BERKHOEL SAVES DAY FOR PENGUINS
HERSHEY, PA – Adam Berkhoel’s first trip to Hershey as a member of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins wasn’t one that he’d like to remember. But he had little choice other than to recall it on Sunday, when a few choice words were tossed his way as Berkhoel skated to the far crease midway through Sunday’s contest.
“The last couple of times I played against these guys, I haven’t fared too well,” he said, noting an 8-2 exhibition loss two weeks ago, and a loss in the regular season opener in Wilkes-Barre. “I definitely heard it from their bench when I skated by there.
“They just kind of chirped me from the bench, and I got a little chuckle from it.”
He’s laughing even harder now, after making 13 saves en route to a 5-4 win over the Bears at the Giant Center. The win was the second on the season for the Penguins, who raised their record to 2-1-0-1. Hershey, meanwhile, suffered its first defeat in six contests this year.
Berkhoel was called into action 31 minutes into the game, inheriting a 3-2 deficit when John Curry’s back seized up following a tricky save.
“It wasn’t a preseason game, I didn’t plan to play them both a half,” said head coach Dan Bylsma. “[Berkhoel] went in and was ready to go. It was penalty kill, which was a big time for him, and can be a dangerous time for a goalie, facing a lot of shots. He came in and made a couple of big saves.”
Chris Minard tied the score five minutes after Berkhoel entered the game with a deflection of a Jon D’Aversa slap shot on the power play, before Ryan Stone put the Pens in front for good at 18:52 of the second. Stone picked up a deflection off a Bears skate and beat Darren Machesney for his third goal of the season.
Then, with just 0.4 seconds left in the game, Berkhoel made what was undoubtedly the save of the game, gloving an Alexandre Giroux shot from point blank range.
“I played [the puck] on the boards, and they got to it and threw it out front. It surprised me at first,” Berkhoel said of the shot. “It was a big save for me, because it gave me confidence going into the third.”
It also preserved the lead against the highest-powered offense in the league so far this season.
“That would have been a tough one to stomach with a few seconds left in the period,” said Bylsma. “That’s what a veteran guy can do.”
Minard gave the Pens a two-goal cushion with less than four minutes to play, beating Machesney from an odd angle for his team-high fifth goal of the season. That tally would prove necessary, as Giroux finally found a way to put one past Berkhoel with 1:22 to play, the only blemish on the netminder’s stat sheet.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton jumped out to an early lead in the game, with Jean-Phillipe Cote and Connor James each scoring goals within the first two minutes of the game. But the Bears stormed back, as Graham Mink tipped a shot past a screened Curry at 5:06 of the first. The recently reassigned Chris Bourque tied the score at 2-2 when he drove the net and banged home a pass from Kyle Wilson at 16:29 of the opening frame.
Keith Aucoin put the Bears in front by scoring 11 seconds into a five-on-three power play early in the second period, just minutes after the Penguins failed to convert on a two-man advantage of their own.
The win also helped the Penguins jump a psychological hurdle when it comes to playing the Bears, according to Bylsma.
“They beat us pretty solidly the last two games. And they are a good team, they have good players. So if you were to get on the wrong side of three or four games against them, that could mean something later on,” he stated. “When we play together as a team, we’ve proved we can be good. Our challenge right now is putting together 60 minutes and putting together all aspects of our game. And tonight was the best effort we had in that regard.”