For the first time since the 2010 Calder Cup Playoffs, the Hershey Bears hosted a postseason game in the month of May. Saturday the Bears sought an unexpected three game series sweep over the AHL Regular Season Champion, Providence Bruins. Chris Bourque returned to Giant Center and claimed first star honors in a 5-1 rout over the Bears.
For the third consecutive game in the playoff series, the Bears score first early in the opening frame. With the Giant Center crowd at its loudest all season, Michael Latta brought them to their feet only 3:44 in. Transitioning on a 3-on-2 offensive rush, Latta crashed the net and capitalized on a juicy rebound after the initial shot from Nicolas Deschamps was kicked aside.
But less than five minutes later, once Hershey fan favorite Chris Bourque tied the game for Providence. He deflected a Garnet Exelby shot past Philipp Grubauer from the low-slot. Interesting enough, once Bourque’s name was announced for the tally, a rain of boos from the Hershey faithful fell onto the ice.
After 20 minutes both teams were deadlocked at 1-1. The Bears showed great net presence and were constantly a threat with several good scoring chances off zone transitions. Shots were 14-9 in favor of the Bears at the period’s break. Tom Wilson made his professional debut with the Chocolate and White, appearing in a few first period shifts. Wilson did not hesitate to show off his speed in dump and chase situations, and tested Niklas Svedberg with one shot on goal.
The following stanza, the Bruins took their first two goal lead of the series as the Bears were flooded by a parade of tough breaks. It was obvious to the entire arena from the period’s get-go, the Chocolate and White had less jump in their step from the first frame. The lack of speed throughout the ice and crisp breakouts led to a Providence goal only 3:06 in.
Grubauer was beaten once more by a deflection in the low slot. Bobby Robins slipped by the Hershey defense and easily deflected a shot from Craig Cunningham into the cage. Later with 9:41 left on the clock, Bourque made his former team pay via the power play. Bourque from center point faked a shot and went to a backdoor slap pass right to the stick of teammate Jamie Tardif. He tallied his second of the postseason to gain a 3-1 lead.
The Providence tally came moments after Wilson was whistled for his first professional penalty. It was a questionable offensive zone tripping penalty while he was nearly on his backside after losing balance.
Hershey’s chance to shrink the deficit before intermission was after back-to-back P-Bruins minors only 45 seconds apart. The first was a four minute high stick infraction to Tommy Cross. The full two minute 5-on-3 power play was wasted, and the remainder of Cross’ double minor was killed off with ease.
Shots after 40 minutes were 23-18 Hershey.
Providence quickly tacked on two third period goals to put the game out of reach at 5-1. Bourque tallied his second of the night after capitalizing on a 2-on-1 rush and Carter Camper stuck the final nail in Hershey’s coffin with a fifth goal on Grubauer. Both teams return to the ice for Game 4 the very next night at 5pm.