Donatelli Calls Loss ‘our Worst Game Of The Year’
WILKES-BARRE TWP. — The Hershey Bears had three players on the ice and, no, they weren’t shorthanded.
But even when they couldn’t put the right personnel over the wall on Friday night, they managed to outwork and outperform the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.
Mike Sgarbossa’s goal during that sequence midway through the second period put Hershey up four and helped the team cruise to an easy 5-1 win at Mohegan Sun Arena. Nathan Walker, Grant Besse, Steve Whitney and Garrett Pilon also scored for the Bears, who improved to 13-17-0-2 and beat Wilkes-Barre/Scranton for the fifth time.
The Penguins, meanwhile, dipped to 15-14-4-1 and managed to hit a new low during their erratic first half of the season.
“This was, by far, I think our worst game of the year,” Penguins head coach Clark Donatelli said. “That’s our rival. It’s Hershey. We had a big crowd here, and it wasn’t very good.”
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton fell behind for the 10th straight game only 16 seconds in and never made any threat to pull even. Besse scored on a redirection at 2:00 of the first, and Sgarbossa’s tally in close capped off a 1:04 spurt in the middle frame that resulted in two more Hershey goals.
The Bears didn’t pepper goaltender Anthony Peters, but most of their scoring chances were Grade A on odd-man rushes or with established position in front of the net. Pilon’s slot snipe in the third gave them five tallies on 16 shots.
Walker batted a puck out of the air right in front of Peters to open the scoring, and Besse had a redirect in the low slot. Whitney shoveled in a rebound that dropped around the skates of two Penguins.
Donatelli said the team didn’t block enough shots and, more importantly, lost individual battles all over the ice and in front of the net.
“We don’t box out, and they get three tap-ins,” he added. “But it all starts with coming in the D-zone coverage and taking time and space away and winning some 1-on-1 battles.”
Donatelli thought about pulling Peters after the fifth goal, but said backup John Muse might be playing tonight against Lehigh Valley and didn’t want him to go in and “mop it up.”
Defensively, the Bears completely shut down the Penguins in transition and limited Wilkes-Barre/Scranton to no more than a handful of opportunities with prolonged time in the offensive zone. Referees Dan Kelly and Olivier Gouin called only three penalties total, and Hershey took advantage with tight checking and active sticks.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton showed a little push at the end of the second, with Joseph Cramarossa cashing in a rebound at 15:37. However, it mustered only four shots on goaltender Vitek Vanecek through the first 14:15 of the final frame.
“It’s a crappy feeling the last few shifts,” said Penguins captain Garrett Wilson, who took some of the blame for the team’s performance. “Just kind of feel like it’s pointless kind of thing. The game’s out of reach and you’re trying to play hard to the final buzzer, but in the back of your head you know you just got smoked.
“We weren’t ready to go, and that’s on me. I didn’t have the boys ready to go. It’s a tough one to swallow, but we’ve got a game again (tonight) so, hopefully, we can bounce back.”
This is the Penguins’ fourth defeat in a row, and they continued to fall deeper into the bottom tier of the playoff picture with victories by Lehigh Valley and Bridgeport.
The team made lineup changes on Friday, with Ethan Prow returning from injury and Wheeling call-up Kevin Spinozzi also getting the start. Ultimately, though, Donatelli said the compete level was lacking throughout the group, and it’s the team’s responsibility to correct that going forward.
“I think it’s up to the leadership group,” Donatelli said. “Those are the guys that are playing the game in the room. It’s up to those guys. No matter what we (coaches) do, we can only control their ice time. That’s it. The leadership has to come from within.”
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