BEARS CLAIM BACK-TO-BACK CUPS WITH GAME 6 WIN
Hershey Blanks Texas in Deciding Game
By Jess Mikula
True to form, HERSHEY finished the greatest season in AHL history with yet another feat: for the first time in 30 years, the BEARS captured the Calder Cup on home ice. John Carlson scored midway through the opening stanza, and backstop Michal Neuvirth posted the shutout as the Chocolate and White trounced the Texas Stars by a 4-0 count.
HERSHEY commanded play in the first period. A franchise-record 11,002 BEARS faithful erupted as rookie defenseman Carlson crashed the crease and sent the rebound of an Alexandre Giroux point shot top shelf on Texas netminder Brent Krahn's blocker side at 12:29. Andrew Gordon tallied the secondary assist on the power play marker, Carlson's second goal of the postseason and as it turned out, the game-winning goal. Shortly thereafter, fed by Carlson and Boyd Kane, Karl Alzner launched a slap shot from the left point to give HERSHEY a two-goal lead on his third strike of the playoffs at 14:23. The Chocolate and White out-shot the Stars by a 17-4 margin and carried a 2-0 advantage to the dressing room after one.
Patrick McNeill padded the BEARS' lead in the second period. Jay Beagle dished a pass to Giroux, who fired a one timer from the perimeter. As Krahn made the kick save, McNeill potted the rebound for his second postseason marker at 14:47. HERSHEY maintained its three-goal cushion through 40 minutes.
Anticipation was palpable in the third period, with chants of "We want the Cup" rippling through the stands as early as the 13-minute mark. McNeill added a power play goal to effectively cap off the greatest season in AHL history at 14:52, eluding Krahn with a wrister from the high slot, assisted by Bryan Helmer and Mathieu Perreault.
Neuvirth earned his 14th win between the pipes and first shutout of the postseason, blanking the Stars on 22 shots. The HERSHEY power play converted twice on four opportunities, and the penalty kill denied Texas on each of its two chances.
Bears Radio Network Three Stars of the Game:
1. Michal Neuvirth (22 saves in shutout)
2. John Carlson (game-winning goal, assist)
3. Patrick McNeill (two goals)
Notes: HERSHEY has not clinched a Calder Cup on home ice since 1980, winning each of its last four championships on the road. In winning the 2010 Calder Cup, the Chocolate and White became the first team in league history to win the Cup after losing the first two games on home ice. The BEARS have reached the Calder Cup Finals four of the past five seasons, claiming championships in three of those appearances. HERSHEY extended its own league records, making the franchise's 22nd Calder Cup Finals appearance and winning its 11th Cup. The BEARS have won eight consecutive playoff series to eclipse the AHL record and become the first back-to-back champions since the Springfield Indians in 1989-90 and 1990-91. The Chocolate and White boast 18 players who were also members of last year's championship team, with Bryan Helmer, Boyd Kane and Chris Bourque each showing three Calder Cups.