Sunday, March 7, 2010
BEARS PELT PENS
Some say that a good defense will beat a good offense, but it has taken the Hershey Bears a perfect combination of both to be able to claim a 22 home game winning streak Saturday night was a prime example of both in action as the Bears downed the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, 4-0 at Giant Center.
The Bears received a single goal from Francois Bouchard, and from each member of their top-scoring line which consists of Alexandre Giroux, Keith Aucoin, and Andrew Gordon. Those goals, coupled with a 25 save shutout by netminder, Braden Holtby, propelled the Bears to within two points of becoming the first team to reach 100 points this season.
Although often overshadowed by the offensive arsenal that defines the Bears, the defensive unit, which includes the league’s top penalty kill, has been rock-solid throughout the home winning streak, not giving up any goals in 26 of 66 periods during the run.
“I think our team defense has been good tonight,” said Bears’ bench boss, Mark French. “I thought it was more about Braden Holtby…overall, through the stretch, I think our commitment to defense has been very good; offense comes fairly easy for us, but if I see that our team’s sharp, it’s usually by us playing strong defense.”
After a scoreless first period that saw the Bears put only four shots on net, they came out storming early in the second, beginning with Giroux’s breakaway attempt that was thwarted by Penguins goaltender, Brad Theissen. Although Giroux was denied in his attempt, Aucoin would not be denied, pickpocketing former Bears’ defenseman, Deryk Engelland, and joined Giroux in the 30 goal club.
“I’ve never gotten 30 before, and it’s my ninth year,” said Aucoin. “It’s one of those things that I didn’t think would happen, especially when I’ve played with G and Gordon and knowing those guys are going to get a lot of goals. It’s a great accomplishment. I finally did it. I think 30 goals is pretty hard to get in this league, and it was good to get that done.”
Shortly after Aucoin’s monumental marker, Holtby showcased some of his best work of the night by stopping Chris Conner’s breakaway attempt and narrowly avoided disaster on a goal-mouth scramble.
“I was talking to Ammo about it and he said he was trying to cross check Kaner to knock the net off,” joked Holtby. “It was a quick shot to my left pad, then on the rebound, they shot it back to my far right and kind of hit me on a weird spot—my toe—and it rolled up and over the net.”
Gordon joined his linemates in the 30 goal club with his 14th power play strike with Aucoin and Chris Bourque picking up the assists.
“I was trying to stand perfectly still so I wouldn’t be in the way of the pass because I figured he was looking for Giroux on the back side,” Gordon said. “Once that pass went past me, I knew it didn’t get all the way to Giroux, so I just took a look around and saw it sitting in the crease for me to poke home.”
“Reaching that plateau means I’m going to have to try to score a lot next year, or I’ll feel like a failure,” laughed Gordon. “It’s nice milestone to make; it’s sort of how I’ve been contributing to the team this year, by picking up those dirty rebounds. For me it’s a symbol of the work I’m putting in, and the fact that I’m doing a decent job at the role I’ve been given this year.”
Giroux and Bouchard tacked on third period goals to ensure the Bears’ that their record-breaking home winning streak would continue to be improved.
Despite the fact that Aucoin has assisted on 18 of Gordon’s goals, he takes little credit for his linemate’s success.
“I think he earned it. He’s a hard worker and gets in the corners and gets us the puck and gets in front of the net. He gets the dirty goals and has a great shot. I don’t think it has anything to do with me and G. He’s earned it and he’s worked hard, and I’m happy for him.”