BUFFALO, N.Y. – One of the best stories so far for Hershey Bears fans has been the ascension of starting goaltender Vitek Vanecek to the Washington Capitals. Vanecek earned the role as backup to Ilya Samsonov after it was revealed that free-agent acquisition Henrik Lundqvist would not be able to play due to health complications, and made his NHL debut on Friday night in the second of back-to-back games with the Buffalo Sabres. Vanecek made 30 saves on 31 shots, while goals from former Bears Jakub Vrana and Tom Wilson helped lift Hershey’s NHL affiliate to a 2-1 victory to bring the Caps’ second win in as many games.
Vanecek was busy often, making 11 saves in the first period and 15 in the second, including a ten bell save while the team was down a man in the second period.
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) January 16, 2021
Vanecek helped propel the Caps to the win. As is custom, he was treated to the usual antics after the game, including whip cream to the face from Wilson. Vanecek and Vrana embraced after the big win, which is always a treat.
🥺🥺 two Hershey alumni thriving tonight! https://t.co/qiezW34DY3
— Bears Hockey Nation (@HBHNationBlog) January 16, 2021
The beloved Hershey netminder finished fifth among AHL goaltenders in terms of goals-against average with 2.26 during the 2019-20 season and earned his second nod as an AHL All-Star. Vanecek played in 141 regular-season games with the Bears over the course of five different seasons. Washington plays a big game against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday at noon, who are fresh off of back-to-back losses to the Philadelphia Flyers.