It took a bit longer for the Bears to join the Capitals and Stingrays in the postseason party, but with a huge five wins in five games, they did it. Now that they’re there, their refuse-to-lose attitude appears to be even stronger as they look to eliminate the Lehigh Valley Phantoms tomorrow night at Giant Center, joining the Capitals and Stingrays in the second round of playoffs.
Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better
The Stingrays, after dropping their first two games of the first round in Greenville to the Swamp Rabbits, exploded through the next four games to take the series 4-2. They await the winner of the Florida-Orlando series, which Orlando leads 3-2.
— SC Stingrays (@SCStingrays) April 25, 2017
After being outscored 10-4 in the first two games, the Stingrays erupted offensively, outscoring the Swamp Rabbits 6-0 in game 3, 6-1 in game 4, 4-2 in Greenville in game 5, and secured the series in North Charleston with a 4-0 victory.
Their offensive onslaught has been led by Rob Flick. The forward has 6 goals and 3 assists through 6 games. Also tallying more points than games are Kelly Zajac (3G, 4A) and Joe Devin (2G, 5A). Additionally Domenic Monardo has 6 points while Olivier Archambault and Wade Epp each have 5. In all, 16 Stingrays have at least a point heading into the second round.
Parker Milner, after the slow start in the first two games, has rebounded nicely in net. He has made 155 saves on 168 shots with a save percentage of .923% in the six games so far. Milner, who was recalled to Hershey earlier this season, has been named one of the three stars of the games in each of the last four games.
Joining the Party Late? Due to the nature of their schedule, the Hershey Bears joined the playoff party a bit late, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been without a bit of a splash. The Bears have done nothing more than go into a hostile atmosphere in Lehigh Valley and emerge with two victories. Since the AHL regular season ends one week after the NHL and ECHL, the Bears need only one more victory to advance to the second round.
Friday night, they earned a hard-fought victory after Nathan Walker scored after 67:38 minutes to break a scoreless tie in sudden-death overtime. Hershey followed that up with an even more dramatic victory Saturday.
— Zack Fisch (@zackfisch) April 23, 2017
Trailing for the third time in the game, Hershey was down two goals in the third period when Chris Bourque scored his first goal of this year’s playoffs. Just over two minutes later, the Bears tied it up on Tyler Lewington’s unassisted goal. It appeared that the two teams were heading into yet another overtime when Bourque scored again with just 33 seconds to play to give Hershey a huge 2-0 series advantage heading back home.
Third Time’s The Charm? This marks the third straight year that all three teams have made the playoffs. South Carolina is looking to return to the Kelly Cup finals for the first time since losing in 2015. The Bears are looking to return to the Calder Cup finals after losing last season. The Capitals are looking to exorcise their 2nd round demons and slay the Penguins.
Previewing #CapsPens The Penguins got here by dispatching the Columbus Blue Jackets with little resistance, but the injuries seem to keep mounting for Pittsburgh, which could be an advantage for the Capitals.
Another advantage for the Caps was finding a will to win against a very pesky Toronto team that perhaps over-achieved this season by playing fast and loose. The youngsters on that team will give teams fits in the future as they mature in the league, but Washington’s ability to find a way to scrap and close should come in handy.
Marc-Andre Fleury is, well, Marc-Andre Fleury. After the injury to Matt Murray, Fleury seems to be reenergized and is making a case for himself with the team. Meanwhile, Braden Holtby has come up with huge, almost unbelievable, saves time and time again for the Capitals. Their defense is going to need to step it up a bit this round though and ensure they clear the puck out of the zone, avoiding situations where the opponents get extended o-zone time.
Previewing #BearsPhantoms Chris Bourque always seems to find the right time to return to form. After a “down” year comparatively speaking, Bourque did what Bourque has done in the past – came up huge. Hershey, with their roster, can score from just about anywhere, making them incredibly dangerous.
Pheonix Copley, despite a rough patch in March before the Bears went on their five-game win streak in their last five games, has been a key component to the resurgence. He’s the #1 goalie that Troy Mann was looking for this season, taking pressure off Vitek Vanecek, who had a shutout in his last outing against Providence.
Tom Gilbert’s addition has also helped plug an enormous hole Hershey experienced with injuries in their defensive corps. With the lone exception of Aaron Ness, who suffered an injury in Game 2, Hershey is healthy and as close to full strength as they’ve been all season. If Ness does not go, Jonas Siegenthaler, who has seemingly found himself #7 depth-wise, is more than capable of filling in. That’s a heck of a #7 defenseman, further illustrating Hershey’s depth.
Alex Lyon’s injury in Lehigh Valley Saturday is no longer the focus of Game 3. Information in The Morning Call, indicates that Lyon had an MRI Sunday and will not make it back to the playoffs, however long they are for the Phantoms. Expect Martin Ouellette in goal with Carter Hart, who is on the official team roster, as back-up. Hershey was not kind to Ouellette in Game 2 with Lewington and Bourque scoring on just four Hershey shots.
— LehighValleyPhantoms (@LVPhantoms) April 24, 2017
Check back for a preview for Round 2 for the Stingrays.
By Julie Beidler
— Beids (@juliebeidler) April 16, 2017