Sunday, May 16, 2010

Bears Work Overtime to Dethrone Monarchs

With the Hershey Bears playing their final home game before departing for New England where they will battle the Manchester Monarchs in three more games, Boston native, Chris Bourque, finally brought his traveling road show to Giant Center by leading the Bears to their 3-2 overtime win.

Bourque, who scored his only four goals of this season’s playoffs on the road in Albany, a pair of goals in two games, netted two home-ice goals, including the game-winner.

The Bears struck first when Bourque benefitted from Jay Beagle’s clean faceoff win against Manchesters’s Andrei Loktionov by quickly blitzing a shot by Manchester netminder, Jonathan Bernier at 3:07.

“That was a great play by Beags, and he drew that play up and he was going to win it to me,” said Bourque. “There’s a big screen there if he wins it cleanly. If it goes on net, there’s going to be a good chance it’ll go in, and it did.”

The Bears ran into penalty trouble later in the period when Andrew Joudrey was sent to the penalty box for high-sticking, and while he was serving his sentence, Bourque was whistled off the ice for delay of game after shooting the puck into the stands in the Bears defensive zone.

Although the Bears survived the five-on-three advantage unscathed, they eventually yielded the equalizing goal when Gabe Gautheir gathered in a loose puck and then beat Hershey goaltender, Michal Neuvirth, from close range.

The Monarchs took their first lead of the series early in the second period when Neuvirth allowed a long rebound of Drew Bagnall’s point shot, and the opportunistic Gautheir pounced upon the puck and potted his second goal of the game at 1:07. Gautheir’s goal proved to be the only tally in the second period.

Bernier, the winner of the Baz Bastein Award symbolic of the league’s best goaltender, was spectacular throughout the second frame, stopping all 17 shots that the Bears put on net, a handful of which were of the high-quality variety.

Steve Pinizzotto, who entered the post-season with only three goals in 26 games, potted his fourth goal of the 2010 playoffs at 3:35 of the third period. Pinizzotto finished off the sequence from the doorstep after converting a pretty pass from Francois Bouchard, who in turn had received a beautiful bank pass from Keith Aucoin that emanated from the Hershey defensive zone.

Aucoin, who has had a point in every game in the post-season, was paired with unlikely combinations throughout the game after Andrew Gordon’s injury incurred during the first period and said that he relished the challenge brought on by the line-shuffling.

“Anytime I can play a little more, I’m not going to complain,” said Aucoin. “I always think that when you play more, you get more into the game and you stay warm. I’m used to playing a lot anyway. The guys stepped up tonight with a little more ice time and we came up with a big win.”

After Pinizzotto’s goal, Neuvirth and Bernier shut their respective doors on any further goal-scoring attempts, sending thee game into overtime tied at two.

Just past the midway point of the first overtime period, Boyd Kane chipped the puck along the boards in the Bears’ defensive zone, springing Aucoin and Bourque on a 2-on-1, which concluded in Bourque’s game-winning goal from a difficult angle.

“I kind of had to settle it down because the ice wasn’t that good. Keith made a really nice pass, and I had to make sure I caught the puck first before shooting it. I just put it towards the net and it went in, and I’m pretty happy about it,” said Bourque, who became the 7th different player to score the game-winning goal at Giant Center in these playoffs.

Hershey’s victory gave them a 2-0 lead in the series against the Monarchs, with the next three games slated to be played at Verizon Wireless Arena on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday.

“It’s a tough barn to play in, but we play really good on the road. The key to our success on the road is we keep it simple. Hopefully, Gordo can play, but if not, somebody else will have to step in and do the job,” said Aucoin.

**Photos courtesy of JUSTSPORTS PHOTOGRAPHY**

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