It’s round two at GIANT Center to claim a champion of the Atlantic Division. The Hershey Bears hosted the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in the opening game of the best-of-seven series at GIANT Center.
A long layoff for the Penguins worked to their benefit, as they jumped out to an early 1-0 lead only 45 seconds in. Daniel Sprong used his speed to split two Hershey defenders and fire off a chance all alone with Justin Peters. Sprong beat Peters high-glove side for the only tally of the period.
The Bears settled in defensively shortly after and continued their flawless shot blocking from the opening round. Peters stopped a key penalty shot in the final minute on Jake Guentzel to hold the deficit to one goal.
Wilkes-Barre doubled their lead in the middle stanza similar in fashion to the first period. In the first, the Penguins scored on their first shot. Fast forward to the second period, Carter Rowney scored 14 seconds into the period on the Pens’ first shot.
Hershey, again, settled in defensively following the goal and began firing away on Casey DeSmith. Jakub Vrana nearly capitalized on a timing play following a cross ice feed on a rush, and Christian Djoos was stone-walled on the door step in the later stages. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton leads in shots 27-18 after 40 minutes and have also been winning the majority of face-offs.
Into the third, Wilkes-Barre shut the door on the power play. Sprong scored his second of the game and fifth of the postseason at 7:04 to break the game open. With 2:53 left, captain Tom Kostopoulos added a shorthanded empty net goal to round out a 4-0 final.
Game 2 of the series is on Friday at GIANT Center. No reason to panic, as the Bears lost the first game of a shorter, best-of-five series in Portland. It’s a longer series against the Penguins, but there is no time at all to dwell after this Game 1 setback.
Submitted by Matt Trust