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Calder Cup Finals vs. Manitoba Game 3


Although Hershey goaltender, Michal Neuvirth’s, stellar performance with 28 saves that earned him a shutout and bragging rights as the number one star of the game, the gritty stylings of Steve Pinizzotto figured just as prominently in the Bears’ 3-0 win over the Manitoba Moose on Saturday at Giant Center.

Pinizzotto, Hershey’s fourth line punisher who has befuddled each of the Bears’ opponents in the playoffs with his bone bruising style, was on top of his game early in the first period, with his workmanlike methods proving instrumental in drawing the first penalty of the game, a slashing infraction on Manitoba’s Shaun Heshka at 6:14.

“For him to be effective, he’s got to be that type of player,” said the Bears’ head coach, Bob Woods, of Pinizzotto, who has answered the challenge since their mid-March conference. “We don’t need him yapping and stuff like that. We need him out there being physical, and when you play that way, you get a lot off people’s attention. You get guys a little bit concerned every time you touch the puck, and when he’s on the ice, you’ve got to keep your head up.”

Hershey wasted little time on the power play that resulted from Pinizzotto’s labor, when Graham Mink struck 8 seconds into the advantage. Mink’s goal was his 6th of the playoffs, and 4th game-winner.

“I just wanted to get to the front of the net, and Kronwall made a great play coming down the wall and throwing it up front,” said Mink. “I got my stick on it, and it bounced in over the goalie’s leg pad. We wanted to get the first goal, and I was fortunate enough to be there.”

Staffan Kronwall and Chris Bourque picked up the helpers on the Mink marker. Bourque’s assist, his 15th of the post-season, temporarily put him in a first place tie for the league lead in that category with his teammate, Keith Aucoin.

Hershey’s power play perfection continued, and Aucoin regained his assist lead midway through the second period when he assisted on Alexandre Giroux’s league-leading 14th goal of the playoffs at 9:38, giving the Bears a 2-0 lead. Giroux’s goal was also his 9th power play goal of the postseason.

“It was a kind of a 3-on-1 and I doubted whether to take the shot. I was thinking of passing back to Mink, but while I was in my motion, I just decided to let it go,” said Giroux, explaining his change-of-pace shot. “It was not my hardest shot, but sometimes you just have to place it and it goes in.”

Neuvirth, who did not see his first shot of the game until more than six minutes had elapsed, displayed some of his best handiwork when he made a pair of glittering glove saves later in the game on Jason Jaffray, who scored a hat trick at the rookie’s expense in game two in Manitoba.

“The first saves are always huge, and I want to make the saves as early as I can,” said Neuvirth. “It’s always tough for a goalie to have to stand there for like six minutes.”

An empty net goal by the recently returning Quintin Laing sealed the Moose’s fate for the evening, giving the Bears the 2-1 lead in the Calder Cup Finals.

Neuvirth, who earned his sixth number one star of the game, and fourth shutout victory, drew high praise from veteran forward Mink, who also had a firsthand look when Frederic Cassivi backstopped the Bears to the 2006 Calder Cup Championship.

“Nothing rattles him, nothing phases him. He’s given us a chance to win every game. That’s all you can ask out of a goalie, especially one as young as he is. He’s got a promising future.”

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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 7


On the 21st anniversary of the day the 1987-88 Hershey Bears captured their 12th straight playoff victory, earning the franchise’s 7th Calder Cup, the 2008-09 version of the club took a big step towards earning Calder Cup number ten, defeating the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins 3-0 in game 7 of their East Division Final series at Giant Center, and advancing to the East Conference Finals.

Goaltender, Michal Neuvirth, who yielded 12 goals to the Penguins during the Bears’ three losses at the Wachovia Arena, said his confidence never wavered during his three tough outings.

“I knew I could play better,” said Neuvirth. “I was missing bad bounces for us, and I just hoped I could get back to lucky bounces, and things worked out for us.”

Neuvurth, who gave a lot of credit to his defense, was perfect for the second consecutive game, stopping all 24 shots he faced, including quality chances by Dustin Jeffrey and Chris Minard, midway through the second period.

Only 50 seconds after the opening faceoff, Hershey’s Alexandre Giroux, who often found himself the recipient of a Keith Aucoin pass on his way to a 60-goal regular season, played the playmaker role to perfection, putting a picture perfect pass on the tape of his linemate to give the Bears an early 1-0 lead.

“I think I gave him a lot of empty nets this year, so he owed me at least one,” joked Aucoin. “He made a great pass. He could have shot it, but he made a great pass and I had an easy job to just put it on the net.”

The Penguins enjoyed their only two power plays, 39 seconds of which was a 5-on-3 advantage, late in the second period, and carrying over into the early moments of the third. However, Hershey’s penalty killing unit, led by Andrew Joudrey, helped to extinguish the threat of the baby Pens’ firepower.

Joudrey, who also won a NCAA championship at the University of Wisconsin, compared the experience to his first Game 7 playoff action.

“There are a lot of similarities there,” said Joudrey, Hershey’s plus/minus leader in the playoffs. “It’s one of those things where you, in both instances, you throw away anything that has happened in other parts of the series, and it’s one game, winner take all. There are definitely a lot of parallels.”

The Bears power play, which had failed on three previous occasions in the game, was given a fourth opportunity when Reid Cashman was whistled off for hooking at 4:35 of the second period.

Just 19 seconds into the ensuing power play, Chris Bourque struck for his 2nd goal of the playoffs, giving Hershey a 2-0 lead.

Cashman also figured into Hershey’s 3rd goal when he shattered his stick while attempting a slapshot, leading to an odd-man rush. Steve Pinizzotto, a pest in the Penguins’ side throughout this series, used linemate, Darren Reid as a decoy, and bounced a shot of Jon D’Aversa and between the pads of netminder, Adam Berkhoel at 10:49.

“It bounced on something, and it was just good luck, and it came at the right time,” said Pinizzotto. “That was a nail in their coffin.”

In defeat, Penguins’ head coach, Todd Reirden, admitted there were several factors that contributed to his team’s demise.

“Their goalie played outstanding. I thought he was much better here than he was on the road,” said Reirden. “We had to win our three home games, and we invested a lot of energy in terms of our effort level and stuff like that. Playing 3-in-3 with that type of urgency is tough, so we were still fighting back from that.”

He continued, “It’s a tough opponent over there, and I feel these are the two best teams in the league, and it’s unfortunate we have to knock each other off. Credit to the way they go about their business; a great job by their coaching staff, and their players.”

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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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Bears Survive Buzzer Beater, Shave Pens 04.04.09


The Hershey Bears were lucky that number 17, Chris Bourque, raced into the Wachovia Arena in Wilkes-Barre just 17 minutes before the opening faceoff, after arriving at Harrisburg International Airport earlier in the afternoon. Bourque was returning from services in Boston for his grandfather who passed away earlier in the week, and his return paid immediate dividends, as he assisted on both of Alexandre Giroux’s goals, and added a shootout goal to lead his team to a 3-2 shootout victory on Saturday night over division rivals, the Baby Pens.

“It was definitely a different experience that I haven’t been through these last few days,” said a somber Bourque. “It was definitely hard and took a toll on me more emotionally than anything, but hockey is what I do; it’s what I love to do, and it’s not too hard for me to get up for games. I wanted to play, and these are big points. You can’t really just go out and miss games. I’m happy I got here in time for the game.”

With assistance from Bourque and Mathieu Perreault, Alexandre Giroux gave the Bears a 1-0 lead at 1:25 with his 56th goal of the season, walking in from the left wing boards, and then brilliantly stickhandling the puck between Pens’ defenseman, Joey Mormina, and goaltender, John Curry, before sliding a backhander beneath the pads of Curry.

“I was trying to get on the far side where Bourque was calling for the pass,” Giroux said. “I saw the open space five-hole. I was surprised they gave me that much room, but it was a good start for our line.”

Bourque was at it again late in the period, intercepting a Penguins’ clearing attempt at the blueline and then finding Giroux all alone in the right faceoff circle. Giroux, with Curry already down in the butterfly position, roofed a wrist shot into the upper portion of the net at 16:00, giving the Bears a 2-0 lead to take into the first intermission.

“Bourque did all the work: a nice pass, nice blocking,” said Giroux, who, with this point, tied his teammate, Keith Aucoin, for the AHL point scoring lead. “I just had to use a little patience to get it up over the goalie.”

Bears goaltender, Michal Neuvirth was outstanding in the first period, stopping all 12 WBS shots, and just as importantly, not allowing any tasty rebounds for the home team to feast on.

“We needed an effort like that,” said Hershey head coach, Bob Woods. “We’ve had pretty tough travel this week. They were sitting at home resting last night, so we knew they were going to come at us hard. We needed somebody back there to weather the storm and I thought he was awesome.”

The second period featured no goals, and few scoring chances for either club, although Janne Pesonen’s backhander at 8:08, seconds after the Penguins had successfully killed of a bench minor penalty for having too many men on the ice, rang off the post.

Oskar Osala, the Bears talented rookie forward, who entered the game with 40 penalty minutes and no fighting majors, duked it out with former Bear, Deryk Engelland, at center ice. Osala, although unable to land any solid punches on the tough-as-nails Engelland, survived the battle virtually unscathed, despite having his jersey over his head for the majority of the bout.

After his return to the Bears’ bench, Woods counseled Osala on the timing of the tilt.
“When you have a 2-0 lead in the other team’s building, it’s probably not a good time to fight,” said Woods. “Nothing against Oskar, but he’s a pretty tough kid, so I’m not seeing much positive come out of that situation other than firing up their crowd.”

The Penguins waddled back into the game in the third period when Paul Bissonnette scored his 7th goal of the season, cutting the Bears’ lead in half at 14:21.

The Pens persisted after Bissonnette’s goal, eventually netting the dramatic game-tying goal with just 3.2 seconds left on the clock. The goal was scored by Mark Letestu, after the Pens’ centerman out dueled the Bears’ Andrew Joudrey on the faceoff draw.

After a scoreless overtime period that featured only two shots on goal between the two teams, setting the stage for the shootout sideshow.

Darren Reid, a surprising selection, shot first for the Bears, and beat Curry with a nifty backhand maneuver.

“He’s pretty talented,” said Woods of his selection. “If he was in the lineup more often, you’d probably see him more often (in shootouts). He’s a pretty gifted player. I know his stats don’t show that, but even tonight, he could have had a couple of goals in regulation.

Bourque scored the shootout game winner, propelling a shot past his former college teammate, Curry.

“I think it might have hit both of his pads, but it had enough steam to just get over the line,” said Bourque. “I thought I made a pretty good shot, and I was happy it got through.”

Neuvirth, after allowing goals in the second and third rounds, finished strong, stopping the last two contestants.

Notes:
Hershey scratched Patrick McNeill, Francois Bouchard, Sean Collins, Greg Amadio and goaltender, Braden Holtby (all healthy), Keith Aucoin (recall) and Graham Mink (injured).

Giroux’s two goals in the first period marked his 10th multi-goal game of the year, and 7th multi-goal period.

Giroux, the only Hershey shooter that failed to beat Curry in the shootout, is 2-for-12 on the season in that category, including being snuffed out on his last 10 attempts.

Hershey now has 104 points with three games to be played, while WBS has 99 points with four games ahead.

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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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Norfolk Navigates by Bears


The Hershey Bears, embarking on their final road foray of the regular season, sailed into turbulent waters on the first leg of the journey on Wednesday night, falling to the Norfolk Admirals 3-2 at the Norfolk Scope.

Hershey’s loss, combined with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins’ Wednesday night shootout victory over the Binghamton Senators, saw their East Division lead shrink to three points over the Pens, with both clubs having five games remaining.

Chris Bourque’s 21st goal of the season, assisted by Alexandre Giroux and Staffan Kronwall fifty-one seconds into the contest staked to Hershey to a 1-0 lead.

Norfolk’s Blair Jones, the recipient of a bone jarring check from Kip Brennan earlier in the period, tied the game at 1 with his team on a power play at 14:55.

Radek Smolenak gave the Admirals a 2-1 lead at 16:36, depositing a rebound of a Ty Wishart shot behind Hershey goaltender, Michal Neuvirth.
Daren Machesney took over in net for Neuvirth at the start of the second period, after the rookie netminder left the game due to illness.

John Swanson, a former college teammate of Hershey’s Andrew Gordon at St. Cloud State and making his professional debut, was the first and only Admiral to put the puck behind Machesney, giving the home team a 3-1 lead at 10:48 of the second period.

Alexandre Giroux, finding the back door wide open in the Norfolk defensive zone, cut the Hershey deficit to a single goal by lighting the lamp for the 55th time this season at 1:01 of the third period.After the Giroux goal, Norfolk goaltender, Craig Kowalski, held the Chocolate and White at bay for the rest of the game, making 16 saves in the final period to preserve the win for his club.

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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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Bears, Neuvirth, Blank B-Sens


Hershey Bears’ goaltender, Michal Neuvirth, belatedly celebrated his birthday on Friday night in Binghamton, stopping all 47 shots he faced, leading the Bears to a 4-0 win over the Binghamton Senators. Neuvirth, who turned 21 on Monday, also stopped 47 shots in his last road outing, registering a shootout victory over the Manchester Monarchs last Sunday.

Playing without the AHL’s leading scorer, Keith Aucoin, and rookie sniper, Oskar Osala, the Bears struggled early offensively, not registering their first shot on B-Sens Goaltender, Jeff Glass, until past the midway point of the first period, after the home team had already put 10 shots on net.

Kyle Wilson, who has frequently found the back of the net in Broome County during his Herhsey career, struck for the only goal of the first period, beating Glass to the stick side  at 15:27, after gathering in a long outlet pass from Sami Lepisto.

Wilson also figured prominently into the Bears’ second goal of the game early in the second period. After negating an icing call by out-hustling Binghamton defenseman, Neil Petruic to the puck, the frustrated Senators defenseman took out his frustrations on the Colgate University product, earning a minor penalty for slashing. On the ensuing manpower advantage, Karl Alzner struck, recording his 4th goal of the season at 3:14, with Wilson and Francois Bouchard picking up the assists.

Not satisfied with their two-goal lead, the tenacious Bears kept up the attack, making it a 3-0 game when Chris Bourque tallied at 5:41. Bourque’s goal was his 19th of the season, and first at the expense of the Senators.

Alexandre Giroux, a former Senator, finished out both the scoring for the affair, and the evening’s work for Glass, generating his 52nd goal of the season at 11:38, giving Hershey the eventual margin of victory, 4-0. Mitch O’Keefe who finished out the game in the Binghamton net, stopping all 14 shots he faced, replaced Glass.

 

Notes- Bourque’s multi-point outing gave him 65 points for the season, establishing a new career high for him in that category…Alzner’s power play goal was his first in a Hershey uniform…Grant McNeill and Binghamton’s Jeremy Yablonski squared off for the third time this season in the second period. McNeill’s fighting major was his 17th of the season, one less than team leader Greg Amadio…Amadio, who spent last season with Binghamton, sat out for the 11th straight game.

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Bears Trip Toronto 3.25.09


Following the same successful formula they utilized during the latter stages of their recent road trip, the Hershey Bears came from behind once again to defeat the Toronto Marlies on Wednesday night at Giant Center, 4-3.

Matthieu Perreault’s double minor penalty for high-sticking Toronto’s Alex Berry at 1:49 gave the Marlies the first crack of the night on the power play.

Hershey’s penalty killing unit, ranked last in the AHL entering the game, successfully killed off the first part of the Perreault sentence and more than half of the second before Toronto’s Andre Deveaux found daylight low to the stick side of Hershey goaltender, Michal Neuvirth, at 5:20, giving the visitors a 1-0 lead.

Early in the second period, Steve Pinizzotto’s thunderous check on Toronto’s Jiri Tlusty at 1:20 drew a pool of blood from the head area of Tlusty, and also drew the attention of the Marlie’s Bates Battaglia, a former Washington Capital, who immediately sought retribution on Pinizzotto.

Although Battaglia clearly initiated the battle, referee, Chris Cozzan, apparently saw otherwise, choosing to hand out matching fighting penalties to the combatants. Tlusty did not return to the game.

Ryan Hamilton’s holding penalty in the Hershey defensive zone on Hershey’s captain, Bryan Helmer, led to the Bears finally getting on the board at 3:32, when Alexandre Giroux struck for his 51st goal of the season, and 20th strike on the power play.

With Dean Arsene out of position while trying to exact revenge on Alex Foster, who had nailed Kyle Wilson with a stiff check seconds earlier, the Marlies quickly regained the lead at 4:41 when Todd Perry beat Neuvirth.

Keith Aucoin’s turnover in the Hershey defensive zone, led to Chris Bourque’s holding penalty, and ultimately to Deveaux’s second power play marker of the affair at 9:36, giving the Marlies a 3-1 lead.

Aucoin atoned for his defensive faux pas, beating Marlies’ netminder, Justin Pogge, with a wrist shot from the top of the right circle at 13:22, to cut his team’s deficit to a single goal.

“I tried to get off as quick as I could.  I don’t think he (Pogge) saw it right away.  I think his defenseman screened him and he saw it at the last second, but it was too late,” said Aucoin.

Immediately after Aucoin’s goal, Kip Brennan, appearing in his first game at Giant Center since February 7th, shook things up a bit when he and former Norfolk Admiral, Jay Rosehill squared off.  Brennan’s narrow victory in the tussle seemed to inspire his teammates to score 46 seconds later, tying the game at three.

Pogge contributed to his own demise by turning the puck over to the Bears’ Jay Beagle deep in Toronto’s zone.  Beagle backhanded a no-look pass to Andrew Joudrey, who quickly shoveled the puck into the vacated cage at 14:11.

“Actually, I just saw the puck go by me, and I saw the goalie was still kind of in the corner,” said Beagle.  “I was going to shoot it and at the last minute, I heard Joudrey yell my name and I dished it to him and he put it home.”

The teams went into the second intermission deadlocked at three, thanks largely to quality saves late in the period by Pogge (on Giroux), and Neuvirth (on Deveaux).

In the third period, there were not a lot of quality scoring chances for either side, and in fact, it was a low probability shot by Oskar Osala that sealed the deal for Hershey.  Osala, after gaining the Toronto zone, unleashed a wicked wrister that sailed by the glove hand of Pogge at 8:15.

Osala, when asked if he was surprised that puck found its target, joked that this goal was not unlike many of his previous 22 tallies.

 “You always ask me that after I score,” Osala laughed. “I was surprised this time because I was thinking about it, and I kind of knew I was going to shoot back to the far side. Usually, when you have time to think, it doesn’t work, but I think my wrist shot is harder than my slapshot.  Coach always bugs me about that; he always tells me not to take slapshots, but to take wrist shots.”

The Bears, steeped in talent this season, proved that they don’t have to always play a full 60 minutes to come out on top as long as they rev it up when their backs are against the wall.

“We didn’t play that good the first period, and Neuvirth made some good saves for us.  We came out the second period and played a good 40 minutes to end the game, and that penalty kill at the end was huge.” 

 

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