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BEARS BLITZ RATS


The Hershey Bears continued their record-setting ways on home ice on Friday night at Giant Center, racing by the Albany River Rats with six unanswered goals to cruise to their 24th consecutive home ice victory by a score of 8-2.

The Bears displayed their offensive balance with seven different players finding the back of the net, and by scoring eight goals in the game, which was the 9th time this season they have accomplished that feat.

The first 13 minutes of the game were relatively quiet because of neither team generating much offense, with only a subplot being newsworthy. The sideshow involved former Bear, Oskar Osala, taking a run at new Bears’ defenseman, Grant Lewis, and then being pursued and checked by Andrew Gordon.

“My first reaction was one of the guys on our team got hit, and it’s one of the new guys, so I wanted to let him know that we were going to back him up,” said Gordon. “I know he’s only been here a couple days, but at the same time, he’s on the team, and we’re going to stick up for him like anybody else. When I saw it was Oskar, I wasn’t going to do anything crazy. I know he’s not out there trying to hurt guys.”

The Bears lit the lamp for the first time of many when Chris Bourque buzzed a running wrist shot by the glove of Albany netminder, Mike Morrison, at 13:18.

Former Bears defenseman, Jonathan Paiement, authored Albany’s first goal of the game and tied the contest at one when he beat starting Bears netminder, Michal Neuvirth, with a blueline blast at 15:01.

Andrew Gordon, the Bears workaholic winger who is having a career year in the goal scoring department, added his 32nd goal of the season with only 42 seconds remaining in the first period.

“I was trying to slide it doing to Aucoin and do a little give and go, but I sort of fanned on it and the puck bobbled,” said Gordon, who has scored in five of the last six home outings. “Once I bobbled it, the D bit down towards Aucoin which opened me up. It was an accidental bobble that turned out in my favor. Hard work pays off, I guess.”

Neuvirth, the second year pro from the Czech Republic who was pulled in his last start in Worcester on Sunday after allowing five goals on twenty-one shots before being replaced, was replaced once again by Braden Holtby when the teams returned to the ice to start the second period, departing the contest with a lower body injury.

“I actually found out I was going in with about a minute left in the first,” Holtby said. “I had no idea what was going on. Alzner nudged me and told me that I was going in. I was wondering why because he had only given up one goal, but I think it was his knee again. It’s unfortunate for him, but as a backup, I had to be prepared for that. I was lucky the guys played an outstanding game after I came in.”

Paiement again dialed long distance and found another connection early in the second period at 4:42, beating Holtby for at 4:42 with Albany on the power play. With the two goals on the evening, Paiement now counts four goals to his credit this campaign, with three of those being struck at Giant Center against the Bears.

“It went through so many legs, and I have no idea how it got through. It’s just one of those seeing-eye shots you can’t do anything about,” said Holtby of the only goal he allowed on the evening.

Hershey regained the lead for good less than a minute after Paiement’s game-tying goal when Keith Aucoin batted an airborne Alexandre Giroux pass behind Morrison at 5:30.

“I knew Giroux was going to pass it to me, and it kind of rolled on him,” Aucoin said. “I got lucky because the puck was wobbling, and I was able to get my stick on it and it went in.”

Exactly one minute after Gordon’s goal that was disallowed because of the puck being kicked into the net, Michael Dubuc’s fifth goal of the season, and second in his last three games, finished off the scoring in the second period and gave the home team a 4-2 lead entering the third period.

Boyd Kane and Alexandre Giroux each added a goal to the Bears’ total in the third period before fisticuffs became the story and the focal point of the festivities. The first bout of the third period fight card began when Francois Bouchard and Drayson Bowman squared off in a middle-weight tilt.

“It goes back to the last game when we played them and he jabbed me, so I just wanted to go back and show him if he did that kind of stuff, we would have a good fight,” said Bouchard. “I won it clean with him and I was really pumped. It was the first fight in my career. I just got caught up in the moment at the end.”

Less than a minute later when Nicolas Blanchard hit Kyle Wilson from behind, chaos ensued when a pair of secondary fights broke out. When the dust has settled, both the Bears involved in those battles, Boyd Kane and Patrick Wellar, along with their River Rat counterparts, were issued game misconducts.

When play finally resumed, Keith Aucoin and newcomer, Ashton Rome, put the exclamation points on the Bears’ goal total.

“I got a few shots, some good shots, and I think I was just due,” said Rome who rang a shot off the post in the first period. “It felt pretty good. I kind of fanned on it, but I put it on the side I wanted to.”

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Calder Cup Finals vs. Manitoba Game 1


Though the Hershey Bears trailed the Manitoba Moose after 40 minutes of play, they had to be thinking, “We’ve got them right where we want them”. The Bears, as they did three times in the Providence series, fought back from third period deficits to take a 1-0 lead in the Calder Cup finals with an overtime goal by Alexandre Giroux.

Giroux, the reigning AHL MVP, had three goals in the game, to give him 12 goals in the playoffs. Rookie Oskar Osala scored a pair of goals for the Chocolate and White.

Bears’ goaltender, Michal Neuvirth, made 26 saves, including a second period penalty shot from Matt Pope, to register his 13th win of the playoffs. Game 2 is scheduled for Tuesday night in Manitoba.

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Bears vs. Pens East Division Finals Game 2


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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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 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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