With a trip to the Calder Cup playoffs and season on the line, the Hershey Bears delivered at home in their third game in three days. The Chocolate and White defeated the Manchester Monarchs 4-2 on their season finale, catapulted by a dominant two goal first period. The Bears clinched a spot in the playoffs in a showdown first round series against the Providence Bruins, top team in the Eastern Conference.
“The last two weeks shave been emotionally like we’ve been in the playoffs, it’s been up and down,” said Hershey Bears coach Mark French after the game.
Forward Jon DiSalvatore had a huge game for the Bears, registering two goals as the playoffs draw near. Goaltender Philipp Grubauer (15-9-2) picked up his 15th win on the season, totaling 23 saves on 25 shots.
“In games like this, I’ve been a part of a few of them, early is really important ,” French said. “I think for this group it is to come out and score. I thought Boyd Kan’e second goal was really important because we had titled the ice and controlled the play, I think maybe going into the end of the first 1-0 still would have been a little bit deflating.”
Hershey grabbed a 1-0 lead just 16 seconds in, converting on their first shot of the contest. Defenseman and plus-minus leader Chay Genoway notched his 5th goal of the season, connecting on a shot from the blue line that found its way past Monarchs goalie Ty Rimmer.
“I think it was great because it got the crowd right into early on,” Hershey forward Jon DiSalvatore said of Genoway’s early goal. “I think that helps when you get the crowd going and they’re loud and I think that helps energize us. Obviously we’re excited to get ahead and just get the building again.”
Although he gave up his first goal on the first shot, Rimmer in his AHL debut would rebound. He made a couple of big stops, but Hershey’s domination of Manchester continued. Captain Boyd Kane potted his 15th goal of the year as a shrugged off a Monarchs defender before firing a shot past Rimmer.
The Bears outshot Manchester 15-7 in the first period, went one for one on the power play and killed off the Monarchs’ five-on-three advantage late in the frame. Philipp Grubauer made some huge saves for the Chocolate and White, as he continues to show his potential in the Washington Capitals system.
Hershey’s dominance of the Monarchs continued in the second period, as they outshot Manchester 18-10, giving them a 33-17 shot advantage heading into the final period. The Monarchs got a big opportunity in the third period, following a four minute high sticking penalty to Joey Crabb with only 6.9 seconds left in the second stanza.
Both teams traded goals in the third period, scoring only 25 seconds apart. The Monarchs’ Tanner Pearson cut the Hershey lead to 2-1 with 6:22 left in the game on a rebound shot, but Bears forward Jon DiSalvatore deflected defenseman Julien Brouillette’s point shot for his 17th goal on the season.
“I thought when they scored their first goal Jon DiSalvatore’s goal the next shift was a great response,” French said. “I thought the line of Potulny, Crabb and DiSalvatore were excellent tonight. That’s what you need, your veterans to step up in these games.”
DiSalvatore added another goal for his second of the game and Tanner Pearson cut the Bears’ lead to 4-2 late in the third period with the game already determined.
“We’re trying to put together a team that’s going to do some damage in the playoffs,” said DiSalvatore.
“It’s been a grind, “French said of the final few weeks of the regular season. “Hopefully we can catch our breath long enough and get prepared for Providence.”
Hershey’s first round series against the Providence Bruins will likely begin next Saturday, as the Bears hope to take a game on the road in the best of five set.
“I know they’re a physical team,” said French. “They’re a very balanced team, very strong goaltending. We will start to break them down starting tomorrow [Monday] and get a better sense of what we need to do.”
“We have a much more physical team and I think we’ve definitely gotten a lot better,” Hershey forward Jeff Taffe said as the playoffs are set to being next weekend.
2. Bears Injuries: Jonathon Kalinski and Mike Carman
3. Hershey Healthy Scratches: Patrick McNeill, Joel Rechlicz, Mattias Sjogren, Patrick Wellar and Dane Byers (veteran scratch)
4. Manchester scratched regulars Linden Vey and Nick Deslauriers
1. Jon DiSalvatore (two goals, plus one, four shots on goal)
2. Boyd Kane (goal, four shots on goal)
3. Philipp Grubauer (23 saves on 25 shots)