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Hershey Bears

Bears Surge Past Penguins

HERSHEY, Pa. – In a Tuesday night clash between the Hershey Bears and the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, there was a little bit of everything for the fans in attendance at Giant Center. In the ninth edition of the rivalry this season, the Bears erased a 2-0 Penguins lead with six unanswered goals including a pair from leading scorer Joe Snively to take a 6-2 decision and their eighth win of the season series. Pheonix Copley earned the win in goal with 26 saves while Alex D’Orio suffered the loss with 28 stops.

Despite the final score, it was all Wilkes-Barre to start this game with the Penguins jumping out to a 2-0 lead through one period. Jusso Riikola scored his first AHL goal on the power play through traffic seconds into a penalty to open the scoring, followed by Nathan Legare squeaking his fourth of the season past Copley to double the score. The Penguins came into the game playing their fourth game in five nights but had five wins in their past six games looking to win their second game against the Bears this season and looked good after one period.

Bears head coach Scott Allen wasn’t happy with that opening period and challenged his team to respond between periods.

“Certainly didn’t like our first period, but I loved the way we responded,” he said. “To score six unanswered goals against a team that has been very hot and has played good hockey lately, they’ve got a solid lineup right now, they’ve made some adjustments to the game where their structure has been sound, and we knew it was going to be a challenge.”

The Bears scored three goals in each of the last two periods of play, starting with Garrett Pilon’s 13th goal of the season. Pilon picked up the loose puck from an Axel Jonsson-Fjallby shot and quickly wrapped around the back of the net to tuck it past D’Orio to get Hershey on the board. Depth scoring was the difference in the period, as Marcus Vela tallied his second goal of the season on a delayed penalty, stashing a third rebound from along the post to even the score at one. Hershey capped off the frame with Christopher Brown’s first AHL goal against his former team, beating a defender to a dump in and picking the corner past the goaltender to give the Bears the lead.

With the depth players chipping in, it was only a matter of time for the big guns to leave their mark for the Bears when Snively scored his 14th goal of the season in dramatic fashion. With the Bears shorthanded, Snively chopped the puck away from the Penguins as they tried to break in over the blue line and gave himself a clear-cut breakaway. Snively made no mistake and extended his home point streak to 14 games.

The I-81 rivalry has no shortage of drama in any matchup, and it certainly didn’t end after that goal. Jonathan Gruden took a run and hit Eddie Wittchow from behind into the boards, setting off a major scrum along the boards. Wittchow bounced to his feet and grabbed Kasper Bjorkqvist and took the smaller Penguins forward to task. Gruden was assessed a game misconduct for the hit, while Wittchow was given the same for being the aggressor. Shortly after the scrap, Kale Kessy scored his third of the season on a great play by Tobias Geisser at the point, fighting off a Penguin and feeding Kessy for Hershey’s fifth goal. Snively scored his second of the game, another shorthanded tally on the empty net by outworking the Penguins power play for his 15th of the season.

The Bears were without the services of Cody Franson and Brian Pinho for the second straight game after injuries during Saturday’s game in Hartford. Vela and Brown jumped into the lineup with Wittchow back to playing defense to round out Hershey’s blue line and combined with Drake Rymsha, who signed an AHL contract with the Bears for the remainder of the season earlier in the day, to provide a spark to the Bears. Kessy had a goal and an assist in the game, while Dylan McIlrath picked up a pair of helpers to earn the game’s second star honors.

Hershey’s win, combined with a Providence loss on this day away from home, lifted the Bears from fourth place into first place in the Atlantic Division. The Bears have eight wins in nine tries against the Penguins this season and have won five games at Giant Center between the two teams this season. Combined with last season, Hershey has won ten straight over Wilkes-Barre in The Sweetest Place on Earth. The two teams won’t see each other for about a month when the regular-season slate in Hershey concludes in late February. The Penguins cap off the month of January with a trip to Cleveland for a pair of games against the Monsters on Friday and Saturday, while the Bears will host the Bridgeport Islanders on Saturday.

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