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Bieber-Mania hits the Bears lockerroom.

Bieber-Mania hits the Bears lockerroom.

After losing the first two games of the Calder Cup Finals at home, the Hershey Bears are now one win away from raising the Calder Cup for the eleventh time in club history, and in back-to-back years. Holy Schnikes!!

What stands in their way? A Texas Stars team that is “trying to stay positive.” Yeah. (It’s like they finally realized who they were playing against.)

But despite Hershey’s 3 game sweep of Texas at Cedar Park Center, the Stars can still draw confidence off Games 1 and 2 where they frustrated the AHL’s highest scoring team. Which Bears team will show up Monday for Game 6? The one that tried to play fancy, stick around the perimeter and let it’s emotions get the best of them, or the one that played simple, went hard to the net and kept its cool?

Today, Hershey held a 45-60 minute practice at Giant Center and Bears first line center Keith Aucoin hoped it was the latter:

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Andrew Gordon: One Win Away.

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Alexandre Giroux’s overtime goal has put the Hershey Bears ahead (3-2) of the Stars for the first time in the Calder Cup Finals series.  From his seat on the Bears charter jet, right wing Andrew Gordon sets the stage for the series’ completion in Hershey.  He discusses the vibe in the dressing room, disparities in travel between the NHL and AHL, and predicts some excellent hockey to come.

We finally arrive to the point in the season that we have been waiting for all along. After taking tonight’s game in Texas, we return home with a 3-2 series lead, and more importantly, a chance at the championship. They say the fourth win in a series is always the hardest one to get, but considering the battles we have just fought in games four and five, I don’t see how it could get much tougher. Both teams seem evenly matched through five games. One favorable bounce here or a tough call there has made all the difference, but a win is a win, and we have found a way to win three games in their building. Our confidence is high.

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Giant Center Game 5 Viewing Party Attracts 2,000+

The Boys of Disgraceland Make An Appearance at the Giant Center Party

Giant Center was rocking on Friday night. A crowd of 2,000+ came to GC to cheer on their beloved Bears and watch Game 5 on the big screen. By games end, it sounded more like 10,000. Thanks Alexandre Giroux.

Hershey will try and win the Calder Cup Monday in front of a crowd of nearly 11,000. Tickets for Game 6 sold out in a little under three hours.

Cumberland Valley High’s Class of 2010 Graduation Ceremony will have to wait.  The Bears are still playing.

Cumberland Valley High’s Class of 2010 Graduation Ceremony will have to wait. The Bears have some unfinished business to take care of.

Bears 2010 Playoff Stats

  • 8-2 at home
  • 8-2 scoring first goal
  • 7-3 allowing first goal
  • 11-2 when out shooting
  • 3-3 when out shot
  • 2-1 leading after 1
  • 3-1 leading after 2
  • (6-0 leading after 3) ;)
  • 7-1 Trailing after 1
  • 5-2 Trailing after 2
  • 6-3 tied after 1
  • 7-2 tied after 2
  • 9-4 one goal games
  • 2-0 two goal games
  • 8-1 overtime
  • And oh yeah, if the Bears are forced to play a Game 7, Hershey is 4-0 on Wednesdays.

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Keith Aucoin shoots while Aaron Gagnon surely does nothing meriting a penalty. (Chris Knight / The Patriot-News)

You gotta give the Bears this: they know drama.  Despite the Hershey offense being well tuned and on-target all throughout game five, the visitors could not gain a lead over the Stars.  By the end of regulation, the Bears had notched 37 shots, but all but one were summarily blocked by the excellent Stars netminder Matt Climie.  It took nearly fifteen minutes of extra hockey for Alexander Giroux to finally defeat the Stars defense and create Hershey’s first game-lead of the series.  The Bears beat the Stars 2-1 in overtime to put the series at 3-2, Hershey.

Don’t be mistaken by the low score; this was a 70+ minute exhibition of superb hockey.   The refs all but abandoned the concept of adjudicating hockey.  The two teams traded off in puck domination and net aggression.  Players dove to block shots with astounding frequency, and no player seemed to forget this is the finals– even when exhausted.   Michal Neuvirth, without a doubt, deserves tonight’s MVP nod for having rebuffed the Stars on perhaps a dozen excellent scoring chances.   John Carlson and Kyle Wilson, too, deserve applause for their precise defensive and shot output respectively.

But it was Alexandre Giroux, all but silenced before this play, who stepped up in overtime to score the game-winner. Roo pounced on a loose puck and swatted it in with a tenacity and alacrity that Climie could not match.  After blocking 41 shots, Climie was finally defeated the goalie by Alex’s force of will.  As John Walton would say, “Good morning, good evening, good night!”

The Bears are probably airborne right now, headed home to Hershey for the final one or two games of the series.  The Chocolate and White now have two chances to win the Calder Cup, and they seem more determined to do so than ever.

Clear your social calendar for Monday, June 14.

Andrew Gordon: Winning Our Way Home.

Gordo's Take

John Carlson’s third period goal lifted the Bears to a pivotal win over the Texas Stars.  The series is now tied at 2-2 with only one game remaining in Texas.  Andrew Gordon reflects on the meaning of last night’s win, a few differences between the NHL and the AHL, and the tribulations of team sports.

Tonight is a new night, and we can all breath a little easier. Going down 3-1 is pretty much the same as going down 3-0 in my opinion, so tonight was as much of a must win as Monday.

When we left Hershey, our focus was winning our way home. We wanted to take a minimum of two games in Texas to assure there would be at least one more game back in Hershey. After learning from our experience in the first two games, we felt we would me be a much different team if we could return home for game six. We have achieved that little goal through these two games in Austin, and with a third game still to play we may be able to return home on the verge of a Championship! That’s a drastic shift from the attitude last week.

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Captain America Scores Another Epic Goal. This Time John Carlson redirects the game winning goal into the net in the waning minutes of Game 4.

Above: Hershey celebrates their Game 4 win. Top: John Carlson does it again. This time, he redirects the GWG Home on a Bears PP.  (Photos by Chris Knight, The Patriot-News)

Above: Hershey celebrates their Game 4 win. Top: John Carlson does it again. This time, he redirects the GWG Home on a Bears PP. (Photos by Chris Knight, The Patriot-News)

Tonight could have gone very differently. Despite rediscovering their offensive mojo, the Hershey Bears could not generate a lead over the Texas Stars. With the end of regulation looming, the Bear shook off the threat of a do-or-die game 5 with Captain America John Carlson’s razor-sharp deflection past Stars goalie Matt Climie. An empty netter from Alexandre Giroux sealed the deal, and now we’re facing a unique prospect: the Calder Cup will be awarded in Hershey. With the series finally tied, the only question remains who will claim it.

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Andrew Gordon continues his RMNB residency by providing a glance at the Hershey Bears’ trip to Texas.  In anticipation of tonight’s game (8:30 on Comcast SportsNet), Andrew shares some photos of himself posing with Mathieu Perreault in the locker room, the Bears boarding their jet, and Captain America John Carlson mugging for the camera on ice.

Enjoy!

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A view of the arena in Austin from the top row.

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Andrew Gordon: Statement Game

Gordo's Take after Game 3 - Photo by Chris Knight of The Patriot-News

Andrew Gordon scored two of the Bears’ six goals in last night’s game with the Texas Stars, including the game winner.  In today’s piece, Andrew discusses the win, getting over the bad breaks of the first period, and digging deep in the post season.

I don’t need to explain how badly we needed to win this game. Going down 3-0 with two more games in their building just wasn’t an option. We needed to make a statement about who we are, and we did just that. It didn’t look good early though. After letting up a goal on the first shot of the game (a ricochet off of Boyd Kane’s skate), and a shorthanded tap in after a miscue between Neuvy and our defenseman, I felt like nothing could go right. We were a team stuck in Murphy’s Law: Whatever could go wrong, seemed to.

After the first period, all the talk in the dressing room was about us. We knew we couldn’t take back the bad bounces that happened. We couldn’t play that period over again. But we knew if we used the last 40 minutes to play the way we know how, and stick to the game plan we could give ourselves a chance. From that point forward our attitude was completely different. We started shooting the puck, driving the net, limiting the odd man rushes against and only made high risk plays when it absolutely had to be done. By not giving them anything for free, we slowly started to take over. Every shift was like shooting a little more energy into our veins. We started to believe in ourselves and our abilities again. By the time the third period started, we had our swagger back. We were the Bears again, and when that buzzer sounded to end tonight’s game my thoughts shot back to the feeling I had so often this season. I got a taste of winning again, and as a team I can safely say we liked it.

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Above: Chris Bourque skies in the air to keep the puck on his stick. Top: Bourque and Andrew Gordon celebrate the GWG. (Photos by Chris Knight, The Patriot-News)

Above: Chris Bourque skies in the air to keep the puck on his stick. Top: Bourque and Andrew Gordon celebrate the GWG. (Photos by Chris Knight, The Patriot-News)

After an absolutely dreadful start which saw the Bears take a 3-1 deficit into the first intermission, even the most optimistic of Bears fans would have thought that the chances of Hershey coming back in this series were slim. But Head Coach Mark French showed confidence in his players and made the necessary adjustments. He allowed Michal Neuvirth to return in net for the second period, despite witnessing last year’s playoff MVP flub a clearing attempt on a first-period powerplay. Neuvy’s whiff led to Texas’s second goal of the night, an unassisted short-handed goal by Francis Wathier. French then subtlety tinkered with his forward combinations promoting Chris Bourque to the top line and dropping the 2008-09 AHL MVP, Alexandre Giroux, to the second. It paid immediate dividends.

Hershey went on to score five unanswered goals, punctuated by two third period tallies by Andrew Gordon which included the eventual game-winning goal. The Hershey Bears win 6-3. The high-octane offense has returned!
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Andrew Gordon: A Tough Pill To Swallow.

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Despite Andrew Gordon’s ace tying goal in third period, the Hershey Bears fell to the Texas Stars in a 4-3 stunner last night.  The Bears now trail in the series 2-0 and must play the next three games in Stars country. Andrew shares his thoughts about the loss and provides an ice-level perspective on frustration, the team’s identity, and the key to victory.

The words ringing through my head tonight are the same ones Chris Bourque joked about with a wry smile right before we stepped on the ice tonight for warm-up: “How about you write a happy blog for tomorrow?”

Sorry, Chris; that’s not happening. When I signed up to write these entries after each game, I thought it would be fun to let everybody in on the dressing room celebrations and talk about the players who were playing great. Instead, I feel like I’m venting my own frustrations. This isn’t the way I intended my blog to be, but this isn’t the way I intended the series to be either.

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