And they did.
The best-of-seven series now shifts to Hamilton for Games 3, 4 and 5, but not before the Bears rallied twice and eventually thumped the Bulldogs 4-2 to even the series at a game apiece.
“I was glad we were successful to just make it a series,” said Bears head coach Bruce Boudreau. “We were pretty desperate tonight with three games left in their building.”
Boudreau and his defending Calder Cup champion Bears will sleep a little bit easier after they rebounded from a shutout loss the previous night to outplay and out-hustle the Bulldogs for a convincing win in front of 10,768 fans at Giant Center.
Hershey was the faster, stronger and more aggressive team for much of the night. The Bears opened the game creating space and opportunities in the offensive zone, but were unable to solve goaltender Carey Price, who returned to the cage after making 46 saves in Game 1.
Despite the offensive pressure from the Bears it was the Bulldogs that got on the board first. Defender Dan Janceyski advanced the puck past the blueline on the right side of the rink and then sent a crisp pass to Zack Stortini, who gave Hamilton the early lead with a one-timer rocket from the middle of the blueline that beat Hershey goaltender Frederic Cassivi just over five minutes into the game.
Undaunted the Bears shrugged off the early goal and continued to pepper Price with shots, but failed to make him pay until Hamilton winger Matt D’Agostini was whistled for hooking at the 10:20 mark. The Bulldog’s first penalty of the game was exactly what Hershey needed.
A few second into the penalty two bulldogs were going for the puck along the boards in their defensive zone when Kyle Wilson skated in, collected the puck and sent a deft pass to Scott Barney behind the goal. Barney then quickly made his way to the net and wrapped the puck around Price for his ninth goal of the playoffs, which came only seven seconds into the penalty.
The first period ended knotted at one, but the Bulldogs took control again in the second. Janceyski laced a shot from the blueline between the circles and center Kyle Chipchura, who was screening the front of the net, deflected the puck into the cage.
It appeared that Cassivi was interfered with on the goal by Hamilton winger Jonathan Ferland, as Hershey’s goaltender fell to the ice as the puck slid past him but no call was made. Cassivi immediately protested his case, but the goal stood and the Bulldogs were ahead 2-1.
However, their lead was short-lived, as Hershey responded with a goal 78 seconds later. Joey Tenute’s shot was turned away by Price, but Hershey’s Tomas Fleischmann stopped the puck before it made it to the corner and then rifled a pass to an oncoming Jakub Klepis who flipped it into the net.
“Everybody in hockey knows that that is probably the most important shift,” said Boudreau. “It changes the momentum of the game.”
It certainly did and the Bears never let Hamilton regain that momentum as they took the lead for good less than five minutes later when Barney scored his second power-play goal of the game, a deflection off a Chad Wiseman shot from the left point.
Hershey added an insurance goal in the third period at the 8:53 mark when Matt Hendricks
worked a Bulldog defender along the boards and then took the puck behind the net and slid it into the path of hard-charging Chris Bourque
who emphatically slammed it home.
Cassivi was brilliant most of the night between the pipes for the Bears, stopping a breakaway by Corey Locke in the first period and sprawling to his stomach to make a save in the second. He finished with 20 saves and has his team now looking forward to Game 3.
“We knew that if we lost this one then we were in trouble,” said Cassivi. “Now we know that if we play our game we can win. That was our team we saw tonight.”
Game 3 is scheduled for Monday in Hamilton, while Game 4 will be played on Wednesday and Game 5 on Thursday. Games 6 and 7, if necessary, will be played June 12 and 15 in Hershey. NOTES:
The Bears’ victory snapped Hamilton’s seven-game road winning streak…Hershey’s Joey Tenute played for the first time since breaking a rib and puncturing a lung on May 4 in a playoff game against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton…Hershey outshot Hamilton 40-22…Hershey recorded two power-play goals after going 0-9 in Game 1.