In front of their hometown fans in tonight’s game six, Hershey showed up to play, holding a huge edge in puck-possession time. But, as head coach Mark French would later say, the Bears’ effort those first 40 minutes was “misdirected.” Manchester had a 24-13 shot advantage, and the Bears only managed 4 shots on goal in the first. Despite owning the puck much less, the Monarchs took what seemed like an insurmountable 2-0 lead heading into the third period.
Like they have all year, the Bears came back harder in the third and won their 7th overtime game of the playoffs (an AHL record). The Chocolate and White now advance to the Calder Cup Finals for the fourth time in five years and will face the winner of the Hamilton Bulldogs (MON)/Texas Stars (DAL) series! WOOOOOOOOOO!!
You know what? It’s been too long. Let’s play the bullets:
- I listened to game 6 on the Bears’ Radio Network while Neil and Kyle were there in person. I learned two things while listening to the game: 1.) John Walton has one of the best radio voices in the nation; 2.) during commercials, the internet audio feed sounds like how hell might sound on a windy day.
- Tim Leone that icing wasn’t called when Karl Alzner touched the puck because Neuvy had left the crease to play it. Neuvy didn’t actually play the puck, but that’s all that was needed to wash out the call. And that’s also all it took for the Bears fans in Giant Center to being giving mock cheers whenever an actual icing call was made. Well played, Bears fans. Manchester’s first goal came with 17 seconds left in the first period on what should have been an icing call– or at least that’s what the Hershey players thought. That was all the advantage the Monarchs needed for Gabe Gauthier to steal the idle puck and leave a sweet drop pass for John Zeller, who ripped a shot past Michal Neuvirth. An off-ice official later explained to Bears beat reporter
- Manchester’s second tally came off the stick of defenseman Joe Piskula who scored off a rebound in the second period. At that point the Bears had yet to present any clear offense, so the goal seemed like a dagger.
- In the third period, the Bears turned it on. (Sound familiar?) The Monarchs had initially limited Hershey’s offensive opportunities, but the Bears started getting second and third chances on their shots. By the 7:37 mark, they finally put one past Monarchs goaltender Jonathan Bernier. Alexandre Giroux jammed a rebound off a Keith Aucoin shot for his team-best 12th goal of the playoffs. Most importantly, it energized the team, and it got the crowd back into the game.
- Seven minutes later, the Bears would ride the momentum and strike again. As two guys screened Bernier in front, defenseman Patrick McNeil took a shot from the left point which made it through. Pandemonium struck Giant Center as McNeil and his teammates celebrated his first postseason goal!
- Finally, in overtime, Boyd Kane scored what he referred to post-game as the biggest goal of his career (Ed. note – so far!). The captain of the Bears’ 2006 Calder Cup title team scored a dirty goal in front and was rewarded for it by getting mobbed by his teammates. Kane was the 7th Bear to score in OT this playoff year. Incredible.
- So yeah, four visits to the AHL Finals in five years? A sold out, boisterious crowd almost every night. Forget calling Hershey a dynasty. Can we call them a hockey town?
The Bears will now get some much needed and much deserved time off. We will have coverage of every game of the Calder Cup Finals as Kyle will be traveling with the team. Their parent club may be done for the year, but the Hershey Bears continue to demonstrate the spirit that makes this organization the most exciting in hockey right now.