Boyd Kane scored 7:06 into overtime and the Hershey Bears beat the Manchester Monarchs 3-2 in overtime in Game 6, clinching their best-of-seven series four games to two. The Bears are headed back to defend last year’s Calder Cup title against the winner of the Hamilton/Texas series. This was the fourth overtime game of the series, all of which ironically ended 3-2.
Manchester’s John Zeiler opened the scoring with just 17 seconds left in the first period. Gabe Gauthier’s initial shot attempt was blocked away, but the Monarchs got traffic in front of Michal Neuvirth and Zeiler banged home the rebound. The visitors increased their lead to 2-0 with another late goal near the end of the second period. More aggressive play in front of the Hershey net led to Joe Piskula’s second of the playoffs. The ten thousand plus Bears fans in attendance let their discontent be known, showering the Hershey players with boos after the second period.
The Bears responded with an outstanding effort throughout the third period. outshooting the Monarchs 13-8 over the course of the twenty minutes. Alexandre Giroux put Hershey on the board 7:37 into the third period. Then, Bears defenseman Patrick McNeill tied it with just about six minutes remaining in regulation to force overtime. The Monarchs did their best to regroup, but once again could not keep the powerful Hershey offense from controlling the tempo late, much the same way they did in Game 5 in Manchester.
McNeill also assisted on Kane’s game winner, a somewhat surprising outburst offensively with the goal and assist. McNeill also led the Bears with six shots on the night against Manchester goalie Jonathan Bernier. McNeill played more of a reserve role in the games in Manchester, but stepped up his game significantly back in the friendly confines of the Giant Center.
Manchester coach Mark Morris said he thought his young team was going to be ready to handle the crowd in Hershey, certainly more prepared than they were last time. That was evident as the Monarchs controlled things from the start, trying in vain to force a Game 7 tomorrow. Bernier made 28 saves in the losing effort. Neuvirth stopped 32 Monarch shots.
This will likely be a tough one for the Monarchs to stomach given the way the last two games of the series played out. Following a 1-0 shutout in Game 4, Manchester led two separate times in the third period before losing in OT in Game 5. That was a similar story tonight as the Monarchs held the level of play through two periods, only to fold at the end.
The Bears now wait for the winner of the Western Conference Finals between the Hamilton Bulldogs and the Texas Stars. Those two met in Game 5 Saturday night as well with the series tied at two games apiece.