Bears Season Ends in Game 7 Loss to Bruins

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Posted May 17, 2017

HERSHEY, P.A — Home woes continued for the Hershey Bears, as they lost their fifth of six home playoff games and ended their season with a 4-2 loss to the Providence Bruins in game seven from Giant Center.

“It’s tough to explain,” Hershey head coach Troy Mann said. “There’s no real reason for it, I thought we played hard here at home, unfortunately we were 1-5, and that’s one of the reasons why we aren’t playing anymore.”

The Providence Bruins advance to the Eastern Conference Finals and will face the Syracuse Crunch with home-ice advantage.

“Our team showed a lot of resiliency all year, and I’m very proud to be part of this team,” assistant captain Chris Bourque said.

Mann attributed some of the trouble to the team playing to get into the playoffs since January, but did not use it as an excuse for his group’s early exit.

“We were really in playoff mode since the All-Star break, and that’s three-and-a-half months of hard hockey,” Mann said. “Over the course of this playoff run, I thought we looked tired at times, and that’s not an excuse.”

Vitek Vanecek made 23 stops while Zane McIntyre saved 15 for Providence.

“When you go back, I don’t think anyone can say we lost this series because of our goaltending,” Mann said. “If you take out four weeks of his [Vanecek’s] season, his numbers are excellent.”

After Vanecek stopped two shots on Bears turnovers early in the first period, he had no help to stop Jordan Szwarz on the third turnover. Vanecek was looking behind him after a shot from Wayne Simpson, but Szwarz saw the puck in front of the blue paint.

Riley Barber retaliated with his first of the playoffs moments later. With Barber breaking in, Nathan Walker found him in the high slot with nobody else around him. Barber set his skates, wound up, and ripped the puck under the outstretched glove of McIntyre.

“At times, we really thought we had it,” Barber said. “We’ve got to give credit to Providence, they’re a great team and they played us well.”

Out of all Hershey forwards to play in these playoffs, seven scored goals.

“Our depth scoring last year was tremendous, we had six forwards [this year] who went through 11 playoff games without a point,” Mann said.

Providence struck again to lead with a controversial zone-entry from Danton Heinen.

Henien played the puck down with close to a high stick, sending in Simpson and Swarz again on the rush. Swarz finished off his second of the game on the play as the crowd booed what they saw as a missed call.

Simpson got his fourth of the playoffs minutes later, getting away from his net-front coverage and sliding a loose puck past Vanecek’s left leg.

“We had no answers for them,” Mann said.

Jakub Vrana returned to the lineup after getting injured in game three of the series. He played alongside Nathan Walker and Riley Barber on Hershey’s third line. Barber took a few shifts with Chris Bourque and Travis Boyd after his goal, with Vrana getting limited minutes.

Mann called his play tonight “average.”

Chandler Stephenson finished off a crisp passing play late in the second. With McIntyre whistled for delay of game, the Bears set up for their only power-play goal of the night.

Paul Carey started the passing by hitting Boyd below the goal line. Boyd one-touched the puck for Christian Djoos in the slot. Djoos found Stephenson with his stick up for the one-timer and the goal.

Mann pulled Vanecek for the extra skater with under two minutes to go. Jake Debrusk forced a turnover behind the empty cage to score his fifth of the playoffs.

“We still felt good at 3-2,” Mann said. “Guys didn’t stop believing until that fourth goal.”

The Bears face a lot of uncertainty heading into the offseason, with many of their top players either hitting free agency or close to making the NHL roster with Washington.

“We left it all out there, and at the end of the day that’s all you can do,” Barber said.

For AHL veterans like Bourque, who is a free agent after this season, his perspective is a little different.

“Every year, your main goal is to win the Calder Cup. Especially here in Hershey, when you fall short of that, it’s not a success,” he said. “I think it’s the same message as last year, you try and learn from the defeat. I think you can learn more from taking tough losses than winning, sometimes.”

Photos From Game 7:

Max Wolpoff

Max Wolpoff

Churchill High School graduate (2015) and current Boston University journalism student. Follow me on Twitter (@Max_Wolpoff) for game-day tweets or my random musings about being a college student.