Hershey, PA – A common trend in these Hershey vs Wilkes-Barre matchups has been how seemingly every game has come down to the wire with the help of two-goal rallies. Another relatively new trend has also emerged: Tom Sestito. Normally a thorn in the Bears side as a pest, Sestito has picked up a new trick, scoring. Add three more points to his total against the Bears after this one. Both of these trends were front and center has the Penguins took advantage of their chances to beat the Bears in Hershey 5-3.

Needing a great start, the Bears got exactly just what the doctor ordered. It took an initial back and forth chess match but Hershey finally broke through. Nathan Walker picked up a gift. Great forechecking pressure by Chandler Stephenson forced Ethan Prow to pass right to Walker and he fired home his ninth of the season for the 1-0 lead.

As we have seen in every matchup with these two teams, no lead is safe. That was made clear by the new Bear killer Tom Sestito. Sestito got lost and buried a quick pass to even the game at one just 30 seconds in. That makes half of Sestito’s (six) goals against Hershey.

The Bears responded with great pressure and some decent looks on goal. Despite the sustained zone time by the Bears, it would be the Penguins who would strike once again. On a delayed call, Sestito, Jean-Sebastien Dea passed Joe Cannata into submission giving Teddy Blueger an open cage to make it 2-1.

The Bears maintained control of the puck and earned a power play thanks to a Dominik Simon trip. The puck luck wasn’t going the home team’s way as they managed to hit three posts on that powerplay. Wilkes-Barre goaltender Tristin Jarry also turned it over behind his own goal but the Bears couldn’t get the puck through to the empty net. The Penguins dumped the puck into the Bears zone where Aaron Ness turned it over. Ness mistook Josh Archibald for a teammate and gave it right to him in the slot. The play stunned Cannata and he had little chance to stop the Penguins from scoring the third goal of the period lead while shorthanded.

Trailing by two the Bears desperately needed somebody to step up. Enter Paul Carey:

After a dominating Penguins shift, Carey saw the puck was leaving the zone so he hit the afterburners into neutral ice. Christian Thomas recognized it and threw the pass up the boards to him. Carey finished off the rush with the perfect wrister to cut into the lead at 3-2.

The goal was a major catalyst for the Bears offense and the tying goal almost felt inevitable. On a long shift with the Penguins stuck in their zone, Travis Boyd showed off his inner-Nicklas Backstrom to find Darren Dietz walking in from the point. He beat Jarry glove side to tie the game at the 10:38 mark of the third.

The Bears were now in complete control. Or so they thought. Tom Sestito broke free and was in alone on a breakaway. He tried to go five-hole but Cannata shut it down to keep it tied. Slowly but surely the Penguins mounted a push and started winning puck battles in the Bears zone.

In the dying minutes who else but Tom Sestito slapped a shot toward Cannata. The Bears netminder stopped it but Carter Rowney was right there to pot the rebound to put the Penguins up 4-3 with exactly two minutes to go.

The Bears attempted to rally but were unable to stop Garrett Wilson from scoring in the empty net.

Hershey certainly played better than the 5-3 score would suggest as they held the Penguins to just 11 shots in the final two periods and outshot them 30-24 overall. The key difference maker in this game was that Wilkes-Barre capitalized on their chances while the Bears did not.  Hershey had three powerplays in the second period to no avail.  The Penguins were held to only five shots in the second but scored on three of them.

At just over the halfway mark, the Bears fall to 19-11-7-2 with 47 points in 39 games.

“We’re at the halfway point and we’re still three points ahead of last year’s pace. “It’s just that we’re in a tougher division,” Mann said.

Hershey has now lost seven of its last eight games.  In the postgame comments, Hershey head coach Troy Mann noted that he sees a silver lining.

“This time last year we’re just chasing basically one team where (now) you’ve got a pocket of four or five teams that are pretty good in our division. So we can take solace on that, that we’re three points ahead of last year’s pace and we’ve gotta find away here over the next five games to win some games before the all-star break still at the halfway point.”

The next installment of this rivalry comes this Saturday at 7:05 pm in Wilkes-Barre.

Please consider becoming a Patron as a way to say thanks and support us for what we do! https://www.patreon.com/thesinbinhockey