HERSHEY, Pa. – Dustin Gazley chipped a Matt Watkins pass into the net 47 seconds into overtime, sending the Hershey Bears past the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins by a 4-3 count on Sunday evening for the club’s 11h consecutive win at GIANT Center.
The Bears got off to a roaring start just 1:01 into the game. Ryan Stoa, collecting a pass from Nicolas Deschamps, would net the game’s first goal by sending a snap shot from a bad angle over the shoulder of Penguins goaltender Eric Hartzell.
The Penguins would force a turnover in the neutral zone shortly afterward, and convert that play into the tying goal. Dominik Uher made a poke-check in front of the Hershey bench, and then carried into the Bears’ zone. His drop pass was onto the tape of Harry Zolnierczyk, who promptly one-timed a high shot over the glove of Philipp Grubauer at 2:58.
On the Penguins’ first power play of the game, the Penguins took their first lead of the night. Tom Kostopoulos saw a blocked shot from Simon Despres come to him in the left circle. The Penguins’ captain promptly turned and slapped a shot past Grubauer’s blocker at 12:08.
The game would be played tightly through the latter stages of the second period, when the Bears found the tying marker. Michael Latta and Peter LeBlanc combined to push a short pass ahead to Watkins, who carried to the right circle and backhanded a shot past a leaning Hartzell at 16:01.
Dane Byers would restore the Hershey lead when he converted a penalty shot at 10:49 of the third period. Byers earned the chance after being hooked on a breakaway by Penguins defenseman Philip Samuelsson.
But the Penguins were not finished yet. Bobby Farnham tied the game with 3:11 left to play, when his high shot from the left side beat Grubauer over the glove.
The Bears worked quickly in overtime after playing patient defense for the first half-minute. Tyson Strachan started the scoring play with a long outlet pass to Watkins, who carried over the Penguins blue line. He targeted a long pass toward the right of the crease for a cutting Gazley, who got a stick on the pass to deflect it past Hartzell for his sixth of the season.
With the win, the Bears improve to 18-6-1-3 on home ice and 26-16-3-3 overall at the All-Star break.
Grubauer made 24 saves to improve to 9-5-1 on the season. Hartzell turned aside 28 of 32 shots in absorbing the loss, and fell to 10-6-1.
The next game for the Bears is scheduled for Friday, February 14 as the club heads back to Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey for a 7:00 PM faceoff against the Albany Devils. The Bears then return home on Saturday, February 15 to host the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. Tickets for this and all remaining home games are available by calling (717) 508-BEAR, by stopping into the GIANT Center box office or by visiting TicketMaster.com.
NOTES: The Bears injury scratches were RW Stanislav Galiev, D Tomas Kundratek and RW Garrett Mitchell…The healthy scratches were D Chay Genoway, D David Kolomatis, LW John Mitchell, LW Nathan Walker, D Patrick Wellar and LW Derek Whitmore…Hershey finished the night 0-for-6 on the power play and 4-for-5 on the penalty kill….C Matt Watkins, tonight’s third star, played in his 300th AHL game…The Bears’ 11-game home win streak is the second-longest in the AHL this season, and longest since the club’s AHL-record 24-game streak of 2009-2010…The win was the third straight for the Bears over the Penguins, and the first time in nine tries that Hershey scored more than three goals…The Bears are 19-0-0-1 when scoring four or more goals this season…The Bears are 6-0-0-0 with RW Dustin Gazley scoring a goal…LW Dane Byers’ penalty shot tally was the first successful penalty shot since January 11, when LW Nicolas Deschamps scored against Springfield’s Mike McKenna.