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Rybinski’s First Lifts Hershey Bears Past Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins

If there’s anything to be learned at the quarter-pole of the season series between the Hershey Bears and the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, it’s that the remaining nine games will be appointment viewing

Photo Courtesy: Carl Minieri

Rybinski’s First Lifts Hershey Bears Past Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins

HERSHEY, Pa. – If there’s anything to be learned through three games of the 12 between the Hershey Bears and the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, it’s that the remaining nine games will be appointment viewing.

Sunday afternoon, the two teams dueled to a one-goal decision for the third time, with the Bears weathering a Penguins onslaught in the third period to take a 4-3 decision. The game-winner came off the stick of Henrik Rybinski for his first AHL goal. Hunter Shepard made 30 saves for the win, while Filip Lindberg stopped 25 of 29 in defeat.

The Bears doubled up the Penguins in shots in the game’s first two periods, 8-4 in the first and 18-9 in the second, and tallied four goals along the way from four different skaters. Depth scoring hasn’t quite been there for the Bears in the early stages of the season, but Sunday’s game changed that as Shane Gersich knocked down an airborne pass and beat Lindberg to open the scoring. Hershey doubled their lead two minutes later when Mason Morelli fired a hard shot past Lindberg on a nice feed from Hendrix Lapierre.

In the middle stanza, Hershey kept their foot on the gas pedal, adding another pair of goals and equalling their largest lead at any point in the young season. Ethen Frank‘s lit the lamp for the fourth time in as many games, barrelling down the wing on a delayed penalty, firing a shot that deflected off a defender’s stick and past the goaltender. Three of Frank’s five career AHL goals have come against the Penguins. Although the goal was not officially on the power play, Frank has been lethal with an extra skater on the ice with three power play markers as well as tonight’s goal on a delayed call.

The Bears would once again find scoring in bunches as they’d get Rybinski’s goal just over a minute later. Aaron Ness put a smart shot on Lindberg for a rebound off his left pad that went right to Rybinski driving to the net to deposit for his first AHL tally.

It’s unclear at this time what Penguins head coach J.D. Forrest told his team between the second and third period, but it clearly worked as Wilkes-Barre came out firing on all cylinders and quickly started chipping away at Hershey’s lead.

Jonathan Gruden was on the receiving end of a passing play from Filip Hallander, and he’d fire the puck past Shepard only 14 seconds into the final frame to get the visitors on the board. The duo would trade places for the Penguins’ second goal as Ness broke his stick on an attempted pass, leaving the Penguins to take advantage as Valtteri Puustinen fired the puck to Gruden, who fired a shot for a rebound perfectly to Hallander for the goal.

The Penguins got to within one on a controversial goal, as the puck appeared to come out of the zone but was held in and fired towards the net for Hallander to put in for his second goal of the game. Hallander finished with three points in the game and was named the game’s second star. Hershey held on despite being outshot by a 20-3 margin in the final stanza for a 4-3 final score.

“I was pretty happy after two periods,” Bears head coach Todd Nelson said after the game. “I had to cool down after the game was done. There’s no substitute for work, there really isn’t, and the guys were warned that they were going to make a push which they did. If Shepard doesn’t stand on his head in the third period, we lose the game, and it’s unacceptable. We played good for 40 minutes, we stopped working in the third. Give them credit, they came at us really hard in the third, but we have got to learn from it. We were very immature in that third period as a team.”

“We got contributions from everybody for 40 minutes. The game could have been a lot easier on us in the end, but it was nice to see other lines contributing.”

The Bears extended their point streak to four games and have three wins in a row, dealing the Penguins their second straight loss despite the room to improve as Nelson alluded to. Lost a bit in the mix of the scoring and finish of the game, it was Shepard’s first win of the season after coming up with two overtime losses in his previous starts and has allowed just eight goals in that span as Hershey’s tandem has been every bit as advertised early on this season.

The Bears will get back into action on Friday when they begin a rare set of three games in as many nights at home with a pair against the Bridgeport Islanders for the first time this season followed by their lone matchup with the Laval Rocket at Giant Center on Sunday. Wilkes-Barre will be idle until Friday when they host the Hartford Wolf Pack at Mohegan Sun Arena.

You can follow Corey Swartz on Twitter @FPHBears! For the latest news on the American Hockey League, be sure to follow our AHL team and listen to The Holy GrAHL Podcast each week! 

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