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East Division Finals vs. Pens Game 6


The Hershey Bears, facing a must-win situation on Sunday evening at Giant Center, responded magnificently to the challenge when they shut out the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, 3-0.

The whitewash was the Penguins first game without scoring a goal since their contest with the Albany River Rats on March 21, 2008.

Bears’ goaltender, Michal Neuvirth, who politely declined to comment after the game, citing illness as the reason, let his actions do the talking during the game, stopping all 30 shots fired in his direction, including a pair of dandies in the middle portion of the second period from Nick Johnson and Bill Thomas.

After an initial early feeling-out sequence that featured plenty of action, but no finishing, Andrew Gordon gave the Bears a 1-0 lead at 11:35 of the opening period. Gordon, with his linemate, Chris Bourque, created congestion in the crease area, and patiently waited for Pens’ netminder, Adam Berkhoel, to commit before depositing a wrist shot behind him.

“The defenseman that was originally on me went down and forced Wilson, and Bourque was sort of tied up in front,” said Gordon, whose goal was his third of the playoffs. “I knew if I could get to that far post, Bourque had net side on him, so he was blocking him out a little bit. When I got the puck from Wilson, I just kept thinking, ‘I’ve got to get this up top’.”

Early in the second period, Darren Reid, used primarily in a defensive role by Woods in the regular season, eluded the grasp of former Bears’ defenseman, Deryk Engelland, then used a sweet backahand-to-forehand move to best Berkhoel at 22 seconds.

The line of Darren Reid, Andrew Joudrey, and Steve Pinizzotto played a pivotal role in getting the Bears off to a good start in each of the three periods. Hershey head coach, Bob Woods, who, thanks to getting the last line change due to being on home ice, expertly exercised his power to put specific personnel on the ice, explained that the matchup was exactly what he had intended.

“They were playing against the guys we had them scheduled to play against,” said Woods. “Whoever they started, we knew who we were starting, and that’s who it worked out with. Those three are probably good guys to start your period. They’re going to be energy, they’re going to get pucks deep, they’re going to cycle, they’re going to bang, and usually good things happen from that; it’s contagious.”

Referee, Frederic L’Ecuyer, who did not call any penalties in the first period, whistled the Pens’ Nick Johnson off the ice at 2:09, giving the Bears the first power play of the game. With Johnson in the “joint” doing his time, Alexandre Giroux beat Berkhoel with a wraparound power play goal at 3:11 to give the Bears a 3-0 lead.

“I didn’t think about the goalie or anything,” Giroux said. “I was going to stop at the blue line and wait for the guys because we were on the power play, and try to set up. I saw the defenseman (Engelland) step out on me, so I had a lot of speed and decided to keep going. I saw a little opening and I put it in.”

Giroux’s goal stood as the last goal of the game, with Gordon garnering his first career game-winning goal. The 23-year-old Gordon, who has quietly assumed an unofficial leadership role, was humbled when asked if he envisioned himself in that position.

“I’m sort of caught somewhere between a young guy and an older guy. I’m only a 2nd year pro, so guys like Perreault and Bouchard and Carlson, who are a little younger than me, can feel a little more comfortable talking to me rather than an older veteran like Mink, who plays a different style. I’ll assess that role if that’s what I’m being given. It’s great if I can play a leadership role on a team as special as this.”

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Bears vs. WB/S Pens Eastern Finals 1


Balance was the buzz word at Giant Center following the Hershey Bears’ 5-3 victory over the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in the first game of the Eastern Division Finals on Saturday night.

While taking their 1-0 lead in the series, the Bears received goals from five different players. That, combined with the outstanding performances from special teams units, factored heavily into the triumph.

“I think that’s (balanced scoring) been one of our strengths all year long, and this time of year, usually that’s how it works,” said Bears’ head coach, Bob Woods. “You look at the NHL series, and it’s not always the big dogs scoring all the time. Our (big) guys scored a couple nice goals, but for the most part, you have to have chip ins from everybody. I think that’s what makes us dangerous.”

After Hershey’s penalty killing unit continued it’s perfect post-season pace, killing off an early Penguins’ power play, the Bears struck with a power play goal of their own, with defenseman, Staffan Kronwall, supplying the charge at 9:38 of the first period.

Kronwall, who sat out Hershey’s series clinching win over the Phantoms last Friday after suffering a scratched cornea in the previous game, fired a seeing-eye shot that deflected off Pens’ defenseman, Joey Mormina.

Chris Bourque, a former college teammate of Penguins’ net minder, John Curry, cued a shot off him at 11:13, giving the Bears a 2-0 advantage.

“I knew someone was going to shoot it, and I wasn’t even watching it,” Bourque said. “I just kind of put my stick out there, and it hit my stick and went to the backboards. I knew Curry wasn’t getting to the post as quick as he could have, and I banked it off his skate and barely made it over the line.”

Late in the first period, Hershey’s Oskar Osala, hooked down by Mormina after receiving a pass from Alzner, was awarded a penalty shot by referee, Ghislain Hebert. Osala’s awkward attempt beat Curry, but failed to find the back of the net, ricocheting harmlessly off the post.

The visitors tied the game in the latter stages of the second period when Jean-Michel Daoust and Nick Johnson scored less than three minutes apart.

At 19:43 of the stanza, Andrew Gordon’s power play goal gave the Bears a lead that they refused to surrender for the remainder of the evening.

“Helmer good at finding those lanes, so that’s my job on the power play, to get in front of the net and stir up some traffic and make it tough for the goalie to see,” said Gordon. “It was one of those plays where I swung my stick at it. I probably do that a hundred times a game and don’t connect on any of them, but I was fortunate to get my stick on that one.”

Gordon showed another side to his game, setting up Kyle Wilson for a slam dunk at 1:38 of the third period.

Baby Pen Johnson, who scored the game winner in the regular season finale between the two teams, added a second goal to his playoff resume, keeping the Bears on their toes.

Hershey’s big gun, Alexandre Gioux, put a halt to the Penguins’ comeback march, scoring his third goal of the playoffs to ice the game, 5-3.

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