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East Conference Finals vs. Providence Game 5


When Chris Bourque’s father, the legendary Ray Bourque finally got his name of the Stanley Cup with the Colorado Avalanche in his 21st professional season, the rallying call was “Mission 16W”. Their battle cry signified the exit on the New Jersey Turnpike where the Avs played three of the seven games against the New Jersey Devils in the Stanley Cup.

On Monday evening in Providence, it was Chris Bourque’s shorthanded goal that propelled the Hershey Bears to their own “Mission 16″, as in 16 wins to claim their 10th Calder Cup Championship, in their 21st appearance in the Calder Cup Finals.

The Bears came out of the gates in the contest determined to get an early lead and not fall behind in the contest; however, despite two power play advantages and a huge shot advantage of 13-3, the Chocolate and White failed to register a first period goal for the fifth straight time on the road, and entered the first intermission in a scoreless deadlock.

Early in the second period, Andrew Gordon’s power play goal, his 5th strike of the post-season at 2:17, gave the Bears their first 1st or 2nd period lead on the road since their first road outing in the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguin series. The point that Bourque picked up for assisting on the goal made him the league leader in the assist category.

Brad Marchand’s power play goal, his 7th goal of the playoffs and 5th on the power play at 4:45, tied the game at a goal apiece. With the goal, Marchand also tied Hershey’s Alexandre Giroux for the league lead in power play goals.

Giroux, not wanting to share the stage with Marchand, picked up his 9th goal, his 6th with the man advantage, taking back sole ownership of the spotlight later in the period, giving the Bears a 2-1 lead to take to the 3rd period.

Mikko Lehtonen tied the game less than two minutes into the third period.

Providence, who had already struck on eight power plays throughout the series, looked poised to take a lead and extend the series when Dean Arsene was whistled off for two minutes at 5:30.

However, Bourque pounced upon the opportunity, and scored the Bears’ first short-handed goal of the season, giving the Bears a lead they would never relinquish.

Darren Reid and Quintin Laing (empty net) both tacked on goals to account for the final score of 5-2.

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East Conference Finals vs. Providence Game 4


The Hershey Bears moved one step closer to their third appearance in the Calder Cup finals in the last four years, when they dug themselves out of a two-goal hole at Dunkin Donuts Center, and glazed the Providence Bruins in overtime, 3-2.

The Bruins jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period, with goals from Peter Schaefer and Jeff Penner.

Hershey’s captain, Bryan Helmer, who started his team’s comeback from a 2-0 deficit on the road in game two of the Philadelphia series, once again duplicated that feat by scoring his 3rd goal of the playoffs at 7:31 of the second period.

Keith Aucoin, the former Bruin, tied the game at two at 13:12 with his 3rd goal of the postseason.

Aucoin’s goal was the last one of regulation, and the game continued into an overtime period, Hershey’s second of the playoffs.

The hero of the day turned out to be Graham Mink, who tallied at 15:10 of overtime, his 5th marker in 15 playoff contests, and his 3rd game-winner.

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Eastern Conference Finals vs. Providence Game 2


On November 5, 1938, in the Hersheypark Arena, the Hershey Bears recorded their first franchise win, defeating the Providence Reds. On Sunday night at Giant Center, the Bears registered their first playoff victory over the Providence Bruins by the same score, 2-1, tying the series at one.

In the first period, the teams combined for only 11 shots on goal, which was one less than Providence’s first period total from game one, with Hershey’s first shot coming from Keith Aucoin on the power play at 16:08.

The stanza also featured one significant shot of a different nature: Graham Mink’s body shot, which was originally intended to level Providence’s Zach Hamill, instead felled Hershey captain, Bryan Helmer, who absorbed the brunt of the blow. The grizzled Helmer, a veteran of 10 AHL playoff seasons, although momentarily downed by the hit, did not miss his next shift.

“We were fighting along the boards, and I really don’t know what happened. I had my head down. I thought he (Hamill) hit me. That’s just the way Graham is; he plays hard, and stuff like that happens,” chuckled Helmer, with Mink chiming in a joking apology in the background.

Unlike game one, game two’s first period played out more like a typical opening period of a playoff series.

“Nobody was tearing it up in the first period there. Everybody was kind of sitting back and not a lot of energy out of either team, and just kind of playing it safe,” said Bears’ head coach, Bob Woods. “I think everybody’s scared to make a make a mistake because we knew that first goal was going to be big, especially with the way both goaltenders were playing.”

Hershey turned up the heat in the second period, firing 21 shots at Bruins’ goaltender, Tuukka Rask, but failed to rattle Rask’s cage.

Michal Neuvirth, Hershey’s number one netminder, as not to be outdone by his counterpart, made late saves in each of the first two periods to keep Providence off the scoreboard, denying Brad Marchand on a 2-on-1 in the first period and putting the brakes on Jeff Penner’s shorthanded bid in the second period.

An unlikely candidate finally broke the deadlock at 3:21 of the third period. Bears’ forward Andrew Joudrey skillfully redirected Tyler Sloan’s point blast behind Rask to give him team a 1-0 lead.

“It was Oskar getting down on the forecheck quick, and getting the puck through their defenseman,” said Joudrey, of his first career playoff goal. “I saw that and kind of backed off and became the high slot guy. They collapsed and Oskar found Sloan and it worked out.”
Just 2:40 seconds after Joudrey’s goal, Alexandre Giroux banked a power play shot off of former Bear, defenseman, Johnny Boychuk, to give the Bears a 2-0 lead.

“It was definitely a pass and not a shot. I think it hit his (Boychuk’s) skates, or the goalie’s pads, and it went five-hole,” said Giroux, who is now tied for the league lead in playoff power play goals with five.

Brad Marchand’s power play goal, with Rask on the bench for an extra attacker with just over 30 seconds left to play, broke Neuvirth’s bid for his 4th playoff shutout.

Neuvirth, who has played every minute of Hershey’s 13 playoff games, said he’s still raring to go, despite his heavy workload.

“Everybody’s tired. It’s a long season, but I’m feeling good, and we’re going to get a day off tomorrow,” said Neuvirth.

After evening the series with Sunday’s victory, things are looking up for the Bears as they take to the road for the next three games.

“If you go down 2-0 and go back to their barn for three, it would be really tough,” said Helmer. “We got the win tonight, and we’re looking forward to going there.”

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Eastern Conference Finals vs. Providence Game 1


The Providence Bruins and Hershey Bears met at Giant Center for Game One of the Eastern Conference Finals on Saturday night. After feasting on the Penguins in the last round, the Bears found the task of moving up the food chain a bit more challenging, falling 3-2.

Providence drew first blood in the encounter, with both of their special teams units playing a role in the early going.

The Bruins’ penalty killing unit, which entered the game with a perfect record of 15 consecutive successful ventures on foreign ice in the playoffs, was featured first after Kirk MacDonald was whistled off for slashing at 2:19. That group performed flawlessly, making it 16 in a row in the early going, killing off the advantage without allowing a shot on goal.

Up next for the P-Bruins was their power play unit, which had struck for a pair of extra man markers in both of the regular season meetings between the clubs. Just over a minute into the advantage, Jeff Penner tallied at 8:03 to give the visitors a 1-0 lead.

Later in the period, while on their second power play venture, the P-Bruins increased their lead to 2-0, when Jordan Knackstedt slid a backhander by sprawling Bears’ goaltender, Michal Neuvirth, at 16:19.

Former Bruin, Keith Aucoin, said that stumbling out of the starting block factored heavily into the Bears suffering the setback.

“We knew they were going to come hard, and we weren’t ready,” said Aucoin. “That’s why we lost the game.”

The Bears, after repelling an early attack in the second period, finally found a way to beat Bruins’ goaltender, Tuukka Rask, when Oskar Osala converted a beautiful cross-ice pass from Aucoin, and cut the Hershey deficit to a single goal.

Matt Marquardt restored the visitors’ two-goal cushion at 8:28, cashing on a rebound of a Zach Hamill shot that Neuvirth stopped, but could not control.

Moments after the line of Chris Bourque, Kyle Wilson, and Andrew Gordon put in an impressive shift, maintaining persistent offensive pressure in the Providence zone, but unable to find the back of net, Osala found the promised land, wristing a shot behind Rask at 14:41 to slice the Bruins’ bulge to a single goal for the second time in the game.

The Bears had several chances later in the game, particularly in the last minute of play; however, Rask was equal to the task, denying linemates Aucoin and Alexandre Giroux with quality saves, to preserve the Providence lead and assure his team the win.
“I think we came out a little flat, and they came out stronger than us, and the 2-0 lead was hard to come back from,” said Giroux.

If Hershey hopes to even the series tomorrow night, they will need to find a way to focus for a full 60 minutes.

“I could find any excuses, but it’s not going to find any solutions,” Giroux said. “It’s behind us now, and we’ve got to focus on tomorrow night.”

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