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Bears vs. Pens East Division Finals Game 2


The Hershey Bears subscribed to Yogi Berra’s philosophy of, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” when facing the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in game two of the East Division Finals at Giant Center on Sunday evening, by continuing to display balanced scoring and solid goaltending.

The Bears made their mark on the scoreboard first when Oskar Osala, stationed high in the slot between the hash marks, uncorked a shot that eluded Pens’ goaltender, John Curry, low to the glove side, to give the Bears a 1-0 lead. Osala‘s goal was the product of only the second shot of the game for Hershey.

Hershey rookie defenseman, John Carlson, who made his professional debut in Saturday’s game, netted his 1st career goal at 13:54, stretching Hershey’s lead to 2-0.

Carlson, arriving late on the scene in an odd-man foray into Penguins’ territory, lofted a rebound over a sprawling Curry, after he had made a spectacular save on Francois Bouchard on the original shot.

“I just saw it was a 3-on-2, so I just decided to jump in and be the third guy and just got lucky with the puck sitting there in the crease and I banged it in,” said Carlson.

Carlson was just as adept in his zone during his impressive inaugural weekend in the AHL, partnered with Greg Amadio tonight after skating alongside Arsene on Saturday.

“I think they are pretty similar in style because they both like to talk a lot, and that helps me a lot,” Carlson said. “It was another great game by my partner, and it always helps when your partner is playing good.”

The Bears made it 3-0 in the latter stages of the period when Graham Mink, after receiving a pretty pass from Matthieu Perreault from behind the net, quickly unleashed a shot that buzzed by the beleaguered Curry at 17:51.

After Hershey showed it’s offensive prowess in the first period, the club put on a stellar defensive performance in the second stanza, particularly on the penalty kill which faced down a major challenge early in the period, when Mink and Steve Pinizzotto were sent to the penalty box within a span of 28 seconds, giving the visitors a two-man advantage for ninety-two seconds.

The Penguins’ power play, which struck for a pair of goals in the series opener and was ranked first in the league in the post-season entering the contest, was held in check during the sequence, and did not register a single shot on goal.

“We know how potent their offense is, especially when they have a manpower advantage,” said veteran defenseman, Dean Arsene. “It’s just a lot of hard work, and we got some good bounces in our favor. Neuvy came up with some good saves.”

The Bears’ penalty kill has undergone a transformation from worst in the league in the regular season to first in the loop in the playoffs.

“I think it’s a little more attention to detail,” said Arsene, explaining the turnaround. “Overall, I think we were just thinking a little too much instead of just going and pressuring. Anytime you can pressure people, you may not cause a turnover on the first guy, but if they keep moving it, eventually they may turn it over or give us a chance to clear it.”

The Penguins, unable to penetrate the armor of Bears’ goalie, Michal Neuvirth, until 18:04 of the third period, showed obvious frustration when taking some questionable shots at Hershey players, including Jeff Taffe’s assault on Graham Mink late in the third period.

The Bears, however, held the lead and their composure, coming up with the win, 3-1, and a 2-0 lead in the series.

“I think that’s just part of the playoffs, getting physical,” said Mink. “I knew we had a penalty there, so there wasn’t any point in me doing anything about it. You’re going to give them your best shot, and they’re going to give you theirs. That just comes with the territory. You just need to keep your head and not retaliate, because it‘s not going to help your team.”

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Calder Cup Semis vs. Philly Game 3


The Hershey Bears fashioned out a hard fought 3-2 win over the Philadelphia Phantoms on Wednesday night at Giant Center, taking a commanding 3-0 series lead in the process.

Hershey’s power play, which was in deep hibernation against their opponents from the City of Brotherly Love throughout most of the regular season series, struck for the fifth time in the series at 8:27 of the first period, with defenseman Staffan Kronwall lighting the lamp.

The other side of Hershey’s special teams coin, the penalty killing unit, ranked last in the AHL during the regular season, and continued it’s flawless performance in the playoffs, snuffing out a 29 second 5-on-3 disadvantage midway through the period. During the 5-on-3 situation, Hershey netminder, Michal Neuvirth, contributed mightily to his team’s successful venture on the penalty kill, making a sparkling save on David Laliberte to maintain the 1-0 lead.

Crime paid for the home team late in the period at 19:33, when rookie, Matthieu Perreault, sprung by a Keith Aucoin pass, and managed to get a shot over the outstretched glove of Philly backstopper, Scott Munroe, only seven seconds after his penalty for interfering with Munroe had expired.

The Phantoms were finally able to dent the scoreboard into the latter stages of the stanza, when Jonathan Kalinski dented the twine at 15:54, with former Bear, Boyd Kane, collecting an assist on the strike. Kalinski, after scoring the goal, cut Kronwall with his stick while raising his arms in celebratory fashion, but was not penalized by referee, Francois Charron, which perhaps influenced another controversial Charron call later in the affair.

Early in the third period, with Kane in the penalty box for roughing and the Bears in the midst of their third power play of the encounter, the unit surged for their second strike of the game, with Alexandre Giroux generating the goal at 1:20.

Less than four minutes after the Giroux goal, the Bears had a chance to put the Phantoms in a deeper hole when defenseman, Michael Ratchuk was penalized for hooking, putting the home team on another power play. However, rookie forward, Francois Bouchard, manning the point during the power play, made a tactical error when he dove and failed to keep the puck in the Phantoms’ zone. Bouchard’s futile efforts resulted in an odd-man shorthanded Philly rush that culminated with a goal by defenseman Lasse Kukkonen at 6:19, cutting the Bears’ lead to 3-2.

Unlike his non-call in the Kalinski incident, which did nothing to advance the Bears’ cause, Charron’s second controversial call of the affair benefited the Chocolate And White immensely.

Just as Philly forward, James van Riemsdyk had seemingly tied the game at 17:14, rifling a wrist shot past Neuvirth, Charron waved the goal off, and sent Nate Raduns, who was entangled with Hershey defenseman Greg Amadio to the left of Neuvirth, to the penalty box for a holding call.

The Phantoms, who never recovered from Charron’s non-goal call, failed to mount a serious threat to Hershey’s lead, even after pulling Munroe off of the ice in favor of an extra attacker in the last 10 seconds of regulation.

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Bears Return Phantoms’ Favor


Facing the same team, the Philadelphia Phantoms, in the same venue that they suffered one of their most heartbreaking losses on home ice five years ago to the day, the Hershey Bears exacted a little morsel of revenge, clawing out a 3-2 win over the Phantoms at Giant Center.

Hershey goaltender, Michal Neuvirth, coming off a disappointing effort the previous night in Philadelphia, was often times spectacular while picking up his 9th win of the season, stopping 29 shots that included four breakaway type launches.

Bolstered by the return of Greg Amadio and Graham Mink to their lineup, the Bears were a busy bunch in the opening moments of game, firing shots from all angles at Phantoms goaltender, Jean-Sebastien Aubin, yet failing to find a way to beat the veteran netminder through the first 13 minutes of play.

Kyle Wilson, who had not found the back of the net at Giant Center since February 11th, finally found a hole in Aubin’s armor, wristing home his 27th goal of the season at 13:25, with the Bears in the midst of their third power play of the stanza.

“The d-man gave me a little room on the wall, and I walked out,” said Wilson. “The other d-man had to cover Bouchard. I took a shot and the goalie didn’t see it because Gordon was there putting up a solid screen.”

Wilson dented the twine again early in the second period, converting from close range to give the Bears a 2-0 lead. Francois Bouchard, who was denied earlier in the shift from close range by Aubin, picked up the only official helper on the tally; however, referee, Kyle Rehman, earned a “phantom” assist, getting in the way of an attempted clearing attempt by the Phantoms.

“Not much I had to do, but find a good spot for him. He (Bouchard) put it right on my tape, and I just tapped it home,” Wilson said.

Coincidental penalties, just 10 seconds after the goal, to Hershey’s defensemen, Dean Arsene and Staffan Kromwall, set the stage for Philly’s first goal of the evening, a 5-on-3 power play strike from Luca Sbisa, which was his first goal of the season.

Sbisa’s goal was the last goal of the second period, and Wilson was denied his hat trick at seven minutes after being sprung by a long outlet pass by Amadio, who returned after a 17 game absence.

“I don’t think it was overly tough to stay positive (while not playing), but definitely it was a mental battle to keep pushing myself to be in tip top shape when I came back,” said Amadio.

Shortly after Neuvirth denied Patrick Maroon’s point blank attempt, Kronwall scored the eventual game-winner at 14:49, making the score 3-1.

“Joudrey won the draw clean,” said Kronwall, whose goal was his 2nd in a Bears’ uniform. “I saw the other guy was kind of cheating on me, and I cut across and somehow it made it through.”

With the Phantoms on the power play, and Aubin on the bench in favor of an extra attacker, Maroon cut Hershey’s lead to 3-2, banking a shot off of Hershey defenseman, Karl Alzner, at 18:34.

Philly failed to get the equalizer in the final seconds of play, despite some intense moments which included Amadio defending the Bears’ den without his stick by gloving the puck out of harm’s way.

“I had no stick and I saw the puck,” said Amadio. “It was just a reaction that I dove and hit it with my hand, and thank God it went into the corner.”

With their win, the Bears clinched the AHL’s Eastern Division Championship; yet, Kronwall still sees room for improvement in his team’s play.

“I’m not very happy with the way we played. You’ve got to give them credit, but I don’t think we played at all the way we should be playing right now going into the playoffs.”

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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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