Monday, May 25, 2009

Hershey Bears Eliminate Providence

Hershey Bears: Eastern Conference Champions
May 26, 2009
by T. Chace Jr.

The bigger, stronger, faster, more experienced, more determined Hershey Bears eliminated the young resilient Providence Bruins on Memorial Day afternoon. Hershey never trailed in Monday's game, winning the game 5-2 and the series four games to one. Hershey will now move on to the Calder Cup Finals against the Manitoba Moose. The top team in the East during the regular season meets the top team from the West, the cream of the crop going for the Calder Cup.

The first period was completely dominated by the Hershey Bears and it started on a power play about 2:00 into the game. The puck never left the Bruins zone for what seemed like the rest of the period. Providence netminder, 22 year-old Tuukka Rask, held the Bears off the scoreboard by making thirteen saves in the first period. The Bears had two power play opportunities and outshot the Bruins by a wide 13-3 margin. Providence's best chance occurred with 2:36 left in the period on a Brad Marchand shot that Bears goalie Michael Neuvirth made a nice save on. No score after one period.

In less than a minute of the second period another penalty was called on Providence, an interference call on Martin St.Pierre at the :58 second mark. Rask made a huge save on a blast from Chris Bourque to keep it scoreless. Another call on Providence's captain Jeremy Reich for hooking at 1:23 gave the Bears a five on three advantage. At 2:17, Andrew Gordon scored his 5th goal of the playoffs on the power play with assists to Alexandre Giroux and Bourque to take a 1-0 lead. Providence got their chance on the power play soon after the Bears goal. While on the power play, Bruin's Johnny Boychuk got tangled up with Bears Steve Pinizzotto and was hurt on the play and went to the dressing room. The Bruin's Marchand found the net at 4:45 on the power play with assists to Peter Schaefer and Jeff Penner to tie the score at 1-1. Boychuk later returned to the ice and took his normal shift. Providence outplayed Hershey in the first half of the period but Hershey dominated the latter half. At 16:20, while on the power play again, Giroux scored his team leading 9th goal of the playoffs with helpers given to Bourque and Bryan Helmer. The second period ended with Providence on the power play and the score 2-1 in Hershey's favor. Shots were nearly even at 14-12 in favor of Hershey.

Rookie Mikko Lehtonen scored on a wrist shot over the left shoulder of Neuvirth while on the power play at 1:57 of the third period to tie the score at 2-2. Andrew Bodnarchuk and Reich battled to keep the puck in along the blue line to set up Lehtonen. At 6:46, the Bears scored while shorthanded. Boychuk cheated in along the right boards to try and keep the puck in the Hershey zone but it bounced past St. Pierre at the point and Chris Bourque grabbed the loose puck, skated in, and blasted a slapshot past Rask for an unassisted goal to make it 3-2. Hershey's Darren Reid scored at 10:19 of the third period after forechecking near the Bruin net to make it a 4-2 lead. Hershey played keep away and were satisfied to just clear the puck from their zone for the rest of the period. Quintin Laing, who has been out injured for quite some time, returned to play on Friday night for the Bears, scored an empty netter at 19:03 to seal the victory for the Hershey Bears. The final shot totals were 38-29 in favor of Hershey. Hershey was 2 for 5 on the power play while Providence went 1 for 5 with their opportunities with the extra man. The three stars of the game were Chris Bourque, Alexandre Giroux, and Mikko Lehtonen.

Providence had their chances in this series. They had a 3-0 lead in Game 3 and a 2-0 lead in Game 4, but they witnessed the relentless offensive attack of the Hershey team to overcome and take both games. Nobody scored more goals during the regular season than Hershey, they played true to form and were the more deserving victor. Hats off to Providence and their very young club, they were a resilient bunch all year and first year Head Coach Rob Murray and Assistant Coach "Butch" Cassidy deserve kudos for their efforts this season.

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