HERSHEY, PA – Wednesday night’s game proved third time’s a charm for Hershey against their in-state and rivals from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
Both sides surrendered a breakaway opportunity seconds of each other. Chad Ruhwedel sprung Josh Archibald with a stretch pass but Vanecek stoned him with the pad. Then, 40 seconds later with the Penguins on the powerplay, Ryan Bourque stole the puck and raced in on goal. Bourque tried to go five-hole but Tristan Jarry denied the shorthanded opportunity.
Vanecek was a tad busier than Jarry in the first period with his team trailing in the shot department 6-0 at one point but most of the shots he faced were not high-quality scoring chances.
The second period was a defensive struggle. Passes weren’t connecting and shots weren’t getting through. Not much room was afforded either team and only eight shots total between the two sides as a result.
Nobody could generate any sort of sustained pressure until the final minute of the second. Hershey’s fourth-liners Ryan Bourque, Zach Sill and Garrett Mitchell completely hemmed Wilkes-Barre in its own zone. A long and tiring shift in their own zone led the Penguins to break down defensively. Sill was able to get wide open in the right circle. He had plenty of time to collect a pass from Bourque and fired the puck through the five-hole to give the bears the 1-0 lead with 20 seconds to go.
In the third, Archibald got his chance at redemption for the earlier breakaway miss on a short-handed breakaway. This time he may have waited a little too long to shoot which allowed Vitek time to stick away the five-hole opportunity. The save was an important one because the Bears would double their lead to 2-0 just 40 seconds later in controversial fashion.
Nathan Walker drove the puck to the net with Hershey on the power play. It appeared that Jarry had the puck covered but the whistle was not blown and Christian Thomas jabbed the puck into the net. The goal was confirmed after a brief review.
Nine minutes of back and fourth hockey yielded no results. Christian Djoos broke through the stalemate at the 10:49 mark of the third. It was a classic Hershey goal in that it was created by forcing the Penguins into a turnover. Lewington took and errant pass and hit Djoos as he broke in towards the left circle. Instead of holding onto the puck, Djoos rifled a shot passed a surprised Tristan Jarry.
The bears weren’t about to surrender a lead like they had done on Saturday against these Penguins. Vanecek made stops when needed and the penalty killers controlled the play on WB’s final powerplay.
With the game dwindling to a close it appeared Paul Carey‘s 11-game point streak would come to an end. Fresh off a recall to the NHL, Carey was not to be denied. With under a minute left, Travis Boyd gave offered a perfect feed on a 2 -on -1. Carey faked out Jarry and backhanded the puck into the yawning cage to ice the game and extend his point streak to 12 games.
A majority of the chances that Vanecek faced were not high stress. That being said when the high risk shots came his way he was up to the task. He faced 24 shots in route to his second career AHL shutout. The rookie improves to 4-3-1 with a sizzling 1.88 goals against average and 0.932 save percentage.