WILKES-BARRE, Pa. – Friday was installment 11-of-12 between the Hershey Bears and the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins at Mohegan Sun Arena for the first time in two months as the teams play a pair of important games down the stretch as the two teams battle for positioning in the postseason. This time, the Penguins won thanks to an overtime penalty against the Bears that led to the game-winner for Valterri Puustinen in the extra session in a 3-2 Penguins win.
A three-point game mutes the impact on the standings between the two teams a bit but continues to keep the Atlantic Division battle intense down the stretch as Hershey prepares to play its last five games.
The Penguins opened up the scoring just under five minutes into the game as Hershey goaltender Zach Fucale was surprised by a shot from Kasper Bjorkvist to give the home team an early lead. Hershey responded before the period was too far away with Ethen Frank’s first AHL goal in just his second game on the power play as he scored with a wicked slap shot to tie the game at one.
To Fucale’s credit, he came back with a vengeance after the first goal facing three periods of double digit shots against, ending the game with 35 saves on 38 shots as the busier of the two goaltenders on this night. The teams would hang on to the 1-1 score until the third period when Mason Morelli scored on a great pass to the front of the net by Aliaksei Protas to give Hershey the edge. It was a particularly good night for Hershey’s power play, especially for the second unit that struck twice on three chances in the game.
Congrats to Ethen Frank on his first AHL goal! #HERvsWBS pic.twitter.com/sDfDePMmNY
— Bears Hockey Nation (@HBHNationBlog) April 15, 2022
However, Wilkes-Barre battled back to even the score with about two minutes remaining in regulation. Radim Zohorna would be credited with the tying goal on a slap shot from Alex Nylander with the goaltender pulled, leading the teams to extra time. The aforementioned penalty was a trip on Brett Leason, who had stolen the puck from a Penguin who was already losing his footing. The penalty led to the overtime goal from Puustinen, his 19th of the season, to give the Penguins just their third win of the season over the Bears with one more game between the two teams on Tuesday evening.
Mason Morelli scores his 12th of the season on the power play! #HERvsWBS pic.twitter.com/68SyEXKKeL
— Bears Hockey Nation (@HBHNationBlog) April 16, 2022
PUUSTY WITH THE OT GOAL!!! pic.twitter.com/ZaxzRSv117
— WBS Penguins (@WBSPenguins) April 16, 2022
The decision pulls the Bears and Penguins a bit closer together in the standings race as each of these last few games inch closer towards becoming a playoff preview. The loss is a bit tougher to swallow for Hershey considering that Wilkes-Barre has two games in hand on the Bears, meaning the scoreboard watching will be more crucial down the stretch as will be taking care of business in their own games. Wilkes-Barre would like to continue to win and keep the teams below them off their heels despite an even larger edge in games remaining on Bridgeport and Hartford. The race to get into the playoffs took another interesting turn as Hartford lost on this night and Bridgeport collected an overtime win over Lehigh Valley to give the Islanders the sixth and last playoff spot in the division. Hartford’s free fall in the standings has them at 1-8-1-0 in their last ten games, and in danger of missing the postseason after leading the division at one point earlier this season. The Islanders and Wolf Pack play each other at the tail end of the season, which is looking like must-see hockey as the season winds down.
The Penguins will host the Islanders on Saturday evening for an interesting tilt while the Bears will be off until Sunday when they welcome the Providence Bruins for the final meeting between the two teams at Giant Center. Hershey looks for a bit of revenge after dropping three straight on the road in Providence this season, and it’ll be just the latest big game between the two division foes as Hershey has the chance to make the battle for third place a bit more interesting down the stretch.
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