WILKES-BARRE, Pa. – It took eight tries for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, but on a snowy Sunday afternoon at Mohegan Sun Arena, they finally found a way to beat the Hershey Bears by a 2-1 count. Patrick Watling’s first AHL goal in the third period proved to be the difference, snapping a four-game point streak for the visitors and helping the home team win back-to-back games for the first time this month. Tommy Nappier earned just his third win of the season with 23 saves, while Pheonix Copley suffered the loss with 24 on this evening.
Alex Nylander opened the scoring with a nifty play by Sam Poulin, getting the puck from behind the net to Nylander at the side before Copley could cover the angle. Hershey would respond near the end of the second period when Shane Gersich scored his tenth of the season, ramming a puck through Nappier’s pads and over the line to even the count. Watling’s goal in the third came as a result of a Hershey turnover, and the puck was sent the other way when his shot got through off of Copley’s blocker.
Shane Gersich scored late in the 2nd period, but the eighth time is the charm for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton against Hershey. Here are the game highlights from this evening. #HBH pic.twitter.com/JdKrbN9FDo
— Hershey Bears (@TheHersheyBears) January 16, 2022
The Bears continue to sputter a bit after a very strong start to the season, now seeing losses in four of their last six games but earning points in two recent overtime decisions. The loss, combined with a Providence Bruins win on this day, was enough to drop the Chocolate and White to third place after briefly holding first place with a point on Saturday night. It sets the stage for a meaningful pair of games between the Bears and the Hartford Wolf Pack next weekend as 0.006 percentage points separate the two teams, and only 0.010 percentage points separate the Wolf Pack from the Bruins in first place.
The top six teams in the Atlantic Division will all qualify for the playoffs this season, and with the top two teams earning byes from playing in a best-of-three round, those spots have never been more valuable. Likewise, those extra two spots have never been more valuable for other teams who will be looking to play spoiler, one such team being the Charlotte Checkers, who are in the conversation after being hot of late. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton is looking to get into the mix sitting at eighth place with the win.
Hershey and Hartford will meet on Saturday after the Wolf Pack host the Toronto Marlies on Wednesday, and Saturday marks the return of the Teddy Bear Toss. It’s been well over two years since the event was held properly at Giant Center and going on a year since the team held a drive-thru version of the event that happened to coincide with training camp, with the Bears returning to play a short time later. Bears fans are hoping to break the 45,650 mark set in 2019 against the Pack when Christian Djoos scored the goal, the top record in all of hockey for such an event.
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