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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.

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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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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Despite Michal Neuvirth making 24 saves tonight, the Bears fall to the Stars 2-1 in Game 1 of the Calder Cup Finals.

Francois Bouchard and Mathieu Perreault do the Bears only celebrating of the night after Bouchard's second period tally.  (Photo by Kyle M.)

Francois Bouchard and Mathieu Perreault do the Bears only celebrating of the night after Bouchard's second period tally. (Photo by Kyle M.)

The hockey gods must be playing a cruel trick on us. Why? Because for the first time in the postseason and the second time in 39 games this year, the Hershey Bears lost in front of their home fans at Giant Center. (And no, we weren’t there to curse them!)

Yet before you hit the panic button and start considering doomsday scenarios, we must acknowledge that this was the first time the Bears had played a game in 11 days. During that period, celebrities Gary Coleman and Dennis Hopper died, May turned to June, BP ruined the entire Gulf of Mexico three times over, Team Russia was humbled in another International Tournament and Bret Michaels nearly died from a brain hemorrhage, recovered and then won Celebrity Apprentice. So rust obviously could have been a factor tonight. It’s hard to have your mojo going after that long of a layoff.

The first 30 minutes of tonight’s Calder Cup Finals exhibition played out much to that effect as both teams treated the first half of the game like a chess match. Both clubs tried desperately not make the game’s first, crucial mistake. However despite being outshot 12-2 after one period of play, the Bears were the ones to score the game’s first goal in the second period. The ever-darty and creative Mathieu Perreault found Francois Bouchard wide open in front of the Stars’ net and the Sherbrooke, Quebec native buried it past Texas Goaltender Matt Climie. Yet, Texas was unfazed. Tonight was the 11th straight game they had given up the game’s first goal and during that span they are 7-4.

5 minutes after Bouchard dented the twine, Stars’ center Greg Rallo responded by beating Michal Neuvirth glove side with a sick wrist shot from the top of the circles. Then in the third, Scott McCulloch backhanded home what turned out to be the eventual game winning goal on a semi-breakaway. As Bears’ Radio Announcer John Walton so eloquently put it, the Bears turned it on too little, too late tonight. Hershey falls 2-1. To the bullets!!

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