On Friday, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins received another shutout effort by goaltender Tommy Nappier, during a 3-0 win in the opening game of a best-of-three Calder Cup Playoff series with the visiting Hershey Bears.
Nappier stopped 23 Hershey shots to earn the shutout, in his initial Calder Cup Playoff action. Hershey now faces a must-win situation in Game Two at Giant Center on Sunday to keep its season alive.
The Penguins dominated play in the first period, outshooting Hershey 15-3, and scoring twice in a 31-second span to grab a 2-0 lead.
Jonathan Gruden’s cross-ice pass was tipped toward Will Reilly, who fired a shot past Hershey goaltender Pheonix Copley, to make it 1-0 at the 8:34 mark. Pierre-Oliver Joseph also had an assist.
The Pens scored again at 9:05 when Alex Nylander tipped a Radim Zohorna shot into the net. Zohorna’s shot hit Nylander’s skate and changed directions, surprising Copley.
Hershey generated more offense in the final two periods, including firing 11 shots in the third period, but failed to put anything past Nappier.
With Cody Franson in the penalty box, and Copley pulled for an extra-attacker, Zohorna finished the scoring for the Penguins with an empty-net goal at 19:26.
The Bears went 0-for-3 on the power play, while Wilkes-Barre/Scranton was 1-for-2. The Penguins outshot the Bears, 31-23.
The winner of the series will face Springfield in the second round of the Calder Cup Playoffs, in an Atlantic Division best-of-five set.
The year 1964 was the last time Hershey skated in a three-game postseason series, when the Bears upended the Providence Reds, 2-1. AHL Hall of Famer Ralph Keller scored the game-winner for the Bears in a 3-2 victory Game Three in front of 7,249 fans at Hersheypark Arena.
Hershey’s coaching staff with championship experience includes head coach Scott Allen, who won two ECHL championships as a player. Assistant coach Patrick Wellar claimed three Kelly Cup titles in the ECHL as a player, and also won the Calder Cup with Hershey in 2010. Assistant coach Steve Bergin was a three-time SPHL Champion during his playing career, while associate goaltending coach Alex Westlund claimed an EBEL title in Austria during his playing days.