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.”