It’s the heavyweight battle of the Atlantic Division, and one of the most intense rivalries in the 80 year history of the American Hockey League. The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins traveled down I-81 to kick off the first of three home-and-home series against the Hershey Bears remaining in the season.
A scoreless opening period started the Saturday night main event, with Hershey leading in shots 8-3 after 20 minutes. Both sides possessed the puck well in their offensive ends, but Wilkes-Barre struggled to get pucks through to Dan Ellis. Shot blocking, which was a successful component in the Bears’ previous win, continued to be a tool into tonight.
Just 2:10 into the second period, the Australian superstar that is Nathan Walker continued to grow. He turned on his jets in the offensive zone, and pulled away on a semi-breakaway. Walker beat Tristan Jarry five-hole to make it 1-0 Hershey.
The Chocolate and White minutes later received a power play chance, and they cashed in at 6:11. Following a nice passing play from the bottom of the face off circles, Christian Djoos beat Jarry short side to double his club’s lead.
Hershey’s lead grew to 3-0 on a beautiful four-on-four goal set up by Aaron Ness. With open ice, Ness stormed from the point to low in the offensive end and sent a cross-ice pass to Carter Camper. Camper finished his eighth of the season with 4:23 left.
Dustin Jeffrey stopped the bleeding for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton with 1:41 remaining in the period. He blasted a slapper past the glove hand of Dan Ellis to make it a 3-1 game after 40 minutes.
The Bears posted another field goal in the third period, en route to a convincing 6-2 blowout over the Penguins. 5:15 into the third stanza, Dustin Gazley added his team’s second power play goal of the night on another tic-tac-toe passing play.
With 10:18 left, Matthias Plachta tipped a Steve Oleksy shot past Ellis, trimming Wilkes-Barre’s deficit to two. Zach Sill answered for the Chocolate and White only 58 seconds later, haunting his former team, and taking the wind out of Wilkes-Barre’s sails.
Walker added his second goal of the night and team’s third on the man-advantage with 34 seconds left. An exclamation point to a dominating effort by the Hershey Bears, as they extend their standings lead over the Pens.
Hershey’s point percentage climbs to .661, as Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s drops to .629.
Submitted by intern Matt Trust