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Woods Takes Winning Act to Washington


As far as the long history of the Hershey Bears goes, Bob Woods will always be a “special” guy. After capturing his first Calder Cup with the Bears as a player in 1997, he proceeded to pounce upon his second as an assistant under Bruce Boudreau in 2006, where his duties included running the special teams, and finished off the “triple treat” by notching his third this season as the head coach, putting him in special company.

“They’re all good and nice in their own way. I think the differences are, as a player it’s nice because you’re one of the guys, and as a coach, you’re kind of the leader of the guys.”

Woods, who replaced Boudreau last season after Boudreau received the call to run the Washington Capitals’ bench, was well aware of the scrutiny he would be facing following up Boudreau’s highly successful run at the Hershey helm.

“Those are big shoes to fill, and to be able to show that I could do it on my own, I was pretty proud of that; but I couldn’t have done it without the guidance from Bruce.”

Despite the fact that he was leading a talented club with a heavy veteran presence in his first full season in Chocolatetown, Woods, a native of LeRoy, Saskatchewan, was confident that he could handle the challenge that awaited him.

“This is my fourth championship now, so I think I’ve got a pretty good handle of what it takes to be a champion. I think I’m fair with the guys. As long as you’re talking to them and are fair with them, they’re going to play hard for you.”

Lauded by Boudreau as a big reason why the 2006 Bears ascended to the top, Woods feted his assistant coach, Mark French as a huge factor in the 2009 triumph.

“I’ve got a great assistant in Mark, he was a big bonus for me, and I don’t know what I’d do without him.”

Peering through his crystal ball as he eyed up the 2009 campaign, Woods, who definitely knows a winning squad when he sees it, liked what he saw from the start.

“Before anyone even got here, we saw the potential and knew that we had a team, if all would keep healthy, if we could keep them all together, we knew we had all the makings of a championship team.”

Although the Bears struggled slightly, but eventually mowed down the Manitoba Moose in the finals, Woods said his charges’ chances took a pivotal turn much earlier in their playoff journey.

“I think the turning point was when we beat Wilkes-Barre in game seven. We knew that was good, and that was what we were battling for, as much for the division championship because we knew home ice would be huge. Once we got through that and won that series, even though we knew Providence was going to be tough, we knew we had that chance.”

Heading into the playoffs, with Daren Machesney faltering a bit down the stretch, and Simeon Varlamov securing a spot between the pipes for the Capitals in the NHL playoffs, many thought that Hershey’s goaltending looked to be its most problematic position. However, Woods knew that rookie, Michal Neuvirth, was capable of steadying the ship.

“Once we really got to know Neuvy, I didn’t have any doubt because I just saw he was the type of kid that he is, and nothing really bothers him.

“You think about a kid 20 years old being in an environment like Hershey, where there’s a lot of pressure, and he handled it well, under the circumstances. He showed emotion and the guys were fired up that he was doing what he was doing, and they battled hard for him.”

Now that the 41-year-old Woods has accomplished everything one can accomplish in the AHL, the powers that be in Washington have decided to give him a chance to earn “one for the thumb” as Boudreau’s assistant coach after being named to that position yesterday.

With the Capitals, he will have the opportunity to coach the defenseman, many of whom he helped develop in Hershey.

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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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