolk’s Patrick Maroon had a golden opportunity to tie the game on a back-door play during the latter stages of the Oleksy penalty, but the Admirals winger shanked the shot and it trickled harmlessly off the side of the cage.

Garret Mitchell gave the Bears some breathing room when he went top shelf, glove side on Bobkov with just 3:27 left to make it 4-2. Kane set him up with a perfect feed from behind the net.

DiSalvatore put the icing on the cake with his second of the night, an empty-netter at 19:38.

Hershey hosts Bridgeport on Friday and Norfolk on Saturday.

The Ex-Files – Ex-Caps coach Bruce Boudreau was in attendance at Wednesday’s game, watching the game from the press box. Boudreau is now the coach of the Anaheim Ducks, who are the parent NHL club to the Norfolk Admirals. Ironically, it was one year ago today that Dale Hunter replaced Boudreau behind the Washington bench.

Twenty Paces – DiSalvatore’s empty-netter was his fifth goal of the season, moving him within one of Hamill for the team lead. DiSalvatore is now squarely on pace for a 20-goal season. He has reached that plateau in each of his nine seasons in the AHL.

Back In The Saddle Again – McNeill has now picked up a point in consecutive games, and he is a combined plus-5 in those two games. He notched an assist for his first point of the season on Sunday against Toronto after sitting out for more than a month. McNeill has now played in four of Hershey’s first 19 games this season.

Quarter Pole – With the win tonight, Hershey hits the quarter-pole mark of the 2012-13 season with a record of 8-10-1.

Three Stars – The game’s official three stars were all members of the Bears: 3) Mitchell, 2) Orlov and 1) McNeill.

Random Notes – Hershey is now 4-5 on the road this season while Norfolk is 5-5 at home … Official attendance was 3,176.