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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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Ready to Lead the Rays


As a player, Cail MacLean made Hershey Bears’ history by scoring the first goal ever at Giant Center, and if one judges by the Washington Capitals’ organization’s recent history of hiring coaches from within, the rookie head coach of the South Carolina Stingrays could stand next in line to make history behind the bench in Chocolatetown.

Going undrafted, despite a 34-goal total in his final year of junior hockey, MacLean’s ties to the Capitals organization started immediately in rookie season of 1997-98, where he skated for former Washington head coach, Bruce “Butch” Cassidy, with the Jacksonville Lizard Kings of the East Coast Hockey League.

In addition to his stay in Jacksonville that season, MacLean also had brief auditions with the Cincinnati Mighty Ducks of the American Hockey League and Cleveland Lumberjacks of the International Hockey League, setting an early tone for what became a trend throughout his playing days.

“I like to think that I understand a lot of different situations because I had been in so many different ones over the course of my playing career,” said MacLean, who skated for 15 different teams over the course of 11 seasons in the pro ranks. “I know what these guys are trying to do and the pressure that they put on themselves.”

After the conclusion of the 2004-05 season, which he split between the Bears and Reading Royals of the ECHL while on a Hershey contract, MacLean realized that he had been bitten by the coaching bug for the first time.

“I had played most of the previous year in Reading, being under contract with Hershey and Reading. I had always had a prominent leadership role in my playing career, from junior on,” said MacLean, who captained three different ECHL clubs.

“I thought that I was getting older and my sights were no longer set on the NHL, and I really appreciated the leadership aspect. So, I went down there and tried to take note on the coaching aspect and see if I could convert my love of leadership to coaching.”

While beginning a head-coaching career in South Carolina on the heels of the perennial ECHL powerhouse’s third Kelly Cup title might seem like a tall challenge, one shouldn’t shortchange MacLean’s chances of overcoming obstacles, like he did so many times in his days of donning a hockey sweater.

“My job is to win hockey games, but I think it is equally important to develop good young hockey players and good young people. I want to come in and do the best job I can in South Carolina. I was fortunate to work under Jared Bednar last year (as an assistant coach); he was an exceptional coach at our level. I’m looking forward to carrying on that winning tradition.”

MacLean, quiet, yet insightful, often used the term “tradition” during our conversation, but I got the feeling that he has a deeper sense of the true meaning of that term than the average player. So, it’s not surprising that his “heightened sense of history” factored heavily into the Middleton, Nova Scotia native triggering the red light on his historic goal.

“To score the first goal in the history of that building was a real honor,” said MacLean who scored an AHL high 16 goals that season with the Bears. “It’s one of those moments that I knew that being in Giant Center that night, I understood how much tradition had come before us and we were about to embark on another era of that.”

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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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