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Bears Get the Jump on Monarchs

by Staff Writer / Washington Capitals
HERSHEY, Pa. – Dave Steckel scored two first period goals – including what proved to be the game-winner – as the Hershey Bears thumped the Manchester Monarchs 7-2 in Game 1 of the AHL’s Eastern Conference finals series on Saturday night. Game 2 is on Sunday at 6 p.m. here at Giant Center.

Hershey came out exactly how it wanted to come out against a young team making its first appearance in a conference finals situation. The Bears dominated play early on in all three zones, and repeatedly took the body against the Manchester defense. Hershey grabbed an early lead when center Dave Steckel tapped in a deflected pass at the post to goaltender Jason LaBarbera’s right, giving the Bears an early lead at 2:20 of the first frame.

“I think we came out at [LaBarbera] pretty good,” said Bears coach Bruce Boudreau afterwards. “We got the first one early and it wasn’t his fault. He made a good save on the first one and the puck came right to [Steckel]. We attacked the net pretty good. I thought we got some good goals tonight.”

Hershey ran its lead to 2-0 on Scott Barney’s power play strike at 7:31. Tomas Fleischmann made a pass from behind the net to Barney in front, and Barney spun off his man and slid a blind turnaround shot past LaBarbera.

Steckel gave Hershey a three-goal margin less than two minutes later. He scored a shorthanded goal when he pushed a defender into the net with the puck after LaBarbera bobbled it briefly in front.

“I was just going to race after it,” said Steckel of his game-winner. “I know LaBarbera likes to play the puck a lot. With the guy in front, I don’t know which way it was going to go so I thought I would just go with him. I got a great bounce off my leg and pushed him and the puck went in the net.”

Matt Moulson put the Monarchs on the board at 14:06, and the Manchester club seemed to find its legs and settle down a bit. When Hershey’s Jakub Klepis went off for high-sticking late in the first and Steckel took a hooking call early in the second, the Monarchs had a chance to climb back into the game. But the Hershey penalty killers and Bears goaltender Frederic Cassivi combined to make sure that didn’t happen.

Midway through the middle frame Bears defenseman Mike Green fired home a power play strike to give the Bears a 4-1 lead. Manchester’s Jeff Giuliano converted a nifty passing play early in the second to bring the Monarchs within two, but Chad Wiseman took all the wind out of the visitors’ sails less than a minute later when his shot oozed through LaBarbera’s pads to make it 5-2.

Kyle Wilson scored twice to push the Bears to a 7-2 win, one of his two third period goals coming on a power play and the other coming off a brilliant set-up by Fleischmann. Cassivi stopped 26 of the 28 shots he saw, and the Bears went up 1-0 in the series, drawing one game closer to their goal of repeating as Calder Cup champions.

“We wanted to come out strong,” said Steckel. “They’ve got a lot of young guys and rookies in the lineup. They hadn’t really felt the full effect of Hershey and its crowd and its great fans here. We just wanted to utilize them and feed off them and I think we accomplished that here tonight.”

Bears coach Boudreau knows Sunday’s game is likely to be far different from Game 1.

“We’re expecting a completely different game [Sunday], that’s for sure,” he admitted. “They lost 6-3 in the first game against Providence [in the Atlantic Division finals], getting to the second round [for the first time]. Now they’re in the conference final.

“When I’m reading their papers, they keep talking about [Hershey’s] fans and everything else. Maybe that was a little bit of a ‘wow,’ because the fans were fabulous tonight; aggressively loud and everything. But now they’re used to it. Now they know what’s coming at them. I think you’ll see the team that we expect to see [Sunday].”

Coach Boudreau
On whether he was surprised to get such offensive contributions from his defense:
“No. They move the puck well, all of the guys. They don’t get a lot of credit for it, but they move the puck well. When you’ve got all four lines going, usually something is going to give. They made that first outlet pass. We talk about being able to make that first outlet pass all night long. When we do that, we’re successful.

On the rapidly developing bad blood:
“We only played Portland a couple of times [before last year’s conference final]. It didn’t take long to hate them, too. It’s not the team, it’s the division maybe and the fact that we have to travel seven hours to get there. Whatever the reason, you’re playing for the conference championship. You build a hatred up; it’s just a natural thing. And when both teams want to win as bad as I know their guys do and our guys do, then it’s not hard to get an emotional game out of it.”

On whether this was the ideal way to start a series:
“I think the ideal way is to win Game 1 any way.  That’s the main thing. You’ve got home ice advantage for a reason and you want to win that first game. For us to take advantage of it, obviously we have to win tomorrow. Reading their paper, they’re talking about coming in here and getting a split and they’d be very happy. I’m sure that’s they way they’re going to be talking, that they only have to win one. We want to win both and they want to win the next one. It’s going to be a great battle tomorrow.”

On Hershey’s special teams dominance:
“I thought our power play was moving the puck well. Barney has such a reach and when Greener starts shooting the puck, those are good things. We had that little jump in our step. It was good. I think we have two units that can go out at any point in time. It’s not like there is a second unit. When you’ve got [Alexandre] Giroux playing with Klepis and [Matt] Hendricks on one unit and then Barney, Fleischmann and Wilson, those are two pretty good offensive lines coming at you. And you can see Chad Wiseman now is getting into full stride. I thought he might have been one of our best forwards tonight.”

On the value of experience:
“It’s a new experience, it’s always a new experience. It’s a different team, different set of circumstances. I don’t know if it helps. I’m just as nervous as I was at this time last year, and probably more so because we’re playing them. I always find it funny when people say ‘Oh they’ve been there before and they’re experienced.’ Well you know what? It’s the same nervous feeling every night. I don’t know if being there before is a good thing or a bad thing.

On the Bears’ keeping the Monarchs down after a swift start:
“The two times we played them this season, that’s what happened. We scored three goals in the first and we talked about how they’re going to be ready and make sure that doesn’t happen this game. We got some lucky bounces and we got the results.”

On whether Saturday’s win was a textbook way to start a series:
“It can be, but we’ll see tomorrow. It can be because you think you dominate, but that game was closer than the score says. We got some lucky bounces. Sometimes if you are too confident because you think it is going to be too easy, you have a big surprise the next day. We have to make sure we’re not overconfident.”

Dean Arsene
On his return to the lineup after missing the first 10 playoff games because of injury:
“It’s obviously tough sitting in the stands watching the boys play so well. You want to be a part of it. To come back out in front of the big crowd we had tonight and have the game that we played tonight was pretty special for me. I was pretty excited.”

On how he felt:
“I felt really good. The only thing I was nervous about was my conditioning. At times I’ve had setbacks coming back into the lineup and I wasn’t sure how my conditioning was going to be. I didn’t play penalty kill tonight just to get acclimatized back into game speed. Since I had that extra rest for the power plays and penalty kills I felt really good.

On the win:
“Anytime you can win the first one at home [it’s a good thing]. When you look at it for them, it’s 2-3-2. They’re looking for a split so you know they’re going to come out really hard tomorrow and have three games in their barn. The pressure is on us. We got some good bounces tonight and we were fortunate. We know they’re a heck of a hockey team and they’re going to be coming out really hard tomorrow.”

On the prospect of playing back-to-back games:
“I may be thrown back in the penalty killing role tomorrow. [Assistant coach Bob Woods] said he is going to take it easy on me tonight unless it was dire straits, but the boys played really well on the PK. I got a shift there towards the end just to get me used to it. We’ll see if I play on the penalty kill how I feel after tomorrow’s game.

“It was good. I was pretty excited. I think all three periods I was running on adrenaline. When it runs out tomorrow I think it might be a different story.”

On beating LaBarbera
“We just wanted to get traffic and a lot of shots. We didn’t want him seeing much. We just wanted to crash nets. We took a page out of Wilkes-Barre’s book. They go to the net really hard an we just wanted to do that tonight and make sure he wasn’t seeing every shot.”

Back on the Backline – Arsene returned to the lineup on Saturday after having missed the first 10 games of the postseason because of injury. His return left defenseman Deryk Engelland without a sweater.

The Long and Short of It – Steckel’s shorthanded goal in the first was Hershey’s third shorty of the postseason. Steckel has scored all three. Five of Steckel’s 30 regular season goals came while the Bears were shorthanded.

Powering Up – Green’s second period power play goal was his fourth tally of the postseason. All four have come on the power play.

Scoring Spread – Saturday marked the third time in the postseason that Hershey has had five different goal scorers in a game. The Bears also accomplished the feat on Apr. 22 against Albany in Glens Falls and on May 11 against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

The War at 18:12 – We’ve heard of delayed boarding in airports, but not in hockey arenas. Not until late in the second period when Hershey’s Kyle Wilson applied a hard check to Monarchs defenseman Doug Nolan in the corner behind the Manchester cage, setting off a fiery scrum with combatants from both teams.

Referee Terry Koharski’s arm never went up to signal a penalty after the initial hit, but Wilson was nonetheless escorted off to the box for boarding at 18:12 of the middle stanza. Initially, Manchester’s Gabe Gauthier was announced for roughing at the same time. But Wilson was the only player in the box for either team, and for a while it appeared in house as though only Wilson would be penalized and that no other players from either side would face retribution from the ensuing fracas.

Shortly after the period concluded we were told that Gauthier and Hershey’s Dean Arsene incurred matching minors for their part in the altercation. When the third period started, Wilson was in the box along with Arsene and Gauthier.

Hershey Hurting – Saturday’s game marked the third time this season the Bears had faced LaBarbera. It was the second time in three outings that they chased him from the nets. LaBarbera now has a 7.06 goals against average and an .822 save pct. in his three outings against Hershey this season.

Biting the Hand – Boudreau admitted to being a bit nervous in facing his former employer in such a high stakes game.

“There is a little bit of a storyline there,” he allowed. “I am still playing it down, but I’m still a little nervous about it.”

Boudreau concluded his postgame press conference thusly but added a quick quip as the reporters rose to leave the room.

“I’m nervous for Barney and those guys,” he said, referring to the handful of ex-Monarchs players dotting the Hershey roster.

Lucky Seven – Saturday’s game was the second straight in which Hershey tallied seven goals. The Bears finished off the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins with a 7-6 overtime win on May 11 in the final game of the East Division finals.

Moving Back – It may have been because of Nolan’s injury, and it may have been because the Monarchs wanted a big body in the back. Maybe it was a bit of both. Whatever the reason, Manchester moved 6-foot-7, 250-pound center Brian Boyle back to defense in the third period. Drafted as a center in the first round of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, Boyle played quite a bit of defense during his college hockey days at Boston College.


1. Steckel – He appeared to be genuinely fired up (not that you’d be able to tell) to face his former employer. Scored the first goal that set the tone for the night and was a monster throughout.

2. Fleischmann – That’s eight points in the last two games for those of you keeping track at home. Continues to display amazing vision, touch and poise with the puck. His play

3. Bourque – Had lots of energy all night and was very solid on both special teams. Also helped fuel Hershey’s strong night on the power play with five shots on goal and

Honorable Mention – Green had a very good game on the backline as did Tyler Sloan. As usual, Cassivi was solid and he made some big stops while Hershey was shorthanded and the game was still relatively in doubt.

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