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TORONTO, ONTARIO, Canada – Christian Djoos and Nathan Walker scored goals just 64 seconds apart, opening enough of a lead for the Hershey Bears to hang on and defeat the Toronto Marlies 3-2 on Sunday evening in game five of the Eastern Conference Finals at Ricoh Coliseum. Hershey wins the series four games to one and advances to face the Lake Erie Monsters in the Calder Cup Finals.
Hershey jumped on the Marlies early, earning their first and only power play chance just 6:10 into the game. Richard Clune, who absorbed a big hit in the Marlies’ defensive zone, came the other way and plowed into goaltender Justin Peters to hand Hershey a chance on the man advantage. In its opening shift, Aaron Ness sent a cross-crease pass attempt off of the goal stick of netminder Antoine Bibeau. The puck deflected into the air and landed on the goal line. The puck was covered up by a Toronto defender, giving Jakub Vrana a penalty shot attempt. Bibeau denied the shot, and Toronto killed off the rest of the penalty.
But shortly afterward, Hershey would get on the board. Liam O’Brien split the Marlies defense after collecting a pass from Dustin Gazley, and deposited his own rebound out of mid-air into the net at 9:18.
The Bears did all their offensive damage in the game early in the second period. Djoos would score by trailing a line rush led by Vrana. Collecting a pass in the middle slot, Djoos deked to his left before sending a snap shot into the upper-left corner at 1:09 for his second goal of the playoffs.
Two shifts later, Djoos would send a breakout pass down the left side. Riley Barber collected it, putting Hershey on a three-on-two rush. Barber sent a perfect cross-ice pass to Walker, who ripped a one-timer past Bibeau at 2:13 for a 3-0 lead.
Toronto’s top prospect William Nylander would later get the Marlies on the board. Circling toward the top of the crease from behind the net, Nylander saw a Connor Carrick slap shot deflect off of him and behind Peters at 8:05.
Down by two in the third and their season on the line, Toronto applied their most aggressive pressure. Aaron Ness made the save of the series early in the period with Peters out of position, diving in front of a Nikita Soshnikov shot from the right circle. But Soshnikov would later strike at 5:11, with Peters lunging to corral a loose puck. Josh Leivo beat him to it and threw the puck into traffic, where Soshnikov slammed it home to cut the Marlies’ deficit to 3-2.
The Bears would hold on from there to claim the series. Peters made 21 saves on 23 shots to improve to 11-5 in the postseason. Bibeau stopped 17 of 20 shots in the loss. Each team was 0-for-1 on the power play.
Hershey will now host games one and two of the 2016 Calder Cup Finals, to be played at GIANT Center on Wednesday and Friday, June 1 and 3, with faceoff both nights set for 7:00 PM. Tickets go on sale tomorrow, May 30 at 9:00 am at the GIANT Center box office, by calling (717)508-BEAR or online at TicketMaster.com.
NOTES: Hershey advances to the Calder Cup Finals for the 23rd time in franchise history…The Bears won their 70th franchise playoff series, improving to 70-54 all-time…Hershey improved to 6-0 in the postseason following a loss, 6-0 when leading after one period and 9-1 when scoring first…Hershey won its league-best seventh game when outshot by the opposition…The Bears close out the month of May with a record of 9-3-1…The Bears scratched LW Paul Carey, RW Sean Collins, D Connor Hobbs, D Joey Leach, LW Domenic Monardo, D Mike Moore and D Colby Williams… The Marlies scratched C Sam Carrick, D Travis Dermott, RW Matt Frattin, RW Andreas Johnson, RW Justin Johnson, D David Kolomatis, LW Brendan Leipsic and LW Tobias Lindberg.