It took 30 years, but Chocolatetown finally got to see the Calder Cup skated on its home ice once again. The Hershey Bears put forth a relentless effort in game six of a series in which they seemed to get stronger as it wore on en route to a 4-0 blanking of the Texas Stars. Hershey won the series four games to two, after dropping the first two tilts at home, becoming the first AHL team to achieve that feat. A record crowd of 11,002 at the Giant Center witnessed what is now back to back Calder Cups for the Chocolate and White.
The Bears came out playing hard and smart, dumping the puck deep at every opportunity. Hershey Coach Mark French said following game two that if his team played the way he and his coaches asked them to, they would be successful. After Brent Krahn (32 saves), who replaced Matt Climie in net for Texas, did his best to keep the Stars in it, the Bears patience and persistence paid off as John Carlson scored from in front on a power play after the Stars net minder could not handle an Alexandre Giroux point shot. Andrew Gordon did a nice job of creating traffic on the goal to put the Bears up 1-0, 12:29 into the tilt.
Hershey would strike quickly thereafter, again as a result of sustained pressure in the Texas zone. The line of Andrew Joudrey, Boyd Kane, and Steve Pinozzotto buzzed the Stars end. Kane then fired a cross ice pass to Karl Alzner, who stepped up into the left wing circle and beat Krahn short side. Krahn was slow coming over to make the save because “Pinner” was creating havoc in front of the 2000 Calgary Flames first round choice (9th overall). King Karl’s tally would make it 2-0 at the 14:23 mark and the opening stanza would end that way. Hershey had a 17-4 shots advantage after period one.
At the start of period two, Texas came out flying and controlled the play early on. Michal Neuvirth (22 saves) made a couple of nice stops and then the Bears found their legs and their cycle game once again. Hershey dominated the last 12 minutes or so and with 5:13 left Patrick McNeill banged in a rebound of a Giroux shot after some great work by Jay Beagle in the offensive zone.That goal came after both teams traded shots off of the crossbar. The three goal cushion seemed to take the life out of the Stars.
In period three it was all Bears again and when they got into any trouble Neuvirth made the save, flashing his stellar glove hand on several occassions. A late McNeill tally, his second of the game, closed out the scoring and chants of “We Want the Cup” rained down from the record Hershey crowd.
Notes: Forward Chris Bourque was named the AHL Playoff MVP (Jack A. Butterfield trophy)…Jamie Benn, who led the AHL playoffs in goal scoring heading into the Calder Cup Finals, was blanked by Hershey in the series as Carlson and Alzner did a superb job of shutting him down…Final shot totals for game six were 36-22 in favor of the Bears…Hershey killed off both Stars power plays while going 2 for 4 with man advantage themselves…French called the Bears kill of a Carlson trip early in the 2nd period “a turning point.”
Check back on Thursday night for quotes from a victorious ice celebration as I had a chance to talk with several Bears players to include Carlson, Alzner, Mathieu Perreault, Cody Eakin, Keith Aucoin, and Bourque. WNST also caught up with Coach French and Capitals GM George McPhee. We will also provide a link to a multimedia presentation put together after the victory by John Keeley of On Frozen Blog.