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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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    Kullman Keeps Bears Well Equipped


    There is a banner that hangs from the rafters of Giant Center with the name ‘Kullman‘, and that banner is for Hershey Bears’ hockey hall-of-famer, Arnie Kullman. However, if any current or recent Bears go on to achieve such an acclaim in Chocolatetown as Arnie, it will be in part because of his grandson, Bears’ equipment manager, Justin Kullman.

    Kullman, who has held his position for the past six seasons, is a graduate of Lower Dauphin High School in Hummelstown, where he posted some impressive numbers as player, including the 2002-03 season when he potted 22 goals (and 13 assists) in only 12 games.

    “All my life I was always around the rink. I started playing at a young age and I always had a pretty good touch as far as scoring goals,” said Kullman.

    Progressing no further than the high school ranks as a player, Kullman knew that if he wanted to get to the pro ranks, it would have to be in another capacity.

    “I was kind of burned out on the game (as a player). I knew that I wanted to be an equipment guy, so joined up with the Bears in 1997-98 and built up to where I am today (equipment manager).”

    Always close to the action, and often times unable to see the puck either because of players standing in front of him, or preparing for whatever equipment needs arise, Kullman has been fortunate to avoid errant pucks.

    “I’ve dodged a few, but never been seriously struck,” he said.

    However, in Bob Woods’ first game as head coach, a game at the Wachovia Center in Philadelphia, Kullman’s luck in avoiding unwanted contact with the vulcanized rubber ended when he was struck near his ear. Just like the tough-as-nails players that he equips, a bruised Kullman did not leave the bench after the hit.

    “That was probably the worst hit I’ve taken. I took it right off the side of my face. It was stunning; it didn’t hurt, and it just stunned me,” said Kullman.

    Bears’ forward, Quintin Laing, like Kullman, does his job in an often unseen way and knows Kullman’s importance to the team.

    “He means a lot to the team because he does a lot,” said Laing. “He kind of goes unnoticed for a lot of stuff that he does, but the guys really appreciate it.”

    Typically, when the Bears travel to Albany, the game will be contested on a Friday evening, yet for Kullman and his helpers, the journey starts much earlier.

    “We leave after practice on Thursday. We get up there early in the evening and go to the rink and unpack; that takes about an hour. Then we get stuff ready for Friday morning’s pre-game skate. I’ll get over to the rink at about 8:00 and prep the room with laundry and jerseys. The guys will roll in at about 10:00 (for an 11:00 practice). I do all the skates in the morning; then after practice, it’s Groundhog Day again, setting up the room with laundry and jerseys for the game.”

    Without hesitation, Kullman, unlike many of his contemporaries in the AHL, can count on his trusty band of helping hands to lighten the workload.

    “We’re very fortunate here because we have a lot of helpers who love to come to the rink and help out,” Kullman said. “But there are cities that you go to that they find it hard to get kids to come down to the rink and help, and get people that you can trust. Here in Hershey, it’s not a problem. We have kids that you can depend on and trust.”

    As in life itself, the world of hockey equipment is ever-evolving, with new ground-breaking technology only a moment away .

    “Every day there’s something new. There’s either a new pair of skates out on the market with a heated blade, or there’s a new stick design, new gear that’s smaller and makes you faster. It’s just like a cell phone. One day you get a brand new phone, and the next day it’s outdated because something newer and better has come along.”

    If you’ve ever wondered how a player who breaks or loses his stick is so quickly able to get a new stick with all of the chaos going on, Kullman says that like in anything else in hockey, it’s a team effort.

    “For sure I’ve got to pay attention, but there’s 20 players’ eyes and staff’s eyes as well. Somebody usually sees it and starts yelling the number; you need to know exactly where the sticks are on the rack. Sometimes, it takes a little longer, but I’m usually able to grab it and get throw it out there in time.”

    Kullman, who by virtue of the Bears’ 2006 Calder Cup triumph had his named etched on the trophy, fondly remembers his time with the Cup in the summer of 2006.

    “My family was visiting from Florida, so we spent the day with it up in the woods at my cabin. It’s always nice to look back at the photos. All that you want to do is win it again, because there’s nothing like it.”

    The down to earth Kullman, despite all of the celebration that went with entertaining the Cup, made sure that he took time to remember a special friend, Steve Serche, a locker room attendant who departed this life before the Cup victory.

    “Steve passed away earlier that season, so I made time to take the Cup out to his grave and spend time with his family there.”

    Through good and bad, whether it’s the first game of the season or Game 7 of the Calder Cup finals, the Bears are lucky to have Kullman behind the bench, making sure they are well-equipped to handle any situation.

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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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    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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    Pens Stuff Bears’ Attack


    The menacing Bears, flying high on a five-game winning streak, were grounded by the Wilkes-Barre Penguins, who handed the home team their 3rd shutout of the season, and their first whitewashing at home since December 18, 2005, in a game that was also against the Baby Pens.

    In the opening stanza, the Bears, despite registering 11 shots on goal, never seriously tested WBS goaltender, John Curry. However, their penalty-killing unit, still ranked last in the league, faced a substantial test in the WBS power play, recently bolstered by the addition of longtime NHL player, Miroslav Satan.

    After the Bears dodged a bullet on their first venture on the penalty kill, the Penguins struck pay dirt on the second, with Dustin Jeffrey netting the goal at 19:12. Jeffrey, after receiving a Chris Minard pass from behind the net, outraced Hershey’s Chris Bourque to the slot, then quickly shuffled the biscuit behind Hershey netminder, Simeon Varlamov. Varlamov, the hard-luck loser, stopped 36 of 37 shots in the contest.

    Even with the benefit of being afforded all three second period power plays, the Bears were still unable to shake the slumber from their lumber in the second period, getting only six shots on goal in the stanza.

    The Penguins had the best scoring chance of the period when Jeff Taffe narrowly missed giving the visitors a 2-0 lead at 4:30 of the second period, sliding a Minard pass just past the left post moments after Hershey squandered a 3-on-1 charge into the WBS zone.

    Late in the period a pair of unlikely combatants dropped the gloves in anger when Hershey’s Andrew Gordon and WBS’ Minard fought. Gordon, engaging in the first fight of his professional career, fared well in his first professional bout, winning a narrow decision on this judge’s scorecard. When asked to critique his fight after the game, Gordon, who was addressed by his passing teammates as “Killer” and “Gordon the Butcher”, seemed to have enjoyed the experience.

    “I’d say it was two guys who probably don’t go too often,” Gordon joked. “He (Minard) was joking about it afterwards, saying, ‘If I knew you could fight, I wouldn’t have asked you’. I didn’t know I could, either, so it was a mystery to both of us,” Gordon laughed.

    The Bears picked up the pace in the third period, registering 14 shots on goal and accruing another three power plays, including a 5-on-3 for 1:15, yet were unable to crack Curry, who earned his 4th shutout of the season.

    Gordon, who registered three shots on net, was not surprised by the low scoring affair:

    “Their defensemen are so big, and it’s tough to penetrate on them. They have good reaches, and they play simple and stick to their system,” said Gordon. “So, it’s usually a tough game when we play them. The majority of the games we’ve played against them have been one-goal games and shootouts. It’s always a tight chess match with these guys.”

    After the defeat, Hershey head coach, Bob Woods, who took the loss in stride, seemed satisfied that his team gave their best effort.

    “I think we know we can play with those guys. It’s a pretty good team over there. You look at the depth they have; those first three lines are as good as anybody’s.”

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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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    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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    Hershey Rules by Downing Monarchs


    The Hershey Bears finished up their three game road swing in royal fashion on Sunday, surviving a nine round shootout to outlast the Manchester Monarchs, 3-2, at Verizon Wireless Arena.

    Hershey net minder, Michal Neuvirth, was outstanding while collecting his 5th win of the season and 1st away from the friendly confines of Giant Center, stopping 47-of-49 Manchester shots. The 49 shots against represented a season high for the Chocolate and White.

    Graham Mink, scoring his league leading 10th first goal of the game, tallied on the power play just 51 seconds into the game to stake Hershey to an early 1-0 lead. Mink’s goal, with Manchester goaltender, Jonathan Bernier, as the victim, was his 31st of the season, tying his career high set in 2006-07 with the Worcester Sharks.

    Manchester tied the game late in the first period when Trevor Lewis beat Neuvirth on the power play at 18:11.

    The Monarchs managed the only goal of the second period, another late period strike, with veteran Marty Murray doing the damage at 19:30. Murray, after a beautiful fake by Tom Preissing froze the Hershey defense, gently guided the biscuit into then yawning cage.

    Alexandre Giroux, on the power play, tied the game at 3:58 of the period with his historic 50th goal of the season. Giroux, who reached the 50-goal plateau for the first time in his pro career, became only the 5th player in the 71 year history of Hershey hockey to hit the half-century mark.

    In the first three rounds of the shootout, neither Neuvirth or Bernier fared well, with each goalie stopping just one of three attempts. However, in rounds four through eight, Bernier and Neuvirth successfully faced down the challenge of each shooter, setting the stage for the ninth inning heroics of Keith Aucoin, who bested Bernier in the top of the frame. Neuvirth jammed the efforts of Manchester’s Justin Azevedo, Manchester’s last hope to seal the deal for Hershey.

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    Ferocious Bears Plank Pirates


    The Hershey Bears, buoyed by three unanswered third period goals, stunned the Portland Pirates with a 5-4 comeback win at the Cumberland County Civic Center on Saturday night.

    Hershey’s all-rookie line of Oskar Osala, Matthieu Perreault, and Francois Bouchard, which enjoyed considerable success earlier in the season but had recently been broken up, combined for the first goal of the game at 2:15 of the first period, with Osala finding the back of the net.

    The homestanding Pirates took control of the game after Osala’s goal, receiving single tallies from Mark Mancari, Marek Zagrapan, and Marc-Andre Gragnani to take a 3-1 lead into the first intermission.

    Early in the second period, Portland continued to pounce on the wounded Bears and goaltender, Daren Machesney, when Felix Schultz scored at 3:42 to give the Pirates a 4-1 lead.

    Kyle Wilson, appearing in his 182nd consecutive game, started the Hershey comeback late in the second period when he netted his 25th goal of the season at 16:25 to make it a 4-2 game.

    Mancari’s elbow infraction in the last minute of the second period gave Hershey a chance to cut further into the Portland lead before the second intermission. The Bears, although unable to register the man-up goal during the remainder of the second stanza, quickly capitalized on the remainder of the Mancari penalty when Alexandre Giroux lit the lamp 36 seconds into the third period.

    With just under two minutes left in regulation, Giroux once again beat Portland net minder, Jhonas Enroth, earning his 49th strike of the season and tying the game at four at 18:33. Giroux’s “two-tally” period was the 6th time in the 2008-09 campaign that the AHL’s leading goal scorer has accomplished that feat.

    Staffan Kronwall capped the Bears’ comeback at 19:21, beating his fellow countryman, Enroth, with a point blast that was assisted by Giroux and Graham Mink, a former Pirate.

    Notes- Machesney, who did not allow a goal over the final 36:18 of the game, earned his 19th win of the year, surpassing Simeon Varlamov for the team lead in that category…Former Bear, Mathieu Darche, assisted on the Gragnani goal…Keith Aucoin, the AHL’s leading point producer, was held scoreless for the second straight game…Hershey finishes off their three game road swing on Sunday afternoon in Manchester.

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