Phoenix Copley had a 31-save game to lead the Hershey Bears to a 3-0 victory over the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins on Friday night at Mohegan Sun Arena. The shutout marked the 12th in Copley’s pro career, seven of them with Hershey.
The Bears record improved to 29-15-2-3 with the victory and also moved Hershey into a tie for the Atlantic Division lead with the Hartford Wolf Pack at 63 points.
Hershey used an early power-play goal to take a 1-0 lead when Christian Djoos fired a shot off goaltender Casey DeSmith’s pads, and the rebound lay in the crease for Matt Moulson, who sent the loose puck into the open net at 2:28, for his 16th goal of the season.
The second period started in a similar fashion. Garrett Pilon forced a turnover in Hershey’s defensive zone and headed out on a quick transition. Liam O’Brien sent a perfect pass across to Pilon, who waited for DeSmith to make a move before sending a shot top shelf at 4:32.
Hershey finished the night 3-for-3 on the penalty kill with two of the three kills coming in key moments in the third period.
The Bears killed a tripping minor assessed to Bobby Nardella at 37 seconds, then at 17:05, Colby Williams was boxed for holding the stick, to put the Penguins on a 6-on-4 power play with DeSmith pulled for the extra attacker. O’Brien completed the scoring with a shorthanded, empty-net goal at 18:42.
Copley has now won 11 of his last 12 starts, dating back to Dec. 1 against Hartford. He has squared off against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton five times this season and now shows a 4-0-1 record with two shutouts. His initial shutout came on Nov. 13 after being outdueled by DeSmith in a 1-0 shootout decision for the Penguins.
With 49 games played, Hershey is 29-15-2-3. The last time Hershey had a better record through 48 games (28-13-5-2) came during the 2014-15 campaign through 49 contests, good for sole possession of first in the East Division with 63 points.
Last season at this time, Hershey was 23-20-0-3, sitting in 5th place in the Atlantic Division.
The Bears return to action and continue three-games-in-three-nights Saturday at Giant Center against the Springfield Thunderbirds at 7 p.m., then head to Lehigh Valley Sunday.