HERSHEY, Pa. – Casey DeSmith and Vitek Vanecek put on a rookie goaltending clinic but Vanecek came out on top, stopping 25 shots through 65 minutes and both shootout chances as the Hershey Bears defeated the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins 2-1 on Sunday evening at GIANT Center.
The game featured two periods of scoreless hockey thanks to tremendous goaltending at both ends. Vanecek turned away all 10 first-period chances that included three power play shots, while DeSmith stopped all five he saw. In the middle frame, the Bears played a tight defensive period and earned three power play chances of their own, but DeSmith made several key stops including a back-door lunging save on Nathan Walker.
The Bears finally got to the Penguin netminder on their fifth power play of the evening. Vrana unloaded a high-rising one-timer from the right circle off a feed from Aaron Ness, and blew it past DeSmith at 4:53 of the third period.
Sean Maguire would come on in relief of DeSmith, who left in the third period with an apparent injury. Minutes after the swap, Dustin Jeffrey, whom Vanecek denied on a shorthanded breakaway earlier in the period, managed to even the score with 3:17 left in regulation. Jeffrey took a shot from the left wing that slipped under a prone Tyler Lewington and past Vanecek’s left arm.
The Bears had a glorious chance to take the game in overtime, earning a carry-over five-on-three power play for over a minute, but the Penguins killed it off. They also took over the possession time afterward, but Vanecek and the Hershey defense held strong.
Christian Djoos netted the eventual shootout winner in the second round, and Riley Barber put a stamp on the win with his third-round tally past Maguire’s arm.
DeSmith earned no decision, stopping 21 of 22 shots in 51:21 of work. Maguire took the overtime loss in his AHL debut with four saves in regulation and overtime and one out of three in the shootout.
The Bears will face the Portland Pirates in the Atlantic Division semifinals, with dates and times to be announced following the official release from the American Hockey League this evening.
NOTES: Hershey finishes the regular season with a record of 43-21-5-7 (98 points), one win shy of last season’s 100-point performance…Hershey and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton split the season series with six wins each…The Bears scratched LW Chris Bourque, LW Paul Carey, G Dan Ellis, RW Dustin Gazley, G Justin Peters and D Ryan Stanton…The Penguins scratched D Niclas Andersen, RW Tyler Biggs, LW Sahir Gill, C Adam Krause, D Reid McNeill, D Harrison Ruopp, LW Tom Sestito and LW Dominik Uher.