HERSHEY ‚?? It‚??s not often that a regular season win ends with the winning team pouring off the bench to mob their teammate.
But when that win comes via an overtime goal against a division rival in the AHL Outdoor Classic at Hersheypark Stadium, a celebratory pile-on is a must.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguin Paul Thompson found himself at the bottom of the pile after he scored the game-winning goal to give the Penguins a 2-1 overtime win in Sunday‚??s AHL Outdoor Classic.
It was a dramatic finish that has now given the Penguins four straight wins and improves their record to 19-17-2-1. They trail Hershey by two points for third place in the East Division.
‚??It was a big two points for our team as we‚??re trying to get back into the playoff race and catch Hershey,‚?Ě said Penguins netminder Jeff Zatkoff, who stopped 24 of 25 shots on the night.
The game featured little offense as both teams adjusted to playing on the outdoor ice with a gusty wind and temperatures in the low-30s.
‚??It wasn‚??t just a regular game, because of the elements,‚?Ě Penguins head coach John Hynes said. ‚??You don‚??t know what‚??s going to become of the weather and the fact that we adjusted as the game went on was a big reason why we were able to finish at the end.‚?Ě
Thompson‚??s goal came just over one minute into overtime. Joey Mormina dished the puck to Thompson just before he crossed the blueline and skated into the Hershey zone with the wind at his back. Thompson lifted a wrist shot past Bears goaltender Dany Sabourin to give his team a win in a tight game on unpredictable ice.
‚??The ice gets a little more chopped up,‚?Ě Thompson said. ‚??At that point in the game, with the ice, you just want to shoot it.‚?Ě
That was the recipe for both teams ‚?? keep things simple and shoot rather than try to make a pretty pass.
All three goals scored in the game occurred with the wind blowing into the offensive zone, but Zatkoff said it wasn‚??t the biggest factor he had to deal with.
‚??The wind had no bearing on my play,‚?Ě he said. ‚??The first period was the worst of all because the sunlight was coming down and there were some glares out there. But once your eyes adjusted, it wasn‚??t bad.
After a scoreless first period, Hershey struck first when Jeff Taffe hit Tomas Kundratek with a pass in the slot. Kundratek‚??s shot beat Zatkoff for a 1-0 lead at the 15:40 mark.
The Penguins came out firing in the third period while they began the frame with the wind at their backs.
The hard work paid off eight minutes into the period when the Penguins forced a turnover at center ice and raced into the offensive zone. Zach Sill made a backhand pass across the slot to Riley Holzapfel, who blazed a wrister past Sabourin to tie things up, 1-1.
‚??The puck was jumping a bit tonight, so my first thought was to just shoot,‚?Ě Holzapfel said. ‚??You had to be careful and make smart plays.‚?Ě
The teams switched sides with a whistle at the 8:19 mark, and despite skating into the wind the Penguins almost won the game in dramatic fashion.
Brian Gibbons skated in alone on Sabourin, faked a pass and shot on net. Sabourin made the save just as the buzzer sounded to send the game into overtime.
Although Gibbons‚?? shot didn‚??t find the back of the net, it gave the Penguins a boost headed into overtime.
‚??It did, just because you leave with that scoring chance and you have a bit of momentum going in (to overtime),‚?Ě Hynes said. ‚??We felt good about our chances.‚?Ě
Thompson‚??s goal made the Penguins feel even better as they have now beaten the Bears in two straight meetings after dropping five of the first seven games.
And the fact that it occurred during the Penguins‚?? first outdoor game in franchise history was a fitting way to end a special night.
‚??This is a great experience, but you want to remember it as one that you won,‚?Ě Zatkoff said. ‚??Having that celebration in overtime just adds to it. It was like a playoff atmosphere out there.‚?Ě
‚?Ę D Carl Sneep, D Cody Wild, C Phil Dupuis (injury) and C Warren Peters (injury) were scratched for the Penguins.
‚?Ę At the end of the game, Hershey head coach Mark French had some words for the Penguins bench.
‚??Just two rivals at the end of a heated game,‚?Ě Hynes said.
‚?Ę Penguin fans were noticeable throughout the crowd and were quite vocal as well. The team noticed. ‚??There were more (Penguin fans) than we expected. We enjoyed the support,‚?Ě Hynes said.
‚?Ę Most of the Penguins players didn‚??t add any extra layers of clothing under their pads to stay warm. Zatkoff saw 22 shots in the first two periods, which kept him moving and avoid getting cold, he said.
‚??I was standing around more in the third period because I only saw three shots. But I changed shirts in between each period so I had dry stuff on and no icicles,‚?Ě Zatkoff said.
‚?Ę The teams switched sides with the first whistle after the 10-minute mark of the third period. For Zatkoff, it was a little strange skating past the opposing goaltender and using his crease.
‚??I didn‚??t know if I should slap a high-five with Sabourin as we switched or what,‚?Ě he said.
‚?Ę Although he was scratched, Wild watched the game from the press box and said the ice was a little chippy during the pregame skate. Hynes said the ice was good during the team‚??s pregame skate earlier in the day, and the bigger factor on the night was the wind.
All three goals were scored with the wind blowing into the offensive zone.
‚??Maybe it helped. Maybe there was a little extra behind the offensive team,‚?Ě Hynes said.
‚?Ę Sunday‚??s crowd of 17,311 would rank as the 20thlargest city in Pennsylvania, trailing McKeesport (19,731). The crowd was also larger than the population of every town in Luzerne County aside from Wilkes-Barre and Hazleton.
‚?Ę Dominik Uher dropped the gloves with Steve Oleksy in the second period.
First period: Scoring ‚?? None. Penalties ‚?? None.
Second period: Scoring ‚?? 1. HER, Tomas Kundratek 13 (Taffe, DiSalvatore) 15:40. Penalties ‚?? HER, Schilling (boarding) :51; WBS, Uher (fighting) 6:16; HER, Oleksy (fighting) 6:16; WBS, Farnham (goaltender interference) 16:22.
Third period: Scoring ‚?? 2. WBS, Riley Holzapfel 11 (Thompson, Sill) 7:47. Penalties ‚?? None.
Overtime: Scoring ‚?? 3. WBS, Paul Thompson 13 (Megna, Mormina) 1:19. Penalties ‚?? None.
Shots on goal: Penguins ‚?? 7-9-3-1-20; Hershey ‚?? 9-13-3-0-25
Power-play Opportunities: Penguins ‚?? 0 of 1; Hershey ‚?? 0 of 1
Goaltenders: Penguins ‚?? Jeff Zatkoff 12-12-0(24 saves ‚?? 25 shots); Hershey ‚?? Dany Sabourin 6-6-0 (18-20)
Starters: Penguins ‚?? G Jeff Zatkoff, D Joey Mormina, D Alex Grant, LW Riley Holzapfel, C Trevor Smith, RW Paul Thompson
Hershey ‚?? G Dany Sabourin, D Patrick McNeill, D Steve Oleksy, LW Barry Almeida, C Boyd Kane, RW Zach Hamill
Three Stars: 1. WBS, Paul Thompson (game-winning overtime goal) 2. HER, Dany Sabourin (18 saves on 20 shots) 3. WBS, Jeff Zatkoff (24 saves on 25 shots)
Referee ‚?? Chris Ciamaga, Chris Brown. Linesmen ‚?? Bob Goodman, Scott Pomento
Attendance ‚?? 17,311