HERSHEY, Pa. – The crowd of 8,843 on Mother’s Day at Giant Center was rocking, hoping to rally their Hershey Bears to a win in Game Two of a best-of-three series against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. In a game that lived up to the highly contested rivalry between the I-81 foes, the Bears outlasted the Penguins by a 2-1 final that sets up a decisive third game on Monday night at Mohegan Sun Arena. Veteran defender Dylan McIlrath scored his first Calder Cup Playoff goal in the second period that stood up as the game-winner, and Pheonix Copley stopped 22 shots to earn the win. Tommy Nappier made 30 saves on 32 shots in the loss.
Hershey started the game with some lineup changes, as has so often been the case for them this season. The Bears were without Joe Snively days after he made his return to the team on a long-term conditioning assignment after he was on the wrong end of an elbow from Wilkes-Barre’s Josh Gruden that prevented him from playing in Sunday’s contest. The elbow was eventually upgraded to a game misconduct for Gruden, and with it being his second such call this season, earned him an automatic one game suspension and held him out of the lineup for the Penguins. Hershey was also without forward Kody Clark on the wing, which led to the insertion of rookie forward Bogdan Trineyev into the lineup and on the top line with Mike Sgarbossa and Garrett Pilon. The fourth-round selection of the Washington Capitals in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft was among a number of young prospects to join the Bears for their postseason and made his Hershey debut in very unusual circumstances.
The game started off with a lot of energy and much more physicality from the Bears than the first game. Hershey’s hard work earned a power play early on and their much-maligned power play made a huge splash with Beck Malenstyn’s first of the playoffs. Malenstyn drove the net and deflected a point shot from Bobby Nardella past Nappier just over four minutes in to give Hershey the early lead. Contrary to Friday’s game, the Bears’ fast pace out of the gate led to a 12-6 shot advantage through 20 minutes and tilted the ice in their favor. In the second, Hershey scored the eventual winner on a point blast from McIlrath, his first playoff goal despite suiting up for his 50th postseason game, including a Calder Cup run with the Grand Rapids Griffins. The goal came moments after Copley made a big sequence of two saves to preserve the lead.
Wilkes-Barre kept the game close and drew back to within a goal 30 seconds later when Felix Robert deflected a pass from Alex Nylander top shelf over Copley. With the score close and the competition fierce, the officials put the whistles away and let the players decide their fates with an entertaining finish that saw Hershey’s strong defense clamp down to make the 2-1 score stand up and send the series back to Wilkes-Barre for a deciding game on Monday night.
Let's hop on I-81 and do the same thing tomorrow night in their building 😁 pic.twitter.com/JByQ7GtQls
— x – Hershey Bears (@TheHersheyBears) May 9, 2022
“We needed to win a hockey game, and that’s what we did tonight,” Scott Allen said after the game. “We knew what we had to do. There wasn’t a guy in this organization who was even a little bit satisfied with how we played in Game One, we addressed the disappointment, we had to get by it and made a couple adjustments. We lost a couple guys to injury in that first game, they lost one guy tonight due to one of the injuries in the game, so we knew what we had to do. All the credit goes to the 20 guys who dressed tonight for us, they got it done.”
“It’s interesting for me being a part of a best-of-three series where, as soon as you lose a game, you’re on death row so to speak and your season could end just like that. We’re still there, so it’s going to be a similar message for sure and make sure we come out with a strong start and are able to sustain for 60 minutes because I assure you they’ll be ready to play as well.”
The two teams meet again for a decisive third game on Monday evening at Mohegan Sun Arena as one team will advance to the second round for a date with the Springfield Thunderbirds. The task for each team will be to assert themselves and play the better game to start and hope to clamp down for the decision. Each game has been fairly tight defensively, and it will likely be the case on Monday night as well. Puck drop in Game Three is scheduled for 7:05 PM.
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