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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 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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