FINAL: Pirates 1 at Bears 2 (HER Wins Series 3-2)

Tensity, physicality and pace. The qualities needed for an epic, winner-take all game were all seen from the get go of Game 5. The Hershey Bears and Portland Pirates squared off to decide the best of five series, and establish who will move on to the second round and battle the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.

The Chocolate and White struck first for the fourth time of the series thanks to Sean Collins. With 5:41 left in the first, Liam O’Brien sent a perfect pass from the trapezoid to Collins on the face off dot. It was the lone tally of the period putting Hershey in control after one period.

On an odd-man rush, the Bears doubled their lead at 9:29 of the second period. Jakub Vrana dropped a feed to Ryan Stanton, who beat Mike McKenna low to the ice. McKenna immediately looked to the rafters on the goal, probably wishing he could have it back. On the opposite end, Justin Peters channeled his inner Freddie Cassivi. Peters was the star the remainder of the frame with key stops on odd-man rushes.

The Pirates would cut the Bears’ lead in half only 2:51 into the third period. Wayne Simpson deflected a Michael Matheson shot to claw back into the hockey game. But, defense has been key for the Chocolate and White all series long. Another tremendous effort blocking shots and jamming passing lanes by the Bears led to a 2-1 finish.

The Hershey Bears knock off the Portland Pirates in five games to advance to the Atlantic Division Finals.

Submitted by Matt Trust 

The Penguins Get… 5/1

Greetings from the GC!

To the BEST, LOUDEST, and AHL-LEADING fan base attendance-wise, THANK YOU.  That’s how tonight needs to start.  The Bears players, coaches and staff alike all need to send a sincere thanks to the crowd that was here last night.  Two nights after a triple-overtime heartbreaker, nearly 9,000 were in the Den and were standing after every good play that was made.

The goal by Travis Boyd.  LOUD.

The power-play goal by Chris Bourque and the ensuing center-ice hug with Zach Sill, Carter Camper and Bourque.  LOUDER.

Shot block after shot block on a Portland five-on-three – Garrett Mitchell, Sill, Ryan Bourque.  EVEN LOUDER.

Ryan Bourque rolls the puck out of the Hershey zone with less than six seconds to play in regulation.  LOUDER STILL.

Final horn.  Center ice stick salute.  Justin Peters announced as first star.  LOUDEST YET.

There is no denying that the fans were into it, and there is no denying that the players fed off of it.

Game five is 2 1/2 hours away and it’s all thanks to the fans that it is.

I cannot fathom that Troy Mann would make any lineup changes, but without a morning meeting today – a chance for the team to rest up – nothing is positive just yet.  We will have some information within the 3:00 hour on that.  I can tell you that everybody on the Hershey side came out of that battle unscathed.  Portland defenseman Dylan Olsen did not, and I have to guess is unavailable tonight.  To me, that gives the Pirates a slight edge as they will get fresh body on their blue line, one of (again, a guess) either Sena Acolatse or Mackenzie Weegar.  Both played in last Saturday’s game two, but that only because crafty Mike Matheson was still on NHL duty with the Florida Panthers.

Very simple recipe tonight: win, and move on to play the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.  Today’s demeanor was a lot less lively than yesterday, and that’s a good thing.  Focus is paramount.

The results will come.

Game notes are set right here, which includes broadcast information as well.  Caps Radio 24/7 will pick up the broadcast as well for all of you who crave the organizational fix (Caps and Stingrays are both off tonight).  It’s the only AHL game in town, as all other teams await the start of the second round.

Join AHL and Hershey Hall-of-Famer Mitch Lamoureux, Frank Schofield and I for the call beginning at 4:20.  The puck drops at 5:00.

GO BEARS!!!

-Stucc

FINAL: Pirates 0 at Bears 2 (Series tied 2-2)

Facing elimination, we anticipated a quick start out of the Chocolate and White. Sure enough, the Hershey Bears answered the bell in the opening period of Game 4.

With 7:09 left in the first, Jakub Vrana dropped a perfect backhand pass to Travis Boyd. Boyd roofed a shot over Mike McKenna to give the Bears a key early advantage. At 15:10, Hershey received their first power play chance of the night, and luckily hit pay-dirt.

Chris Bourque moved lateral along the blue line after wheeling from the half boards, and unloaded a blast on McKenna. Bourque’s movement and quick trigger caught McKenna off squared to the puck.

A period dominated on 5-on-5 play and the special teams has Hershey up 2-0 after 20 minutes.

Both teams exchanged eight shots in the middle period, all stopped by Justin Peters and McKenna. The Bears killed off a key 5-on-3 for six seconds in the final minute of the second period, leading to two chances shorthanded.

The tight defensive effort and superb penalty kill carried into the third stanza. Peters made seven more saves to complete a 19 save clean sheet, highlighted by the kill of a key minor penalty with 10:04 to play.

Overall, 1-for-2 on the advantage, 3-for-3 on the kill and 19 shots against to Hershey’s 28. It is the perfect recipe for a 2-0 win in Game 4 to force a decisive Game 5 tomorrow.

Submitted by Matt Trust

Staring Elimination in the Eye Patch – 4/30

Facing elimination. It is not the position the Hershey Bears wanted to see themselves in come Game 4 against the Portland Pirates. Nevertheless, following a classic of a Game 3 on Thursday, which saw the longest game in GIANT Center history, the Bears are in a must win scenario tonight.

The Chocolate and White will look to push the best of five series to its maximum. Game 5 would be tomorrow at 5 PM at the GC. Tonight, Justin Peters will return to the crease after a sensational performance in the triple overtime setback. He will oppose Mike McKenna, who has tended Portland’s net all series.

Garrett Mitchell is back in the lineup after sitting Thursday with a minor injury. He will join Chris Bourque and Chandler Stephenson on the top line. Sean Collins will slide to the energy line with Liam O’Brien and Zach Sill.

Let’s “Defend the Den” tonight and force a Game 5!

GO BEARS!

Submitted by Matt Trust

FINAL (3)OT: Pirates 2 at Bears 1

The Hershey Bears and Portland Pirates continued their best of five series on Thursday with Game 3. Mike McKenna and Justin Peters squared off in goal for the second consecutive game in the series, and both were perfect in the opening period.

McKenna stopped all 12 shots he faced in the opening 20, as well as Peters’ on five shots. The first shot Justin Peters stopped in the game came on a breakaway developed from nearly 100 feet away.

The Chocolate and White continued to pound the net in the second period and were rewarded at 5:27. Nathan Walker finished a pretty passing play started by Madison Bowey and continued by Dustin Gazley on an odd-man rush.

But the story of the second period was a sensational 6-for-6 penalty kill led by Justin Peters. Special teams. We saw it first hand in 2009 and 2010 — It will win you championships.

Special teams provided the Bears with a 1-0 lead after 40 minutes.

With 13:32 remaining in regulation, Portland found the equalizer on a wrap around. Greg McKegg danced around the net and beat Peters low to the ice to knot the contest. The goal forced overtime, and three, sudden-death overtime periods were needed. At 3:10 of the third overtime, Rob Flick scored on a rush to end the hockey game after four hours and six minutes.

The Bears’ backs are against the wall, but overcoming adversity has been a theme all season.

See you Saturday!

Submitted by Matt Trust

A Chance to Jump in the Driver’s Seat: 4/28

Although we much would have preferred the Hershey Bears taking both games in Portland to start the series, winning one put the Chocolate and White in control. Following a tough 6-4 setback to kickoff the series, Hershey responded 24 hours later.

Tonight it’s Game 3 of the Atlantic Division Semi-Finals between the Hershey Bears and Portland Pirates. With a split on the road, Games 3, 4 and if necessary 5 will be on GIANT Center ice. A win tonight for the Chocolate and White would put them in the driver’s seat with a chance to close out the series on Saturday.

For tonight’s game, the opening 20 minutes will be key for the Bears’ success. A slow start haunted Hershey in Game 1 with glaring turnovers in the defensive zone. In this game, I would look towards veteran leaders to also step up and make an impact. Chris Bourque has thrived in the postseason role, especially when playing in GIANT Center, in recent years.

Justin Peters will get the nod after a sensational Game 2 effort.

Be sure to be in your seat for the Opening Face Off Pregame Show at 5:50, as well as for a 7 PM puck drop.

Get ready, playoff hockey is back in the “Sweetest Place on Earth.”

GO BEARS!!

Submitted by Matt Trust

FINAL – Bears 3 at Pirates 1 – 4/23

GREAT rebound by this team, who got the goaltending it needed, the mistakes shaken off, and a step-up performance by every single player in a 3-1 victory.

Below is the official press release.  Long travel ahead, then several days of practice to prepare for the pivotal game 3 in Chocolatetown on Thursday.

We heard you here, fans… thank you for listening!  GO BEARS!!
-Stucc

Riley Barber’s third-period power play goal ended up as the game-winner, backing up Justin Peters’ 31-save effort and helping the Hershey Bears to a 3-1 victory over the Portland Pirates on Saturday night at Cross Insurance Arena. The best-of-five series is tied at one game each.

The first period was up to the goaltenders, and it was a much better period for Hershey. Mike McKenna had the answer on all nine Hershey shots however, including glove saves on Barber and on a Carter Camper power play rebound chance. Peters turned away all 12 shots, and was busy early and late.

McKenna was finally beaten early in the second period. Garrett Mitchell’s first goal of the playoffs came on a hard snap shot from the left faceoff dot that eluded McKenna short-side. Hershey led 1-0 at 1:41.

But the Pirates turned up the heat and owned the possession for just about the remainder of the period. Peters came up huge on two penalty kills, but after Connor Brickley beat out an icing call, he hurried a feed toward the right circle. Sena Acloatse cruised in and stepped into a one-timer that beat Peters at 18:02.

Hershey’s first power play goal of the series would end up deciding the game. Christian Djoos spotted Riley Barber with a diagonal pass to the left circle, and Barber would lift a wrister off the right-corner post and in at 1:31.

Jakub Vrana scored for the second consecutive night for the insurance tally, whirling around in the slot and firing a rebound of a Camper shot inside the left post at 8:07.

That was all the Bears needed, as Peters shut the door on all six third-period shots by the Pirates, including a waving-glove save on a Rob Schremp shot with time winding down. McKenna took the loss and dropped to 1-1, stopping 18 of 21 shots. The Bears finished the night 1-for-3 on the power play and 4-for-4 on the penalty kill.

 

IN-GAME UPDATE: Bears 0 at Pirates 0 – End 1st

If you were looking for a response period by Hershey, you got it.  Tremendous defensive effort by the entire team, including the forwards.  Also, watch the Vrana-Camper-Barber trio.  They are going to score before this night is over.

A great goaltending display is what came out of that 20 minutes, at both ends of the ice.

Second period is on deck. GO BEARS!
-Stucc

Official release:

The first period was up to the goaltenders, and it was a much better period for Hershey. Mike McKenna had the answer on all nine Hershey shots however, including glove saves on Riley Barber and on a Carter Camper power play rebound chance. Justin Peters turned away all 12 shots, and was busy early and late.

Shaking Off Friday, Game Two Time – 4/23

Greetings from Cross Insurance Arena!

First and foremost, here is the audio of all the goals in last night’s 6-4 Pirates victory in Game One:

Stating the obvious here, but head coach Troy Mann agreed with everything that he and I tossed around in the coaches’ room after last night’s game.  Nerves, turnovers, and the penalty teeter-totter all piled up to give the Pirates the 6-4 victory.  The really obvious statement is this: had it not been for the first 14 minutes, and had one power play goal gone in on one of the four chances that the Bears earned, Hershey wins that game.

The impressive thing about the game was the way the team battled back.  You obviously don’t want to spot an opponent so big a lead.  But to grind things out on the forecheck to force turnovers and take meaningful, accurate shots like the team did in the third period, you have to tip your hat on the effort.  Tyler Lewington got better and better as the game went on and earned himself a star of the game for scoring two goals.

Last night was also proof positive that Hershey has the edge in goaltending.  Mike McKenna was not good – nowhere near as good as he was during the season.  I can’t imagine that Portland makes any changes in winning a game like they did unless an injury cropped up that we don’t know about.  So I’m going to gamble that he gets the net again.

For Hershey, Mann will turn to Justin Peters.  His record down the stretch of the regular season: 5-0-1 in his last six starts – and 3-0-0 in April.  In the morning meeting preceding an optional skate (taken by Christian Djoos, Jakub Vrana, Lewington, Domenic Monardo, Mike Moore, Liam O’Brien and Peters), I heard loud applause coming from the locker room.  I spoke to a few of the guys and they know what mistakes were made, and what can’t happen again.  The nerves are evacuated.  Expect a tighter game played by the Bears – and I am going to bank on this series being even when all is said and done.

Game notes for tonight are available here.  The same referees will officiate.  The same loud and dedicated fans will be ready to cheer on their Pirates.

Game Two is coming up at 7, with pre-game at 6:20.

GO BEARS!!

-Stucc

 

Too Steep of a Hill to Climb – Bears 4 at Pirates 6

Game One of the Atlantic Division semifinal series between the Hershey Bears and the host Portland Pirates can be summed up in three words:

  1. Nerves.  It was blatantly obvious that nerves were showing on the part of some of Hershey’s rookies.  And you simply have to feel for them.  It is not an easy task to claim a division title and be pressured to get a good start in game one on the road.  It is difficult.  Trust me.
  2. Turnovers.  A direct result of nerves is turnovers.  Dan Ellis did all he could in this game, stopping breakaways as early as 25 seconds into the game.  Corban Knight, Wade Megan, Wayne Simpson – all were victimized by the Bears backstop, but the Bears could not do much to help Ellis out.  They were under fire all game.
  3. Penalties.  The Bears got Hershey’s first four power plays of the night, and the Pirates got the next four.  Neither team’s penalty kill budged.  But a crucial slashing penalty inside the final minute of play, with the Bears already having battled back to trail 5-4, ended up giving the Pirates the amount of puck possession time they needed.  10 seconds less than they needed, actually.

So that’s it.  Put it in the rear-view mirror, wipe the slate clean, shake off the loss and get back at it tomorrow.  No time to dwell.  The fact that the Bears as a team got together and nearly made this comeback complete has got to be a help.

We will go on the air at 6:20 again tomorrow, and the puck drops at 7:00.  Here is the link to the recap.

Thanks for listening everyone!

-Stucc