Penguins’ Defense Capsize Bears

At the end of a hockey season, some teams can look back on crucial games and how they effected their season outcome. Some teams can reflect on games and break a grin on their faces, while others can look back with regrets and distress.

As the hockey season nears its end, more and more of those crucial games occur where people reflect back on them months from now.

Sunday evening featured one of the most crucial games to take place in the 2010-11 hockey season. The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins battled the Hershey Bears in a talented East Division match up. Going into Sunday, the Penguins had a six point lead over Hershey after an off night the day before.

Before some fans were even able to settle into their seats, early on the Pens would strike first as Ryan Craig struck first for the Penguins just 1:56 into the game, on a rebound in close to the net. Following the tally the Bears were yet to fire a single shot on Penguins’ netminder Brad Thiessen for about the first 11 minutes.

The time of possession numbers were relatively even throughout the first, however before the Bears’ first shot, the Pens were on a 7-0 shot run mainly because of better passes in the offensive end, splitting the Hershey defense.

The Bears gained four shots and be down 8-4 in the shot totals after one period, but were lacking the equalizing goal.

In the second period, the Bears had their opportunity early on to tie the game as Brett Sterling was sent to the box for the Penguins for a high sticking fracture at 3:28 to give Hershey a two minute man-advantage.

Hershey didn’t score on the Sterling penalty, but minutes after Sterling’s wrong doing, Zach Sill was sent to the box to give Hershey another opportunity with the man advantage. On that power play, Boyd Kane tied the game at 1-1 after tipping in a shot in front of Theissen at 10:05 for his 22nd goal of the season.

However, the Penguins had the best record in the AHL going into Sunday mainly because of their ability to respond back. With 3:53 remaining in the middle stanza, Geoff Walker gave the Pens a 2-1 when he beat Bears goalie Nolan Schaeffer on the doorstep.

All season, Wilkes-Barre has played with a “Defensive First” strategy leading to its success. It would be that strategy that would shut Hershey for the remainder of the game.

Simultaneous to the Bears’ inability to score, Joey Mormina capitalized for the Penguins with 3:08 left to make it a two goal game. With 39 seconds lefts, Ryan Craig scored the empty net goal to put away the Bears by a 4-1 margin.

With the loss for Hershey, Mark French still has 99 wins going into the Bears’ upcoming four game road trip.

The Bears begin a five games in seven nights stretch Tuesday night in Portland against the Pirates for 6:30 p.m faceoff.

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