Bears rally late to down Norfolk

( — Ryan Stoa tied the game with 2:33 remaining and Ryan Potulny buried the winner with 45.1 seconds left to play, as the Hershey Bears stunned the Norfolk Admirals with a 3-2 victory on Saturday night in front of 10,502 fans at Giant Center.

After a failed clearing bid by the Bears, Norfolk grabbed the early lead when the team ended up with three players against one in front of Philipp Grubauer’s crease. Dan Sexton deked Grubauer at the right of the crease and Josh Brittain ended up with the puck behind the goal line. His stuff attempt was partially blocked by the stick of defenseman Kevin Marshall, but video replay confirmed a good goal at 3:20.

The first period ended without a penalty called.

The Bears got the equalizer just 1:53 into the second period. Cameron Schilling started the play with a pass from the defensive zone up the left boards. Stoa tipped the puck around Admirals defenseman Jordan Hendry, and Garrett Mitchell swooped in to grab the puck and take off on an odd-man rush. Mitchell darted toward the net with the puck on his backhand and lifted a shot over goaltender Igor Bobkov for his 11th goal of the season.

Norfolk took a 2-1 lead 2:32 into the third. The Admirals crashed the net and after Grubauer stopped Josh Brittain from in close, a teammate toppled over him, allowing Troy Bodie to chip the rebound into the net.

After failing on two consecutive power-play chances, the Bears faced another comeback situation against Norfolk late in the game. This time, overtime was not necessary. Stoa carried the puck through the left circle, cut in from a sharp angle and lifted a shot under the crossbar at 17:27 to tie the game.

Inside the final minute, the Bears defense kept a clearing bid alive. Patrick McNeill launched a shot from the center point into heavy traffic but the puck was blocked. Boyd Kane got a rebound chance that Bobkov stopped, but with the netminder down, Potulny lifted a shot into the net for the 3-2 lead which the Bears held until the final horn.

Grubauer improves to 7-4-1 with 19 saves on the night. Bobkov drops to 10-16-0, making 24 saves on 27 shots.

Hershey sits seventh in the AHL’s Eastern Conference with 62 points; Norfolk is 12th (54 points), five points out of the eighth and final playoff spot.