HERSHEY, Pa. – The storylines for the latest installment of the rivalry series between the Hershey Bears and the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins seemed to write themselves on Tuesday. It was a matchup of two of the league’s stingiest defensive teams as well as the top two goaltenders in the American Hockey League in Wilkes-Barre’s Dustin Tokarski and Hershey’s Hunter Shepard, and even though the game went to a shootout as one might have expected, the goal light was lit plenty of times. Ultimately, Sam Anas scored in the shootout and Shepard blanked all three Penguins shooters to give the Bears a 4-3 win on Tuesday night.
For all it ended up being, the Penguins came out strong in the first period with a pair of goals on nifty plays. Drake Caggiula got a tap-in goal on an excellent feed from Drew O’Connor for his third goal of the season just over a minute in. The Penguins followed that up with Valtteri Puustinen’s seventh goal of the season on a nice deflection of a shot from O’Connor to make it 2-0. The trio of Penguins had multi-point games as major difference-makers in this game. Hershey cut the lead to one when Jake Massie fired the puck toward the net for the team’s leading scorer Mason Morelli, who deflected the shot past Tokarski for his fourth goal of the season.
It was a big game for Massie, who had not registered a point in seven games played this season but whose game has been consistently improving. Massie would earn a multi-point night and score his first goal of the season on a point shot that kicked off of a defender and past Tokarski to even the score at two. However, the game appeared to take a turn in favor of the Penguins when Hershey forward Kale Kessy was assessed 17 minutes in penalties for fighting O’Connor at the end of the second. O’Connor was only assessed two minutes for roughing, giving the Penguins a five-minute power play which they capitalized on with a rebound goal for Nathan Legare, his second of the season.
It looked like a nail in the coffin for the Bears and the storyline of the game, only for the Bears to rewrite the script. For the third time in the game, a shot from the point was deflected into the goal, this time off the stick of Mike Vecchione for his team-leading sixth goal of the season. The Bears entered play off of a strong offensive outing that perhaps should have rewarded them with more as they outshot the Penguins by a 44-19 margin in the game, their largest of the season, and eclipsed their previous best set in their last game in Hartford. The two teams squared off in a shootout for the second straight game for both clubs, and Shepard kept three of Wilkes-Barre’s top scorers off the board while Anas scored the only goal, hitting the top shelf while falling down to secure the win for Hershey.
A season-high 44 shots and a second straight shootout win earned us a 4-3 victory tonight over the Baby Pens at GIANT Center. Here are the highlights from our fourth straight win. pic.twitter.com/KsHYJv7Gby
— Hershey Bears (@TheHersheyBears) November 30, 2022
“We’re finding ways right now,” Bears head coach Todd Nelson said after the game. “I thought tonight wasn’t our best game, but our guys fought through it. We had to come back the whole night, and we got it to overtime and then a shootout to win it, but the turning point could have been the five-minute major that they got one on us but we battled back. They all can’t be Picassos out there, but the guys are finding a way to win, that’s what happened on the road, it was nice to get those three on the road, and we want to continue that at home.”
“He’s just a good pro,” Nelson said of Massie. “He works at his game in practice even though he wasn’t playing earlier in the year a whole lot, comes to the rink with a great attitude and gets his work done. We have the ability to insert players like Day and Massie into the lineup and they fill the role very nice. Jake’s got good speed, he’s a very good skater and is quick out there and he’s good on the penalty kill.”
Nelson was able to provide injury updates on a few of Hershey’s regulars, with Lucas Johansen, Gabriel Carlsson, and Shane Gersich possibly able to skate in the rematch between these two teams at Giant Center on Sunday. Forward Garrett Pilon tried skating before the game, but is “a ways away”, according to Nelson. Massie as well as Vincent Iorio registered multiple points for the Bears in this game as Hershey earned their fourth consecutive win and fifth of their last six games. The Bears get right back at it in a different schedule this week as they visit the PPL Center for the first time to take on the Lehigh Valley Phantoms on Wednesday. Wilkes-Barre is idle until they host the Bridgeport Islanders on Saturday, and the two teams will rematch on Sunday afternoon at Giant Center.
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