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

 

IN-GAME UPDATE: Bears 2 at Pirates 3 – End 2nd

Here is the official recap that eventually will be the final release on this one.  Hershey really settled down that period, and the Brett Olson goal would probably be the one Ellis wants back.  It may very well be the only one he shouldn’t have let get past him.  He has been absolutely outstanding, adding another breakaway save (his third of the game) on Wayne Simpson in that period.

The third period will start at full strength.

GO BEARS!!

-Stucc

Official Release:

Portland came out firing in the first period, and took a 1-0 lead when Kyle Rau muscled a faceoff win to the net and tucked a shot under Dan Ellis’ left pad at 6:11. The score could have been more lopsided, but moments earlier, Ellis stopped Corban Knight on a breakaway and Rocco Grimaldi with a glove save from the slot. Defenseman Dylan Olsen also rang the crossbar with a slap shot from the left point.

On a line rush, the Pirates took a 2-0 lead when Matt MacKenzie centered a pass that Ryan Stanton deflected away. But the puck took a Pirates bounce right to Rob Schremp, who backhanded a shot past Ellis at 15:49.

After missing on four power play chances, the Bears would find themselves in a four-on-four situation late in the period. Chris Bourque shoveled a pass between the Portland defense where Stanton was lurking. The blueliner hurried a snap shot over Mike McKenna’s glove with just under 14 seconds left in the period, putting Hershey on the board.

The Bears would kill off a two-man advantage for Portland early in the middle frame, but again found themselves down by two when Brett Olson took an off-wing wrist shot that eluded Ellis over the glove. Portland led 3-1 at 14:08.

Once again however, Hershey had the answer. A tired Christian Djoos would make a lunging poke-check to keep the puck on side. Travis Boyd grabbed it, whipped it into the mid-slot and Jakub Vrana one-timed it home from there at 15:49.

IN-GAME UPDATE: Bears 1 at Pirates 2 – End 1st

This could have easily been a 5-0 lead for Portland before Ryan Stanton injected some life into the Bears with a goal inside the final :10 of the opening period.

First, Corban Knight had a breakaway from just inside the blue line, and Dan Ellis got his jersey logo in front of the hurried shot.

Minutes later, Rocco Grimaldi came flying down the slot to catch up to a puck poked loose from the right corner. He stepped into one but Ellis flashed the leather to trap it.

After the Pirates went ahead 1-0, Dylan Olsen’s long-range slapper from the left point caught the crossbar.  That was checked on video at the next stoppage, but the puck wasn’t in.

Ellis really can not do any more for his team, who really owe him a good turnaround game here.  I have to believe that some of the rookies have some nerves on display, but the team definitely did settle in.  Additionally, the Bears cannot get any more help from the officials, who handed out four Hershey power plays that frame – the first four of the game. But at the start of the second, Portland gets a four-on-three that will turn into a five-on-three.

Nerves are out, now it’s time to get back to Bears hockey.

Game sheet is here.

GO BEARS!

-Stucc

It’s Go Time! – 4/22

Greetings from beautiful downtown Portland, Maine!

It took 10 1/2 hours to get here on Wednesday; another day of practice, walking around town taking in the gorgeous weather and stuffing ourselves with lobster; and another morning skate to get to this point.

But we are finally here!

(Did I mention that this broadcast will be fueled by lobster?)

The Hershey Bears open the 2016 Calder Cup playoffs tonight at the Cross Insurance Arena.  Standing in the way of the Chocolate and White are the fourth-seeded Portland Pirates, who got hot at the right time to get where they are today.  The top developmental affiliate of the Florida Panthers had a fairly good start to the season, hit a rut mid-way through, and then claimed points in 14 of their final 18 to lock up their spot.  It took until the very last day of the regular season to see if the Pirates would actually meet the Bears, or if the Bridgeport Sound Tigers would overtake them.  But Bridgeport faltered, earning them the unenviable task of taking on the league-leading Toronto Marlies.

This is going to be anybody’s series, if you were to ask me on the spot.  The home team won every game in the regular season, first off.  Portland outscored Hershey 8-4 in two games in this building back in October.  One month later, in a two-game set at GIANT Center, the Bears claimed wins of 4-2 and 3-2.

Troy Mann said it best yesterday, however, during the team’s evening meeting: all stats get thrown out the window today.  “Nobody has a goal, assist, point, win or loss,” he said.  “You have to be ready from the drop of the puck tomorrow and that’s that.”

Pretty well – and briefly – said.

I can almost guarantee that it won’t come close to what happened a month shy of 10 years ago, when the clubs last met in the postseason.  Remember this?

Gamesheet_ Portland at Hershey - May 30, 2006

Dan Ellis gets the start in net for the Bears in tonight’s opening game, and I can’t see any other reason to NOT expect Pirates franchise backstop Mike McKenna in net for the hosts.

Check out the game notes by clicking here, to get more of an inside look at the matchup from the regular season.

Aside from when the first layer of water is sprayed in the late summer; aside from when the first player takes a lap during opening-night warmups; and aside from clinching that playoff berth after a rigorous 76-game battle, THIS is the most exciting time to play hockey.

Let’s see if the boys can grab at least one W out of here this weekend.

Pre-game hits the air at 6:20.  Be sure to tune in on WQIC-FM 100.1; WKBO-AM 1230; via the iHeartRadio App (search WHP 580 Harrisburg); or check it out on AHLLive.com.  Doug Yingst, Troy Mann and Pirates radio voice Jeff Mannix are my pre-game guests, and we will also have some audio from captain Garrett Mitchell, alternate captain Mike Moore and rookie Riley Barber.

Lastly: a very happy birthday to Madison Bowey and Chandler Stephenson today.  I received a really nice email from Stephenson’s mom back in Saskatoon, and to the Stephenson family – and ALL of our players’ families from all over this and other continents – THANK YOU for the kind words.  You make this job what it is – an absolute blast.  We are rooting for your prides and joys!

GO BEARS!!

-Stucc

FINAL/SO: Penguins 1 at Bears 2

Game 76 of the regular season schedule for the Hershey Bears. It comes a night after claiming the throne as Atlantic Division Champions for the regular season. But with every game, there is a new task at hand. Tonight’s task featured the 12th and final regular season chapter between the Bears and the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.

Vitek Vanecek was called up last night from the South Carolina Stingrays to rest Dan Ellis and Justin Peters. The assignment also gives Vanecek a well deserved debut in Hershey after a remarkable season in South Carolina.

In the first period, Vanecek answered the bell to all 10 shots he faced leading to a scoreless intermission. He looked very calm and composed in net.

Vanecek and Casey DeSmith both continued their shutout bids into the third. Hershey went 0-for-4 on the man advantage through 40 minutes, similar to the Pens’ 0-for-3 mark. Through 40 minutes, Vanecek has continued to show great positioning in goal and great control of rebounds, deflecting most out of harm’s way.

4:53 into the third period, the Chocolate and White got on the board via power play. Jakub Vrana opened the scoring with a dart to the top shelf past DeSmith. Vanecek’s shutout bid unfortunately fell 3:17 short, as the Penguins answered back late. Dustin Jeffrey tallied his 20th of the season with a shot low to the ice on Vanecek.

Extra time was required, as well as the skills competition. Christian Djoos scored in the second round, and Riley Barber sent the fan base home happy with a strike in the third round to close out the game.

The Hershey Bears finish 43-21-5-7. It will be the Bears and the Portland Pirates squaring off in the first round of the 2016 Calder Cup Playoffs.

Submitted by intern Matt Trust