By Don Scott
The Hershey Bears started 2020 on Friday with a decisive 6-2 road win over the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.
The Pens took a 1-0 first-period lead when Andrew Agozzino buried a rebound off the end wall past Vitek Vanecek at the 6:53 mark.
Hershey’s Brian Pinho tied the game with his first of two goals, when he forced a turnover in the dying seconds of a penalty kill and raced up ice to beat Dustin Tokarski with a backhander, at 13:51 for his seventh goal of the season.
The Bears took control in the second period with four goals.
Garrett Pilon started the scoring frenzy taking a cross-ice pass from Mike Sgarbossa at 1:04. At 2:42, Eddie Wittchow fired a shot from the blue line on a perfect pass from Liam O’Brien for his second goal of the season.
Pinho scored his second of the night at 5:27 on a second chance opportunity at the crease that brought Casey DeSmith in to replace Tokarski, who gave up three goals on four shots. Philippe Maillet scored his sixth goal of the season at 18:45 on his own rebound, after a feed from Matt Moulson, for a 5-1 lead going into the final period.
Agozzino scored his second of the night only 56 seconds into the third period to give the Penguins some hope of a possible comeback. Instead, O’Brien iced the game with an empty-net goal at 16:36.
Hershey’s power play finished 1-for-3, and the Bears went 4-for-4 on the penalty kill. The Bears improved their record to 19-10-2-3 for 43 points to tie Providence for second place in the Atlantic Division, with two games in hand.
The year 2019 was a memorable one for the Bears. From Jan. 1-Dec. 31, Hershey finished with the best points percentage in the AHL at .700, posting a 47-17-6-5 record.
Mike Sgarbossa’s 72 points ranked fourth in the AHL in the calendar year, while goaltender Vitek Vanecek’s 26 wins were tied for third overall in the league.
Hershey returns to action Saturday night at Giant Center against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers at 7 p.m. and again Sunday at 3 p.m.