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Strong Goaltending Helps Bears Outlast Penguins

In the final game of a four-game-in-five-night stretch for Hershey, specialty teams and strong goaltending were the key components to victory

Strong Goaltending Helps Bears Outlast Penguins

HERSHEY, Pa. – It was matchup seven of 12 between the Hershey Bears and the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins on Sunday night at Giant Center, with two teams facing off after long weeks of hockey. Both teams were playing their third game in three nights, with Hershey ending a stretch of four games in five nights. Ultimately, Hershey’s big guns worked their magic, and Garrett Pilon’s third period power-play goal stood up as the difference as the Bears took a 3-2 decision for their seventh win over the Penguins this season. Pheonix Copley earned the win in goal with 26 saves, while Alex D’Orio suffered his second straight loss to the Bears, making 22 stops.

Both teams showed their recent playing stretches at times in this game, but still managed to put on a strong showing before a solid crowd despite the elements between Saturday’s game and Sunday. The game was scoreless halfway through regulation when Hershey defender Dylan McIlrath scored his third goal of the season, keeping the puck in at the point and firing a wrist shot through traffic and the goaltender to make it 1-0 Hershey. McIlrath has continued to be one of Hershey’s best blue liners this season for his play away from the offensive zone but was rewarded with a goal for his hard work and leadership.

The Bears doubled their lead by narrowly beating the buzzer in the second period. Mike Vecchione scored his fifth of the season, beating the horn by mere moments when Shane Gersich fed a perfect pass from behind the net. The goal was reviewed but ultimately stood at the end of the period.

Wilkes-Barre would make it a game in the third, scoring their first goal against the Bears this weekend with Mitch Reinke scoring his first goal of the season by burying a rebound to get within a goal. Copley had been great in the game, making a few key saves and bailing the Bears in pivotal situations. Hershey’s game was not as crisp as it was on Saturday, but given their recent schedule, they gave a solid effort.

The difference-maker was ultimately on the special teams for Hershey, as Pilon scored his 11th of the season to extend the lead to 3-1. Cody Franson earned his second assist of the game on the marker, and Joe Snively kept his incredible pace going with a secondary helper. Hershey had four power-play goals in three games over the weekend as the special teams unit continues to improve. Wilkes-Barre didn’t quit and made the game interesting with two and a half minutes on the clock as Radim Zohorna scored his fifth of the season on the power play courtesy of a great pass by Anthony Angello. Both teams would find a power-play goal on three tries in this game, but Hershey clamped down and earned the 3-2 decision on home ice.

“We’re very fortunate to have Alex Westlund, who is, in my opinion, the best goalie coach in the American Hockey League,” Bears head coach Scott Allen said after the game. “He does a tremendous job preparing these guys, and Pheonix Copley has been outstanding as of late, you can tell he has good confidence in his game and we’re confident in him. To follow up what Hunter Shepard did last night, Pheonix did tonight, big kudos to Alex Westlund.”

The Bears won three of the four games this weekend and continued to win against the Penguins. The Bears moved into a tie with the Springfield Thunderbirds in points but trail slightly in points percentage. Wilkes-Barre lost for the seventh consecutive game, going 0-6-0-1 in the process, and falls to the bottom of the Atlantic Division.

Hershey returns to action on Wednesday when they host the Bridgeport Islanders, while Wilkes-Barre will be idle until Friday when they host the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.

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