The push for the playoffs continues for the Hershey Bears as they took on the league-leading Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in front of a sold out Giant Center. In the first period, the Bears came out slow, being held shotless before Josh Archibald started the scoring at 9:53, redirecting a Oskar Sundqvist point shot past Copley for his 12th goal of the season to put Wilkes-Barre/Scranton up 1-0.
After going down early, Hershey pushed back. The team tied the game up at 13:51 on their second shot as Colby Williams scored his 4th goal on a failed pass attempt that bounced right back to him before he snapped a shot past Tristan Jarry to tie it at 1.
The game remained tied until the 18:40 mark of the second period when Stanislav Galiev brought the crowd to their feet. Galiev sped down the right wing before executing a beautiful toe drag around a sliding defender and burying a wrist shot past the blocker of Tristan Jarry and giving the Bears a 2-1 lead.
In the third period, Hershey controlled most of the play, outshooting Wilkes-Barre/Scranton 14-13, but both teams failed to score. However, while both teams were held scoreless, the final period did not go without excitement. Hershey was able to force the Penguins into taking four penalties, including a 5-on-3 in the latter stages of the game. The Bears also got another stellar goaltending performance from newly acquired Phoenix Copley. Copley stopped 36 of 37 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton shots, with many key stops coming in the final stanza, where only one shot got past him: a Sundqvist wrist shot that clanged off the crossbar before going wide. This would be the last big chance the Penguins got to tie the game.
The recently hot Hershey powerplay was held scoreless, going 0 for 6 in their 2-1 victory. The Penguins failed to score on their only powerplay attempt of the night. The Bears were outshot 37-27 for the game. However, most of their shots came from the outside and in low percentage scoring areas. When asked about how they kept the Penguins at bay, Hershey coach Troy Mann said “…they get into what we call a three-high formation, and they get two guys crashing the net, and they’re throwing pucks to the net… It’s not about shots for. It’s about creating opportunities in front of the net and inside the house. That’s the new wave of hockey.”
- While all the attention of the Capitals trade for Kevin Shattenkirk, goes to the veteran defender. An overlooked piece of the trade was the addition of goalie Phoenix Copley to the Capitals system. Copley, a former Bear, who had been playing in the St. Louis Blues system for the past two seasons, has posted back-to-back stellar performances, saving 27 of 28 shots against Syracuse on Friday and Saving 36 of 37 shots against Wilkes-Barre on Saturday and earning the first star.
- The league-leading Penguins, have struggled as of late, losing 5 of their last 6 games
- The Hershey Bears will not have an easy path to the playoffs. Hershey has the second weakest strength of schedule with a .560 SoS. However, the team they are chasing, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, have the easiest strength of schedule at .554.
- The Bears were held scoreless on the powerplay for the first time in 6 games, going 0 for 6.
- With their 2-1 win, the Bears got their third win of the season series against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton bringing the season series to 3-4-4 in favor of Wilkes-Barre. The teams will finish out their head-to-head schedule with a final meeting on April 14th at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
The Bears will look to win their 5th of their last 6 games against the Springfield Thunderbirds tomorrow. The Thunderbirds have dropped their last three games after they enjoyed a five-game winning streak. Puck drop will be at 5pm at the Giant Center.
The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins will look to get back on track with a quick turnaround, as they visit the Hartford Wolfpack who are 4-6-0 in their last ten games. Puck drop will be at 3pm at the XL Center in Hartford.
The next scheduled Bears game for GNGHockey will be March 18 against Hartford.
Dean Snock is a writer and Hershey Bears reporter for Good Night, Good Hockey. You can follow him on Twitter @DSnock97.