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  • Calder Cup Semis vs. Philly, Game 4


    The Hershey Bears completed their sweep of the Philadelphia Phantoms in the Eastern Division Semifinals on Friday night at Giant Center, beating their rivals, 1-0.

    Though there were no goals scored in the first 20 minutes of action, the Bears thoroughly dominated the Phantoms in the shot category, as well as territorially, with a shot differential of 11-4, and only the outstanding goaltending of Philly’s Jean-Sebastien Aubin kept the home team off the board.

    “You have to give Hershey credit,” said Aubin. “They played a lot different than the last few games we played them in the regular season.”

    Early in the second period, Graham Mink, who was denied by Aubin on more than one occasion in the first period, tallied on the Bears’ 6th power play of the contest, giving the Bears what would eventually prove to be the only strike of the evening.

    “You just try to get chances, and you never know which one is going to go in,” Mink said of his continued efforts. “Giroux made a great play coming around behind the net and I hit it hard, and it went in the net.”

    Only 38 seconds after Mink’s goal, while Hershey was on yet another power play, Phantoms’ Jonathan Matsumoto was awarded a penalty shot after his shorthanded breakaway attempt was illegally interrupted by Chris Bourque. Matsumoto, who, in the regular season, had previously scored a penalty shot goal against Bears’ netminder, Simeon Varlamov, had this bid negated by goaltender, Michal Neuvirth.

    Hershey’s penalty kill, outstanding and literally perfect throughout this series, proved to be an essential ingredient in their recipe for success in this series, stopping all 22 attempts, including a pair of 2-man disadvantages in the series-clinching victory.

    “Everyone on the PK has realized that special teams is going to win your series,” said Beagle. “It’s a lot more important in the playoffs, and we found a way to get the job done. It was like scoring a big goal. The crowd was roaring and they got the team fired up; all the boys on the bench were yelling, and there was an incredible electricity.”

    Hershey coach, Bob Woods, who has sipped champagne from the Calder Cup, both as a player and as an assistant coach, smiled while reflecting on his team’s hard fought victory.

    “I told the guys after the game that that’s just a taste; as we keep going here, there’s going to be more fans in here and it’s only going to get better.”

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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 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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    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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    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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    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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    Caps Recap 2/16/09


    It’s not easy to outshine a player such as Alex Ovechkin; but for this past weekend, Mike Green managed to do just that. Even though Green’s scoring run ended with eight games, he set a new league record for consecutive games with a goal scored by a defenseman. His eight game goal scoring streak was the longest such consecutive streak since the ’98-’99 season when Miroslav Satan and Teemu Selanne both had eight game runs.

     

    Ovechkin may be knocking off records held by previous Caps left and right, but Green’s achievement is one that even the Great-Eight doesn’t have yet. Green’s eight game goal scoring streak is the longest by a Capital since ’86-’87 when Mike Gartner went on a nine-game goal-scoring run. Read the rest of this entry »

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