The menacing Bears, flying high on a five-game winning streak, were grounded by the Wilkes-Barre Penguins, who handed the home team their 3rd shutout of the season, and their first whitewashing at home since December 18, 2005, in a game that was also against the Baby Pens.
In the opening stanza, the Bears, despite registering 11 shots on goal, never seriously tested WBS goaltender, John Curry. However, their penalty-killing unit, still ranked last in the league, faced a substantial test in the WBS power play, recently bolstered by the addition of longtime NHL player, Miroslav Satan.
After the Bears dodged a bullet on their first venture on the penalty kill, the Penguins struck pay dirt on the second, with Dustin Jeffrey netting the goal at 19:12. Jeffrey, after receiving a Chris Minard pass from behind the net, outraced Hershey’s Chris Bourque to the slot, then quickly shuffled the biscuit behind Hershey netminder, Simeon Varlamov. Varlamov, the hard-luck loser, stopped 36 of 37 shots in the contest.
Even with the benefit of being afforded all three second period power plays, the Bears were still unable to shake the slumber from their lumber in the second period, getting only six shots on goal in the stanza.
The Penguins had the best scoring chance of the period when Jeff Taffe narrowly missed giving the visitors a 2-0 lead at 4:30 of the second period, sliding a Minard pass just past the left post moments after Hershey squandered a 3-on-1 charge into the WBS zone.
Late in the period a pair of unlikely combatants dropped the gloves in anger when Hershey’s Andrew Gordon and WBS’ Minard fought. Gordon, engaging in the first fight of his professional career, fared well in his first professional bout, winning a narrow decision on this judge’s scorecard. When asked to critique his fight after the game, Gordon, who was addressed by his passing teammates as “Killer” and “Gordon the Butcher”, seemed to have enjoyed the experience.
“I’d say it was two guys who probably don’t go too often,” Gordon joked. “He (Minard) was joking about it afterwards, saying, ‘If I knew you could fight, I wouldn’t have asked you’. I didn’t know I could, either, so it was a mystery to both of us,” Gordon laughed.
The Bears picked up the pace in the third period, registering 14 shots on goal and accruing another three power plays, including a 5-on-3 for 1:15, yet were unable to crack Curry, who earned his 4th shutout of the season.
Gordon, who registered three shots on net, was not surprised by the low scoring affair:
“Their defensemen are so big, and it’s tough to penetrate on them. They have good reaches, and they play simple and stick to their system,” said Gordon. “So, it’s usually a tough game when we play them. The majority of the games we’ve played against them have been one-goal games and shootouts. It’s always a tight chess match with these guys.”
After the defeat, Hershey head coach, Bob Woods, who took the loss in stride, seemed satisfied that his team gave their best effort.
“I think we know we can play with those guys. It’s a pretty good team over there. You look at the depth they have; those first three lines are as good as anybody’s.”