On a night when the home standing Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins celebrated their 10-year anniversary in the American Hockey League, it was Hershey’s Graham Mink’s homecoming hat trick that stole the show.
Hershey coach Bob Woods’ decision to start the forward line combination of Jay Beagle, Steve Pinizzotto and Quintin Laing paid immediate dividends. The tenacious trio established what would become a first period trend, and set up prolonged footholds in the Pens’ defensive zone.
“That’s what that line is all about, you start them for a reason,” Woods said. “You want them to go out there and set the tempo, and I thought they did. They were in their end the whole shift. It was a little bit of a momentum builder for us and we seemed to build on that.”
According to Woods, controlling the play in the opening moments was a vital part of Hershey’s game plan. “The game plan in this building is always to come in the first 10 minutes and get the crowd out of it, ” Woods commented. “I thought we did that with the first couple of quick goals. They’re a tough team and they didn’t quit all night right to the bitter end.”
Hershey newcomer Keith Aucoin, one of the most prolific scorers in the AHL the last couple of seasons, netted the first goal of the game 1:36 into the contest. Aucoin echoed his coach’s sentiments about the importance of getting off to a quick start. “It was big; we sat around in the locker room for a while with the ceremonies and to go out there and get a goal in the first five (minutes) was real big,” Aucoin said. “It gave our team confidence and we never looked back after that.”
The Pens cut the Bears lead to 4-2 fifty-two seconds into the second period, on a goal by Ryan Stone, which was the team’s second power play goal of the evening. The penalty killing woes were not unexpected, according to the Bears’ bench boss. “We changed things up a little bit (from the preseason) and there was a little bit of confusion. We’ll work out the kinks. Guys are getting used to each other and used to some different things that we are doing. There will always be a little bit of an adjustment.”
Mink, in his first game back in the Chocolate and White since being a member of Hershey’s 2006 Calder Cup Championship team, scored a goal in each period and also added a pair of assists to lead Hershey to the 8-4 win. When asked what it felt like to return to Chocolatetown, Mink said, “Hershey is a home away from home for me. When I first came here three years ago, I immediately felt at ease. I grew up in a tourist town in Vermont, and Hershey has a lot of the same feel. My wife and I both love it here. I love the community and when you’re happy, you play better. I think that’s what I experienced tonight.”