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April 17th, 2014
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  • Caps Can Thrashers

    Down by a goal midway through the game on the night they were awarded the President’s Trophy, which recognizes the team with the best record in the NHL, the Washington Capitals, fueled by Alex Ovechkin and Niklas Backstrom achieving individual milestones, escaped Verizon Center on Friday night with a 5-2 victory over division rivals, the Atlanta Thrashers.

    Ovechkin, Washington’s leading scorer, who entered the game with 48 goals, registered his 49th and 50th goals of the season, with Backstrom collecting his 100th point of the campaign on the 50th goal.

    Backstrom banged home the only goal of the first period, depositing Ovechkin’s rebound behind Atlanta netminder, Ondrej Pavelec, at 14:44. Backstrom’s goal was his 32nd of the season, and 4th at Atlanta’s expense.

    Despite Backstrom’s goal, Washington’s tough as nails winger, Quintin Laing, had the best two opportunities of the first period, but had both of his quality bids were rejected by Pavelec.

    “It would have been nice for them to go in,” said Laing, who has only two goals on the season. “As a fourth liner, you don’t get many chances like that, at least I don’t usually. Whenever you get chances like that in tight, you want to put them in, but they didn’t go my way; I’ll just have to work harder on those in practice tomorrow.”

    Laing, who has missed sizeable portions of the last two seasons in the District as a result of him sacrificing his body to block shots, knows that despite playing in seven of the last nine games, playoff time for him is anything but guaranteed.

    “We’ll see; we have three extra forwards, and every game, three guys will have to sit out,” said Laing, who has never appeared in a Caps playoff game. “I’m going to be ready whatever my role is, and it’s just a matter of being ready and staying sharp and making the most of it when you get your opportunity.”

    Backstrom’s goal stood as the only goal of the game until 11:15 of the second period, when former Bear, Evgeny Artyukhin, banked a shot off the skate of Washington forward, Brendan Morrison, to knot the affair at a goal each.

    Less the two minutes after Artyukhin’s tally, and with the Caps on a power play, Clarke MacArthur stole Ovechkin’s point pass and then beat Washington goalie, Jose Theodore, on a breakaway attempt, depositing the biscuit high into the net to give the visitors a 2-1 lead at 13:07. MacArthur’s marker was reviewed by the off-ice officials, but the goal was allowed after the video review clearly showed the puck had entered and then exited the net.

    Ovechkin, the league’s reigning Rocket Richard Trophy winner, symbolic of goal-scoring superiority, atoned for his power play slipup by sizzling a slapshot by Pavelec at 16:04 to tie the game. Ovechkin’s goal was his 49th of the season, and featured a sole assist to Alexander Semin who started the play in the neutral zone.

    Theodore saved his best work for the third period, denying Maxim Afinogenov’s point-blank backhand bid and laying down the leather and gloving Bryan Little’s bid at 7:35 to keep the Thrashers from taking another lead.

    Ovechkin was at it again just shy of the midway point of the final period, lasering a low missile by the stick side of Pavelec at 9:49 to give the Capitals a lead they would never relinquish.

    Ovechkin’s goal was his 50th of the season, and was assisted by Backstrom and Semin. Backstrom’s helper was his 100th point of the season, and his coach, Bruce Boudreau, who has seen Backstrom develop into one of the premiere players in the league during his three seasons behind the Washington bench, couldn’t be happier for the 22-year old Swede.

    “I’m just really proud of him,” said Boudreau. “You know he’s such a great young man. You like to see great people and good people succeed. I was sitting there going, ‘Nicky just got his 100th and Alex just got his 5oth; whose picking up the puck’?”

    Jason Chimera (7th goal as a Capital) and Backstrom struck later in the third frame within a 49 second span to finish out the scoring and give the Caps their 54th win of the season and their 30h home ice triumph.

    Theodore, who stopped 29 Atlanta shots on the night to register his the 30th win of the season, has now accumulated 30 or more wins in four different seasons in the NHL, including the last two with Washington.

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    BEARS BLITZ RATS

    The Hershey Bears continued their record-setting ways on home ice on Friday night at Giant Center, racing by the Albany River Rats with six unanswered goals to cruise to their 24th consecutive home ice victory by a score of 8-2.

    The Bears displayed their offensive balance with seven different players finding the back of the net, and by scoring eight goals in the game, which was the 9th time this season they have accomplished that feat.

    The first 13 minutes of the game were relatively quiet because of neither team generating much offense, with only a subplot being newsworthy. The sideshow involved former Bear, Oskar Osala, taking a run at new Bears’ defenseman, Grant Lewis, and then being pursued and checked by Andrew Gordon.

    “My first reaction was one of the guys on our team got hit, and it’s one of the new guys, so I wanted to let him know that we were going to back him up,” said Gordon. “I know he’s only been here a couple days, but at the same time, he’s on the team, and we’re going to stick up for him like anybody else. When I saw it was Oskar, I wasn’t going to do anything crazy. I know he’s not out there trying to hurt guys.”

    The Bears lit the lamp for the first time of many when Chris Bourque buzzed a running wrist shot by the glove of Albany netminder, Mike Morrison, at 13:18.

    Former Bears defenseman, Jonathan Paiement, authored Albany’s first goal of the game and tied the contest at one when he beat starting Bears netminder, Michal Neuvirth, with a blueline blast at 15:01.

    Andrew Gordon, the Bears workaholic winger who is having a career year in the goal scoring department, added his 32nd goal of the season with only 42 seconds remaining in the first period.

    “I was trying to slide it doing to Aucoin and do a little give and go, but I sort of fanned on it and the puck bobbled,” said Gordon, who has scored in five of the last six home outings. “Once I bobbled it, the D bit down towards Aucoin which opened me up. It was an accidental bobble that turned out in my favor. Hard work pays off, I guess.”

    Neuvirth, the second year pro from the Czech Republic who was pulled in his last start in Worcester on Sunday after allowing five goals on twenty-one shots before being replaced, was replaced once again by Braden Holtby when the teams returned to the ice to start the second period, departing the contest with a lower body injury.

    “I actually found out I was going in with about a minute left in the first,” Holtby said. “I had no idea what was going on. Alzner nudged me and told me that I was going in. I was wondering why because he had only given up one goal, but I think it was his knee again. It’s unfortunate for him, but as a backup, I had to be prepared for that. I was lucky the guys played an outstanding game after I came in.”

    Paiement again dialed long distance and found another connection early in the second period at 4:42, beating Holtby for at 4:42 with Albany on the power play. With the two goals on the evening, Paiement now counts four goals to his credit this campaign, with three of those being struck at Giant Center against the Bears.

    “It went through so many legs, and I have no idea how it got through. It’s just one of those seeing-eye shots you can’t do anything about,” said Holtby of the only goal he allowed on the evening.

    Hershey regained the lead for good less than a minute after Paiement’s game-tying goal when Keith Aucoin batted an airborne Alexandre Giroux pass behind Morrison at 5:30.

    “I knew Giroux was going to pass it to me, and it kind of rolled on him,” Aucoin said. “I got lucky because the puck was wobbling, and I was able to get my stick on it and it went in.”

    Exactly one minute after Gordon’s goal that was disallowed because of the puck being kicked into the net, Michael Dubuc’s fifth goal of the season, and second in his last three games, finished off the scoring in the second period and gave the home team a 4-2 lead entering the third period.

    Boyd Kane and Alexandre Giroux each added a goal to the Bears’ total in the third period before fisticuffs became the story and the focal point of the festivities. The first bout of the third period fight card began when Francois Bouchard and Drayson Bowman squared off in a middle-weight tilt.

    “It goes back to the last game when we played them and he jabbed me, so I just wanted to go back and show him if he did that kind of stuff, we would have a good fight,” said Bouchard. “I won it clean with him and I was really pumped. It was the first fight in my career. I just got caught up in the moment at the end.”

    Less than a minute later when Nicolas Blanchard hit Kyle Wilson from behind, chaos ensued when a pair of secondary fights broke out. When the dust has settled, both the Bears involved in those battles, Boyd Kane and Patrick Wellar, along with their River Rat counterparts, were issued game misconducts.

    When play finally resumed, Keith Aucoin and newcomer, Ashton Rome, put the exclamation points on the Bears’ goal total.

    “I got a few shots, some good shots, and I think I was just due,” said Rome who rang a shot off the post in the first period. “It felt pretty good. I kind of fanned on it, but I put it on the side I wanted to.”

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    BEARS WORK OVERTIME TO REACH MILESTONE

    The Hershey Bears entered Friday night’s matchup against the Adirondack Phantoms seeking their 50th win of the season, and after a seesaw battle, the boys from Chocolatetown escaped from Glens Falls with a 5-4 overtime win.

    The Phantoms, the only team in the AHL that can boast of placing three blemishes on the Bears’ record, gave the visitors all that they could handle in the oscillating affair, twice grabbing one-goal leads after falling behind early in the contest.

    The Bears took a 1-0 lead on a goal by Jay Beagle at 4:34. Beagle pounced upon the rebound of a Mathieu Perreault point blank attempt, and poked the puck behind Phantoms’ netminder, Johan Backlund, to pot his 11th goal of the season.

    Less than two minutes after Beagle’s goal, an outstanding individual effort by Alexandre Giroux led to his 34th marker of the campaign, an unassisted tally.

    “I was coming from the bench and the guy bobbled,” Giroux said. “The guy in the zone was standing still, so I tried to make a move on him. Then, I didn’t have enough speed to go around the defenseman, so I stopped and took a shot between his legs. I don’t think the goalie saw it.”

    Greg Amadio’s cross checking infraction at 9:50 put the Phantoms on their first power play, and ultimately put them on the board for the first time, with defenseman, Marc-Andre Bourdon, lighting the lamp at 11:32.

    Steve Pinizzotto’s punishing hit on Bourdon behind the Phantoms’ net, which put Bourdon on his back, resulted in his defensive partner, Sean Curry, taking a double minor penalty on Pinizzotto at 16:02.

    Curry’s aggressive actions gave the Bears a golden opportunity to finish out the period on a positive note by potting a power play goal, but Adirondack’s penalty killing unit thwarted those plans and the teams retreated to the locker room after twenty minutes with the Bears leading, 2-1.

    The second period belonged solely to the Phantoms, who netted the only two goals of the frame, including a soft goal that went in off of the back of Bears’ netminder, Michal Neuvirth.

    “I thought we played well in the first, and came into the locker room with the 2-1 lead,” said Bears’ head coach, Mark French. “I thought in the second, we were dominated physically, and lost a lot of battles and races to the puck.”

    In the forgetful second period, the Bears did not officially test Backlund for the first time until 10:25 into the frame. In all, the high-powered Bears’ offense put just three shots on net in the period, with Andrew Gordon garnering the only shot on net by a forward.

    Early in the third period, Hershey captain, Bryan Helmer, was whistled off by referee, Jamie Koharski, for a cross-checking penalty on Phantoms’ forward, Stefan Legein. After realizing that he was being penalized, Helmer blew a fuse and drew an additional unsportsmanlike conduct penalty as well as ten-minute misconduct.

    “Sure, the guy embellished it,” said Helmer. “He got in my way when I had a chance to get the puck out of the zone, and then they got a great scoring chance because of that. I just lost my cool, and I shouldn’t have done that, but that’s the stuff you learn by.”

    With Helmer in the penalty box, Steve Pinizzotto struck with in shorthanded mode, netting his 11th goal of the season, and fourth in short-handed style.

    “They tried to dump it in, and they missed the puck,” Pinizzotto said. “Wellar made it a good play by throwing it up to Joudrey, who dove and sent me in on the breakaway, and I beat him low to the glove side.”

    Pinizzotto, who of late seems to be able to draw the wrath of his opponents even quicker while sporting the protective cage apparatus that he wears after being injured in a scrap against Albany, wishes he could drop the mitts, but has found another way to contribute by putting up consistent offensive numbers.

    “It sucks that I can’t fight, particularly against team like this who want to put on a show for their fans,” Pinizzotto admitted. “The points are starting to come now, which is good, and I feel that I can do a lot to help this team out.”

    Ironically, just as Helmer’s first penalty was about to expire, Legein struck on the power to give the Phantoms another one-goal lead.

    Amadio, making amends for his earlier actions, drew an interference penalty on Phantoms’ defenseman, Joey Mormina, at 10:37.

    While Mormina waited out his sentence, Giroux struck again on the power play at 11:58 to tie up the affair. For Giroux, the multi-goal effort was his second in his last two games played in Glens Falls.

    “We know what we have to do when we come here. It’s always a battle and these guys always play really, really hard, and they are particularly intense against our line,” said Giroux.

    “I thought all night we moved the puck well, but didn’t shoot enough. Then we were shooting and they were blocking the shots and getting in the lanes; but, on my goal, Miskovic made a great play to Aucoin and he did what he always does, finds me in an open spot.”

    Giroux’s goal would be the last of regulation and the teams needed extra time to settle the score in the topsy-turvy battle.

    Justice was served for the visitors from the Keystone State when Helmer roofed a wrist shot over the fallen Backlund just 1:33 into the session, giving the Bears their 22nd road triumph of the season.

    “I thought the guys played really well in the third period, responding from a bad second period,” said Helmer, who watched the majority of the third period from the penalty box.

    “Bourque and Pinizzotto made the play on the overtime goal, and I actually had two chances. The first one I put right in his pads, but I got a second chance, and put it in the net. It’s nice when you can come back and chip in like that.”

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    BEARS FOIL PHANTOMS

    Trailing for the first time at home during their record-tying 22 home winning streak, it looked like the Hershey Bears might have to reset the clock and start another home run because of the relentless Adirondack Phantoms; however, buoyed by a pair of goals by former Phantom, Boyd Kane, the Bears extended their streak to a record-breaking 23 home wins.

    “We really came out hard in the third. Going into the third, we weren’t happy because we hadn’t played a good game. We wanted to break the record, and we knew what was on the line,” said Bears’ center, Keith Aucoin.

    Kane initiated the scoring at 16:10 of the first period denting the twine for the 20th time this season.

    “I gave it to Bourque up high and he went down low and made a great pass to me,” said Kane, who has reached the 20-goal mark twice in his career, both times with the Bears. “I was all alone in the slot and I was able to put it far side.”

    Adirondack’s Andreas Nodl knotted the score at one by fending off defenseman, Karl Alzner, and then beating Bears’ goaltender, Michal Neuvirth through the five-hole at 18:24.

    Rob Bellamy gave the Phantoms a 2-1 lead 6:11 into the second period by taking advantage of Neuvirth turning the puck over in the trapezoid behind the net and banking the puck off the glove and body of the second year netminder.

    The Bears opened the third period on a power play and seemingly tied the game when Chris Bourque’s bullet appeared to bounce quickly in and out of the net. Though the goal light went on, the goal was waived off and play continued. Shortly after the controversial shot, Zach Miskovic’s missile from the point eluded Phantoms’ netminder, Johan Backlund, and officially tied the game at two.

    At 6:25 of the final frame, Aucoin, thanks to a solid screen provided by Kane, put the home team in front for the second time.

    “My job on the power play is to go stand in front of the net and screen the goalie,” Kane said. “That’s what I was doing, and Aucoin was actually trying to pass it to me and it just went through me and Mormina and got through the goalie, too.”

    Hershey head coach, Mark French, who was not with the organization when Kane captained the club to the Calder Cup in 2006, realizes what Kane’s presence means to the team.

    “He’s every bit a professional,” said French. “He’s a great asset in our dressing room, and a workman’s type player. You appreciate his work ethic. He shows up every day with his lunch box and his work shoes and he goes to work. I think everybody can appreciate the type of player he is. He’s very versatile, as you mentioned. He can step up and play, as he did at times this year, on our top line, or he could play on your third-line checking line and do each equally as well.”

    Kane capped off the scoring with an empty net goal at 19:40, establishing a new career-high goal total of 21.

    “It’s nice. When you come so close and don’t get there, you want to get there,” said Kane of breaking the 20-goal barrier. “It’s a good feeling to get it out of the way, and now I’ll just keep going.”

    While playing against players that one called teammates just last season may present problems for younger, less experienced players, for Kane, it’s all in a day’s work.

    “It’s a lot of fun to go out there and play against your friends. I’ve been around a bit and done it a lot, so I think it brings the best out of me sometimes.”

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    BEARS WEEK IN REVIEW NOV. 22, 2009

    The Hershey Bears accumulated three out of a possible four points on the weekend by snuffing out the Binghamton Senators and then dropping a 3-2 shootout decision to the Springfield Falcons.

    On Friday night in the Carousel capital of the World, five different Bears lit the lamp, including Andrew Gordon, who was recalled to the Washington Capitals after the game, as the Bears won their third consecutive game in Broome County this season, 5-2. theahl.com boxscore

    On Saturday night in Chocolatetown, the Springfield Falcons emerged from the Bears’ den with a 3-2 victory with former Bear, Chad Wiseman, netting the lone goal of the shootout. BEARS GROUNDED BY FALCONS

    The Bears continue to pace the East Division of the American Hockey League with 27 points, enjoying a six-point cushion over the Senators and the Norfolk Admirals who are tied for second place with 21 points each.

    In the upcoming holiday week, the Bears will look to feast on the home cooking with three of their four outings, to be contested at the Giant Center. GIANT CENTER BOX OFFICE

    For all of your up-to-date information and video on the Bears, visit JohnWaltonHockey.com

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    Bears Week in Review Nov. 15, 2009

    After spending the previous week in the road, the Hershey Bears took a liking to the home cooking during their two game weekend at Giant Center, running the table and downing two of their divisional rivals, the Norfolk Admirals and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. Read the rest of this entry »

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    Bears Week in Review Nov. 8, 2009

    The Hershey Bears ruled the road last week, picking up six out of a possible eight points during their trip through New England.

    Wednesday evening in Lowell, current residence of former Bear Louis Robitaille, Keith Aucoin made an immediate impact on his return to the Bears’ lineup when he tallied his first hat trick as a Bear and propelling his team to a 5-2 victory. Read the rest of this entry »

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    Bears week in review ending November 1st

    The Hershey Bears responded to last weekend’s disappointing showing in impressive fashion by taking home all four available points with road and home triumphs, on Friday in Hartford and on Saturday at Giant Center. Read the rest of this entry »

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    Hershey Bears Week in Review

    After starting the weekend with a pair of losses, the Hershey Bears avoided going pointless for the three game stretch by rallying to beat the Portland Pirates on Sunday at Giant Center. Read the rest of this entry »

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    French Ready for Next Challenge

    Mark French in 2002.
    Mark French in 2002.

    The German philosopher, Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, famously said, “that which does not destroy us makes us stronger” and for new Hershey Bears head coach, Mark French, that statement could not ring any truer.

    After being fired in his only previous professional head coaching job by the Wichita Thunder of the Central Hockey League in December of 2007, and then serving a short stint as a volunteer coach with the Reading Royals of the East Coast Hockey League, French arrived as in Hershey in January of 2008 to begin his job as Bob Woods’ assistant coach.

    “You find out a lot about yourself in adverse situations. Everybody’s a good coach when things are going well and you have great players, but you truly find out a lot about your character and intestinal fortitude when things don’t go well,” said French.

    “I know I’ve become stronger as a person, and I think that’s the biggest thing I’ve taken from that experience, no matter what the circumstances are, I’ve been able to overcome it and land on my feet.”

    French, who played four years of college hockey and graduated with a Bachelor Degree in Psychology from Brock University in Canada, receiving the highly regarded “212 Degrees” award each year, presented to the athlete who demonstrates leadership, commitment and excellence on the ice, still benefits from the lessons learned at that institute.

    “I think the one thing that going to university and getting a degree, the biggest thing it taught me was how to learn; and the thirst for knowledge, and that’s how I’ve always been as a coach,” he reflected. “So, I think that’s what it’s provided me, always striving to learn a little more.”

    While it might seem that his degree would benefit him in his dealings with the multiple personalities that comprise a hockey club, French is not so sold on that line of thinking.

    “I don’t know if there’s a direct correlation with the psychology, but I’ve got a hunger for knowledge and I love the game of hockey and all of the nuances of the game of hockey and I always want to be learning.”

    After the recently concluded Washington Capitals prospect camp, French said the experience was like his previous ones, with one notable exception.

    “I don’t think it was much different, but certainly when I got a chance to introduce myself, it’s nice to put the head coach title beside it,” French said. “That was the only thing that was different, it was just nice to be here for a second year and get comfortable with the players and staff.”

    Unlike recent affiliations that Hershey has had, which saw them not always reading from the same book, their most recent union with the Capitals has saw the partners not only reading from the same book, but being on the same page. With that happy unison spurning two Calder Cups, French had a simple one word answer, “no”, when I asked him if fans should expect a discernable difference in the Bears’ style of play now that he has switched roles.

    “I think the one nice thing that has been done with Washington and Hershey is that we basically play the same style, and that’s dictated by the Caps. So, if there was a change in their philosophy, that would be mirrored in Hershey. Bruce’s system has proven to be very successful; we employed it last year in Hershey and were also very successful, so, there’s certainly no need to change our style.”

    French’s promotion opened up a spot for an assistant coach; and that position has been filled by Troy Mann, who previously turned down the position in the midst of the 2007-08 season, opening the door for French to join the organization.

    “Even prior to me getting the head-coaching job, the whole organization talked about getting him,” said French. “Bruce (Boudreau) has a very good relationship with him, Bob (Woods) played with him and I’ve known him for many years, as has Doug (Yingst, Hershey’s General Manager). Bruce probably knows him best, but at the same time everybody knows what values and type of work ethic he brings to the table.”

    Mark French and family, 2009.French and family in 2009.

    When asked what was his most cherished memory of last year’s title run, French, who had answered all of my previous questions with certainty and swiftness, pondered the question for a few seconds before offering up his response.

    “After Keith Aucoin scored that empty net goal late in game six. We had scored the three quick (first period) goals and then it was a long wait, where every second seemed like an eternity; and the game still seemed to be very much on the line up until that point, especially when Manitoba made it 3-1. When he scored that goal with just over a minute left, you could really start to bring yourself to enjoy it and reflect.”

    In French’s upcoming first season leading the boys from Chololatetown, Bears fans are hoping that the results will be a mirror image of last year’s successful campaign.

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