HERSHEY, PA – Hershey coming in winless in their last five, facing a team 8-1-1 in its last ten needed a positive start. To not have to “chase the game” as Troy Mann said after the Outdoor Classic on Saturday night. That plan went by the wayside quickly. The Penguins executed when they needed to, starting off with a two-goal lead in the first ten minutes and never looked back as they picked up the 4-0 victory in Chocolate Town.
Wilkes-Barre opened the scoring just under four minutes into the game. With Bears defenseman, Colby Williams caught pinching up in the offensive zone, Zach Aston-Reese had a clear lane to stroll in uncontested and beat Pheonix Copley for his seventh goal of the season. Greg McKegg and Frank Corrado picked up assists.
Jarrett Burton extended the lead nearly six minutes later. Daniel Sprong fired a lead pass right to Burton’s tape at the Bears blue line. Tyler Lewington stayed with him and blocked his initial bid to the corner. The puck bounced right back to Burton who stunned Copley by backhanding it back on goal and in from below the goal line. The Bears found themselves in a familiar spot: behind the game.
Hershey despite trailing puck nine pucks on net compared to just four for the Penguins. A familiar story: an opportunistic opponent.
A stronger start to the second by the Penguins kept Hershey at bay and held them to just three shots a large chunk of the frame. Hershey started to turn the tide with a series odd-man rushes. They couldn’t convert on either of them but seemed to tilt the ice. Despite this, the score remained 2-0.
In the third, the Bears came close to scoring on a couple of different instances. On a shot from in tight by Zach Sill. Antony Peters stopped the puck under his pads and on a mad scramble he and the puck slid into the net. A short review and replay it was ruled no goal. The whistle had been blown. Another close call came with 9:27 Mathias Bau beat Peters clean but hit the post.
The post hit loomed large as on the very next shift, former Bear Christian Thomas extended the Penguins lead to 3-0. Hershey lost a 50-50 puck battle behind their net to Thomas DiPauli. DiPauli centered to Thomas in the slot and he made no mistake.
An odd man rush by the Penguins with some great passing culminated in a goal by Zach Trotman. In the midst of the goal celebration, Tyler Lewington let off some frustration by dropping the gloves with Garrett Wilson. Lewington’s frustrations came a little too late for his team however as they now trailed 4-0 with seven minutes to play.
No more major fisticuffs followed and other than a big save by Copley on McKegg late, the final moments of the game remained uneventful. The final score held at 4-0, giving Anthony Peters, who started the season in the ECHL, his first career AHL shutout on 18 saves. Copley on the other hand, stopped 17 of 21.
As with the Outdoor Classic on Saturday against Lehigh, Hershey once again fell behind by two in the game’s first ten minutes.
“In the first, we played pretty well but we’re chasing the game the game 2-0 and that certainly doesn’t help from a confidence perspective to try and win hockey games,” said Bears head coach Troy Mann.
Hershey had plenty of chances to blow the game open by earning six powerplays. Hershey’s power play, however, failed to provide any offense going 0/6 in the game.
“We had plenty of opportunities on the power play but we just weren’t to execute and when we did execute either Peters made the save or where we weren’t hitting the net,” said Mann.
Hershey’s power play has been clipping along at about 10% effective since Thanksgiving and Mann acknowledged they’re at a loss at what to do at the moment to get them going.
“It’s been going on for awhile now. We’ve tweaked the units, and we’ve tweaked the system. We’ll have to go back to the drawing board here.”
The Penguins who have now clipped a quick two-game losing skid are next in action on the road in Allentown to take on the Phantoms. They’ll then return home to take on Binghamton. Hershey hits the road tomorrow to Providence and will face the Bruins on Friday night before heading to Bridgeport to close out the weekend on Saturday.