Wilkes-Barre, PA – Zach’s were all the rage for the chocolate and white on Friday night. Hershey forwards Zach Sanford and Zach Sill were offensive catalysts and played a role in four of the five Hershey goals. Each recorded a goal and an assist in the 5-2 win over Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
Striking first has been a key for the Bears this season. Going into a battle for first place in a tightly contested division scoring first was even more crucial to their success.
The Bears got what they were looking for from Nathan Walker. Hubert Labrie threw a big hit on Jake Guentzel allowing Brad Malone to pick up the puck and fling it up to Zach Sanford. Sanford dragged the puck as if he was going to shoot and then passed to Nathan Walker in front who deflected the puck past Tristan Jarry for the all-important first goal. Hershey has yet to lose in regulation (11-0-3-1) when scoring the first goal.
The Bears were not done as their top line outworked the Penguins in their defensive zone. A nice passing play set up by Chris Bourque led to a Chandler Stephenson goal on the back door. Paul Carey fresh off recall from Washington also picked up an assist on the play to extend his point streak to 13 games.
In what has become a bit of a broken record for Bears fans, Hershey was called for a penalty at an inopportune time. One minute after the Bears took their 2-0 lead, Hubert Labrie was shown the penalty box for slashing at 16:59. The penalty killing unit survived all but 11 seconds of the penalty before Guenztel blasted a one-timer past Vitek Vanecek giving the Penguins life late in the first.
The following frame began with excellent pace and went whistle free for over ten minutes. Hershey found an answer for Wilkes-Barre’s late goal with under five minutes to play. Continuing the theme of great passing plays for Hershey, Nathan Walker, Brad Malone and Zach Sanford all connected on a picture perfect tic-tac-toe goal. Jarry flailed across the crease helplessly as Sanford capped off the play to restore the Bears two-goal lead at 3-1.
The two AHL heavyweights traded blows early in the third. Just as they had done with their last goal, the Penguins scored to cut the lead to one just 2:44 into the third. Jean-Sebastian Dea that caught three Bears watching on the goalline as he took a pass from Guentzel and fired it top shelf on Vanecek to cut the lead to 3-2.
Hershey answered right back 44 seconds later when Ryan Bourque picked up an ill-advised pass by Derrick Pouliot right in front of his own goal. Bourque chipped the puck across the crease to Zach Sill who fired it home to once again give Hershey the two goal lead.
Garrett Mitchell provided the dagger on a two on one rush pass from Sill. The Penguins mounted a small push and threw shots toward Vanecek but couldn’t find the back of the net. The final score in this one was 5-2.
The win propels Hershey into first in the division at 14-4-4-1 and extends their point streak to ten games. Chris Bourque sits one point shy of his 600th career American Hockey League point. He’ll look to grab it at home as Hershey hosts a rematch with the Baby Pens tonight at 7 PM.
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