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Calder Cup Finals vs. Manitoba Game 4


The Hershey Bears, facing an unfamiliar situation in the playoffs at Giant Center, trailing after one period of play, responded in familiar fashion, scoring the last two goals of the game and emerging with a 2-1 win over the Manitoba Moose on Sunday evening to take a 3-1 series lead in the best of seven Calder Cup Finals.

Raymond Sawada gave the Moose a 1-0 lead 11:37 into the first period, rifling a wrist shot past Hershey goaltender, Michal Neuvirth, from between the face-off circles.

Neuvirth’s counterpart, Cory Schneider, who has been outstanding between the pipes for the Moose against the high octane Hershey attack, kept the Bears off the board late in the period, repelling Mathieu Perreault’s backhand attempt from close range to keep it a 1-0 game after twenty minutes of play.

Just as Schneider did late in the first period, Neuvirth nullified high-scoring Moose forward, Michael Grabner’s, backhand attempt in the opening minute of the second period with the visitors in the midst of a power play.

Kyle Wilson willed home the equalizer for the Bears 5:11 into the second period, wristing a shot by the glove hand of Schneider, after the Moose netminder lost his angle and gave Wilson a huge target at which to shoot. Wilson’s goal was his third of the playoffs and his first since the opening game of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton series.

“Gordon made a great play with a little saucer pass to me,” said Wilson, who has never missed a playoff game in his three-year Hershey career. “I had to fight off a couple guys and get myself free to make a good shot. By the time I did that, the goalie had committed down pretty low, so I had to get up and over him.”

Bear’s defenseman John Carlson, who made his debut in Hershey during game one against the Baby Pens and picked up the secondary assist on Wilson’s goal, is enjoying the rollercoaster ride in his rookie season.

“It’s an unbelievable experience and opportunity to be placed in a situation like this. Some guys never get it, and here I am, 19 years old, and having a shot to do it. I couldn’t ask for anything more,” said Carlson, the Washington Capitals’ 1st round selection in the 2008 draft.

Schneider regained his sharpness after the Wilson goal, denying a pair of quality chances by Hershey’s leading point scorer, Keith Aucoin to send the game into the third period, knotted at 1-1.

Early in the third period, Quintin Laing, Hershey’s inspirational leader, delivered a crunching hit on Manitoba’s Dusty Collins, giving his team an emotional lift and seemed to provide a spark in the step of the home team.

“I was a little cautious about throwing my body around in my first game back, but after I took a couple of good hits and handled those and nothing happened to me, I figured if I could take them, I could give them,” said Laing, who will celebrate his 30th birthday on Monday.

With former Capital, Nolan Baumgartner, already in the box serving a penalty for hooking, a sloppy line change cost the Moose another skater, and gave the Bears a 5-on-3 opportunity for 65 seconds.

Thanks to some early communication problems between Keith Aucoin and Staffan Kronwall, Hershey used 63 of those precious seconds before Aucoin atoned for his error in judgment by depositing an errant shot by Alexandre Giroux into the cage.

“I screwed up at the beginning, throwing it down the other end,” said Aucoin. “I got a lucky bounce off the wall there and was able to capitalize. I had a lot of shots high, and I was due for one.”

Despite a Moose power play chance at the end of the game, the Bears held on for the win, with Neuvirth preserving his win by kicking aside Jason Krog’s bid in the closing seconds.

Hershey’s victory moved them within just one win of capturing their 10th Calder Cup Championship, which would be their first on home ice since 1980 when the Bears defeated the New Brunswick Hawks, a team which featured former Bears’ coach, Bruce Boudreau as its leading scorer.

Laing, a nine year veteran in search of his first professional championship, favors Hershey’s position, but views Tuesday’s game with caution.

“It’s a good feeling to be this close, but we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us. The clinching game has always been the toughest the last three rounds. We’re expecting a good, hard fight, and the crowd is going to be behind us; hopefully we can feed off of them.”

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Kyle Wilson: Consistency Is His Game


If one were searching for one word to describe Hershey Bears forward Kyle Wilson on the ice, flashy would not be that word; however, one word that definitely fits Wilson to a tee is ‘consistent’, something he has been since his impressive debut as a Bear against the Manitoba Moose at Giant Center, when he scored a pair of goals, including the game-winning goal.

Not unexpectedly, the steady Wilson, now standing 6’0” and weighing in at 200 lbs., not huge by current NHL standards, patterned his game during his youth hockey days after a player with similar physical characteristics.

“Growing up, I was surprisingly a pretty small guy and I really didn’t grow until high school,” said Wilson by phone on Thursday. “I always loved watching Joe Sakic play; he was always so creative with the puck. Every time he would score a great goal, I would go and try to do it in practice the next day.”

Wilson was drafted by the Minnesota Wild in the 2004 NHL draft, one slot ahead of the Buffalo Sabres’ 273rd pick, Dylan Hunter, son of Washington Capitals’ legend, Dale Hunter. As with any decision Wilson makes on the ice, a lot of thought was put into his decision to choose college over the Canadian junior ranks.

“Playing through juniors and whatnot, you always see the coaches and guys who were
great players, but they had their injuries and couldn’t make it and had nothing to fall back on,” said Wilson, a native of Oakville, Ontario. “I had really good grades in high school and my parents were obviously pushing me to get an education. I was given a great opportunity to go to Colgate and it was hard to pass up.”

Not only did Wilson earn his degree in Physics at Colgate University, but he also put up impressive numbers on the ice during his senior year, leading the team in scoring with 41 points, and earning second team ECACHL All-Conference honors.

After failing to stick with the San Antonio Rampage at the beginning of his rookie season, Wilson was dispatched to the South Carolina Stingrays for a brief stint before being called up to Hershey in December 2006.

“San Antonio gave me an opportunity but they really didn’t have room for me and they put me on the wing. Any player getting called up for the first time to a new team, you just have to try and keep it simple and work as hard as you can and hopefully, your instincts take over,” said Wilson.

He continued, “When Hershey called me up, they put me at center and they gave me a couple of good wingers right off the bat and basically said, here is your shot, show what you can do, and it’s worked out for me. I ran into a great situation here in Hershey and they really helped me and taught me a lot, and that really benefited me and made me the player that I am.”
Wilson, who scored nearly a point per game in Hershey’s 2006-07 Calder Cup Finals, has seen his numbers drop significantly in this year’s playoffs, primarily due to his increased responsibilities in his own zone.

“I’m definitely a lot better defensive player now. Woody has shown confidence in me by putting me in a lot more defensive situations than before. Whatever it takes to win, that’s what you have to do and hopefully I can contribute more in this series.”

The location of Wilson’s future contributions is unknown, as he heads into Restricted Free Agency this summer. For now, though, Wilson, like his teammates, is focused on attaining the four more wins needed for a Calder Cup Championship.

“I’ll figure all that out at the end of the year after the season is over. The ball is in their (Washington’s) court. I’d love to get an opportunity to get some NHL time, but I love it here in Hershey, and it’s obviously a great place to play. It’s gotten me to the Calder Cup Finals twice.”

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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 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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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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Bears Trip Toronto 3.25.09


Following the same successful formula they utilized during the latter stages of their recent road trip, the Hershey Bears came from behind once again to defeat the Toronto Marlies on Wednesday night at Giant Center, 4-3.

Matthieu Perreault’s double minor penalty for high-sticking Toronto’s Alex Berry at 1:49 gave the Marlies the first crack of the night on the power play.

Hershey’s penalty killing unit, ranked last in the AHL entering the game, successfully killed off the first part of the Perreault sentence and more than half of the second before Toronto’s Andre Deveaux found daylight low to the stick side of Hershey goaltender, Michal Neuvirth, at 5:20, giving the visitors a 1-0 lead.

Early in the second period, Steve Pinizzotto’s thunderous check on Toronto’s Jiri Tlusty at 1:20 drew a pool of blood from the head area of Tlusty, and also drew the attention of the Marlie’s Bates Battaglia, a former Washington Capital, who immediately sought retribution on Pinizzotto.

Although Battaglia clearly initiated the battle, referee, Chris Cozzan, apparently saw otherwise, choosing to hand out matching fighting penalties to the combatants. Tlusty did not return to the game.

Ryan Hamilton’s holding penalty in the Hershey defensive zone on Hershey’s captain, Bryan Helmer, led to the Bears finally getting on the board at 3:32, when Alexandre Giroux struck for his 51st goal of the season, and 20th strike on the power play.

With Dean Arsene out of position while trying to exact revenge on Alex Foster, who had nailed Kyle Wilson with a stiff check seconds earlier, the Marlies quickly regained the lead at 4:41 when Todd Perry beat Neuvirth.

Keith Aucoin’s turnover in the Hershey defensive zone, led to Chris Bourque’s holding penalty, and ultimately to Deveaux’s second power play marker of the affair at 9:36, giving the Marlies a 3-1 lead.

Aucoin atoned for his defensive faux pas, beating Marlies’ netminder, Justin Pogge, with a wrist shot from the top of the right circle at 13:22, to cut his team’s deficit to a single goal.

“I tried to get off as quick as I could.  I don’t think he (Pogge) saw it right away.  I think his defenseman screened him and he saw it at the last second, but it was too late,” said Aucoin.

Immediately after Aucoin’s goal, Kip Brennan, appearing in his first game at Giant Center since February 7th, shook things up a bit when he and former Norfolk Admiral, Jay Rosehill squared off.  Brennan’s narrow victory in the tussle seemed to inspire his teammates to score 46 seconds later, tying the game at three.

Pogge contributed to his own demise by turning the puck over to the Bears’ Jay Beagle deep in Toronto’s zone.  Beagle backhanded a no-look pass to Andrew Joudrey, who quickly shoveled the puck into the vacated cage at 14:11.

“Actually, I just saw the puck go by me, and I saw the goalie was still kind of in the corner,” said Beagle.  “I was going to shoot it and at the last minute, I heard Joudrey yell my name and I dished it to him and he put it home.”

The teams went into the second intermission deadlocked at three, thanks largely to quality saves late in the period by Pogge (on Giroux), and Neuvirth (on Deveaux).

In the third period, there were not a lot of quality scoring chances for either side, and in fact, it was a low probability shot by Oskar Osala that sealed the deal for Hershey.  Osala, after gaining the Toronto zone, unleashed a wicked wrister that sailed by the glove hand of Pogge at 8:15.

Osala, when asked if he was surprised that puck found its target, joked that this goal was not unlike many of his previous 22 tallies.

 “You always ask me that after I score,” Osala laughed. “I was surprised this time because I was thinking about it, and I kind of knew I was going to shoot back to the far side. Usually, when you have time to think, it doesn’t work, but I think my wrist shot is harder than my slapshot.  Coach always bugs me about that; he always tells me not to take slapshots, but to take wrist shots.”

The Bears, steeped in talent this season, proved that they don’t have to always play a full 60 minutes to come out on top as long as they rev it up when their backs are against the wall.

“We didn’t play that good the first period, and Neuvirth made some good saves for us.  We came out the second period and played a good 40 minutes to end the game, and that penalty kill at the end was huge.” 

 

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