Bears Bounce Back, Take Game 2

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Posted April 24, 2016

PORTLAND, ME — With the wind at their backs, the Hershey Bears powered their way past the Portland Pirates, 3-1, to even the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series at one game apiece. The teams will shift to the GIANT Center for the next three games of the series, the third of which will only be necessary if Games 3 and 4 are split. Riley Barber tallied two points and Justin Peters made 31 saves to secure the Game 2 victory.

“I thought we played much better tonight, it was more how we’ve played over the course of the regular season,” Hershey head coach Troy Mann said. “We had a solid ten really good looks there in the first period, so I really liked the start tonight.”

After a scoreless first period, the Bears only needed one shot to score on Portland’s Mike McKenna. Zach Sill sent in Garrett Mitchell, who used the defender in front of him as a screen to sneak in his first of the playoffs.

“I don’t think he (Mike McKenna) saw the puck come all the way through. I just put it to a spot and was able to sneak through,” Mitchell said. The Bears captain praised the team for playing “the way they need to play” to win.

For Hershey, that would be one of four shots on goal the entire period. Portland eventually broke the shutout late in the period thanks to Sena Acolaste.

The only shot to beat Peters all night got past him after Connor Brickley flung it to the net, reaching the friendly stick of Acolaste. The fifth-year AHL veteran put up his first of the playoffs, providing a late morale boost for the home team.

Soon enough, Rob Flick cross-checked a Bear in front of Peters, resulting in a carry-over power play to the third period. Even with a 26-13 shots on goal advantage to Portland, the chances went in favor of Hershey.

The Portland penalty kill spelled trouble for Hershey last game, going 0-for-4 then and 0-for-2 into the final 20 minutes. Despite setting up in the late stages, Barber ricocheted a puck off the far post and over the goal line for the Bears’ first power play goal of the series.

“[Assistant coach] Ryan Murphy works on the power play; liked the movement a lot better tonight” Mann said. The sixth-ranked Pirates penalty kill could not keep the attack at bay after a second intermission adjustment from the Bears coaching crew.

Jakub Vrana added another goal on a crisp passing play with Barber and Carter Camper. Vrana broke into the offensive zone with speed, dishing the puck to Barber on the right to avoid three converging defenders. The defense over-compensated, stretching out and forgetting Vrana in the high slot, from where he would bury the shot.

Peters took the crease for his first playoff game since 2009-10 with the Albany River Rats (AHL). The defense in front of him limited the Pirates’ chances to low-quality shots the majority of the night. The few breakaways and tough shots he faced, Peters made the stops appear routine.

On his decision to start Peters, Mann said “based on his last six starts (all wins), he deserved a look.” “On the back-to-back, with two older goalies as well, we thought we’d go with Peters tonight and it paid off.”

Mann praised Tyler Lewington and Ryan Stanton for their stout defensive work. “The D corps in general was better tonight, but those guys stood out for me” he said.

With a series split at Cross Insurance Arena, the Bears and Pirates will change venues to Chocolate Town. Hershey won both games of the season series against Portland at the GIANT Center while dropping the ones at Cross Insurance.

“[The opposition] hates playing in GIANT Center. We come close to selling out every night and it’s a pretty awesome crowd to play in front of” Mitchell said.