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East Conference Finals vs. Providence Game 5


When Chris Bourque’s father, the legendary Ray Bourque finally got his name of the Stanley Cup with the Colorado Avalanche in his 21st professional season, the rallying call was “Mission 16W”. Their battle cry signified the exit on the New Jersey Turnpike where the Avs played three of the seven games against the New Jersey Devils in the Stanley Cup.

On Monday evening in Providence, it was Chris Bourque’s shorthanded goal that propelled the Hershey Bears to their own “Mission 16″, as in 16 wins to claim their 10th Calder Cup Championship, in their 21st appearance in the Calder Cup Finals.

The Bears came out of the gates in the contest determined to get an early lead and not fall behind in the contest; however, despite two power play advantages and a huge shot advantage of 13-3, the Chocolate and White failed to register a first period goal for the fifth straight time on the road, and entered the first intermission in a scoreless deadlock.

Early in the second period, Andrew Gordon’s power play goal, his 5th strike of the post-season at 2:17, gave the Bears their first 1st or 2nd period lead on the road since their first road outing in the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguin series. The point that Bourque picked up for assisting on the goal made him the league leader in the assist category.

Brad Marchand’s power play goal, his 7th goal of the playoffs and 5th on the power play at 4:45, tied the game at a goal apiece. With the goal, Marchand also tied Hershey’s Alexandre Giroux for the league lead in power play goals.

Giroux, not wanting to share the stage with Marchand, picked up his 9th goal, his 6th with the man advantage, taking back sole ownership of the spotlight later in the period, giving the Bears a 2-1 lead to take to the 3rd period.

Mikko Lehtonen tied the game less than two minutes into the third period.

Providence, who had already struck on eight power plays throughout the series, looked poised to take a lead and extend the series when Dean Arsene was whistled off for two minutes at 5:30.

However, Bourque pounced upon the opportunity, and scored the Bears’ first short-handed goal of the season, giving the Bears a lead they would never relinquish.

Darren Reid and Quintin Laing (empty net) both tacked on goals to account for the final score of 5-2.

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East Division Finals vs. Pens Game 6


The Hershey Bears, facing a must-win situation on Sunday evening at Giant Center, responded magnificently to the challenge when they shut out the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, 3-0.

The whitewash was the Penguins first game without scoring a goal since their contest with the Albany River Rats on March 21, 2008.

Bears’ goaltender, Michal Neuvirth, who politely declined to comment after the game, citing illness as the reason, let his actions do the talking during the game, stopping all 30 shots fired in his direction, including a pair of dandies in the middle portion of the second period from Nick Johnson and Bill Thomas.

After an initial early feeling-out sequence that featured plenty of action, but no finishing, Andrew Gordon gave the Bears a 1-0 lead at 11:35 of the opening period. Gordon, with his linemate, Chris Bourque, created congestion in the crease area, and patiently waited for Pens’ netminder, Adam Berkhoel, to commit before depositing a wrist shot behind him.

“The defenseman that was originally on me went down and forced Wilson, and Bourque was sort of tied up in front,” said Gordon, whose goal was his third of the playoffs. “I knew if I could get to that far post, Bourque had net side on him, so he was blocking him out a little bit. When I got the puck from Wilson, I just kept thinking, ‘I’ve got to get this up top’.”

Early in the second period, Darren Reid, used primarily in a defensive role by Woods in the regular season, eluded the grasp of former Bears’ defenseman, Deryk Engelland, then used a sweet backahand-to-forehand move to best Berkhoel at 22 seconds.

The line of Darren Reid, Andrew Joudrey, and Steve Pinizzotto played a pivotal role in getting the Bears off to a good start in each of the three periods. Hershey head coach, Bob Woods, who, thanks to getting the last line change due to being on home ice, expertly exercised his power to put specific personnel on the ice, explained that the matchup was exactly what he had intended.

“They were playing against the guys we had them scheduled to play against,” said Woods. “Whoever they started, we knew who we were starting, and that’s who it worked out with. Those three are probably good guys to start your period. They’re going to be energy, they’re going to get pucks deep, they’re going to cycle, they’re going to bang, and usually good things happen from that; it’s contagious.”

Referee, Frederic L’Ecuyer, who did not call any penalties in the first period, whistled the Pens’ Nick Johnson off the ice at 2:09, giving the Bears the first power play of the game. With Johnson in the “joint” doing his time, Alexandre Giroux beat Berkhoel with a wraparound power play goal at 3:11 to give the Bears a 3-0 lead.

“I didn’t think about the goalie or anything,” Giroux said. “I was going to stop at the blue line and wait for the guys because we were on the power play, and try to set up. I saw the defenseman (Engelland) step out on me, so I had a lot of speed and decided to keep going. I saw a little opening and I put it in.”

Giroux’s goal stood as the last goal of the game, with Gordon garnering his first career game-winning goal. The 23-year-old Gordon, who has quietly assumed an unofficial leadership role, was humbled when asked if he envisioned himself in that position.

“I’m sort of caught somewhere between a young guy and an older guy. I’m only a 2nd year pro, so guys like Perreault and Bouchard and Carlson, who are a little younger than me, can feel a little more comfortable talking to me rather than an older veteran like Mink, who plays a different style. I’ll assess that role if that’s what I’m being given. It’s great if I can play a leadership role on a team as special as this.”

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Bears vs. WB/S Pens Eastern Finals 1


Balance was the buzz word at Giant Center following the Hershey Bears’ 5-3 victory over the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in the first game of the Eastern Division Finals on Saturday night.

While taking their 1-0 lead in the series, the Bears received goals from five different players. That, combined with the outstanding performances from special teams units, factored heavily into the triumph.

“I think that’s (balanced scoring) been one of our strengths all year long, and this time of year, usually that’s how it works,” said Bears’ head coach, Bob Woods. “You look at the NHL series, and it’s not always the big dogs scoring all the time. Our (big) guys scored a couple nice goals, but for the most part, you have to have chip ins from everybody. I think that’s what makes us dangerous.”

After Hershey’s penalty killing unit continued it’s perfect post-season pace, killing off an early Penguins’ power play, the Bears struck with a power play goal of their own, with defenseman, Staffan Kronwall, supplying the charge at 9:38 of the first period.

Kronwall, who sat out Hershey’s series clinching win over the Phantoms last Friday after suffering a scratched cornea in the previous game, fired a seeing-eye shot that deflected off Pens’ defenseman, Joey Mormina.

Chris Bourque, a former college teammate of Penguins’ net minder, John Curry, cued a shot off him at 11:13, giving the Bears a 2-0 advantage.

“I knew someone was going to shoot it, and I wasn’t even watching it,” Bourque said. “I just kind of put my stick out there, and it hit my stick and went to the backboards. I knew Curry wasn’t getting to the post as quick as he could have, and I banked it off his skate and barely made it over the line.”

Late in the first period, Hershey’s Oskar Osala, hooked down by Mormina after receiving a pass from Alzner, was awarded a penalty shot by referee, Ghislain Hebert. Osala’s awkward attempt beat Curry, but failed to find the back of the net, ricocheting harmlessly off the post.

The visitors tied the game in the latter stages of the second period when Jean-Michel Daoust and Nick Johnson scored less than three minutes apart.

At 19:43 of the stanza, Andrew Gordon’s power play goal gave the Bears a lead that they refused to surrender for the remainder of the evening.

“Helmer good at finding those lanes, so that’s my job on the power play, to get in front of the net and stir up some traffic and make it tough for the goalie to see,” said Gordon. “It was one of those plays where I swung my stick at it. I probably do that a hundred times a game and don’t connect on any of them, but I was fortunate to get my stick on that one.”

Gordon showed another side to his game, setting up Kyle Wilson for a slam dunk at 1:38 of the third period.

Baby Pen Johnson, who scored the game winner in the regular season finale between the two teams, added a second goal to his playoff resume, keeping the Bears on their toes.

Hershey’s big gun, Alexandre Gioux, put a halt to the Penguins’ comeback march, scoring his third goal of the playoffs to ice the game, 5-3.

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Sound Tigers Steal Second Point 04.03.09


The fight for first place in the AHL’s Eastern Division is not likely to be decided until the last minute, and the battle between the Hershey Bears and the Bridgeport Sound Tigers on Friday night was evidence to that fact. The Sound Tigers emerged victorious in the seesaw battle at the Arena at Harbor Yard, prevailing 4-3 in overtime.

Jamie Fraser gave the Sound Tigers a 1-0 lead at 3:36 of the first period, corralling a long rebound from Hershey goaltender, Daren Machesney, and wristing the disc into the net from the top of the right faceoff circle.

Mitch Fritz, who did not play in the last matchup between the teams at Giant Center, was inserted into the lineup by Bridgeport coach, Jack Capuano, to add some toughness to their lineup. Just 2:14 after the first goal of the game, Fritz took on Hershey’s Grant McNeill in a fistic encounter. McNeill suffered no lasting damage from the fight, and offered his strategy on surviving against the 6’8” forward.

“You have to fight him smart. You’ve got to make him stretch as far as he can,” said McNeill, who dropped his gloves for the 20th time in 22 games. “He’s a big boy and tough, and he’s been around for a long time. It was a fun fight, and a good one. I was happy to get it done with and get the boys going.”

True to his word, McNeill “got the boys going”, not so much with his fight, but in goal-scoring fashion when he found the back of the net for the 3rd time this season.

Tyler Sloan started the play by making a crisp pass right on the tape of Andrew Joudrey at center ice. Joudrey proceeded to forward the puck to Kip Brennan, who had his backhand attempt from the doorstep denied by Bridgeport goaltender, Peter Mannino. When Mannino failed to control the rebound, McNeill was quick to pounce on it, and backhanded his own shot past Mannino.

“I saw Brennan driving, and Joudrey got it to him,” said McNeill. “We’re a pretty simple-minded line and we’re not going to score pretty goals, but we got one this time.”

The Bears, scoreless in ten opportunities in their last two outing without power play catalyst Mink in the lineup, finally broke the string when Matthieu Perreault cashed in at 18:23 to give the visitors a 2-1 lead to take into the first intermission.

As was the case in the first period, the Sound Tigers were again on the prowl early in the second period, and only a nifty save by Machesney on Tyler Haskins kept the home team from tying the contest.

“It was an opportunity for him to step up, and I thought he did a good job tonight,” said Hershey head coach, Bob Woods of Machesney. “He made some key saves, and gave us a chance to win.”

Haskins, after being denied in his bid, turned the puck over to Andrew Gordon in the Hershey defensive zone. Gordon, realizing that the Sound Tigers were a tired bunch, departed the zone with Darren Reid on a 2-on-1. Gordon saucered a pass to Reid, who fought off a Bridgeport defender and slid the puck under a sprawling Mannino, to give the Bears a 3-1 lead.

Jesse Joensuu, an offensive stalwart earlier in the season, but finding himself in a recent slump, clawed the Sound Tigers back into the game with a power play goal at 11:14 with Tyler Sloan in the penalty box, to cut the Hershey lead to 3-2.

Bridgeport’s Haskins finally found the way to solve the Machesney puzzle at 5:43 of the third period, after converting a Hershey turnover. Haskins’ goal was the only one of the third period, and sent the game into overtime.

It took only one shot for the Sound Tigers to steal the second point that was up for grabs when Sean Bentivoglio, who was in the penalty box for the Bears’ second goal, ended the contest 25 seconds into the overtime session.

Woods, while not satisfied with the outcome of the game, was satisfied with his team’s spirited effort.

“It was a great battle, and a good atmosphere. It was physical by both teams. We made a couple little mental mistakes, and it cost us a tight game. This time of year, you can’t make those.”

Notes:
Alexandre Giroux picked up his 92nd point of the season, assisting on Perreault’s goal.
Hershey played without two of the AHL’s Top 20 scorers, Chris Bourque and Keith Aucoin.
Recent addition, Braden Holtby, dressed as Hershey’s back up goaltender.

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Pens Stuff Bears’ Attack


The menacing Bears, flying high on a five-game winning streak, were grounded by the Wilkes-Barre Penguins, who handed the home team their 3rd shutout of the season, and their first whitewashing at home since December 18, 2005, in a game that was also against the Baby Pens.

In the opening stanza, the Bears, despite registering 11 shots on goal, never seriously tested WBS goaltender, John Curry. However, their penalty-killing unit, still ranked last in the league, faced a substantial test in the WBS power play, recently bolstered by the addition of longtime NHL player, Miroslav Satan.

After the Bears dodged a bullet on their first venture on the penalty kill, the Penguins struck pay dirt on the second, with Dustin Jeffrey netting the goal at 19:12. Jeffrey, after receiving a Chris Minard pass from behind the net, outraced Hershey’s Chris Bourque to the slot, then quickly shuffled the biscuit behind Hershey netminder, Simeon Varlamov. Varlamov, the hard-luck loser, stopped 36 of 37 shots in the contest.

Even with the benefit of being afforded all three second period power plays, the Bears were still unable to shake the slumber from their lumber in the second period, getting only six shots on goal in the stanza.

The Penguins had the best scoring chance of the period when Jeff Taffe narrowly missed giving the visitors a 2-0 lead at 4:30 of the second period, sliding a Minard pass just past the left post moments after Hershey squandered a 3-on-1 charge into the WBS zone.

Late in the period a pair of unlikely combatants dropped the gloves in anger when Hershey’s Andrew Gordon and WBS’ Minard fought. Gordon, engaging in the first fight of his professional career, fared well in his first professional bout, winning a narrow decision on this judge’s scorecard. When asked to critique his fight after the game, Gordon, who was addressed by his passing teammates as “Killer” and “Gordon the Butcher”, seemed to have enjoyed the experience.

“I’d say it was two guys who probably don’t go too often,” Gordon joked. “He (Minard) was joking about it afterwards, saying, ‘If I knew you could fight, I wouldn’t have asked you’. I didn’t know I could, either, so it was a mystery to both of us,” Gordon laughed.

The Bears picked up the pace in the third period, registering 14 shots on goal and accruing another three power plays, including a 5-on-3 for 1:15, yet were unable to crack Curry, who earned his 4th shutout of the season.

Gordon, who registered three shots on net, was not surprised by the low scoring affair:

“Their defensemen are so big, and it’s tough to penetrate on them. They have good reaches, and they play simple and stick to their system,” said Gordon. “So, it’s usually a tough game when we play them. The majority of the games we’ve played against them have been one-goal games and shootouts. It’s always a tight chess match with these guys.”

After the defeat, Hershey head coach, Bob Woods, who took the loss in stride, seemed satisfied that his team gave their best effort.

“I think we know we can play with those guys. It’s a pretty good team over there. You look at the depth they have; those first three lines are as good as anybody’s.”

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Bears Bite Tigers


Theoretically, it was the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, who were idle last night in Hershey awaiting tonight’s game, that should have came out in the opening period on the attack; however, it was the Hershey Bears who dominated their own den, reeling off three unanswered first period goals on their way to a convincing 7-2 win at Giant Center.

In the high scoring contest, with five different Bears lighting the lamp, Alexandre Giroux’s record-tying and record-breaking goals outshone them all.  In just 62 games, Giroux became the first player in the 71 years of Hershey Bears hockey to score more than 53 goals in a single season.  The previous record was set during the 1982-83 season by Tony Cassolato in 75 games.

“It was amazing,” said Giroux of his accomplishment. “To be honest, I was hoping to get it tonight or as soon as possible. I was very emotional to be able to get it done; I was pretty proud it.”

Keith Aucoin, returning to Chocolatetown after suiting up for the Washington Capitals last night, started the Bears’ first period barrage, beating Bridgeport goaltender, Nathan Lawson, at 7:24, after one-timing a pass from Tyler Sloan, with the teams skating at four a side.

“I wanted him (Sloan) to give me the puck in the neutral zone, but he kept it. I didn’t expect him to make that pass, be he got it through. I shot it as quick as I could and it went in,” said Aucoin.

Aucoin was at his play-making best just a minute after his goal, finding Chris Bourque at Lawson’s doorstep for an easy tap-in goal, with Hershey enjoying a 4-on-3 power play.

“He (Bourque) always jokes that I don’t pass it to him enough,” said Aucoin, while taking some good-natured ribbing from Bourque, who joked that the AHL’s leading scorer collected three phantom assists during the match.  “I’m glad he was able to handle it.”

Aucoin finished his three-point period by beating Lawson for his 25th goal of the season at 18:20, after going circle-to-circle with some assistance from teammate, Graham Mink.

“I was looking for Giroux first and I couldn’t get it to him because the one defenseman took him. Then other guy tried to block my shot and I was able to get around him. I saw a little leeway over his glove and I was able to find it,” said Aucoin.

At 3:58 of the second period, Mink tallied his career-high 32nd goal of the season, putting his team on top, 4-0, after a beautiful pass from Sami Lepisto, with the Bears’ goaltender, Simeon Varlamov, picking up the secondary assist.

Bridgeport’s Trevor Smith and Andrew MacDonald sandwiched power play goals around Giroux’s historical goals, making it a 6-2 game after two periods.

With Peter Mannino replacing Lawson in goal to start the third period, Andrew Gordon needed less than a minute into the third period to score his 21st goal of the season, which would be the final goal of the contest.

Giroux and Aucoin, who obviously have chemistry on the ice, complimented each other’s amazing abilities after the record-breaking evening.

“As far as getting me the puck he’s pretty amazing,” said Giroux of Aucoin. “I think we complete each other pretty well. I try to find the open spot on the ice so that he can see me, and we can get it done. Without him, I don’t think I could have gotten it done.”

“He not only scores from anywhere, but he’s also one of the more skilled guys in the league, and can create his own chances,” said Aucoin about linemate, Giroux. “I’ve played with some pretty good players, but he’s by far the top goal scorer that I’ve ever played with.”

Notes:

Hershey has now won five straight games.

Bears meet the WBS Penguins tomorrow at home to finish off the weekend.

Mink, who fought Michael Haley late in the 2nd period, did not return for the 3rd period.

Hershey marked their 101st point this evening, the 3rd time they have done so in their four-year affiliation with the Washington Capitals organization.

 

 

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