They are getting closer to the top. The Hershey Bears hung on for a 12th consecutive home victory Saturday night, beating their arch rivals the Wilkes Barre-Scranton Penguins 5-4, in front of a sell out crowd of 10,890 at Giant Center. The victory moved the Bears past the Penguins in the standings and into second place in the AHL East, just four points behind first place Binghamton.
Hershey got off to a slow start, giving up a goal to the Penguins Bobby Farnham mid-way through the first period. But the Bears would score the next five, beginning with a Casey Wellman power play tally with 21 second left in the first. Dustin Gazley, Ryan Potulny, Dane Byers scored to make it 4-1. Gazley scored what turned out to be the game winner mid-way through the second.
The Bears dominated second period play, only allowing the Penguins one shot through the first 13 minutes of the period.
The Penguins scored three times in just over six minutes to cut the Bears lead to 5-4, but Hershey held them off in the final seconds for the victory. It moved the Bears ahead of the Penguins and into second place in the division and fourth place in the Eastern Conference playoff chase.
“We’ve really come from pretty far back,” said a happy Bears Coach Mike Haviland after the game. “These guys have done a real good job. We’ve finally found our team identity and how we are going to play. It’s showing in the win column as we climb up the standings. It’s a team that’s been above us all year and we’ve got to go back and play them again tomorrow, in a tough tough building. But we’ve got to keep going. We’re only one point ahead of them.”
The Bears wrap up the weekend series with a 4pm face off on Sunday in Wilkes-Barre to once again face the Penguins.