Jonathan Gruden bookended the goals for the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins who narrowly defeat the Hershey Bears in a game that shouldn’t have been as close as it was 4-3 in overtime on Wednesday night.
Penguins race out to a 3-0 lead in the second period only for that three goal lead to be erased by Hershey’s relentless attack. It was Gruden who played the hero for the Penguins who now head to Charlotte for a pair of very important games.
Here’s how they lined up:
Lineup Notes: Sam Houde is ill. Sean Josling took his place. Adam Smith made his AHL debut on defense. Earlier in the day Xavier Ouellet was named as the lone Penguins All-Star. Ouellet is the top scoring defenseman on the Penguins roster but in my mind he’s not even the best defenseman on the team (hello Ty Smith and Mark Friedman) but he’s a Quebecois, so that may have some bearing in why he was selected.
Leading goaltender in all the AHL, Hunter Shepard, who the Pens faced on Wednesday, wasn’t even named. So the nonsense isn’t just limited to the Penguins.
First Period: Good chances for both sides, better chances for the home team, but no scoring.
Second Period: Jonathan Gruden gets the scoring started with a tip in front that gives the Penguins a 1-0 lead.
Then, something you don’t see every day these days, a heavyweight bout between Dylan McIlrath and Jamie Devane.
Slight advantage to McIlrath.
The two teams killed each others initial penalties, then Lukas Svejkovsky, who has been knocking at the door for weeks, scores his first professional goal.
Absolute beauty indeed.
Not to be outdone, Raivis Ansons scores his first professional goal, which came shorthanded, to run it up to 3-0 Wilkes-Barre.
Third Period: With Adam Smith in the penalty box, Mike Sgarbossa scores to bust up the Gauthier shutout bid.
And, to this point, my “Night of Firsts” headline for this piece.
Bears continue to push, and Vincent Iorio cashes a goal that pulls the Bears to within one.
Playoff like intensity between the two teams.
With Hunter Shepard pulled, the Bears find the equalizing goal via Mike Sgarbossa with 24.6 seconds left.
Overtime: Jonathan Gruden :29 in made it quick and painless.
Three Stars: 3) Raivis Ansons (goal) 2) Mike Sgarbossa (two goals) 1) Jonathan Gruden (two goals, assist)
The Good: Good to see guys like Svejkovsky and Ansons get their first goals. If you get these kids going, this team can become unstoppable.
The Bad: That third period should die in a fire. Nearly another epic collapse who was only saved by Gruden’s heroics in overtime.
Turning Point: There shouldn’t have been as many as there were, but Gruden’s goal in overtime gets it here.
Around the Division: Hartford sweeps Charlotte after beating them last night. Wolf Pack win 3-2. Lehigh Valley beats a slumping, ice cold Bridgeport team 3-1.
Standings: Hershey 50 – Providence 47 – Penguins 39 – Charlotte 39 – Lehigh Valley 36 – Springfield and Bridgeport 35 – Hartford 34
Wheeling Update: Nailers win 5-2 at home against Reading. Justin Addamo with a pair of goals.
Back at it Saturday in Charlotte. Enjoy Friday off and remember they start at 4:00.
Let’s Go Pens!