PROVIDENCE, R.I. - No team wants to find itself trailing in a postseason series. But the Providence Bruins are hoping their opening-round experience can act as a positive as they head into the Atlantic Division Finals against the Hershey Bears this weekend.
The P-Bruins trailed top-seeded Wilkes-Barre, 2-1, in their best-of-five first-round series, before storming back for two consecutive victories, which included a 2-1 win in the deciding Game 5.
Providence hopes to carry over that momentum when it opens up in Hershey on Saturday night.
"It's good to know that you can play with your back up against the wall," said Providence captain Tommy Cross. "Ideally, you get out ahead in a series and you stay ahead, but I think it was something that gave us some confidence, and we reset for this series. But it is a confidence builder."
Video: Providence preps for playoff series vs. Hershey
Hershey, which defeated Lehigh Valley in five games during their first-round series, lost in the Calder Cup Final last season.
"They're a good team that has some younger players that have been through the grind before," said Cross. "They went to the finals last year, so they're a good opponent. They're playing well. I think it's the same for us, I think we are playing our game."
The teams split this year's season series, with Providence winning the first three matchups and Hershey taking the last three.
"We have to have all of our guys firing on all cylinders," said Jake DeBrusk, who has three goals and an assist in five postseason games. "It gets harder every series. We kind of know what to expect and we're expecting a hostile crowd there in Hershey. It's going to be a tough series."
Opposing View: Hershey Bears
The Bears were the second-highest scoring team in the AHL during the regular season, with 252 goals in 76 games - good for a mark of 3.3 goals per game. Hershey was paced by Travis Boyd, who led the team with 63 points (16 goals, 47 assists) during the regular season. Paul Carey and Christian Thomas each had 24 goals to tie for the team lead.
Winger Chris Bourque, son of Bruins legend Ray Bourque, was second on the Bears with 60 points (18 goals, 42 assists). Bourque's other son, Ryan, played in 53 games for Hershey this season and notched four goals and 10 assists.
"As far as the offensive zone, they do a good job controlling the puck, rolling out, give and go's and things like that," said Providence goalie Zane McIntyre. "Obviously getting pucks to the net for A and B scoring chances. It will be a good test for us defensively to stay with their speed."
During the postseason, Stanislav Galiev has guided the Bears with a team-high three goals and five points. Chris Bourque is second on the team with two goals.
"In the O-zone they're creative and the D get involved," said Sean Kuraly. "They've got some skilled forwards that can make plays if you're not thinking right. We're just going to play our system and we'll be just fine."
Hershey had the sixth-ranked power play (20.7%) and the 14th-ranked penalty kill (82.3%) during the regular season. The Bears are 0 for 13 on the man advantage in the playoffs.
Wait, There's More
Providence has the best power play in the Calder Cup Playoffs, with six goals in 22 opportunities (27.3%). Danton Heinen has three of those goals, while DeBrusk, Colton Hargove, and Jordan Szwarz have a goal apiece
Szwarz led the P-Bruins with 54 points and 22 goals in 65 games during the regular season. Forwards DeBrusk (19 goals, 30 assists) and Wayne Simpson (16 goals, 33 assists) and defenseman Alex Grant (17 goals, 32 assists) were tied for second in scoring with 49 points.
Here's how some of the B's other top prospects fared in their first professional seasons:
- Heinen: 14-30-44 in 64 games
- Peter Cehlarik: 20-18-38 in 49 games
- Matt Grzelcyk: 6-26-32 in 70 games
- Kuraly: 14-12-26 in 54 games
- Rob O'Gara: 4-9-13 in 59 games
Atlantic Division Finals Schedule
GAME 1 - Saturday, May 6: Providence at Hershey, 7 p.m.
GAME 2 - Sunday, May 7: Providence at Hershey, 5 p.m.
GAME 3 - Thursday, May 11: Hershey at Providence, 7:05 p.m.
GAME 4 - Friday, May 12: Hershey at Providence, 7:05 p.m.
GAME 5 - Sunday, May 14: Hershey at Providence, 3:05 p.m.*
GAME 6 - Tuesday, May 16: Providence at Hershey, 7 p.m.*
GAME 7 - Wednesday, May 17: Providence at Hershey, 7 p.m.*
(* if necessary)