Bears Take Third Straight in Texas
Alexandre Giroux's fifth career overtime game-winner gives Hershey 3-2 series lead
Alexandre Giroux’s goal at 13:28 of overtime gave the Bears a 2-1 win in Friday’s pivotal Game 5 and a 3-2 lead in the series as the scene shifts back to Hershey for Monday night’s Game 6.
Striving to become the first team in AHL history to lose the first two games of a final series on home ice and still win the Calder Cup, the Bears are now just one victory shy of doing just that.
Friday night’s triumph was the eighth overtime victory in nine extra-session contests for Hershey during the 2010 Calder Cup playoffs, a league record for most overtime wins in a single postseason.
“I thought the game tonight might have been a little different from the overtime games we had played [earlier in the playoffs],” says French. “Sometimes when we play some teams they seem to be back on their heels, almost trying not to make a mistake, and we play on our toes.
“I thought Texas played very well in overtime. It was almost trading chances and that’s how you want the game to be played. Tonight, we got the last break.”
For the third straight game, the Bears came from behind to win on the road, sweeping the trio of games played before record crowds in the Stars’ barn here in Cedar Park, Tex. this week.
“It’s just so fun when every shift means so much,” says Bears defenseman Greg Amadio. “You don’t have time to think. You don’t lose your focus. You’re so amped up for every shift and you don’t want to let your teammates down. It’s a lot of fun; it’s pressure but good pressure.”
Texas struck first, getting a power play goal from Aaron Gagnon just 18 seconds after Hershey’s Cody Eakin went off for hooking. Stars’ defenseman Dan Jancevski threw a shot on goal from along the wall and Gagnon deflected it past Bears goaltender Michal Neuvirth.
Gagnon’s goal came near the midway mark of the first, and the Bears needed more than a period to get the equalizer. Hershey got its second power play of the night at 9:09 of the second when Texas’ Francis Wathier was whistled for interference. The Bears fired a number of shots during the man-advantage, but all were either blocked out front or missed the net. But just three seconds after Wathier was cut loose, Francois Bouchard solved Texas goaltender Matt Climie to make it a 1-1 game.
Texas had a great chance to regain the lead when they got their second power play of the night less than a minute after Bouchard’s goal. But Neuvirth stood tall, and the two teams went at one another hard the rest of the way, trading chances with no red lights.
“I thought Michal stepped up,” says French. “Their second power play, they had a ton of chances but Michal came through. He’s the type of guy who rises to those occasions.”
Hershey began to dominate in the offensive zone midway through the overtime session. At the 13:07 mark of the extra session, the Stars were forced to ice the puck to relieve the continuous pressure on Climie. Texas coach Glen Gulutzan called timeout to give his troops a few seconds of rest, but Hershey won the offensive zone draw and went right back to applying pressure.
A shot caromed off a player in front and into the air. Bodies were flying and players were vying to locate the puck. It came to Giroux, who was just above the crease to Climie’s left. The veteran sniper gloved it down and tapped it home, just 21 seconds after Gulutzan’s timeout call.
Giroux had struggled with the puck for much of the night, but as he has been so often, he was there for the Bears when it counted.
“I thought the puck was jumping on him a little bit tonight,” admits French. “He is such a patient player and at times he is probably a little bit too patient. But you go with him all year. You believe in those guys. There are certain guys that even when they’re fighting it, you have to keep putting them on the ice. He is one of those guys and he makes a coach look good because he rewards you when he comes through.”
The Cedar Park crowd was treated to a trio of thrilling games this week, the last two in particular.
“I thought the last two games have been phenomenal in terms of teams putting it on the table,” says French. “I think both teams should be commended for how they’re playing and how unselfishly and the sacrificing. I think both teams deserve a lot of credit.”
Home Cooking – Hershey hopes to claim its first Calder Cup ever on Giant Center ice and its first on home ice since 1980 when the series returns to Chocolatetown on Monday. The Bears have won each of the last four of their AHL-record 11 Calder Cup titles on the road.
“It’s satisfying but we also know that they have some confidence going into Giant Center,” warns French. “They beat us twice there.”
Record Tally – Giroux’s overtime game-winner was the fifth such goal of his prolific AHL career, extending his own league standard.
Leader of the Pack – With his assist on Bouchard’s second period goal, Bears forward Chris Bourque moved into sole possession of the Calder Cup playoffs scoring lead. Bourque’s 27 points (seven goals, 20 assists) in 20 games are one more than Texas’ Jamie Benn has in 23 games.
With 25 points, Giroux and Keith Aucoin are both tied for third in the league’s playoff scoring chase. Giroux's goal was his 14th of the playoffs, tying him with Benn for the postseason lead.
Thunder in the Third – Each of the five games of this series has been tied after 40 minutes, and three of the five have been decided by a single goal. In the three games played at Cedar Park Center this week, the Bears outscored the home team 6-0 in the third period and overtime.
Hershey has outscored Texas 7-3 after the game’s first 40 minutes in the five games of the series to date.
The Finest Name In Shooting – Hershey’s Kyle Wilson led his team with nine shots on goal while Texas’ Landon Wilson led his club with eight shots on goal.
Whistles Away – Only four minor penalties were called in the game, two against each team. After Hershey’s Boyd Kane went off for a holding the stick infraction at 12:11 of the second, there were no more penalties called over the last 41:17 of the contest.
Busy Benn – The Stars’ Benn played in his 105th game of the 2009-10 season on Friday. After playing all 82 games of the NHL regular season with the parent Dallas Stars, Benn has skated in all 23 of Texas’ postseason contests. No other non-Olympian has played more hockey than Benn this season.
Records Are Made To Be Broken – For the third time in as many home games in this series, the Stars set a home attendance record. There were 7,014 folks in the seats for Monday’s Game 3 and there were 7,032 in attendance for Wednesday’s Game 4. The locals needed only 48 hours to break the old mark again, as they sardine-canned 7.054 bodies into Cedar Park Center for Friday’s Game 5, the Stars’ final home date of their first season of existence.