WILKES-BARRE, Pa. – It was a key late-season divisional tilt between the Hershey Bears and the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins at Mohegan Sun Arena in a rescheduled game from earlier in March that suddenly took on a bigger meaning with the two teams so close in the standings. Michael Chaput scored a shorthanded goal in the second period that ultimately proved to be the difference in a 3-0 shutout win. Hershey’s scoreless drought extends to two straight games without finding the back of the net, only tallying three goals in their last four games. Zach Fucale suffered the loss with 20 saves.
Hershey suffered another setback in a key divisional game that now sees them fall 0.014 behind Wilkes-Barre in the standings with just three games remaining this season. The Bears squandered what at one point seemed to be a strong lead in the standings and now face an uphill battle to not only regain fourth place, but even secure a playoff spot as they continue to sputter in the late season. Hershey didn’t make life hard enough for the opposing goaltender and was unable to come up with a goal despite a 13-4 lead in shots in the third. Instead, goals from Alex Nylander and an empty-net goal for Pierre-Olivier Joseph sealed the deal and raised the Penguins’ standings lead to 0.014. Wilkes-Barre has five games remaining to Hershey’s three, which means the two teams will certainly be keeping an eye on each other as the season winds down.
The Bears’ offense fell flat once again, having not scored an even-strength goal in over three games. Hershey lost two players in the course of the game due to injury, with Shane Gersich and Ethen Frank leaving early on. With only three games remaining and four points needed to clinch a playoff spot, Hershey will have some major work to do in order to avoid potentially missing the postseason entirely this weekend, including trying to get past their winless skid in Lehigh Valley and helping themselves get to the postseason.
Wilkes-Barre has now taken three straight games after dropping the first seven of the season series. With the season series over, the Bears won eight of 12 against the Penguins. The two teams still seem destined to meet in the first round of the playoffs in a best-of-three, but this decision goes far in giving home-ice advantage to Wilkes-Barre later in the season. Wilkes-Barre will play several of their remaining games in the extra week of the season, while Hershey will be off following three games in as many nights to conclude their season this weekend.
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