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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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Hershey’s Playoffs by the Numbers


(33) Percentage of Hershey’s shots that the trio of Graham Mink, Keith Aucoin and Alexandre Giroux propelled at the Penguins’ goaltenders in the WBS series.

(23) Number of Hershey players who have registered at least one point in the playoffs.

(17) Number of periods that the Bears have not allowed a goal by their opponents.

(16) Number of Bears that have registered at least one goal in this post-season.

(13) Number of Bears who have donned the sweater of the Chocolate and White for all 11 playoff contests.

(9) Number of Hershey multi-point games by everyone who has appeared in the playoffs, excluding Giroux and Aucoin.

(8) Combined number of multi-point games registered by Aucoin and Giroux (4 each)…Games that the Bears have scored the first goal of the game… Number of different players who have scored Hershey’s last eight goals at Giant Center.

(7) Number of different Bears who have tallied the eight game winning goals…Number of times that Michal Neuvirth has been named a star of the game….Number of Bears who have scored their 1st AHL playoff goals.

(6) Number of different Bears who have tallied the six game winning goals at Giant Center.

(+6) Andrew Joudrey’s team leading +/- number. Tyler Sloan and Steve Pinizzotto are each +5.

(3) Number of Hershey game-winning goals that have been struck in the 1st period in their last three triumphs.

(2) Number of Hershey fights in the post-season (Greg Amadio-Paul Bissonnette and Oskar Osala-Patrick Maroon).

(0) Number of first period goals that the Bears have allowed at Giant Center.

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East Division Finals vs. Pens Game 7


On the 21st anniversary of the day the 1987-88 Hershey Bears captured their 12th straight playoff victory, earning the franchise’s 7th Calder Cup, the 2008-09 version of the club took a big step towards earning Calder Cup number ten, defeating the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins 3-0 in game 7 of their East Division Final series at Giant Center, and advancing to the East Conference Finals.

Goaltender, Michal Neuvirth, who yielded 12 goals to the Penguins during the Bears’ three losses at the Wachovia Arena, said his confidence never wavered during his three tough outings.

“I knew I could play better,” said Neuvirth. “I was missing bad bounces for us, and I just hoped I could get back to lucky bounces, and things worked out for us.”

Neuvurth, who gave a lot of credit to his defense, was perfect for the second consecutive game, stopping all 24 shots he faced, including quality chances by Dustin Jeffrey and Chris Minard, midway through the second period.

Only 50 seconds after the opening faceoff, Hershey’s Alexandre Giroux, who often found himself the recipient of a Keith Aucoin pass on his way to a 60-goal regular season, played the playmaker role to perfection, putting a picture perfect pass on the tape of his linemate to give the Bears an early 1-0 lead.

“I think I gave him a lot of empty nets this year, so he owed me at least one,” joked Aucoin. “He made a great pass. He could have shot it, but he made a great pass and I had an easy job to just put it on the net.”

The Penguins enjoyed their only two power plays, 39 seconds of which was a 5-on-3 advantage, late in the second period, and carrying over into the early moments of the third. However, Hershey’s penalty killing unit, led by Andrew Joudrey, helped to extinguish the threat of the baby Pens’ firepower.

Joudrey, who also won a NCAA championship at the University of Wisconsin, compared the experience to his first Game 7 playoff action.

“There are a lot of similarities there,” said Joudrey, Hershey’s plus/minus leader in the playoffs. “It’s one of those things where you, in both instances, you throw away anything that has happened in other parts of the series, and it’s one game, winner take all. There are definitely a lot of parallels.”

The Bears power play, which had failed on three previous occasions in the game, was given a fourth opportunity when Reid Cashman was whistled off for hooking at 4:35 of the second period.

Just 19 seconds into the ensuing power play, Chris Bourque struck for his 2nd goal of the playoffs, giving Hershey a 2-0 lead.

Cashman also figured into Hershey’s 3rd goal when he shattered his stick while attempting a slapshot, leading to an odd-man rush. Steve Pinizzotto, a pest in the Penguins’ side throughout this series, used linemate, Darren Reid as a decoy, and bounced a shot of Jon D’Aversa and between the pads of netminder, Adam Berkhoel at 10:49.

“It bounced on something, and it was just good luck, and it came at the right time,” said Pinizzotto. “That was a nail in their coffin.”

In defeat, Penguins’ head coach, Todd Reirden, admitted there were several factors that contributed to his team’s demise.

“Their goalie played outstanding. I thought he was much better here than he was on the road,” said Reirden. “We had to win our three home games, and we invested a lot of energy in terms of our effort level and stuff like that. Playing 3-in-3 with that type of urgency is tough, so we were still fighting back from that.”

He continued, “It’s a tough opponent over there, and I feel these are the two best teams in the league, and it’s unfortunate we have to knock each other off. Credit to the way they go about their business; a great job by their coaching staff, and their players.”

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Calder Cup Semis vs. Philly Game 2


When the Philadelphia Phantoms’ parent team, the Philadelphia Flyers, were on the verge of winning their first Stanley Cup in 1974, when they called the Spectrum ‘home’, the streaking trend was running rampant. Tonight, however, in possibly the last game played at the same historic venue, it was the Hershey Bears doing the streaking, reeling off six consecutive goals on their way to a 6-2 win over the Phantoms. 

With their win, the Bears took a 2-0 lead in the Calder Cup Eastern Division Semifinals, with the series headed back to the Giant Center for games three and four.

The Phantoms struck first and fast, only 53 seconds after the opening faceoff, giving the Phantoms a 1-0 lead when former Bear, Boyd Kane, backhanded a shot behind Hershey netminder, Michal Neuvirth.

Patrick Maroon doubled Philly’s lead at 6:42, gathering in a rebound off the backboards and depositing the puck into Hershey’s cage.

Even though his team was down, Neuvirth didn’t become despondent in the trying situation and proved that he was back on track by making a slick sliding save on Laliberte at 17:10 to keep it a one-goal game entering the second period.

“I just told myself it was a couple bad bounces, and I was trying to stay focused the whole time,” said Neuvirth. “I know I can bounce back from that situation.”

Bears’ captain, Bryan Helmer, demonstrated his leadership by nudging his team back into the game with his first playoff goal since May 16, 2006 with Grand Rapids at the expense of former Bears netminder, Maxime Ouellet.

“When you look at our team, we’ve got a lot of good character guys and a lot of guys who can score goals, so we’re never out of the game,” said Helmer.

Staffan Kronwall’s power play blast at 14:58 of the second period, the only goal of the stanza, tied the score at 2-2.

Hershey penalty kill unit was up to the task early in the third period, preventing the Phantoms from regaining the lead, when Greg Amadio was serving a slashing penalty incurred at 20:00 of the second period.

On their first power play of the third period, Hershey’s Alexandre Giroux, after a couple misfires, eventually guided a missile of a shot by Phantoms’ keeper, Scott Munroe, at 2:27 to give the Bears a 3-2 lead.

“If I would have gotten all of the first one, I would have beaten him,” Giroux said. “On the second one, the guy lost his stick and I tried to walk in, and he stopped it. Aucoin and Mink made a great play down low to get me the puck and we finally got it in.”

Shortly after Giroux’s tally, James van Riemsdyk’s shot found it’s way behind Neuvirth, but the rookie goalie somehow swept the puck off the goal line and out of danger to preserve the precarious one-goal lead.

Matthieu Perreault put the game out of reach for the Phantoms with his unassisted strike at 13:52, after going end-to-end.

“I just got the puck behind my net and skated up the ice like I like to do,” Perreault said. “I saw the open space and in the playoffs, you try to shoot as much as you can, and I shot at the net and scored.”

Steve Pinizzotto’s empty net goal and Francois Bouchard’s power play goal provided the icing on the cake for the Bears, and ensured them a comfortable margin of victory.

Helmer, a veteran that has seen many playoff situations, while happy with the result of the game and his contribution to the triumph, kept his emotions in check.

“When I can chip in offensively, it’s a good night and it’s nice; but it’s a long way from being over.”

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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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