SESTITO’S THREE POINTS HELP PENGUINS DEFEAT BEARS, 5-1

WILKES-BARRE, Pa. – Tom Sestito led the way for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in the latest chapter of their rivalry with the Hershey Bears, tallying three points to lead the Pens to a 5-1 victory on Friday night at Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza.

Sestito scored two goals and added an assist on Teddy Blueger’s game-winning goal as part of his first three-point outing since Oct. 11, 2008.  Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (23-7-3-0) maintained its league-best record with the team’s second straight win to start 2017.

It didn’t take too long for Sestito to get on the scoresheet, as he and Blueger set one another up for goals just nineteen seconds apart at 6:48 and 6:57 of the first period.

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton struck for a third time to start the second frame, as Garrett Wilson grabbed a loose puck in the slot on a botched breakout attempt. Wilson’s goal – his eighth of the campaign – was his 20th point on the year, and also led to Hershey replacing starting goalie Vítek Vaněček with Joe Cannata three minutes into the second period.

Sestito soon struck again by popping a puck in the crease into the right side of Hershey’s net at 6:21 of the middle frame, making it 4-0.

The Penguins’ point run kept rolling when Jake Guentzel grabbed his league-leading 19th goal of the season as he tipped in a shot from the blue line from David Warsofsky.

With 11 minutes left to play, Hershey nixed Casey DeSmith’s chance at the shutout with a goal by Darren Dietz. Dietz’s tally may have foiled the rookie goalie’s bid for a clean sheet, but was all the offense the visitors could muster.

By the end of the contest, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton had four players put up multi-point performances, including Sestito (2G-1A), Blueger (1G-1A), Wilson (1G-1A) and David Warsofsky (0G-2A).

The Penguins’ penalty kill was perfect throughout the contest, killing all five power plays it faced to maintain their Eastern Conference-leading penalty kill.

DeSmith finished the game having made 26 saves for his ninth win of the season. Vaněček made eight stops on 11 shots faced, and Cannata recorded 17 saves on 19 bids thrown his way.

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s next game is tomorrow, Saturday, Jan. 7, against the Binghamton Senators. Saturday’s contest is also Star Wars Night. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton will wear specialty Star Wars-themed jerseys during the game that will be auctioned off to benefit the Ronald McDonald House Charities of NEPA.

Individual game tickets for tomorrow night’s game and all Penguins home games, are available at the Mohegan Sun Arena box office, online at TicketMaster.com, or by calling 800-745-3000.

Penguins ticket packages, including 22-game12-game, and 10-voucher flex packs, are available directly through the Penguins offices by calling (570) 208-7367.

NOTE:  Prior to the game, the Penguins announced that they and Reid Gardiner had mutually agreed to release the rookie forward.  He will report to the Western Hockey League for the second half of the season.