It was a matter of we had them, but we lost them. It was a matter of a week-long layoff between game’s two and three. It was a matter of the eighth seed trying to pull off a stunning upset over the AHL Regular Season Champions. But in the end, it was the Providence Bruins winning games three, four and five, winning the best of five, first round series 3-2. Game five concluded in a 3-2 defeat Wednesday night.
We think back to a stunning overtime win in Game 2 to bring home a commanding series lead. And we smile back at Tom Wilson’s first professional goal with 4:40 left in regulation in Game 4 to give Hershey a 4-3 lead. By far those were the top two moments for the Chocolate and White this postseason that make the short-lived run worth while.
The Bears dominated the opening minutes of Game 5 and drew first blood for the fourth time in the series. 79 seconds in, Casey Wellman scored off a snap shot, beating Niklas Svedberg to the top shelf. But the relentless Providence Bruins quickly responded, as they did in Game 4.
At the period’s 5:04 mark, Justin Florek tallied his first of the playoffs on a shot Philipp Grubauer never saw. One thing that made the Bruins extremely tough to defend this series was their willingness to throw pucks on net from any inch of the ice surface. Florek slapped a shot from the boards near the right face off circle that glazed iron, Grubauer’s equipment and glanced into the back of the net. A shot from a low percentage area quickly tied the hockey game.
The game remained a 1-1 deadlock until the 15:08 mark of the second stanza. After the ice was tilted towards Hershey’s defensive end for the majority of the period, Jordan Caron finally cashed in. Caron gave Providence their first lead of the night when he scored on Grubauer from point-blank range in the slot. It’s an area of the ice Head Coach Mark French often refers to as “The Third Circle.” That is the space of ice between the two face off circles where teams look to dictate control.
Joey Crabb tied the contest early third period with 16:04 left in regulation, but only to be counter punched right back. After an initial shot from center point, Jamie Tardif jammed home a loose puck with 10:40 left in regulation. It proved to be the knockout blow to Hershey’s 75th anniversary season, as they fell by a 3-2 count.
For the third consecutive season, the Bears exit the Calder Cup Playoffs in the very first round. For the second straight year, the Bears’ final postseason game comes in the finale of a best of five series.
The Providence Bruins advance to the Eastern Conference Semifinals to square off against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.