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Battered Bears Fall to Penguins

Battered Bears Fall to Penguins

HERSHEY, Pa. – Last time the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins won a game at the Giant Center against the Hershey Bears, the calendar read 2019. It took quite some time, but the Penguins took a win in Hershey on Tuesday by a 3-1 score courtesy of two empty-net goals.

Kyle Olson scored the difference-making goal in the second period, and the Bears scored just once on 26 shots. This is the second time this season that the Penguins managed to hold them to just one goal. Hunter Shepard had 22 saves on 23 shots in the victory.

Lately, the Bears have struggled to score goals and seemed to fight the puck playing their fourth game in five nights, a subject that head coach Scott Allen was displeased with following the game. The depleted Bears hit the ice without nearly two full lines of their top players, while the Penguins had freshly added a few top players from their NHL affiliate in Pittsburgh.

The two teams played a near stalemate, with Olson’s goal coming on a pass that deflected to him alone at the side of the net. Despite a good push by the Bears, Olson would seal the game with an empty-net tally to make it 2-0.

On this night it would be a fluky play by the Bears that broke the goose egg on the scoreboard as Alex Alexeyev’s stick broke on a shot and went right to Brian Pinho for the lone Hershey tally. Wilkes-Barre’s Jonathan Gruden would score another empty-net goal to make it 3-1.

“Disappointing, for sure,” Allen said after the game. “Not disappointed in my team’s effort, we’re playing four games in five nights which is not legal in the American Hockey League, in the bylaws you’re not allowed to play four in five and they’re playing two in six. I’m not taking anything away from them, they came in and played well, but I’m not disappointed in the effort that we put forth. I think it’s the first time in 26 years of coaching and ten years playing that I’ve seen seven guys actively participating in a play by the opposition and how it gets overlooked is absolutely shocking.”

The play in question that Allen was referring to was a third-period play after Tobias Geisser was boxed for a penalty. Allen mentioned that the fatigue may have factored into the team’s lack of execution. On a night where the Bears were missing many key faces, Allen was not able to provide an update on key players like Mike Sgarbossa and Garrett Pilon, who have missed several weeks with injury.

The only player he was able to provide an update on was captain Matt Moulson, who will miss the remainder of the season as a result of back surgery. Allen said he’s hoping Moulson may be able to return for the postseason, but it’s far from a certainty at this point. The loss continues a recent skid for Hershey, who has now lost five of its last eight games.

It was just the second time in ten games that the Penguins were able to pull off a win against the Bears, as Hershey has taken eight wins and the regular-season title in that regard with just two games at Mohegan Sun Arena between the two teams left on this season’s schedule. The Penguins will take on the Lehigh Valley Phantoms on Wednesday while the Bears are off until beginning a home and home set with the Utica Comets.

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