The Hershey Bears and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins each picked up a home win in their weekend series that resulted in the Bears winning 3-1 on Saturday and the Penguins claiming a 6-3 victory on Sunday.
The visiting Penguins and the Bears skated through more than 40 minutes of scoreless hockey on Saturday that ended in a 3-1 victory for the Bears. The result extended their overall winning streak and home ice winning streak to six games.
Hershey netminder Zach Fucale, who finished with 31 saves, kept the Penguins off the scoreboard in the first period, while the Bears’ first shot came after 11 minutes of up-and-down the ice action.
“We got better as the game went on but we needed him (Fucale) big time and he held us in so we could win the game in the third period,” said Hershey coach Spencer Carbery.
Hershey’s Axel Jonsson-Fjallby gave the Bears a 1-0 lead with his sixth goal of the season 3:53 into the third period. Connor McMichael fed a pass from the goal line to Jonsson-Fjallby in the slot and he slid the puck past the pad of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton goaltender Alex D’Orio.
The Penguins pulled even on a power play strike at 8:27 on Drew O’Connor’s fifth marker of the season, as he slid a shot along the ice that somehow eluded Fucale’s left pad and trickled into the net.
Tied at 1-1, Fucale came up with his biggest save of the game, denying Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s Jonathan Gruden on a penalty shot with 5:51 remaining in regulation.
“Our games with Wilkes are heavy, hard games where we have to battle for every inch of ice like it is a playoff game in the regular season,” said Carberry. “I like playing them not because it is easy, but it is so beneficial for our guys and felt the third period was our best today.”
Alex Alexeyev scored the winner with his first goal since returning from Russia, with 3:30 left to play. His shot from the top of the right circle whistled past D’Orio before he could react. Martin Fehervary and Kale Kessy picked up assists.
Brian Pinho sealed the win for Hershey, scoring his fifth empty-net goal, and eighth of the season, with .3 left on the clock.
Hershey was 0-for-3 on the power play while the Penguins were 1-for-1. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton outshot the Bears, 32-27. With the win, the Bears are 6-1-0-0 versus Wilkes-Barre/Scranton this season. The Chocolate and White have won four straight against the Penguins, and in that stretch, Hershey has allowed just three goals.
The Bears played more than half of the game with five defensemen when Eddie Wittchow received an instigation, fighting and game misconduct penalties at 7:20 of the second period.
Hershey goalies are 3-for-3 on penalty shots this year. Fucale improved to 6-2-1 with the win and lower his goals-against average to a league-best 1.66.
On Sunday, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton ended Hershey’s six game winning streak with a convincing 6-3 win in the weekend rematch.
Philippe Maille’s power play goal gave the Bears a 1-0 first period lead 8:31 into the game. It was his third goal of the season with Brett Leason and Cameron Schilling picking up assists.
By the end of the period, the Penguins scored twice to take a 2-1 lead. Chase Berger beat Pheonix Copley from the bottom of the left circle, scoring on the rebound of a ricochet off the end boards to make it 1-1 at 14:19. Josh Currie scored his first of two goals at 18:29, sending a shot into the upper corner of the net to make it 2-1 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
Hershey needed just 53 seconds into the second period to make it 2-2. This time it was the Bears capitalizing on a rebound off the end boards, with Matt Moulson tapping the puck into an empty net after a bounce off the boards pulled Penguins goaltender Alex D’Orio out of position. For Moulson it was his eighth of the season, with assists going to Martin Fehervary and Alex Alexeyev.
Jonathan Gruden regained a 3-2 ledge for the Penguins at 8:17, then the Bears tied the game on a shorthanded tally from Axel Jonsson-Fjallby at 15:18. Riley Sutter fed him racing up ice, and Jonsson-Fjallby beat D’Orio to make it 3-3.
At 16:48, Connor McMichael was sent to the penalty box for a hooking penalty. The Bears’ bench disagreed, and the officiating crew assessed them with an additional bench minor for unsportsmanlike conduct. That meant the Bears had to kill an entire two minute 5-on-3 power play, which they were unable to do.
The Penguins took a lead they’d never surrender when Currie scored his second goal from the slot for a 4-3 lead at 17:13.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s Jon Lizotte added a third period goal at 4:24, and Anthony Angello scored at 15:40 to put the game out of reach and give the Penguins their second win versus Hershey this season.
The Bears were outshot 32-29 in the loss. Hershey was 1-for-5 on the power play while Wilkes-Barre/Scranton was 1-for-3.
The Bears are back in action on Wednesday in Newark when they battle the Binghamton Devils at 6 p.m.