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Calder Cup Finals vs. Manitoba Game 3


Although Hershey goaltender, Michal Neuvirth’s, stellar performance with 28 saves that earned him a shutout and bragging rights as the number one star of the game, the gritty stylings of Steve Pinizzotto figured just as prominently in the Bears’ 3-0 win over the Manitoba Moose on Saturday at Giant Center.

Pinizzotto, Hershey’s fourth line punisher who has befuddled each of the Bears’ opponents in the playoffs with his bone bruising style, was on top of his game early in the first period, with his workmanlike methods proving instrumental in drawing the first penalty of the game, a slashing infraction on Manitoba’s Shaun Heshka at 6:14.

“For him to be effective, he’s got to be that type of player,” said the Bears’ head coach, Bob Woods, of Pinizzotto, who has answered the challenge since their mid-March conference. “We don’t need him yapping and stuff like that. We need him out there being physical, and when you play that way, you get a lot off people’s attention. You get guys a little bit concerned every time you touch the puck, and when he’s on the ice, you’ve got to keep your head up.”

Hershey wasted little time on the power play that resulted from Pinizzotto’s labor, when Graham Mink struck 8 seconds into the advantage. Mink’s goal was his 6th of the playoffs, and 4th game-winner.

“I just wanted to get to the front of the net, and Kronwall made a great play coming down the wall and throwing it up front,” said Mink. “I got my stick on it, and it bounced in over the goalie’s leg pad. We wanted to get the first goal, and I was fortunate enough to be there.”

Staffan Kronwall and Chris Bourque picked up the helpers on the Mink marker. Bourque’s assist, his 15th of the post-season, temporarily put him in a first place tie for the league lead in that category with his teammate, Keith Aucoin.

Hershey’s power play perfection continued, and Aucoin regained his assist lead midway through the second period when he assisted on Alexandre Giroux’s league-leading 14th goal of the playoffs at 9:38, giving the Bears a 2-0 lead. Giroux’s goal was also his 9th power play goal of the postseason.

“It was a kind of a 3-on-1 and I doubted whether to take the shot. I was thinking of passing back to Mink, but while I was in my motion, I just decided to let it go,” said Giroux, explaining his change-of-pace shot. “It was not my hardest shot, but sometimes you just have to place it and it goes in.”

Neuvirth, who did not see his first shot of the game until more than six minutes had elapsed, displayed some of his best handiwork when he made a pair of glittering glove saves later in the game on Jason Jaffray, who scored a hat trick at the rookie’s expense in game two in Manitoba.

“The first saves are always huge, and I want to make the saves as early as I can,” said Neuvirth. “It’s always tough for a goalie to have to stand there for like six minutes.”

An empty net goal by the recently returning Quintin Laing sealed the Moose’s fate for the evening, giving the Bears the 2-1 lead in the Calder Cup Finals.

Neuvirth, who earned his sixth number one star of the game, and fourth shutout victory, drew high praise from veteran forward Mink, who also had a firsthand look when Frederic Cassivi backstopped the Bears to the 2006 Calder Cup Championship.

“Nothing rattles him, nothing phases him. He’s given us a chance to win every game. That’s all you can ask out of a goalie, especially one as young as he is. He’s got a promising future.”

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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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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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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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