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Bears Broom Monarchs Aside

by Mike Vogel / Washington Capitals
MANCHESTER, N.H. – A year after winning the ninth Calder Cup championship in franchise history, the Hershey Bears set the bar high. They aimed to become the first team in nearly two decades to repeat as AHL champs, and the first to win eight playoff series in the process of doing so. On Saturday night, the Bears forged a 3-1 win over the Manchester Monarchs to author a series sweep and take the seventh of the eight series needed to achieve their goal.

“We knew they were going to come,” said Bears coach Bruce Boudreau. “We met their push, we stood tall, and I think we deserved to win.”

The game featured a lot of tempo, flow and hitting. The Bears had the better of the scoring chances at even strength in the first period, as Manchester was forced to ice the puck on four occasions.

For the fourth time in as many games in the series, Hershey got on the board first. Manchester’s Tim Jackman took a poorly timed interference penalty in the offensive zone after the Monarchs had briefly had some possession time in the Hershey end. As they’ve done so often during the postseason, the Bears cashed in on the power play chance.

Matt Hendricks won a draw in the offensive zone, and Alexandre Giroux corralled the puck along the wall to the left of Manchester netminder Jason LaBarbera. Hershey defenseman Troy Milam made a nice read and pinched down from the left point. Giroux fed him with a perfect pass just to LaBarbera’s right, and Milam touch-passed the puck to Hendricks, who was camped on the doorstep to the goaltender’s left. Hendricks calmly drilled the puck into the open net to give the Bears a 1-0 lead.

As Giroux noted afterwards, it was “Tic, tac, toe.” But in reality, it was a more complex play. Usually, the point man cruises into that lane and has a one-timer opportunity for a goal. His success depends on the accuracy of the shot and the goalie’s ability to get over. LaBarbera got over to face Milam, but when the puck went right back to Hendricks on the other side, the goalie was helpless.

“I thought it was a one-timer for Troy,” said Giroux, “but he made an unbelievable play. It was all Troy.”

“I was just trying to get open for Al,” said Hendricks when asked about the play. “We’ve got a lot of trust in him when he’s got the puck. He was kind of looking for his options, and he found Milam on the back door who made a great play. That comes around once a season for me. It was a great play. He has a tremendous amount of skill, Troy Milam does.”

“Giroux made a great play down low,” stated Milam. “He had a little time walking up the wall, and they kind of stood around a little bit. So I get into position where coach Bouds always makes me sit there. I got there and the puck was a perfect pass right to me. The defenseman slid over, so I just slid it back to Hendricks. He said he didn’t see it, it just kind of hit him and then he buried it into the empty net. It worked out great.”

All three players deserve the credit, and getting the first goal was important throughout the series. The Bears never trailed in the four games.

Manchester’s best scoring opportunity of the first came while the Monarchs were shorthanded in the waning seconds. Hershey’s Tomas Fleischmann lost control in his own end, and Manchester’s Matt Ryan stripped him and went in alone on a mini-breakaway. Ryan took the puck all the way to the paint, but he air-mailed his shot off the glass and the Bears were able to escape the frame with a 1-0 lead.

Five minutes into the second, the Bears were able to get some much-needed breathing room against an increasingly desperate Manchester team. The Fleischmann-Kyle Wilson-Scott Barney line did a good job of keeping the puck in the attack zone, and the puck came out to Milam at the left point. He lofted a high wrister through a maze of traffic. LaBarbera kneeled and peered through the crowd to try to see the puck, but it hit Barney and bounced into the cage.

Just over a minute later, Cassivi made a nice glove save on a similar shot – but one with far more velocity – at the other end. That save displayed Hershey’s killer instinct. The Bears never gave the Monarchs anything to feel good about in the entire series.

Hershey nursed its 2-0 lead into the third, and the Monarchs began to press and pour it on in the attack zone. With just under eight minutes left, they finally solved Cassivi. Patrick O’Sullivan carried the puck in while Ryan drove the net on the backside. O’Sullivan threaded a perfect pass to Ryan who chipped the puck past Cassivi as he lost his footing and crashed into the end boards.

The Bears’ veteran netminder was forced to make a few more stellar stops in the late stages as Manchester launched 15 of its 32 shots on goal for the game in the third period.

“They didn’t quit,” said Cassivi. “You’ve got to give them credit for that. We told ourselves not to expect them to quit. I don’t know if we backed away a little bit for a while when it was still 2-0. But they scored a goal and it seemed to get them going a little bit. But we hung on.”

With LaBarbera pulled for an extra attacker, the Monarchs pressed some more. Hershey’s Andy Hedlund gained control of a rebound and chipped it out to neutral ice. Quintin Laing tapped it off the wall and Hendricks raced toward it with a burst of speed that no Monarch could match. Once he was in the offensive zone, Hendricks let a shot fly and ended any remaining drama with his second goal of the game and his eighth of the playoffs.

The quest for a second straight Calder Cup gets down to the short strokes on Friday when Hershey hosts Hamilton in Game 1 of the finals series. The same two clubs clashed for the Calder exactly 10 springs ago with the Bears prevailing.

On Milam’s performance:
“I think it epitomizes what our whole concept is about team. I think we had 26 or 27 players play in this series alone and every one of them came in and whether it was one game or two games or whatever, they contributed so well. It’s a pretty amazing group.”

On whether there was extra satisfaction in eliminating Manchester, his former employer:
“No. I am really happy to go to the finals. Even though it’s not against my buddy [Chicago Wolves head coach] John [Anderson], my mom gets a chance to see it, so there’s the satisfaction right there. I didn’t care if it was Manchester or L.A., quite frankly. I’m just glad we won.”

On whether he was surprised to have dominated this series:
“I was surprised before the series started, but as the series went on I had so much faith in our guys. I thought if we can compete to the same level that they compete, then I think we’re going to be good and we had a chance to win it. There was no let up. That was by far their best game. We met it. Sometimes you get a 3-0 lead, you take things for granted, especially when you have a couple days off in their city. We came out and we played as hard as we played in the first game of the playoffs.”

On how ready he felt Milam was:
“I think they’re all ready. The great thing about experience, about being there, is we know players are going to have to play who haven’t played in 15 games or played in a month. Pete Vandermeer was a perfect example and Troy Milam was a perfect example.  They skate hard and they practice hard if they’re not playing because they know that eventually they’re going to go in. I learned long ago that you have to use 28-30 players if you want to win this thing. He was ready and he always wanted to go in and he’s a competitor. He had a great game with two assists for us.”

On his team’s defense this year:
“[We have] a big defense that blocks people out and is willing to sacrifice, and they block so many shots. At the end when O’Sullivan was cutting across, I think four of the five guys went down to block. We’ve got big strong defense. They may not be household names in the American League, but they can all play.”

On the coming finals series:
“Hamilton was the exact one team I’m really afraid of because they beat us soundly in our building. I have to go back and look at it, but I thought we had a pretty strong team when they beat us in our building and when we beat them in their building – I think it was the third game of the year or something – they outplayed us really bad for two periods and their goalie coughed the puck up with two seconds to go and we won. I think they’re probably the hottest team in the West right now so it should be a good matchup.”

On being back in the lineup:
“It’s been a while since I moved my feet that fast but once I got ’em going I kind of felt like I got back in the rhythm of things.

On the mentality of going into the lineup after a long layoff:
“I think you’ve just got to go in and try to keep it simple. You haven’t played in a while, and you don’t want to overhandle the puck and make too many things happen. But usually when you try to keep it simple, things work out like they did tonight.”

On whether there was any special feeling after eliminating his former team from the playoffs:
“We don’t come with that mindset. We want to win ourselves and go as far as we can. We’re happy we’re going to the finals now. It’s exciting.”

On the team’s mood going to the finals:
“Right now, for the next couple of hours, we want to enjoy the win and enjoy the fact that we’re getting there.  After that it’s back to business. It’s not going to be easy. Hamiltion is playing great. Everybody thought Chicago would win it, and they beat them in five [games] so they must be a good team. We’ll have to work hard this week. It would be nice if we didn’t have another seven days to wait. We’re all excited here to get going, and I am sure they are too. We’ll have time to work on a few things, get a little rest and get ready for them.”

On the defense in front of him:
“We don’t have the experience on paper but guys are working really hard, they’re doing a great job and they’ve gotten better and better as the year went on. They’re playing with a lot of confidence. They’re doing a great job of blocking shots and cutting passes.”

On Milam’s play:
“That kid hasn’t been in the lineup in quite a long time. For him to come out and play the way he did, we were all rooting for him and are very happy for him. That was a great play. It was basically just a tap-in for me.”

On having extra jump tonight:
“I felt pretty good tonight. I was trying to prepare a little bit more today. It was a big game. I’ve been thrown in a lot of key situations lately. I know our line really didn’t produce a whole lot like we did in the Wilkes-Barre and Albany series, but that’s what a team is. We were able to sit back and play a little bit more defensively because we knew Tomas Fleischmann, Scott Barney and Kyle Wilson were going to get the job done putting some goals in the net. That’s a team. We’ve got a great goaltender in Freddie and it is really starting to come together right now.”

Chad Wiseman
On playing for the Calder Cup:
“It’s an experience. I’ve never done it before. Al [Giroux]and I made it to the conference finals and Game 7, and we lost to Wilkes-Barre. We’re one step closer this time and hopefully we can finish what we started nine months ago.”

On playing for the Calder Cup:
“We lost Game 7 a couple of years ago [with Hartford]. And my first year in Binghamton, same thing. We lost to Hamilton in the conference finals. It’s been twice, and now I’m going. The guys are going to be ready for that.”

Lineup Changes – With Kip Brennan on the sidelines after his Wednesday night penalty box fracas, Pete Vandermeer got a sweater and his first taste of postseason action in Game 4. Vandermeer’s presence meant that another vet had to sit, and that turned out to be defenseman Tim Wedderburn. Milam replaced Wedderburn on the backline, suiting up for the first time since Game 2 of the Albany series on Apr. 19.

For Manchester, forward Petr Kanko and defenseman Bryan Schmidt both returned to the lineup after being scratched in Game 3. Shay Stephenson and T.J. Kemp were scratched for Manchester after suiting up in Game 3.

Like Father, Unlike Son – Hockey Hall of Fame defenseman Raymond Bourque waited more than two decades to hoist the Stanley Cup for the first time, finally raising the coveted chalice in 2001 with the Colorado Avalanche. Now in his second season as a pro, Bourque’s son Chris is hoping to win his second Calder Cup title in as many seasons. The 21-year-old Bourque was a member of last year’s Calder Cup champion Bears team and is a key cog on this year’s team that is within four wins of a repeat title.

On Thursday, thee younger Bourque brought his teammates to visit his parents’ house in nearby Massachusetts, just outside Boston. On Saturday, Raymond was in attendance at Verizon Wireless Arena, watching his son and his mates close out the Eastern Conference finals series with Manchester. The elder Bourque stopped upstairs and spent the second period providing color analysis with John Walton’s play-by-play call on the Hershey Bears radio network.

Isn’t That Special? – Hershey’s special teams dominance in this series carried through Game 4. The Bears were 8-for-24 (33.3%) on the power play and 26-for-28 (92.3%) on the penalty kill in the four-game sweep of Manchester.

Economy – The series sweep was Hershey’s third in the last seven playoff sets. The Bears have won twice in five games, once in six and once in seven in those last seven series over the past two springs.

Nothing Doing – Ryan’s third period goal ended a lengthy even-strength scoring drought for the Monarchs. That tally was Manchester’s first at even strength since the third period of Game 1, a span of 189:22. That’s the equivalent of more than three full games.

O from the D – Coming into the Eastern Conference finals series with the Bears, three of Manchester’s top playoff scorers were defensemen. Peter Harrold, Oleg Tverdovsky and T.J. Kemp all ranked among the Monarchs’ top half-dozen playoff scorers. But it was the Bears’ blueliners who came up big at the other end in this series. Hershey defensemen combined for four goals (all from Mike Green) and 14 points in the four-game series.

Brennan in Limbo – Prior to Saturday’s Game 4, Brennan met with AHL brass about the incident late in Wednesday’s game in which Brennan exchanged punches with a Manchester fan while he was serving a fighting major. The AHL is expected to announce the duration of any possible Brennan suspension on Monday.

Movin’ On Up – For the last decade plus, the Quad Cities area of western Illinois and eastern Iowa has played host to pro hockey, first in the Colonial Hockey League (1995-97) and then in the United Hockey League (1997-07). Beginning next season, the Quad Cities of Bettendorf and Davenport, Ia. and Moline and Rock Island, Il. will play host to the Quad City Flames, the Calgary Flames’ top farm club. The Flames are relocating from Omaha, where they played the last two seasons as the Ak-Sar-Ben Knights.


1. Milam – He was effective and active all night, especially with the puck. A great night for a guy who hadn’t played in more than a month.

2. Cassivi -- As has so often been the case in the last seven series, Cassivi was a difference-maker. He outplayed LaBarbera in the series and in Game 4. He continually frustrated the Monarchs.

3. The Hershey defense. They were great in front of the net, effective in the corners and tremendous with their sticks. Manchester rarely had any time or space with which to create, and hardly ever had a man in the middle of the ice without a maroon sweater hovering.

Honorable mention: Ryan was Manchester’s best skater on this night. Hendricks seemed to have more jump than any other skater on either team. Hershey’s Andrew Joudrey continues to do all the little things that make coaches happy. Wilson had another strong game at both ends of the ice.
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