A new series means a fresh start for both teams. For the Hershey Bears, they look to win their first home game of the playoffs. While Hershey won their series against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, they were visibly outplayed for the entire series. For Providence, they will attempt to keep their momentum after upsetting the top-ranked Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in round one. The two teams face-off in the postseason for the first time since the 2013 Eastern Conference Quarter-Finals where Providence defeated Hershey 3-2.
Early in the first, Hershey controlled much of the play with multiple extended cycles in the Providence end. Around the 6:00 mark, an extended cycle courtesy of the Vrana-Stephenson-Barber line which resulted in a great chance from Riley Barber as he walked into the low circle and fired a wrist shot off the blocker of McIntyre. The cycle came to an abrupt after a mishandled pass at the blue line which allowed Providence’s Colby Cave and Tyler Randell to break into the Hershey zone on a two-on-one; Tom Gilbert was able to break up Cave’s pass with a sliding effort.
At the 9:30 mark, Hershey broke into the Providence end on a three-on-two, but Galiev could not handle the cross-crease pass.
Hershey cycled the puck in the Providence end again, but a whiffed pass by Zach Sill high in the zone was intercepted by Chris Porter who tapped the puck ahead to send Austin Czarnik on a breakaway. Czarnik would not flounder the opportunity; burying the puck high-glove side, giving Providence the early 1-0 lead. Soon after, Providence came close to taking a 2-0 lead as Colby Cave just missed a tap-in goal, sending the puck wide.
At 13:00, Travis Boyd sliced through the neutral zone and set up low in the zone. After dishing the puck off to Chris Bourque, Borque was high-sticked in the corner by Bruins defenseman Tommy Cross, giving Hershey the first power play of the game. However, it was Providence’s Colby Cave that capitalized as he stole the puck from Tom Gilbert behind the Hershey net, skated out front, turned, and fired a wrist shot high past the glove of Copley giving Providence a 2-0 lead. Hershey’s powerplay turned into a nightmare just 54 seconds after allowing their first shorthanded goal as Bruins’ Chris Casto sent Jake DeBrusk on a two-one-one; Debrusk toe-dragged around a sliding Christian Djoos, out-waited Pheonix Copley and roofed the puck, giving Providence a 3-0 lead and their second short-handed goal of the night.
With Hershey desperate for a goal, Jakub Vrana, Chandler Stephenson, and Riley Barber broke in on a three-on-two; Vrana fired a low wrist shot off the pad of McIntyre which rebounded towards a wide-open Barber, but the puck flew between his legs.
At 17:18, Bears defenseman Tyler Lewington took Sean Kuraly hard into the boards, sending him hard to the ice behind Pheonix Copley. Tyler Randell immediately went after Lewington and the two threw a few punches before Kuraly wrestled Lewington to the ice. Lewington was served a two-minute cross-checking penalty, which was served by Chris Bourque, along with a five-minute major for fighting, but Providence could not capitalize.
2:19 into the second period, Riley Barber split between the Providence defense but was hooked by Peter Mueller, causing him to shoot wide. With a golden chance to get back into the game, Hershey’s power play continued to struggle as they were inaccurate with their passes and had trouble breaking into the zone.
Even after the failed power play, Hershey continued to pressure. The line of Chris Bourque, Stanislav Galiev, and Travis Boyd cycled the puck resulting in a tricky deflection from the slot off the stick of Travis Boyd, but it sailed high.
Just after the midpoint of the second period, more pressure from Bourque’s line resulted in a tripping penalty by Sean Kuraly at 9:01, but again Hershey’s power play could not get on the board with another sloppy effort.
At 14:26, Providence’s Danton Heinen was held by Hershey’s Colby Williams sending the Bruins to their second power play with a chance to take a 4-0 lead, but Hershey’s power play stood strong.
With time about to expire, Hershey looked for a late goal to get themselves back into the game. With under two seconds left, Christian Djoos let go a low wrist shot that was tipped into the stomach of McIntyre.
The Bears continued to pressure in the third as Providence failed to exit the zone, turning the puck over to Riley Barber. Barber threaded a saucer pass into the slot right on the tape of Travis Boyd; Boyd attempted to toe-drag around a sprawling Bruin, but lost control. Hershey came right back with a three-on-one but Stanislav Galiev’s shot was deflected, sending it into the safety netting.
With just over six minutes to play, Bruins’ Sean Kuraly snuck behind the Hershey defense, but Copley stood tall and kept the deficit at three. Providence followed that up with another chance set up by a Danton Heinen neutral zone takeaway, but Wayne Simpson’s shot sailed wide.
Down three goals with five minutes left, Copley skated to the bench in favor of the extra man for Hershey. At 17:34, Hershey was finally able to capitalize; Chris Bourque controlled the puck at the blue line, threw the puck across to Christian Djoos who skated down into the low circle, and found Nathan Walker on the far post who one-timed it passed McIntyre to cut the deficit to two. However, it was too late for Hershey as they could not muster a comeback.
SERIES: Providence 1-0
FINAL: Providence 3-1
SHOTS: Hershey 25-22
- Hershey came into the playoffs with the fifth-ranked power play, operating at 82.3 percent during the regular season, but the Bears power play has run cold in the playoffs. Hershey came into tonight’s game 0-13 on the power play. Providence, on the other hand, came into the series 6-22 (27.3 percent). Both teams failed to score with the man-advantage in game one, but Providence’s two short-handed goals gave them the special teams advantage.
- Bears goaltender Pheonix Copley comes into the series with a .933 save percentage and a 2.16 GAA while Bruins goaltender Zane McIntyre boasts a .936 save percentage and a 2.35 GAA. In game one, McIntyre got the upper-hand, saving 24 of 25 Bears shots. For Hershey, Copley was” left out to dry” three times in the first period, but came back with two shutout periods. As most playoff series do, this series will boil down to which goaltender can win his team more games.
- Hershey’s Jakub Vrana was inserted into the lineup for the first time since game thee against Lehigh Valley. Vrana seems to have found himself in coach Troy Mann’s “doghouse”. Vrana and linemates Chandler Stephenson and Riley Barber, had extended periods of pressure in the Providence zone, but the line seemed gun-shy as they passed up many shots in favor of a pass.
- Hershey lost defensemen Colby Williams and Tom Gilbert for the third period of Saturday’s game so coach Troy Mann will have a tough decision to make on who will replace them if needed. Hershey has Madison Bowey and Jonas Seigenthaler, both a healthy scratch in game one or he could go with rookie Lucas Johansen who was signed to an ATO earlier this week.
- Providence’s Jake DeBrusk continued his hot streak in game one, recording the Bruins’ third goal; giving him four goals and one assist in six playoff games.
Hershey Coach Troy Mann on bouncing back in game two: “We bounced back after game four against Lehigh Valley. In terms of our team bouncing back, it’s a new day tomorrow.”
Coach Mann on Jakub Vrana’s return to the lineup: “I thought he was okay, he had some moments there with the puck… I would give him an average ranking if I was ranking him.”
Coach Mann on positives from a losing effort: “Absolutely, I thought the third period was a great push for us… We won the period 1-nothing. It’s all about the “W’s” at the end of the day.”
Coach Mann on if he is concerned going 0-3 at home in the playoffs so far: “Not really. I’d love to win games at home… It’s not a concern but we need to win some home games.”
Hershey and Providence come right back for game two tomorrow at 5pm at the Giant Center. Hershey will attempt to win their first home game of the playoffs and tie the series at one before traveling to Providence for games three through five. Providence will try for their fourth straight win to take a 2-0 lead back home.
Dean Snock is a writer and the Hershey Bears reporter for Good Night, Good Hockey. You can follow him on Twitter @Dsnock97.