Hershey Takes on W-B/Scranton after Tough Series with Pirates
The Hershey Bears Hockey Club rebounded from a triple-overtime heartbreaker to take games four and five away from the Portland Pirates, and win the Atlantic Division semifinal series three games to two. Hershey now opens the Atlantic Division Finals against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.
The series returned to Chocolatetown on Thursday and the game did not disappoint for fans of solid goaltending. Justin Peters and Portland's Mike McKenna put on a show in the opening 20 minutes as the game went scoreless. Nathan Walker would be the first to dent McKenna on home ice, scoring his first career playoff goal at 5:27 of the second period for a 1-0 Hershey lead. Peters was at his best in the middle frame as Portland outshot Hershey 14-3 but could not get a shot to finish. In the third, Greg McKegg would score on a wraparound, tying the contest at 6:28 and ultimately setting up the longest game in GIANT Center history. Just past the 11:00 PM hour, at 3:10 of the third overtime, Rob Flick one-timed a pass from Rob Schremp into the net, giving the Pirates a 2-1 win and a 2- 1 series lead.
On Saturday, Hershey came out flying and smothered the Pirates from the drop of the puck, forcing a decisive game five in a 2-0 victory. Peters stopped all 19 shots he faced, while Travis Boyd and Chris Bourque gave him all the offensive support he would need. The game could have easily been more lopsided, but McKenna again put up a stellar effort in stopping 26 of 28 total shots.
In the Sunday winner-take-all contest, the Bears again came out flying and skated out to a 2-0 lead. Sean Collins scored his first career playoff goal at 14:19 of the opening period off of a nice feed from Liam O'Brien. In the middle period, Jakub Vrana found a trailing Ryan Stanton for a slapper that beat McKenna at 8:29, padding the lead and setting the stage for an exciting and nail-biting third period. Portland came out desperate with their backs against the wall, and finally got one by Peters at 2:51. Wayne Simpson set up shop and got his stick blade on a Mike Matheson slapper from the left point, tipping it home and cutting Hershey's lead to 2-1. But that would be as close as Portland would come. McKenna was pulled in favor of a sixth attacker with 90 seconds left to play, and spent a good deal of time in the Hershey end. But key plays by Zach Sill and Ryan Bourque would pin the puck along the boards and kill off the remaining time, sending the Bears to victory. Peters made 23 saves, while McKenna stopped 21 of 23 shots.
Hershey hosts the rested Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins on Wednesday in game one of the Atlantic Division Finals.
HERSHEY BEARS NEWS AND NOTES
CHRIS KEEPS CLIMBING: After capturing his second John B. Sollenberger Trophy as the AHL's leading scorer; after being voted the recipient of the Les Cunningham Award as the league's most valuable player; and after being named to the AHL First All-Star Team, star forward Chris Bourque began the postseason with two assists in his 101st career Calder Cup playoff game. Among all AHL players, Bourque now 15th in playoff games played (105); he ranks seventh in playoff scoring (26-72-98); and is tied with former teammate Keith Aucoin for third in assists (72). In Hershey, Bourque ranks second in all- time playoff assists (50) and third in all-time playoff points (17-50-67). He needs six points to tie the leader, the legendary Mike Nykoluk (13-60-73, 1958- 72).
VRANA LEADS: Rookie Jakub Vrana is leading the Bears in playoff scoring after adding an assist in Sunday's game five. In two playoff seasons spanning 15 games, Vrana has notched 11 points (4-7-11). He has assisted on all three of Hershey's game-winning goals.
HELPFULNESS: Defenseman Aaron Ness led the Bears in assists (four) in the opening round. He is tied for second among all AHL defensemen in helpers.
STANTON STRIKES AGAIN: Defenseman Ryan Stanton scored both the first goal and the last goal for the Bears in the opening round win over Portland. His goal in game five ended up as the game-winner, making him one of two AHL blueliners to record a playoff game-winning goal.
STELLAR PETERS: On April 23, goaltender Justin Peters made his first Calder Cup playoff appearance since April 29, 2010 - when his Albany River Rats took on Hershey - and ended up with a 31-save, first-star effort. Peters' last AHL playoff win prior to that game was on April 19, 2010, a 5-3 win at W- B/Scranton. He has since won his last three starts and ranks in the top five in wins (3), shutouts (1), goals-against average (0.85), save percentage (.966), minutes played (283:10) and total saves (115).
PLAYOFF BULLETS: The Bears are 319-273 in the postseason through 592 games played, outscoring opponents 1,853-1,759... The Bears lead the postseason with the most successful penalty kills at home (14), while the Penguins are 2-for-5 (40%) on their road power play...Hershey has been shorthanded 24 times, the most in the postseason... Defensemen have factored into 10 of Hershey's 12 goals in the series, and Bears rookies have accounted for 16 of Hershey's 35 total points ...Three of the five games in the Bears' opening round series were decided by two goals, while all three of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton's were decided in overtime...Hershey finished April with an overall record of 7-4-2-0, and has a winning record in each month...Three of Hershey's last four opening-round series went the distance.
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