BostonBruins.com - The Providence Bruins have not made it particularly easy on themselves this postseason. They have fallen behind in both of their first two series and have faced elimination in four of the 12 games they have played.
But playing with their season on the line appears to bring out the best in the P-Bruins.
After a 4-2 victory against the Hershey Bears in Game 7 of the Atlantic Division Finals Wednesday night, they have now won all four of those elimination games - all on the road, which is the first time in history that feat has been accomplished during one Calder Cup Playoffs.
"Even though it seems like our backs were up against the wall, having to win two games in a row, both these past series, it didn't really show in this series on the ice and we just did what we were good at doing and there'd be no regrets whatever happened," said Providence forward Wayne Simpson. "We got some good breaks and some good goaltending and in the end we came out on the right side."
The P-Bruins clinched a spot in the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 2009, behind two goals from Simpson and three points (goal, two assists) from Jordan Szwarz. Danton Heinen and Alex Grant added two assists each, while Zane McIntyre made 15 saves.
"There's definitely ups and downs," said McIntyre. "I knew for sure our guys were at a good emotional standpoint. The biggest thing is we weren't too high and we weren't too low. We knew what we wanted to do coming into the game and what we wanted to execute.
"I think there was a level of confidence in the game that we were going to play. I think it was just trusting in our system, trusting in ourselves, having that accountability that the guy next to you is going to do his job. There was definitely, as a whole, confidence."
Providence, which moves on to play the Syracuse Crunch (the Tampa Bay Lightning's affiliate), took an early 1-0 lead on Szwarz's first tally of the game 6:50 into the first period. Hershey tied the game just 2:06 later on a goal from Riley Barber.
Szwarz netted his second of the game at 5:41 of the middle period to put Providence back in the lead. Simpson, who assisted on both of Szwarz's goals, then potted one of his own at 12:31 of the second to extend the P-Bruins' lead to 3-1.
"Our line seemed to gel really well tonight and we were moving the puck a lot," said Szwarz. "A lot of lines had good scoring chances. Luckily our line seemed to have hot sticks and get some bounces at the same time. It's fun when things are going our way.
"Been frustrated a little bit in the past, but kept sticking to it and we knew we had what it takes to win a tough game like that."
Hershey creeped within one when Chandler Stephenson scored late in the second, but that was as close as the Bears would get. Providence sealed the deal when Jake DeBrusk notched his fifth of the postseason, into an empty net, with 59 seconds to go.
"It's pretty neat, pretty special," said McIntyre. "Just trying to enjoy it…but we've got to be prepared and get ready for Friday, be prepared for our next opponent and be ready to rock. It's going to be a good series, we have to be ready for it."
Here is the Eastern Conference Finals schedule:
Game 1: Friday, May 19 at Providence, 7:05 p.m. ET
Game 2: Sunday, May 21 at Providence, 7:05 p.m. ET
Game 3: Wednesday, May 24 at Syracuse, 7 p.m. ET
Game 4: Friday, May 26 at Syracuse, 7 p.m. ET
*Game 5: Saturday, May 27 at Syracuse, 7 p.m. ET
*Game 6: Tuesday, May 30 at Providence, 7:05 p.m. ET
*Game 7: Wednesday, May 31 at Providence, 7:05 p.m. ET
(* if necessary)