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Bears Overcome Whistles, Monarchs

by Mike Vogel / Washington Capitals
HERSHEY, Pa. – Two teams are about to make a seven-hour bus trip to New Hampshire. It is going to be a much shorter trip for one of those teams. The Hershey Bears overcame the Manchester Monarchs and 14 shorthanded situations to notch a 4-1 win in Game 2 of the AHL’s Eastern Conference finals series at Giant Center on Sunday.

The Bears forged a 2-0 series lead with Sunday’s win. The series shifts to Manchester on Wednesday.

Sunday’s game had virtually no flow and quickly became a battle of special teams. The Bears won that battle, thanks to some of the best and most clutch penalty killing imaginable. Referee Dean Morton whistled 21 minor penalties, none of them coincidental. The Bears were on the receiving end of 14 of those calls, resulting in nearly three minutes worth of 5-on-3 time for Manchester. The Monarchs’ lone goal of the game came while they enjoyed a two-man advantage.

“They probably were tired,” said Bears coach Bruce Boudreau of his penalty-killing outfit, which has killed 19 of 20 Manchester power plays in back-to-back games to start the series, “But they’ve got great character. They blocked shots and they did everything they had to do.

“Sometimes fatigue takes a backseat to will and want. Our guys willed it and wanted it and they got the job done. I think we were shorthanded for almost 30 minutes tonight. That’s too much to usually overcome. We got lucky and overcame it today.”

The Bears’ fourth line drew first blood, giving Hershey a 1-0 lead on Mike Green’s shot from center point at 4:35. For the second straight night, the Bears had a 1-0 lead before Manchester had registered its first shot on goal. The Monarchs went nearly eight minutes before they finally tested Bears goaltender Frederic Cassivi with a shot on goal.

The first penalty of the game was a tripping call on Hershey’s Tyler Sloan at 7:47 of the first, just seconds after Manchester recorded its first shot on goal. Just over half the game was played with both teams having five skaters on the ice, and the first 7:47 of the contest was the longest such stretch of the entire game.

Morton doled out five consecutive minors to Hershey in a span of just 4:08 in the second half of the first frame, resulting in a crowded penalty box and some extended 5-on-3 time for the Monarchs. After the Bears had killed off one lengthy two-man advantage, Manchester finally cashed in while up a pair of skaters. Patrick O’Sullivan fired a laser of a shot that beat Cassivi at 17:14 of the first.

The Bears made the most of their own power play chances, scoring with the man advantage in the final minute of the first. Scott Barney skated the puck into the attack zone with speed and just a half a step on his man. Kyle Wilson drove the net with speed and half a step on his man. Barney slid a pass to the middle and it had to be perfect. It was. Wilson took the puck, and Manchester goaltender Jason LaBarbera’s five-hole opened wide. Wilson pushed it through to give the Bears a 2-1 lead.

Seven and a half minutes into the second, Green scored again to give the Bears a key insurance goal. He exited the penalty box after serving the first of his three minor penalties and slipped behind the Manchester defense. Tyler Sloan alertly spotted Green and hit him with a perfect pass that would have made Joe Montana proud. Green took it in stride, stayed onside and beat LaBarbera top shelf.

“That was a great pass by Tyler,” said Green. “To make that pass right on the tape was great. It was easier for me than what he had to do.”

The goal was Green’s fifth power play tally of the postseason. He is tied for the league lead in that department.

All that remained at that point was for the Bears’ penalty killing corps to kill off another half dozen minors or so and keep frustrating the Monarchs’ power play unit, and for Matt Hendricks to seal the deal with a late empty-netter. Manchester had the league’s fourth best power play during the regular season, clicking at a rate of 20.3%. The Monarchs have had 98 power play chances in 14 playoff games, but have converted just a dozen for an anemic 12.2% success rate.

“It shows how good we are on the penalty kill,” said Cassivi, “but we can’t gamble and do that every game because eventually they’re going to get to us. We’ve worked hard on the penalty kill, but we’re not happy with the amount of penalties we took so we’re going to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

“Freddie made some unbelievable stops tonight,” said Green. “I don’t know how he did. Their power play is a good power play and for us to stop them was key.”

The Monarchs will endure a long bus ride home, but they hold out hope of making a series of it in their own building. Hershey has held the lead for 110:50 of the first 120 minutes of the series.

“The big thing is now if they want to win it, they have to win it in our building,” asserted Boudreau. “They have to come back here. They’re going to be tough. I’ve been in that building before. It’s tough to win up there. They’ve got some rabid fans as well as we do. They’ll be better at home. I thought they were better tonight than they were [Saturday] night, and they’ll be better at home than they were on the road. It’s not over by a longshot.”

On the game’s officiating:
“I knew this question was going to come, and I don’t know how to answer it without getting in trouble. I guess the best way to describe the refereeing is there is a certain fan who says something during every game. And that’s what it was. We’ve got to talk to the supervisors. We’ve just got to find out what the standard is. I thought Terry Koharski did a great job [in Saturday’s Game 1] in letting the hitting go and letting men be men and making it a game. There were still six minors to a side. But when you’re 1-for-15 [on the power play] and the other team is 2-for-6 or something like that, I think that’s not right. We’ll take the appropriate measures, whatever they are. If they rate referees for the next series and the next round, I assume that they’ll at least get a report on this game.”

On whether the Bears were more motivated than usual to kill off the penalties:
“I think they were a little ticked because guys were getting penalties. And I’m not disagreeing with the fact that 98% of them were penalties. But with two minutes and 46 seconds [left] in a two-goal game, and they put you down two men for a hook that doesn’t even have anything to do with the play, I just think there is no feel for the game. The ones they called on us, they were doing the same things and they weren’t getting called. It’s hard to take, but the bottom line is I think we showed tremendous character and we won the game. In the end there were a lot of guys biting their tongues. [The Monarchs] were doing a lot of little dirty stuff and we had to hold back because we knew we were going to get a penalty for everything we did. I didn’t say one word to the ref all night. I didn’t say one word to the game that he did in Wilkes-Barre that got a little bit of attention. Maybe the league will look into all that and add everything up.

On special teams dominance:
“I think we’re good at it. We work on it. Bob does a fabulous job with the penalty killers. We’re passionate about it. We think it’s a big part of the game as I’m sure Manchester does. You have confidence. We watch video on it every day, and we watch video on power play before every game. We wouldn’t like to take an average of 10 penalties a game. We’d like to win 5-on-5, but we’ll win any way we can. Guys like Klepis and Giroux and Fleischmann who aren’t killing [penalties], we want those guys on the ice. We’ve got to stop taking these penalties.”

On whether he thinks the Bears are getting into Manchester’s head:
“I only know four of their players, and those guys are mentally tough. That’s a question you’d have to ask them. They just don’t think they’re playing as well as they can right now. They have a lot of confidence that they can come back, because they can play a lot better. That’s what I believe.”

On the excess of penalties against the Bears:
“It’s tiring for myself and all the penalty killers, but they did a great job. They blocked a lot of shots again and a lot of passes. When you can get out of a period like that up 2-1 when you’ve killed a lot of penalties and a 3-on-5, that’s great.

“I didn’t see all the calls. A lot of them were – if you follow the rulebook – they were penalties. Sometimes some referees don’t call as much and some do and he did tonight on us. I didn’t see them all but a lot of them were penalties. We have to be careful.”

On whether the Bears might be in Manchester’s head:
“I don’t know but I’m not going to take that for granted. I think they’re probably thinking that we’re going back to their building for three games, and thinking that they might be a better team in their building. If they win over there, it’s a new series so we can’t take anything for granted.”

Bears defenseman Dean Arsene
On the Bears’ performance in the first two games:
“I don’t think I’d call it dominating to be quite honest with you. You look at [Saturday] night, we had a lot of good bounces go our way. Tonight we were very fortunate. That’s an understatement. Being able to kill off those penalties, 14 [of them] against a power play like theirs with so many potent players. We were fortunate to get away with the win.”

On whether penalty killers get more amped to kill penalties when the calls start piling up:
“I think the guys kind of band together and you get a little choked up at the ref when he’s calling back-to-back-to-back penalties on you and puts you down 5-on-3 a few times. You try and get that momentum and every time you throw the puck down the ice the fans are going crazy and cheering, and they really spur you on. Every time you do that it pumps you up a little bit more and you get that momentum and you try to kill it off and take it back to them.”

On what’s next in the series:
“Obviously they’re going to go back and look at the tapes and try to figure out what to do to take it to us. Back in their building their fans are really supportive of them. They came out really hard [tonight] after a loss and they’re going to come out even harder on Wednesday.”

On the offensive contributions from the blueline in the first two games of the series:
“We’ve had a couple good opportunities. The forwards are doing a good job of getting us the puck and going to the net. I think we’ve had a couple of lucky bounces, but we’ll take them.”

On the penalty kill:
“Our back end and forwards, watching them out there, they are dead tired. Tonight was … I don’t think it was very fair. But it is what it is. Our PK was outstanding tonight.”

On being up 2-0:
“I know it’s a great atmosphere up there. This is where we wanted to be obviously, up 2-0 going into their barn. We’ll take our time to regroup and give it our all when we go up there. Bruce knows what it is like up there and he will relay it to us.”

On whether the Bears might be in Manchester’s head at this point:
“I hope so. We’re happy where we are right now. I don’t think they’re going to be too happy, but we know what kind of team they are. Even tonight they didn’t give up. They had some good plays and didn’t get the bounces like we did. We know exactly what they’re all about. And by no means do we think they’re going to give up.”

Lineup – Rookie center Andrew Joudrey returned to the lineup on Sunday after being sidelined with a concussion. Joudrey’s return meant that Brad Ralph sat out a night after making his Bears debut. Blueliner Deryk Engelland also returned to the lineup after sitting on Saturday. Defenseman Tim Wedderburn sat out for the first time in the postseason.

Manchester went with the same lineup in Game 2.

Out of Balance – By the rudimentary tally of one math-challenged reporter, Hershey spent 17:39 of Sunday’s game playing shorthanded and 2:56 of that total playing two men short. Manchester was never down two men and was shorthanded for just 6:40 in comparison.

Power Move – Manchester is 1-for-20 (5%) on the power play in this series while Hershey is 5-for-13 (38.5%). The Bears now lead the AHL with 19 power play goals in the postseason and a 25.7% extra-man success rate.

Green Means Go – During the Bears’ 2006 run to the Calder Cup championship, Green totaled 18 points (three goals, 15 assists) in 21 games to rank second among all AHL defensemen in playoff scoring. With his two-goal performance on Sunday, Green now has a dozen points (six goals, six assists) in as many games this spring. He once again ranks second among AHL blueliners in that category, trailing only Micki Dupont (14 points) of the now golfing Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.

Helping Hand – Sloan registered nine assists in 68 regular season games with the Bears in 2006-07. He has seven assists in 10 postseason tilts.

Deuces Wild – Giroux, Wilson and Hendricks each have two game-winning goals for Hershey in this spring’s Calder Cup playoffs.

Climbing the Charts – With his assist on Wilson’s power play goal, Barney now has 15 playoff points (seven goals, eight assists), tied with Manchester’s O’Sullivan for fourth place in AHL playoff scoring. Wilson has 11 points (six goals, five assists) to rank in a third place tie among AHL rookies in playoff scoring.

1. Cassivi – The Bears seemingly spent half the game shorthanded, and anyone who has watched more than 10 minutes of hockey knows your goaltender has to be your best penalty killer. Cassivi was. He wasn’t required to make a lot of stellar stops because the Bears defense blocked a good number of shots and the penalty killing corps adroitly kept the Monarchs to the outside even when Hershey was two men down.

2. Green – Quite simply the best skater on the ice today. A factor in all three zones, from start to finish. And yeah, he took three minor penalties but this was on a night when you could pick up a minor for looking at someone cross-eyed if you were wearing a white sweater.

3. Sloan – Besides the perfect home run pass to Green, he was one of the key cogs on the penalty kill. The game was hanging in the balance in the first when Sloan and the rest of the Bears’ penalty killing corps expertly killed off an inordinate string of penalties, allowing just one goal on a two-man advantage.

Honorable Mention – If there is ever a night when Steckel is not among those considered for the three stars, you’ve got a story. Tonight was no exception. The entire defensive and special teams corps also deserve a shout out. Barney and Wilson continue to play very well and it's difficult to imagine where the Bears would be without the clutch scoring they've provided.
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