05/16/2009 - HERSHEY stands four wins away from the club's third trip to the Calder Cup Finals in the last four years as the 2009 Eastern Conference Finals open Saturday night at GIANT Center. The BEARS and the Providence Bruins square off along HERSHEYPARK Drive at 7:00 p.m.
A thrilling seven-game heavyweight fight came to a close Tuesday night as the BEARS blanked the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins 3-0 in Game 7 of the East Division Finals, winning the series four games to three. Keith Aucoin scored just 50 seconds into the game to post the game-winning goal, with Chris Bourque and Steve Pinizzotto adding goals later in the contest. Goaltender Michal Neuvirth posted his second straight playoff shutout and his third of the postseason in the game. Neuvirth also won his eighth Calder Cup playoff game Tuesday against three losses this spring. He also became the first AHL goaltender in history to post shutouts in Game 6 and Game 7 of a Calder Cup playoff series. Neuvirth blanked Wilkes-Barre/Scranton 3-0 in Game 6 and 3-0 in Game 7.
The BEARS and Bruins are meeting for the first time in the Calder Cup playoffs, but it's far from the first time that HERSHEY and Providence have met in the postseason. The BEARS last played the Providence Reds in the 1974 Calder Cup Finals. The Reds left the American Hockey League landscape in 1977, with the Bruins joining the AHL in 1992.
Providence finished second in the Atlantic Division to the Hartford Wolf Pack in the 2008-09 regular season, and defeated the Portland Pirates and Worcester Sharks to advance to this Eastern Conference Final. Former Norfolk Admiral Martin St. Pierre leads the Bruins in scoring this playoff year with five goals and 13 points overall. Former BEARS defenseman Johnny Boychuk, a first-team AHL defenseman in 2008-09, has three goals and seven points thus far in the 2009 Calder Cup playoffs.
Elsewhere in the Calder Cup playoffs, the Manitoba Moose stand three wins away from the Calder Cup Finals after a 2-1 victory over the Houston Aeros Friday night in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals. Game 2 is set for Saturday night as well at MTS Centre in downtown Winnipeg before the series moves deep into the heart of Texas for Game 3 at Toyota Center. The winner of the Manitoba/Houston series will meet the winner of the Providence/HERSHEY series in the 2009 Calder Cup Finals.
Saturday's Game 1 can be heard via the BEARS Radio Network (100.1 FM, 1490 AM, Sportsjuice.com, AHLLive.com) beginning with the pregame show at 6:40 p.m. John Walton and Ed Coffey have the call of the action from GIANT Center. Tickets for both Saturday's Game 1 and Sunday's Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals are on sale. Call (717) 534-3911 for ticket availability and information.