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Bears Win Barnburner at the Old Barn

by Staff Writer / Washington Capitals
GLENS FALLS, N.Y. – With Albany’s Times-Union Center unavailable, Game 3 of the East Division semifinal series between Hershey and the Albany River Rats was played in the old barn (Glens Falls Civic Center) here in Glens Falls on Sunday. Appropriately enough, an old-fashioned barnburner broke out. It wasn’t easy and it certainly wasn’t pretty, but it was definitely entertaining. The Bears prevailed 6-5 to take a 2-1 lead over Albany in the series. Game 4 will be played here Monday night.

“They kept coming at us,” said Bears head coach Bruce Boudreau afterwards. “There was no quit. It definitely wasn’t what a coach would call playoff hockey. I think we were lucky to get away with another one.”

Special teams were a determining factor in this contest, and it showed right from the start. The Rats scored three power play goals, including two in the first period. The Bears had only three power play chances on the night after getting a combined total of 18 in the first two games, but connected on two, including Chris Bourque’s game-winner in the third.

“I thought our power play stepped it up a notch tonight and we rose to the occasion,” said Hershey center Dave Steckel. “That was something that was missing. It turned out we won the special teams battle and we won the game.”

Albany grabbed an early lead at 3:51 of the first while the Bears’ Kip Brennan was serving a hooking sentence. Albany’s Matt Murley found himself alone with the puck in the high slot, and with plenty of time and space with which to decide what to do with it. He opted to fire a wrist shot high to the stick side on Bears goaltender Frederic Cassivi. It was a wise choice; it gave the Rats a 1-0 lead.

Hershey was nothing if not resilient on this night. The Bears’ Matt Hendricks came right back and evened the score just 22 seconds later. Linemates Jakub Klepis and Tomas Fleischmann worked the puck around in front of the Albany net and it came to Hendricks, who did not miss the wide expanse of net yawning before him.

With the game still even at 1-1, Cassivi made a nice right pad save on former Bear Cody McCormick. This began a trend that lasted all night. While Albany’s Tyler Weiman was unable to protect and hold the lead on three separate occasions, Cassivi continually made key saves to either keep the game even or protect a slim Hershey edge.

Just over seven minutes into the first, it appeared the Bears took the lead on another Hendricks tally. But referee Chris Brown instead nabbed Hendricks for a cross-checking violation. Cassivi made a great save to deny Keith Aucoin, but Albany ultimately scored on the power play when Ryan Bayda tipped Brett Carson’s point shot past Cassivi at 9:17. Instead of Hershey being up 2-1, it was the Rats who enjoyed a 2-1 advantage.

It would not last for long, however. Kyle Wilson did yeoman’s work along the wall in the Albany end, wresting the puck away and chipping it to Barney near the wall down on the goal line to Weiman’s right. Barney fired a shot netward, and it beat the beleaguered goaltender to the short side, evening the score at 2-2 just 47 seconds after Albany had taken the lead.

“It’s a small rink,” said Barney, “You’ve got to put pucks on net. You never know what’s going to happen. If [it doesn’t go in], there’s a rebound there for somebody else to put in. But it went in and I’m pretty happy about that.”

Less than half a minute later, the Bears were shorthanded yet again. Jeff Schultz took a smart hooking minor to deny a glorious rebound chance on a virtually open net. The Bears managed to kill the penalty for the first time on the night.

Some fireworks did ensue as time elapsed on that Albany power play. The Rats’ Pat Dwyer hammered Steckel into the boards in the neutral zone, and the Bears’ Alexandre Giroux took exception. Giroux and Dwyer fought, and although Giroux won the bout, he had to go off for repairs and missed the remainder of the first period.

“I knew he was there,” said Steckel of Dwyer’s impending hit. “He just basically grabbed me and drove me all the way into the boards. That’s fine if you want to do that. I know Alex has been frustrated. He stepped in, and I told him, ‘Don’t fight, it’s not worth it.’ He ended up taking out his frustrations on him and he did a great job.”

The Rats took a 3-2 lead at 12:53 of the first when Murley made a great cross-crease feed to set up Bayda for a short one-timer into the open net to Cassivi’s right.

Albany’s Dave Gove then took two minor penalties in quick succession, the first for hooking and the second for charging. The Bears cashed in on the second one, with Mike Green floating a high wrister from center point through traffic that found the back of the net.

Brennan and Wiseman combined to make the play that gave the Bears the lead for good. In the seventh minute of the second period. Brennan chipped the puck through the neutral zone and Wiseman made a diving, one-handed sweep chip along to wall to get the puck to Joey Tenute at the top of the circle. Tenute skated in and teed up a shot. His missile was muffled, and it floated netward like a knuckleball. Weiman waved at it, but the shot eluded him and plopped into the back of the net at 6:36 of the second period, giving the Bears a lead they would not relinquish.

“It was a great play on the boards by Kip Brennan who put it over to Wiseman,” recalled Tenute, “and Wiseman made a great second effort. It just came to me and I cut to the middle and tried to shoot it. It happened to hit a guy’s stick and floated up in the air. It just happened to go in. I think Weiman thought it was going to be a bit harder of a shot. But it caught someone, and it went in. Those are goals you’re going to take and those are goals you need in the playoffs.”

Five minutes later, the Bears forged the first two-goal advantage any team has had in this series. Wilson, Barney and Chris Bourque had a long, hard-working shift in which they kept the puck in the offensive zone, cycled it down low, and wore down the Albany defense. Barney got loose in front, and Bourque got enough space on his man that he was able to slide a perfect pass to the Bears winger. Barney then beat Weiman with a one-timer to give Hershey a 5-3 lead. Although the Tenute and Barney goals came five minutes apart, they came on consecutive shots on goal.

Again Cassivi came up big to protect the lead, making two key stops within a minute of Barney’s second goal. The Rats clearly weren’t done yet. With less than half a minute remaining in the second period and Hershey’s Andy Hedlund off for high-sticking, Albany’s Johnny Boychuk beat Cassivi clean on a blast from the right point. With 20 minutes left, Hershey’s lead was trimmed to one.

Bourque restored Hershey’s two-goal advantage at 6:21 of the second, firing a cannon of a shot from center point past Weiman. Hershey led 6-4, but the Rats continued to apply pressure. From Bourque’s goal until the end of the game, Albany outshot the Bears by 12-3.

Albany’s Jeff Finger cut the lead to one when he converted a long rebound created after Cassivi made a pad stop on Murley.

The final three minutes more thrilling and certainly lasted longer than a rollercoaster ride. Cassivi made big saves, the Rats missed some glorious chances, and Hershey narrowly missed taking all the drama out of it a couple times after Weiman had been pulled for an extra skater. Former Bear Shane Willis, who authored Game 2’s game-winner just 10 seconds into overtime on Thursday, narrowly missed a chance to be then hero again. He fired wide on an open Hershey cage with just 15 ticks left on the clock.

“The rebound went right to him,” explained Cassivi. “When I saw that, technique-wise I want to push to get my body over. I saw it was too late, so I sort of stretched my leg out and got my stick up in the air. We had a guy going on him right away so he had to be quick. He just kind of one-touched it and it spun off his stick a little bit weird and went behind me and behind the net.”

In the end, the Bears hung onto a one-goal lead to take a one-game advantage in the series.

It wasn’t pretty, but it’s like they say about goals: they don’t ask how, they ask how many.

On the game:
“We tied it up at the beginning when they were outplaying us. I think coming out of the first period 3-3 was a key. We persevered. As much as their confidence might have grown even more, now I know if they win it they have to win it on our soil.”

On whether he was surprised to see Albany open it up:
“I was a little surprised. Usually teams when they’ve got the last change, they play a little different at home. The crowd is usually in their favor. They played a different style. It wasn’t your typical road game. Their defense was coming up with the play. It showed. They scored at least two goals from the back end.”

On the Albany forecheck:
“They had a tremendous forecheck going. We knew what they were doing. We just weren’t able to stop it in the first period. Overall, I think we’ve got to take less penalties.”

On the penalty kill:
“It’s been so good for so long. If they’re going to have a bad night, I’d rather them have a bad night and us win than the other way around. [Albany] moved the puck around good for ice that was pretty horrible.”

On what to expect in Game 4:
“I’m looking forward to playing a complete game. We’ve played in fits and starts. We haven’t played 60 minutes of good hockey. You can easily say that team hasn’t let us play good hockey for 60 minutes.”

On the Rats’ opening up the attack in Game 3:
“We figured they’d come out hard. They have fan support here, and it’s a small building. They played hard out there. We responded. We had a good team win by responding, and Freddie stood in there big time for us tonight.”

On his second goal:
“It was great. We were cycling down low. Willie and Bourquie made some great plays down there. Bourquie got it to me, and I just put it on net and it went in. Those are two great players I’m playing with. We’ve just got to work hard down low and play good in our own end.”

On the game:
“Everything was different. The rink here, everything seems to happen quick. They came so hard and threw everything at the net. They worked hard. I got lucky a bunch of times and it ended up going in our favor.

“It wasn’t as quiet as the first two games. They made it tough for me. They drove the net, they took a lot of shots with screens, they drove rebounds and I got lucky a bunch of times. We got the win and that’s a good thing.”

On whether this game came down to his experience vs. Weiman’s relative inexperience:
“I don’t really think about me vs. him. I just think about my game. There were some weird goals tonight and weird plays. If you go back to last game, the overtime goal was a weird goal. I tried to put that behind me and move on. You come in and you give up three goals in the first period, sometimes it’s tough to get back out there and be sharp. You have to put it behind you and just move forward, that’s all.”

“We had two goals from the point. I was at the other end, in angle with the puck and I couldn’t see the goalie’s face because we had so many bodies in front of the net. Our guys Mike and Chris were good enough to pick out a hole and their goalie had no chance. That’s what we’ve got to keep doing.”

On facing a barrage of shots on Sunday after seeing sporadic action in the first two games:
“It’s a lot different. The first two games were more quiet for me. All of a sudden you get a decent chance, and then you get seven or eight minutes without a shot. Tonight they kept coming. It keeps you in the game. Maybe it made it easier after three goals in the first period when I had a lot of shots in the following two periods to stay sharp and put everything behind me. I guess when you’re involved that much, you don’t have as much time to think about what happened before. Which is a good thing, because the less you think the better it is.”

On the Rats’ cycling game:
“Obviously they’ve played here before. You could tell. They got pucks to the net in a hurry right away after they cycled it. They had three guys down low and I thought they wore us down defensively tonight. They did a great job along the wall.”

On what the Bears need to do in Game 4:
“I think we have to win more battles from the start. I thought we lost a lot of battles along the wall tonight. Our D were getting crashed, and we’ve got to help our D out and hold up. If it’s there, we’ve got to clear the puck away. We had a lot of turnovers in our own zone and we’ve just got to bear down a little more for tomorrow.”

On how surprised the Bears were to see Albany open up its attack:
“Pretty surprised. It was like a whole new team coming into this building. I don’t know whether it was because they wanted to come out and set the tone right away. There was still a lot of hitting, but they just dumped the puck more. They didn’t necessarily play a trap in the neutral zone. Like you said, it was different tonight.

On the Bears’ resilience:
“We did a great job on the shifts after goals, getting it deep and getting scoring chances. I think it shows a lot of character on the part of the young guys and the guys who were out there after the goals. They did a tremendous job. We answered right back, and as a team we’re going to have to do that every night. Might as well learn it early.”

On the game:
“They’re a good hockey team. They came at us with everything they had. All year, Bruce has been really big on coming out after they score and coming right back out and matching that. Tonight we did a great job at that. Barney had a really big game for us, and a lot of guys stepped up. It seemed that when Barney did score that second goal, it gave us a little more room out there. We just kept going at them and going at them, and we ended up with the victory.

On the need to get pucks on an obviously struggling goaltender:
“I think so. Right from the start we wanted to shoot and test this guy. He played great the first two games and tonight we wanted to come out and test him. We did that. We put pucks on net and ended up coming out with the win.”

On whether the Bears stole one here on Sunday:
“No I don’t think we stole one. The puck was bouncing all over the place tonight, but they’ve got a great team in here and it’s a character win for us. We’re up 2-1 so we can’t ask for anything else.”

On Barney’s second goal:
“That was a pretty big goal just to give us some breathing room. After every time they scored, we needed to get one right back. Getting that goal and putting them back on their heels a little bit was good. It was just a great game for us.”

On what to expect in Game 4:
“I think it’s going to be a battle. We ended the game with them crashing Freddie and a big pig pile there. It’s going to get exciting. It’s playoff hockey. You can’t for anything more than that. It’s going to be fun.”

On being a key member of the team this year vs. sitting out most of the playoffs in 2006:
“It feels great. This is what I was hoping for. Sitting in the stands isn’t where you want to be. I told myself I didn’t want that to ever happen again. I had a pretty good season for myself this year and I am trying to carry that into the playoffs. It’s a great opportunity for myself and a bunch of these other guys to put their name out there and help this team win another Calder Cup.”

Lineup – Hershey made a few lineup tweaks, inserting Brennan in place of Louis Robitaille and Tyler Sloan alongside Deryk Engelland, where Troy Milam had been for the first two games of the series. Chad Wiseman also got back in, with Andrew Joudrey sitting out. Boudreau mixed and matched line combinations throughout the contest.

Shootout – The first 20 minutes ended with the game tied 3-3. More goals were scored in the first frame of Sunday’s contest than in either of the first two games of the series. A total of 10 goals were scored in 120:10 in the first two games of the series, while 11 pucks found the back of the net in 60 minutes of action tonight.

Shooting Gallery – In the first two games of the series, Albany never mustered more than 11 shots on goal in any single period. In Game 3 on Sunday, the River Rats fired at least 13 shots in each of the three stanzas.

First Blood – Giroux’s first period fight with Dwyer was the first of the series. Giroux got into two regular season tussles, including one against Albany’s Scott Kelman (a former Bear) at Giant Center on Oct. 28.

Pleasantries were exchanged at game’s end on Sunday, most notably between Hendricks and Albany’s Mike Angelidis. Three hard fought one-goal games, and Game 4 on the horizon tomorrow. The bad feelings are starting to build a bit.

Hey, Nineteen – Hendricks has been Mr. Clutch recently. Eight of his last 10 goals have either come with the score tied or tied the score. Seven of those eight gave the Bears the lead and today’s tally knotted the score.

Double the Pleasure, Double the Fun – Today was Barney’s second two-goal game since joining the Bears in a deadline day deal on Feb. 27. He scored two goals in his second game as a Bear and first at Giant Center. That was Mar. 3 against Binghamton when he netted a pair (including the game-winner) and added two assists in a 7-1 Bears rout over the Senators.

Wiseman’s hard-earned assist on Tenute’s goal was his first point since the aforementioned Mar. 3 game vs. Binghamton. Wiseman missed 18 of the final 19 games of the regular season while recovering from a sports hernia injury.

First in the First – Hershey’s three first period goals on Sunday matched the Bears’ previous game-high total for the season. Those tallies were also the first registered by the Bears in the first period of any game in this series.

Six Pack – The Bears scored six goals in a game three times last spring during their 21-game run to the Calder Cup. But they never needed all six of them as they did in Sunday’s Game 3 against Albany.

Ironically, all three of those six-goal outbursts came in the Calder Cup finals series against Milwaukee last June. Hershey outscored the Admirals 6-3 in Game 2, 7-2 in Game 4 and 6-4 in Game 5.

Old Home Week -- Both Boudreau and River Rats coach Tom Rowe played in Glens Falls at the Glens Falls Civic Center while toiling for the now-defunct Adirondack Red WIngs of the AHL. Boudreau concluded his playing career here in 1991-92, playing four playoff games  with the Calder Cup champ Wings. Barry Melrose was the head coach of that team.

Rowe spent part of the 1982-83 season in Adirondack. Two other former Adirondack Red Wings were also in the house here in Sunday. Former NHL goaltender Jim Rutherford, now the GM of the Carolina Hurricanes, played here in 1982-83. That was his final season as a player. Ex-NHL winger Pete Mahovlich also played in Glens Falls after the conclusion of his NHL career. Mahovlich is now a scout for the Atlanta Thrashers.

Adirondack won four Calder Cup championships and missed the playoffs only one time during its 20 years (1979-99) in the AHL.

(Thanks to John Sparenberg for the primary assist on the Notebook portion of the Game 3 report.)

1. Bourque – Not only did he net the game-winner on a power play strike from center point in the third period, he set up the goal that gave Hershey the first two-goal lead of the series. That goal came after sustained pressure in the Albany end, something the Bears did not have a lot of on this night. Terrific shift by Bourque and linemates Wilson and Barney, who converted Bourque’s perfect feed from behind the net. Bourque was also plus-3 on the night, and he was wearing the yellow hard-hat in the locker room after the game.

2. Murley – A goal, three assists and seven shots on net. A threat throughout the game. He missed several contests with an upper body injury late in the regular season but seems fully healed now.

3. Cassivi. Yes, he gave up five goals, but three were on the power play. He also made 38 saves including some crucial ones at crucial moments. Albany was never able to open up a big lead or feel really good about itself despite its offensive zone dominance, and Cassivi is the reason why.

Honorable mention: Barney had two goals, both important ones. Bayda was a force all night. Klepis had three assists. Green had a goal and an assist and was solid in his own end, rebounding strongly from a very difficult Game 2 performance. Carson was a threat from the point and had two assists. Aucoin had his best game of the series, picking up a pair of assists.
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