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Penguins Outlast Bears in Overtime

#AHL | In the finale of the season series between @TheHersheyBears and @WBSPenguins, overtime would be needed because these two teams just couldn’t get enough of each other. @FPHBears brings you the recap of Wed’s action

Penguins Outlast Bears in Overtime

WILKES-BARRE, Pa. – It was the penultimate matchup of the season series between the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and the Hershey Bears, and the final rendition from Mohegan Sun Arena. Both teams entered the game with five wins in ten games in the season series, including five in overtime, and Wednesday’s game lived up to the billing as the teams went beyond regulation, but Valtteri Puustinen buried a partial breakaway to lift the Penguins to the win. Taylor Gauthier took the win with 34 saves while Hunter Shepard suffered the loss, stopping 24 shots.

It was a war at both ends of the ice as both teams had their chances to take control of the game. Hershey put up double-digit shot counts in all three periods in an improved effort on that front in this game, but Wilkes-Barre struck first as Drake Caggiula deflected a shot by Shepard for his tenth goal of the season. Caggiula’s goal was the only power-play tally for either team in this game, with both clubs getting four cracks at the man advantage.

Hershey struck back before the period ended when Mason Morelli stole the puck at his own blue line and beat Gauthier to the blocker side on his backhand to even it up at one after one. Morelli’s goal is another highlight in a consistently strong season for the third-year Bear, and is only five points back of matching his career-high set a season ago.

Hershey entered the game in a tricky situation, losing two defenders to lingering illness from the previous weekend in addition to Dylan McIlrath’s recall to the Washington Capitals hours before puck drop. Hershey was forced to dress 13 forwards and five defenders in the game as a last-minute configuration. Two defenders to jump in were Logan Day and Jake Massie, who have steadied the blue line previously this season and continued to be invaluable in this game

Wilkes-Barre took the lead early on when noted scorer in this season series Filip Hallander converted on two-on-one rush that he actually flubbed a little bit but still beat Shepard between the pads. Gauthier made some big saves in this game, stopping a volume of shots in just his 12th American Hockey League game as the Bears fired pucks on him from anywhere on the ice. Hershey’s backstop made a few crucial saves to keep it within one goal, and the Bears tied the game inside of the final 100 seconds as Bobby Nardella blasted his fourth goal of the season by Gauthier to send it to extra time.

In the extra session, the teams traded quality looks but the Penguins cashed in first as Tyler Sikura threw an excellent lob pass to Puustinen streaking in behind the defense, narrowly beating Shepard between the pads to give the Penguins a big win while the Bears settled for one. The Penguins have six wins in 11 games over the course of the season series with one more matchup at Giant Center on March 1.

It’s a big win for Wilkes-Barre, who vaults into the sixth and final playoff spot in the Atlantic Division with two points after falling behind with a number of losses in recent time, but have proven they can hang around with the best in their division. Hershey settles for a single point despite a solid effort in this game, as their lead on second place Charlotte shrunk after the Checkers beat the Lehigh Valley Phantoms for the second straight game to eight points. Hershey has a crucial pair of games in Charlotte on Saturday and Sunday, and extra emphasis will need to be made for the Bears to ensure their lead holds in this set of games. Wilkes-Barre looks to continue racking up points when they visit the Lehigh Valley Phantoms at PPL Center on Saturday night.

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