Hershey comes up short(handed) in Game 1 loss to Providence
HERSHEY – Woeful special teams play continues to plague the Hershey Bears through these AHL playoffs.
The Providence Bruins turned those struggles into scores Saturday night.
Providence buried a pair of shorthanded goals in the first period and skated away with a 3-1 road win in Game 1 of the Atlantic Division Finals.
This comes after Hershey finished 0-for-13 on the power play during its five-game, opening-round series victory over the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. Hershey was 0-for-3 with the man advantage Saturday night.
“That’s certainly a cause for concern,” said Hershey head coach Troy Mann. “We tweaked the units again this week prior to this series starting and quite frankly I thought the power play was getting outworked tonight. When you’re getting outworked then obviously things aren’t going to happen for you on the power play but the confidence level of the power play isn’t great. It’s not the ideal time of year for the power play to go through, what we would probably call now, a major slump.”
“The power play has got to get better,” he added. “It’s got to do some more things for us here. No doubt about it.”
Austin Czarnik scored Providence’s first goal at 10:08 of the first period off of a Hershey turnover. Colby Cave netted a shorthanded goal past Hershey goalie Phoenix Copley (19 saves) with just over 7:30 remaining in the opening period to put the Bruins ahead 2-0.
Continuing his torrid postseason run, Providence winger Jake DeBrusk added a shorthanded goal – his fourth of the playoffs – less than a minute later as the visitors amassed a three-goal lead.
Providence’s offense operated in a first-period flurry as the Bruins needed just 4:25 to net all three scores. The bulk of the 7,433 fans in attendance at the Giant Center were booing midway through the first period and cheering when the PA announcer’s address signaled the final minute of the opening frame.
After a scoreless second period Hershey elected to pull Copley with less than five minutes left in regulation, and that strategy paid off as Nathan Walker slipped a goal past Providence netminder Zane McIntyre with 2:26 remaining. Walker’s tally with the extra attacker, his second goal of the postseason, made it 3-1 Providence.
“I thought the third period was a great push for us,” said Mann. “We talked about coming out with some more urgency and trying to at least win the period. We won the period 1-0. It’s playoff hockey so it’s all about wins at the end of the day but I thought we controlled the play for the most part in the third period.”
McIntyre, Providence’s backbone in its first-round upset of the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins, was brilliant in net during Game 1. The Minnesota native stopped 24-of-25 Hershey shots and his defense was instrumental in thwarting a few Hershey scoring chances, particularly in the third period with the Bears desperately trying to claw out of a three goal hole.
“It’s a new day tomorrow and we need to be better, we can be better over 60 minutes,” said Mann, on rebounding from the Game 1 loss. “We’ll make a couple lineup changes and we’ll try to get the win tomorrow.”
The Bears will look to even the series Sunday night in Game 2 of the Atlantic Division Finals. Puck drop is scheduled for 5 p.m.