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Penguins/Bears Game 2 Recap: Hershey ties Round 1 series with 2-1 win

Pheonix Copley stopped 22 of 23 WBS shots to backstop the Hershey victory and force a winner-advances tie breaking game at WBS tonight.

WBS’s Felix Robert and Hershey’s Aliaksei Protas during Game 2 of their first-round playoff series.
@WBSPenguins

Just as the WBS Penguins stormed out of the gates on Friday night in Game 1 of their Round 1 series to take the early advantage, the Hershey Bears stormed out of the gates on Sunday afternoon to set the tone and take the advantage of Game 2. They rode that advantage to a 2-1 victory in front of a Mother’s Day crowd of 8,843 at GIANT Center, and now the series shifts back to Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza tonight for the decisive Game 3.

One change for the Penguins from their Game 1 lineup: forward Sam Houde took the place of Jonathan Gruden. Gruden popped Hershey’s Joe Snively in the head with an elbow during the second period of Game 1. Originally, Gruden only got an elbowing minor, but upon further league review, the AHL assessed a game misconduct to Gruden. Since that was Gruden’s second game misconduct of the season as a result of “physical fouls”, Gruden was automatically suspended for Game 2. Snively and Kody Clark were out of the Hershey lineup due to injuries.

The Bears didn’t waste any time on Sunday, forcing a power play just 2:29 into the game. With Sam Poulin in the box for tripping, Beck Malenstyn broke WBS starting goaltender Tommy Nappier’s Bears shutout streak at 4:07 of the first.

Bobby Nardella and Mason Morelli were given the assists. Hershey outshot WBS 12-6 in the first period to carry the 1-0 lead into the first intermission.

The most pivotal sequence of the game came at the midway point, as Hershey starting goaltender Pheonix Copley made a strong save just shy of the 10-minute mark, then defender Dylan McIlrath brought the play the other way and scored his first of the playoffs at 10:16 of the second.

Full credit to WBS, though. They came right back the other way after that goal, aided by a timely media break, to break Copley’s shutout bid. Felix Robert tipped home an Alex Nylander shot just 30 seconds after McIlrath’s goal to bring the Penguins back to within 2-1.

That’s as close as the Penguins would get. Hershey finished the game with a shot advantage of 32-23 on the Penguins, and Copley did the rest.

Copley was awarded third star honors for his 22 saves. Malenstyn got second honors for his opening goal, and McIlrath got top honors for his game-winner.

The series now returns to Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza tonight, May 9, for a 7:05 pm winner-advances tiebreaker. It’s the only one of the AHL’s best-of-three Round 1 series to go the distance, and the winner advances to an Atlantic Division semifinal matchup with the Springfield Thunderbirds. Springfield has already announced their division semifinal home dates, depending on who wins:

  • Should WBS prevail tonight, they would have zero time to rest. They would have to head right up to Springfield for Game 1 tomorrow night, May 10, at 7:05 pm EDT (their third game in as many cities in as many days), then play Game 2 Thursday, May 12, at 7:05 pm EDT. A hypothetical Game 5 would be Wednesday, May 18, at 7:05 pm EDT.
  • Should Hershey prevail, Springfield would host the potential last 3 games of the division semifinal, starting with Game 3 Saturday, May 14, at 7:35 pm EDT. Games 4 and 5, if needed, would be Monday, May 16 and Wednesday, May 18, both 7:05 pm EDT starts.