The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins swept AHL Outdoor Classic weekend, capping it off with a thrilling overtime victory at HersheyPark Stadium Sunday night. The Penguins alumni team handily defeated the Bears on Saturday and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton defeated Hershey 2-1 in overtime in front of 17,311 frigid fans.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton forward Paul Thompson recorded the game winning goal on a Bears defensive zone breakdown in overtime, in what has a highly contested defensive battle. Tomas Kundratek registered Hershey’s lone goal.
“It was a great experience again,” Hershey goalie Dany Sabourin said after the loss. “I’ve been to two of them in Buffalo and last year in Philly and this one was great. It’s better when you win though,”
Two veteran goalies went head to head at Hershey Park Stadium, with Dany Sabourin (6-5, 2.79 goals against average and .903 save percentage) in goal for Hershey and Jeff Zatkoff (11-12, 2.21 goals against average, .911 save percentage and three shutouts) in goal for the Penguins.
“I thought it was a pretty well-played game,” Bears coach Mark French said. “A lot of credit goes to the ice crew, and the planners of the event, because the ice was excellent, much better than what we saw in Philly. The weather probably had something to do with that, but it was really a once in a lifetime experience.”
The first period was fairly quiet for both teams, as the Hershey Bears outshot the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins 9-7, but neither side generated quality scoring chances.
“The goalies probably had the biggest challenge,” said Hershey’s head coach. “I thought late in the first period there seemed to be a lot of shadows. The darker it got the less shadows there seemed to be on the ice. In terms of playing the puck and the puck bouncing, I think both goalies can be credited for how they played.”
“As the game wore on, it was almost the shorter the pass, the better,” said French. “Anything that was going to occur long was certainly not well executed. I talked after the first period, one less pass, one more shot was certainly a good ingredient.”
The Penguins got an early power play in the second period, but the Bears penalty kill was up to the task. 6:16 into the second frame, Bears defenseman Steve Oleksy and Penguins forward Dominik Uher dropped the gloves. Oleksy entered tonight’s game with a team high 113 penalty minutes, and added five more after his bout with Uher, that he won decidedly won.
“It was a great fight by Oleksy,” said Hershey defenseman Tomas Kundratek. “He did a great job, it was unreal, it was huge for us and then we got a goal right after. It was awesome.”
Hershey took a 1-0 lead with 4:20 remaining in the second period, with Tomas Kundratek’s team leading 13th goal of the year. Kundratek jumped in from the blue line on an offensive rush, received a pass from Hershey’s assist leader Jeff Taffe, and ripped it past Zatkoff.
“I try to join the rush once in a while,” said Kundratek. “Taffer did a great job and passed the puck and I just tried to hit the net and it went in. Every goal is great and I wish it would be the winning goal.”
The Penguins knotted the game at one 7:47 into the third stanza, striking during even strength play. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton forward Riley Holzapfel netted his 11th of the year, firing a snap shot past Sabourin.
“Dany [Sabourin] was unreal,” Kundratek said. “He was doing a great job moving the puck, helping us on the wall. He was great.”
After three hard fought periods, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton quickly ended the game 1:19 into the extra frame. Paul Thompson ripped a wrist shot past Sabourin to seal the victory for the Penguins.
Sabourin made a few big saves throughout the game and came up clutch late in the third period, stopping Brian Gibbons at the buzzer.
“It was huge,” Hershey forward Jeff Taffe said of Sabourin’s save on Gibbons. “I was out there for that one holding my breath. I was chasing him back there, but it was a big save by [Sabourin]. Anytime we can get into overtime and obviously get a point out of it.”
“I’m very proud of our guys,” French said. “I thought we played a good hockey game. At the end of the day, it’s a game of mistakes and we had a guy who stumbled, but I told the guys we had a real good four line effort, six [defensemen] effort. I think they can be proud of their effort and it didn’t turn in our favor.”
“Once you get through the feeling of disappointment I think each guy who participated today will feel it was a very special event and probably in their hockey career, it ranks pretty high for them.”
Hershey gets some time to rest this week, before taking on the Saint John’s IceCaps Friday night at Giant Center.
1. Attendance: 17,311
2. Bears Injuries: Evan Barlow, Dmitry Orlov and Mattias Sjogren
3. Hershey Healthy Scratches: Garrett Stafford (veteran scratch), Matt Clackson and Mathieu Beaudoin
4. Both teams had one power play apiece
1. Paul Thompson (game winning goal, one assist, plus one, two shots on goal)
2. Dany Sabourin (18 saves on 20 shots)
3. Jeff Zatkoff (24 saves on 25 shots)