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East Division Finals vs. Pens Game 6


The Hershey Bears, facing a must-win situation on Sunday evening at Giant Center, responded magnificently to the challenge when they shut out the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, 3-0.

The whitewash was the Penguins first game without scoring a goal since their contest with the Albany River Rats on March 21, 2008.

Bears’ goaltender, Michal Neuvirth, who politely declined to comment after the game, citing illness as the reason, let his actions do the talking during the game, stopping all 30 shots fired in his direction, including a pair of dandies in the middle portion of the second period from Nick Johnson and Bill Thomas.

After an initial early feeling-out sequence that featured plenty of action, but no finishing, Andrew Gordon gave the Bears a 1-0 lead at 11:35 of the opening period. Gordon, with his linemate, Chris Bourque, created congestion in the crease area, and patiently waited for Pens’ netminder, Adam Berkhoel, to commit before depositing a wrist shot behind him.

“The defenseman that was originally on me went down and forced Wilson, and Bourque was sort of tied up in front,” said Gordon, whose goal was his third of the playoffs. “I knew if I could get to that far post, Bourque had net side on him, so he was blocking him out a little bit. When I got the puck from Wilson, I just kept thinking, ‘I’ve got to get this up top’.”

Early in the second period, Darren Reid, used primarily in a defensive role by Woods in the regular season, eluded the grasp of former Bears’ defenseman, Deryk Engelland, then used a sweet backahand-to-forehand move to best Berkhoel at 22 seconds.

The line of Darren Reid, Andrew Joudrey, and Steve Pinizzotto played a pivotal role in getting the Bears off to a good start in each of the three periods. Hershey head coach, Bob Woods, who, thanks to getting the last line change due to being on home ice, expertly exercised his power to put specific personnel on the ice, explained that the matchup was exactly what he had intended.

“They were playing against the guys we had them scheduled to play against,” said Woods. “Whoever they started, we knew who we were starting, and that’s who it worked out with. Those three are probably good guys to start your period. They’re going to be energy, they’re going to get pucks deep, they’re going to cycle, they’re going to bang, and usually good things happen from that; it’s contagious.”

Referee, Frederic L’Ecuyer, who did not call any penalties in the first period, whistled the Pens’ Nick Johnson off the ice at 2:09, giving the Bears the first power play of the game. With Johnson in the “joint” doing his time, Alexandre Giroux beat Berkhoel with a wraparound power play goal at 3:11 to give the Bears a 3-0 lead.

“I didn’t think about the goalie or anything,” Giroux said. “I was going to stop at the blue line and wait for the guys because we were on the power play, and try to set up. I saw the defenseman (Engelland) step out on me, so I had a lot of speed and decided to keep going. I saw a little opening and I put it in.”

Giroux’s goal stood as the last goal of the game, with Gordon garnering his first career game-winning goal. The 23-year-old Gordon, who has quietly assumed an unofficial leadership role, was humbled when asked if he envisioned himself in that position.

“I’m sort of caught somewhere between a young guy and an older guy. I’m only a 2nd year pro, so guys like Perreault and Bouchard and Carlson, who are a little younger than me, can feel a little more comfortable talking to me rather than an older veteran like Mink, who plays a different style. I’ll assess that role if that’s what I’m being given. It’s great if I can play a leadership role on a team as special as this.”

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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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Carlson Confidently Answers First Call


John Carlson, the 27th overall pick in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, made his professional debut on Saturday night at Giant Center, taking a regular shift in the Bears’ opening win against the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins in the Eastern Conference Division Finals, the second round of the Calder Cup Playoffs.

The 6’3” 210 pound native of Natick, Massachusetts, who recently joined the Bears after ending his junior career under the tutelage of Capitals’ legend, Dale Hunter, with the London Knights of the OHL, took a regular shift in his debut, skating alongside his defensive partner, veteran, Dean Arsene.

Assessing his own performance, Carlson, while giving himself high marks, admitted that it was a collective effort among all of the Hershey rearguards that made his first appearance a successful one.

“It was good; I really enjoyed it,” said the 19-year-old. “It was a tough game, back and forth a little bit, but I thought everyone else played really well. All of the defensemen were being really talkative, and that always helps when you are a young guy coming in.”

Carlson, who looked like a seasoned veteran in the outing, slightly changed his routine in anticipation of the event, but kept the same simple mindset that paved the way to the beginning of his professional career.

“Obviously, it’s more important, so you have to prepare yourself a little differently, but you have to look at it as more or less like any other game. You have to try to stick to your game, because if you start trying to be someone else, usually you get caught out of position.”

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