In a game that meant nothing to Hershey seeding wise and a game that still had substance to a Penguins team who needed to win and get outside help to overtake the Providence Bruins for the two seed in the Atlantic Division and home ice, it was the play of Bears ECHL callup Vitek Vanecek that helped the Hershey Bears defeat the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins 2-1 in a shootout.
Vanecek is a name that Penguins fans need to get familiar with as he is next in the Hershey pipeline of excellent goaltenders that have gone through there. With half of a team in front of him with the Bears resting regulars like AHL MVP Chris Bourque, he stopped 25 of 26 shots and was perfect in the shootout round to help his team win a meaningless points game for them but showed a preview of coming attractions of sorts for the Bears fans, coaching and management.
He opposed Casey DeSmith.
Kael Mouillierat – Dustin Jeffrey – Dominik Simon
Jake Guentzel – Carter Rowney – Tom Kostopoulos
Mattias Plachta – J-S Dea – Jarrett Burton
Josh Archibald – Teddy Blueger – Patrick McGrath
Ryan Parent – Steve Olesky
Tim Erixon – Ethan Prow
Will O’Neill – Barry Goers
Casey DeSmith – Sean Maguire
Lineup Notes: Tom Sestito was sent down from Pittsburgh in the morning. Niclas Andersen and Harrison Ruopp played Saturday but were out of the lineup for Ethan Prow and Ryan Parent. Adam Krause and Tyler Biggs were out as well with Jarrett Burton and Patrick McGrath in for Krause and Biggs. Casey DeSmith started his third game in a row, making it the first time since John Curry did it for the Penguins back in January 2011.
First Period: No scoring but the Penguins had two power plays they couldn’t do anything with on Vanecek making is AHL pro debut up from South Carolina in the ECHL. Pens looked like they carried the momentum in the period but couldn’t get anything past. Shots after one were 10-5 Penguins.
Second Period: It was shaping up to be one of those games where the only thing that happened was a team taking a penalty. The Bears took one, the Pens took three. Neither team scored. The Penguins only had two shots on goal through about 11:30 played in the period. One sequence that happened was Ryan Parent chipping a puck past a Bears defensemen and centering to Patrick McGrath that nearly chipped one past Vanacek.
Third Period: Riley Barber finally broke the scoreless deadlock with a rocket of a shot on the power play…
…that game the Bears a 1-0 lead.
J-S Dea took a penalty and Vanecek denied Dustin Jeffrey shorthanded.
Then a moment which may be a bit of a concern for the Penguins going forward, Madison Bowey took a shot that clipped DeSmith up high…
…DeSmith would finish out the shift but at the next stoppage was replaced by Sean Maguire who was making his pro debut. Talk about getting tossed out of the frying pan, into the fire, right?
Casey DeSmith would go to the locker room and was not seen at all the rest of the game.
Dustin Jeffrey scored on a nice drop pass by Josh Archibald that tied it and spoiled the Vanecek shutout…
Pens took two penalties late which gave the Bears a 5-on-3 power play heading into…
Overtime: Wilkes-Barre was able to kill it all off then after a stoppage played three on three with 1:40 to play. No one scored.
Shootout: Christian Djoos and Riley Barber scored in Rounds 2 and 3, Carter Rowney and Dustin Jeffrey were both denied in their attempts and the Bears took home the extra point.
Three Stars: 3) Casey DeSmith (21 saves on 22 shots) 2) Jakub Vrana (power play goal, even) and 1) Vitek Vanacek (25 saves on 26 shots)
Donatelli to Tom postgame on the status of DeSmith:
Around the Division: Lehigh Valley beats Syracuse 5-2…Providence beats Bridgeport 6-1 and as a result are the two seed…Portland beats Springfield 3-1.
Wheeling Update: The Nailers were actually pulling into Wheeling, West Virginia just as the Pens / Bears game went final. They took a sleeper bus down and back to Estero, Florida. Game 3 is this week between the Nailers and Everblades.
Note: Daniel Sprong’s junior team was eliminated from the playoffs tonight. Sprong is tabbed to join the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins fairly soon.he was 4-11-15 in 12 games for his Charlottetown Islanders side.
Here is the first round playoff schedule for the Penguins and Bruins:
AHL only makes teams travel once in the first round. It must be a building issue for the Bruins with the Penguins opening up playoffs Wednesday.
Anyway, if I see video highlights of tonight’s game and can work in an edit, I will put them up later.
I will update my charts for the final time this regular season and have the final AHL Power Rankings up on the blog sometime Monday. I haven’t decided when. I would like to do a quick AHL Calder Cup Playoff Preview for all the teams and offer predictions before the full workup for Pens / Bruins on Tuesday. Stay tuned here on the blog.
Let’s Go Pens!