Over 10,000 fans filled the Giant Center Tuesday night with the intent of cheering the Hershey Bears to their 10th Calder Cup title, which would have been the first on home ice since 1980. However, the Manitoba Moose put a kink in those plans when they bested the Bears, 3-2 in Game 5 of the series, sending the series back to Manitoba.
Manitoba Moose goaltender, Corey Schneider, with his team registering only four shots in the period, the first not coming until twelve minutes into the stanza, showed why he was the recipient of this year’s Baz Bastein Award, which is symbolic of the best goaltender in the AHL during the regular season by stopping all 12 shots he faced.
While his team seemingly had to be frustrated with the mystery of Schneider, Bears’ forward, Graham Mink, said that was not the case when the question was posed to him.
“No, not at all. We’ve had better periods than that and not scored,” said Mink. “We certainly had a lot of pressure, and you have to take your hat off to Schneider. He played an unbelievable game tonight and kept them in the game until they got their two goals there real quick in the second.”
Schneider, who finished the game with 31 saves, was named the star of the game for keeping his team in the game, especially during the early stages, said that surviving the first 20 minutes unscathed was a vital component to his team’s success.
“I think that was the key to the game. We knew they were going to come out real hard and try to bury us in the first period,” Schneider said. “For me, I knew I had to be sharp in the first period and give my team a chance to get our legs under us and get over the crowd and their energy.”
After the Moose weathered the first period storm, the second period was all theirs, at least in the goal scoring department, as they netted the only goals of period, markers 1:07 apart, off the blades of Michael Grabner and Cody Hodgson, to take a 2-0 lead into the second intermission.
Mink was a man on a mission in the third period, depositing Alexandre Bolduc into the Hershey bench with a thunderous check, and then depositing the puck behind Schneider to cut Manitoba’s lead in half.
“Our team has been a pretty good third period team, and we wanted to come out hard and stay physical,” said Mink. “Aucoin made a great play to get me the puck there and I had the empty net when Schneider went down.”
Mink’s goal stood as the only one of the period until Jason Krog’s empty netter at 18:39, which proved to be the game-winning goal after John Carlson scored with just 31 seconds left in regulation.
After the game, Mink, while disappointed that the Bears were not able to claim the Cup on home ice, chose not to dwell on the negative aspects of the setback.
“I just wanted to win so bad, and I want to win so bad every night. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen tonight. We’re just going to have to use that in a positive way on Friday.”