Hershey-Providence: Troy Mann’s Bears look to get their act together at home in Atlantic Division Finals
There was no place like the road for the Hershey Bears in their best-of-five Atlantic Division playoff series against Lehigh Valley. Hershey advanced by winning all three road games in Allentown, including a 3-2 triumph in Game 5 Sunday.
Well, that little statistical oddity must change with the Bears and Providence set to begin their best-of-seven series Saturday at Giant Center.
Hershey has home-ice advantage and the Bruins are a solid road squad, having won two road games against Wilkes-Barre to advance to this series.
Bears veteran forward Zach Sill was asked about the team’s home woes on Wednesday after practice.
“It should help you,” Sill said of the home-ice advantage.
“In the last one, it didn’t matter for either team. … With Providence, it’s nice to have four home games.”
So what got into Hershey on the road against the Phantoms? Why were the Bears a much more efficient team?
“I think because we put ourselves in situations where we had to win and I think we’ve come through pretty clutch in those situations,” Sill said.
BRUINS BUILT AROUND MCINTYRE
Hershey will face one of the AHL’s top goalies in 25-year-old Zane McIntyre.
He finished the regular season with a 2.03 goals against average and posted a .936 save percentage in the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton series.
The Bears’ goal, Pheonix Copley, is also on a roll of late — his goals-against average vs. the Phantoms was just 2.16.
“The goaltending is excellent as well,” Hershey coach Troy Mann said, assessing the Bruins.
“McIntyre had the best numbers all season long. He will be a challenge and we’re going to have to get inside their bigger ‘D’, which we struggled with against Lehigh Valley, in terms of generating offense.”
STEPHENSON’S STATUS UP IN THE AIR: Hershey got a lift from the return of Chandler Stephenson late in the Lehigh Valley series. But the forward was recalled to the Washington Capitals earlier in the week with Washington in needs of all hands on-deck vs. Pittsburgh.
There is a void in the lineup without him and it’s no coincidence that Mann has been using Nathan Walker, a natural winger, at center.
VRANA CAUGHT IN NUMBERS CRUNCH: Young Hershey forward Jakub Vrana is one the Bears’ most potent scorers but Mann scratched Vrana for the final two games of the Phantoms’ series after he was held pointless in the first three games.
Christian Thomas played in Vrana’s place and he scored a big goal in the Game 5 win over Lehigh Valley.
“It’s evolving from game to game,” Mann said of his playoff lineup.
“When you put lines together, and you put a lineup together, it’s about balance, right?
“On the wings, you have to have a balance between skill and you also have to have that balance between guys that can penalty kill, and guys that can play the power play. You cannot put a lineup full of power-play guys (out there) because you’re going to kill some penalties.”
“They’ve been alternating a little bit,” Mann added, referring to Thomas and Vrana.
“Vrana will get his opportunity at some point here, but he’s going to have to play a 200-foot game.”
ATLANTIC DIVISION FINALS SCHEDULE
May 6: Providence at Hershey, 7 p.m.
May 7: Providence at Hershey, 7 p.m.
May 11: Hershey at Providence, 7:05 p.m.
May 12: Hershey at Providence, 7:05 p.m.
*May 14: Hershey at Providence, 3:05 p.m.
*May 16: Providence at Hershey, 7 p.m.
*May 17: Providence at Hershey, 7 p.m.
(*denotes if necessary)