Kolarik’s Game Winner Pushes Penguins Over Hershey

The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (24-18-2-1) erased a 1-0 deficit in the third period, and forward Chad Kolarik scored the game winning goal with 10.8 seconds left in overtime. The Hershey Bears (21-19-3-2) were outshot 31-11 from the second period on, and an unsportsmanlike penalty to Boyd Kane in overtime gave the Penguins an opportunity for the game winner in overtime.

“It’s obviously a pretty heated rivalry,” said Hershey defenseman Steve Oleksy. “The bottom line is we’re playing playoff hockey right now, you got to bring it and give it everything you have.”

“It’s my fault,” Hershey captain Boyd Kane said of the unsportsmanlike penalty. “I can’t put myself in that situation; give them the chance to make that call.”

“You put yourself in that situation,” said Hershey coach Mark French. “If you think you can control what might happen from an official’s standpoint, you’re kind of screwed. I think Boyd put himself in that position. He had the choice to make the call when he shouldn’t even have to make that call.”

Jeff Zatkoff (15-12-1, 2.00 GAA) registered the win in goal for the Penguins, recording 20 saves on Hershey’s 21 shots on goal. Hershey goaltender Dany Sabourin (6-7-0-1, 2.59 GAA) matched Zatkoff stride for stride throughout, but Boyd Kane’s late game penalty proved to be the difference.

The game started with a fight 3:10 into the first stanza, with Hershey defenseman Steve Oleksy dropping the gloves with Penguins forward Bobby Farnham. With the fight, Farnham increased his major penalties to eleven this season, topping all AHL rookies.

“There’s no doubt,” Oleksy said of Farnham’s decision to fight him. “Obviously early I said it’s one of those things that happened. He comes at me; it’s one of those things I have to do. I don’t know how you can pick an opponent when he comes after you. You got to do what you can do to defend yourself.”

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton earned a power play 12:58 into the first period, but couldn’t beat Sabourin. Penguins net minder Jeff Zatkoff faced ten shots in the period, turning away all of them.

Sunday’s game marked the battle of two highly defensively minded teams, along with two strong penalty killing units. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton entered second in the league with a 2.34 goals against average, closely followed by Hershey at 2.41, good enough for fourth in the AHL.

Hershey grabbed a 1-0 lead 9:34 into the second stanza, converting on the power play. Following Steve MacIntyre’s two minor penalties for charging the Bears’ Steve Oleksy and unsportsmanlike conduct, Bears’ Captain Boyd Kane ripped his ninth goal of the season past Zatkoff. The power play goal was setup by defenseman Julien Brouillette and forward Casey Wellman, occurring on the second MacIntyre penalty, which brought Wilkes-Barre/Scranton back to even strength following Kane’s second period marker.

“Obviously it’s part of hockey,” Oleksy said of MacIntyre’s run at him. “I think that’s his role there. Obviously a guy like that, he’s going to try and intimidate guys. That’s kind of why he’s there. At the end of day you just got to play hockey, we’ve been playing for a long time. It doesn’t change the circumstances.”

The Penguins earned the majority of the scoring chances throughout the second frame, outshooting the Bears 14-8 although they only had one power play. Sabourin turned away 14 shots on goal in the period, and entered the third period with 22 saves on the afternoon. Hershey’s record fell to 16-0-2-2 when leading after two periods.

“I don’t know if we backed off,” Oleksy said. “They got a couple bounces to go their way, just kind of the way it fell. I thought we played real strong in the first [period], we kind of controlled the play. The ice started to shift a little bit against us in third.”

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton carried their surge for the tying goal into the third period, and finally cashed in on a scramble in front of Sabourin. Penguins forward Riley Holzapfel rammed home his 15th goal of the season, assisted by Dominik Uher and Warren Peters. Pittsburgh’s AHL affiliate outshot Hershey 14-3 in the third stanza, as the two clubs headed to overtime.

Boyd Kane was called for unsportsmanlike conduct 3:45 into the extra period, giving the Penguins a late game power play chance. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton entered with the 25th ranked man advantage unit in the AHL, converting at a 13.8% clip, but this time they would come through. Forward Chad Kolarik ripped a shot past Sabourin near the left circle following a pass from forward Trevor Smith.

“At the end of the day we got to bring the battle level up a little bit in a one goal game,” Oleksy said. “We got to find a way to win those games.”

The Penguins had quite the celebration and caught the attention of the Bears’ fans and players.

“People approach it different when you win games, lose games,” said Oleksy. “You try to keep it as classy as you can and they did what they did. That’s the end of it. It’s a heated rivalry and obviously they should be excited to win. We play them again.”

“It’s arrogance on their part,” said Boyd Kane. “We’ll do our job during the game.”

Hershey hits the road for a matchup against the Lake Erie Monsters on Tuesday.

“I thought they were more deserving of the win today,” said French. “It’s one of those things where we sit back and try to protect the one goal lead, I think everybody in the building felt it wasn’t the right way to getting things done. Ultimately something bad will happen.”

Game Notes

1. Attendance: 9,523

2. Bears Injuries: Evan Barlow, Mattias Sjogren and Dmitry Orlov (all skated this week)

3. Patrick McNeill was a late scratch due to injury said Hershey coach Mark French

4. Hershey Healthy Scratches: Barry Almeida, Brett Flemming, Matt Pope

Three Stars

1. Chad Kolarik (game winning goal and three shots on goal)

2. Dany Sabourin (37 saves on 39 shots)

3. Jeff Zatkoff (20 saves on 21 shots)

You can follow Matthew on twitter @m_speck and email him at mspeck21@yahoo.com with any questions or comments.

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