The Hershey Bears Hockey Club won the Eastern Conference quarterfinal series against the Worcester Sharks three games to one, and will now face the Hartford Wolf Pack for the first time in playoff history in the conference semifinals beginning on Wednesday in Chocolatetown.
After winning both games in Worcester, the Bears came home to host the Sharks in Game Three on Wednesday. Liam O'Brien scored just 3:13 into the game, but the Sharks scored twice in both the second and third periods - netting two power play goals in the process - and forced a Game Four with a 4-1 victory. Chris Tierney tied the game early in the second period, and Ryan Carpenter later dug a loose puck out of a goalmouth scramble and flipped a shot over Pheonix Copley for the eventual game-winner. Taylor Fedun scored in the third period on a two- man advantage for the insurance goal, and Micheal Haley capped off the scoring with an empty-net tally in the final seconds. Troy Grosenick won his AHL playoff debut with 27 saves on 28 shots - while Copley denied 29 of 32 in the loss.
Hershey has been very good at rebounding from losses all season (21-7- 2-0), and proved it for the first time in the postseason with a 10-4 rout in Game Four on Friday. Chris Brown set the tone with his first of two goals on the night just 24 seconds into the contest. Dustin Gazley followed up with a shorthanded breakaway goal and Jakub Vrana's first AHL tally made it 3-0 at 10:40 of the first period. Troy Grosenick was pulled at that point in favor of Aaron Dell, who came in and allowed only Casey Wellman's power play marker in the opening frame. Dylan DeMelo scored his first of the season for the Sharks, who trailed 4-1 after one. Karl Stollery netted the first goal of the middle frame at 4:07, slapping a shot past a screened Philipp Grubauer, cutting the Bears' lead to two. Cameron Schilling restored the three-goal lead with his second goal of the weekend before the turning point in the game - a major penalty for slashing handed to Worcester's Evan Trupp -put the game out of reach for the Sharks. Tim Kennedy scored inside the final seconds of the middle period, bringing Grosenick back in goal to start the third. Wellman and Liam O'Brien also converted on the five-minute power play, giving Hershey an 8-2 lead just 1:28 into the third. Wellman then completed the first Bears hat trick since his own on November 14, 2013 at Charlotte, and Brown deflected a Connor Carrick shot home to give the Bears their ninth and tenth goals of the night. Rylan Schwartz and Matt Taormina scored against Pheonix Copley, who also came on in relief in the third. The goals were the last in Worcester Sharks franchise history. Hershey won its first playoff series since 2010 and now take on the Hartford Wolf Pack.
HERSHEY BEARS NEWS AND NOTES
MOVIN' ON: Hershey emphatically won the Eastern Conference quarterfinal series three games to one over the Worcester Sharks. The series win was Troy Mann's first as Bears head coach, the first Bears series victory since the 2010 Calder Cup Finals and the 67th overall as a franchise.
AFFILIATE BATTLE: For the first time since 2011, the AHL and NHL will have affiliates battling in concurrent series (Washington vs. NY Rangers, Hershey vs. Hartford). Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and Norfolk faced off while Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay dueled four years ago in their respective opening rounds.
ERASE, RE-WRITE, REPEAT: Several records were either tied or broken and milestones re-written in the Bears' Friday night series-clinching win over the Worcester Sharks:
-Shots on goal - 48 (old record 46, 6/1/07 vs. HAM)
-Individual points, one game, both teams - 40 (old record 36, 5/11/07 vs. WBS)
-Bears playoff hat trick - Casey Wellman (first since 5/11/07, Scott Barney vs. WBS)
-Goals, one game - 10 (tied for second-most in team history and first in AHL since 4/22/98 at Kentucky)
"S" FOR SUCCESS: Bears defensemen Cameron Schilling and Nate Schmidt were a big part of the offense in Hershey's series win over Worcester. Schilling leads the Bears with five points (2-3-5), is tied for the second-most points among AHL defensemen and is tied for the league lead in plus-minus (+6). Schmidt has four points (1-3-4), all of which came on the power play. He leads all AHL defensemen and is tied for the overall AHL lead in power-play points.
WELL, HE'S CLUTCH: RW Casey Wellman came within one point of tying Tomas Fleischmann for the Bears' single-game playoff point record when he notched a hat trick and one assist on Friday. Among his teammates, Wellman ranks third in Calder Cup playoff games played (42). He has 26 career playoff points (16-10-26) and has registered at least three goals in each playoff year.
ROOKIES REVVING UP: LW Liam O'Brien is one of just three AHL players to have recorded points in all four of his team's playoff games. He has four points (2-2-4), which ranks tied for seventh among AHL rookies. Teammate Jakub Vrana, who scored his first AHL goal in Friday's win, added two assists on the night and also has four points (1-3-4) in his young four-game playoff career.
BEARS BULLETS: Not surprisingly, Hershey climbed to second in goals per game average (4.50) among all playoff teams...Hershey ranks third on the power play at home (30.8%) and overall (35.0%), and has scored the most power-play goals (seven) among all playoff teams...Hershey is the only playoff team to have recorded four power play goals in one game...Hershey is one of three teams with a shorthanded goal scored in the opening round...Hershey and Worcester finished with one-goal decisions in all four games of the regular season; three of the four playoff games were decided by not less than three goals... Hershey is the only team in the league to have recorded 20 shots on goal in a period (2nd , 5/1)....Hershey is the only team to have recorded four goals in a first period (5/1).
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