John Carlson knows how to score big goals. On Wednesday night in the fourth tilt of their best of seven Calder Cup Finals series, with the contest tied and the Bears trailing two games to one, Hershey received a late power play when Texas was whistled for too many men on the ice. Then Carlson, the American Hero, tapped home a perfect feed from Keith Aucoin to give the Chocolate and White the late lead with just 2:08 remaining in regulation and Alexandre Giroux added an empty net power play goal with 27 seconds left to give the Bears a 4-2 victory and knot this AHL Finals series at two games a piece. Carlson, who has not played some of his best hockey in the first three games, continues to find a way to deliver in crucial moments.
“I’ve been battling the puck here for this series. It’s a good pick me up. I stuck to it, just kept going back to the basics and it paid off,” said #4 in a post game interview with ABC-27′s Gregg Mace.
For the Bears, this win has to give them a lot of confidence. The series, after game five in Texas on Friday night (shown on Comcast SportsNet at 830pm with the great John Walton bringing the play by play), will shift back to Hershey for game six (and seven, if necessary). Here are some highlights and analysis after a critical win for Hershey Coach Mark French and his squad:
- When the Bears listen to their coach and play the simple game of dumping the puck deep then cycling Texas on the boards, they flat out dominate. Hershey did this in the first 10 minutes and they also showed discipline by staying out of the box in the opening portion of the contest. It was pretty much a perfect start for the Chocolate and White made even better by Aucoin’s power play goal just 5:37 into the tilt.
- From the midpoint of the first period well into period two, however, Hershey started getting too fancy on the rush and the result was numerous turnovers at the Stars blueline which spurred the Texas transition game. Chris Bourque, Aucoin, and several others were trying drop passes and risky cross ice feeds instead of just firing the biscuit to the cage and going for rebounds. In addition, lack of discipline led to a too many men on the ice penalty for the Bears at the 10:30 mark of period two and just 17 seconds later the Stars tallied to take a 2-1 lead.
- Shortly after Texas took the lead, Hershey got back to cycling the puck and Jay Beagle buried one from the slot to tie things up to set up the fourth straight third period that would begin with the game tied in these AHL Finals. French’s club then played more like the third period of game three and the first 10 minutes of this tilt, outshooting Texas 11-7 over the last 20 minutes, but Matt Climie (24 saves) made some big stops to give his team a chance until the costly bench minor that set up Carlson’s game winning goal.
- Hershey gave up one power play goal in four tries and they showed a lack of aggression on a couple of their penalty kills. The Bears were too content to try and stay in their box and the Stars were exploiting the two forwards at the top, which allowed them to swing the puck and get some quality chances. Michal Neuvirth (24 saves) made some huge stops otherwise Texas would have had one or two more power play goals. French might need to adjust his PK slightly in game five to prevent the numerous quality chances Texas had in game four.
- Again, the simple game is what works in the playoffs and the Bears did that in period three throwing pucks deep and not trying to make the risky passes when they crossed the Stars blueline. The Bears went to the net and created traffic and it was just a matter of time in period three before they lit the lamp behind Climie. Carlson credited his team’s experience for being able to get back to playing the style necessary to win in the post season.
“That’s playoff hockey, it’s the Calder Cup. I think the whole entire locker room has been here last year so, we know what it takes and it’s block shots and it’s little plays like that, chipping the pucks in and being unselfish. I think that we did all of those things tonight. That is a good team over there and it was a hard battle,” finished Carlson in his television interview with Mace.