Photo: Tori Hartman
A night after earning a 4-2 win over the Springfield Thunderbirds, the Hershey Bears fell 2-1 in overtime to division rival Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins despite a strong night from goalie Vitek Vanecek.
The first period saw both teams fail to gain the advantage over the other, with both Hershey Bears goaltender Vitek Vanecek and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton goaltender Anthony Peters on top of their games, stopping 15 shots (Vanecek) and just six for Peters. Each team had the chance to take the lead at least once on the power play, as Wilkes-Barre/Scranton was awarded two power plays thanks to preceding penalties to Bears defensemen Colby Williams and Tyler Lewington. The Bears had a chance when Penguins defenseman Kevin Spinozzi was called for tripping just under two minutes into the contest.
The second period would be rather uneventful like the opening frame, however the Penguins continued to put tremendous pressure on the Bears and Vanecek. Bears forward Wayne Simpson was stopped by Peters on a breakaway 12:52 into the middle frame, and the Penguins responded with the game’s first goal, finally beating a heavily-worked Vanecek just moments later on a goal from Zach Aston-Reese, who beat the Bears’ young netminder bar-down to give the Baby Penguins the 1-0 lead.
Despite being awarded two power play opportunities in the middle stanza, the Bears were unable to solve Peters, down 1-0 on the scoreboard and 21-18 in shots. Despite allowing the game’s first goal, Vanecek remained strong in net for a Bears team that desperately needed it.
The third period would test the Bears’ resilience as a team and would provide both momentum and perhaps a dose of close calls for the Chocolate and White. The Bears did not have to wait long for a goal of their own, as Tyler Graovac scored just 3:10 into the final frame to tie the game at one, with assists coming from right wing Riley Barber and rookie defenseman Lucas Johansen.
The Bears were then awarded with yet another power play after Travis Boyd was tripped, but despite some good looks, failed to convert. Despite tying the game, the Bears failed to gain the upperhand on their rival, and with the Penguins on a power play late in the period, Vanecek made an incredible goal-line save to keep the game knotted at one. After further review, the call on the ice was confirmed as a no-goal, leaving the Bears with a sigh of relief. After Penguins defenseman Chris Summers was called for interference with just 2:17 left in regulation time, the Bears were granted a prime opportunity to complete the comeback. However, Boyd was called for tripping with 1:49 left in regulation. With just 10 seconds remaining, Vanecek made yet another spectacular save to give his team a chance to win, and as a result, the game headed to sudden-death overtime. The Bears were outshot 36-21 in regulation.
The storyline of overtime would be much like the previous three periods, with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton outplaying the Bears. The Bears recorded no shots in the sudden-death period and the Penguins’ Dominik Simon converted on one of his team’s two shots in the period to beat the Bears with his fourth goal of the season and put a somber end to Vanecek’s spectacular night. The final shot total for the game was 38-21.
Despite the loss, Vanecek finished the night having stopped 36 of 38 shots for a save percentage of .947.
Troy Mann’s postgame presser:
By Michael Fleetwood