PORTLAND – Ready or rusty?
Which would the Hershey Bears be on Wednesday night?
After cruising through the first two rounds of the Calder Cup playoffs, the Bears had a full week off before meeting the Portland Pirates in the Eastern Conference final.
A lengthy respite can either be helpful or harmful, but the Bears shook off any signs of rust to beat Portland 5-0 in front of 3,518 at the Cumberland County Civic Center.
Hershey takes a 1-0 lead in the Eastern Conference Finals. Game 2 is tonight in Portland before the series moves to Hershey on Saturday and Sunday.
Hershey scored two power-play goals in the opening period and rode the solid goaltending of Frederic Cassivi to the victory. Though Portland outshot Hershey 33-26 and had the better of the chances early on, Cassivi barred the door for his third shutout of the playoffs.
“There was no rust in our goalie,” said Hershey coach Bruce Boudreau. “We weathered the storm early. I thought we were outplayed pretty good in the first period, and when you can come out with a 2-0 lead, you’re pretty happy.”
Brooks Laich, Tomas Fleischmann and Graham Mink all thrived upon their return to Portland. Laich and Fleischmann each had a pair of goals while Mink had two assists.
“That’s an old-fashioned butt-kicking there for sure,” said Pirates coach Kevin Dineen.”We knew we had a team that is very disciplined. They play a very solid system. It’s tough sledding out there. It’s tough to try to make things happen. You try to wait for your opportunities. I felt we played pretty well through a lot of stretches in that game. Then we let our frustrations get the best of us.”
Four of the Bears’ five goals came on the power play.
“They picked us apart on special teams,” said Dineen. “That’s the difference in the hockey game.”
The Pirates also struggled on their own power play, going 0-for-8. Portland’s best opportunities on special teams came on short-handed chances. Curtis Glencross had a breakaway stopped in the first, and Geoff Peters had a bid broken up by Cassivi in the third.
“I think there’s enough there that we have to take care of some business on our special teams,” said Dineen. “We had a number of power play chances, and you don’t score on those. When they score that many power play goals, there’s some adjustments to be made.”
Hershey made the best of its power play chances in the first.
Laich took a return pass from Jakub Klepis and buried a backhander with 8:48 left in the period. Then after a face-off win, Fleischmann wristed in a shot from the left circle with 3:48 remaining.
“They had more chances on the penalty kill then we did on the power play, but we scored four power play goals,” said Boudreau. “So, by no means was it a great effort on our part. We just got lucky with some bounces. The right guys had the puck in the slot. You give Fleischmann and Laich chances in the slot, those guys are going to score.”
Portland threatened in the second but could not close the gap, and Hershey finished the job in the third.
The Bears struck for a third power play goal when Laich poked in a loose puck in front at 2:19 of the third. Fleischmann added his second of the game at 6:11, prompting Portland to pull goaltender Jani Hurme. Kris Beech added the fourth power play goal on the first shot on Nathan Marsters at 7:53.