Eddie Robinson once said, “Leadership, like coaching, is fighting for the hearts and souls of men and getting them to believe in you.”
And while Chris Bourque may not have been doing “Chris Bourque-like” things this season (his individual numbers are down a bit due to the incredible talent on the team, and he’s quite alright with that), he’s once again emerged in the Calder Cup Playoffs as Hershey’s hero and you can bet that every player in the locker room believes in him and Bears fans certainly believe as well.
After scoring the game-tying goal to send Game 3 of the best-of-seven series in Providence, Bourque one-upped himself and scored the game winner in overtime. It’s the second time this post-season that Bourque has scored a pair of goals including the game-winner. In Game 2 of the Lehigh Valley in Allentown, he scored the game-winner with just 33 seconds left to give the Bears a 2-0 series lead.
He’s tied for the AHL record in playoff assists. He’s currently 2nd in AHL history in Calder Cup games played (he’ll break the record during this series). And, he’s quick to point out that he’s played with some pretty terrific teammates who’ve made it possible for him to be successful, but also rely on others to help out with some of the scoring, which is evidenced by the fact that Bourque, while leading the Bears in scoring in the playoffs, is 19th in the league.
Hershey’s ability to score from just about anywhere on the ice (13 players have recorded at least one point) is something that has definitely helped them so far and something that the Bears will need to continue to do in order to keep advancing. But perhaps the biggest difference is guys in position for rebounds or drawing Zane McIntyre’s focus from the puck by being in front or near the net. Bourque’s winner came from McIntyre’s left while Chandler Stephenson was posting up on the right and his first came with Nathan Walker camping out in front of the net.
“It was nice to get that one from Bourquey in OT,” said Mann after the game noting it’s always nice to get the first road win in a three-game road trip.
The road warriors (Hershey is now 4-0 on the road in the postseason) also have had some sparkling performances from Pheonix Copley. Last night, Copley stopped 39 of 40 shots. But Copley would be quick to point out that his teammates can make his job a bit easier, or harder. In Game 1 of this series, the team hung their goalie out to dry not once, but twice while on the PP. Turnovers led to back-to-back shorthanded goals for the Bruins, allowing them to emerge victorious at Giant Center. Hershey needs to play sound hockey to close out this series.
“He’s been our best player since we got him at the trade deadline,” Bourque said of Copley. “We definitely wouldn’t be here without him and hopefully he keeps it going; he’s been unbelievable.”
Hershey is also getting it done on the PK. Last night they went 6-for-6, but as Mann has indicated many times this season, that is dangerous territory. Mistakes often prove costly, and in this area, the Bears need to tread lightly and clean up their game.
Another area that could stand a bit of improvement is shots on goal. Last night Hershey had just 15. Of those 13 were stopped by McIntyre. Perhaps it was a bit of a challenge for him to stay focused with so few shots. After all, he did face 50 shots against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. But, you can’t score if you don’t shoot. Mann preaches “Grade-As” and the team has had some measure of success, but too often the extra passes have led to turnovers that seem to prove costly.
“Certainly we’d like to get our shot total up a little but, but I don’t think we need to get into that 40-shot range,” Mann quipped after the game.
It’s hard to be critical of a team that is winning. The ups and downs of this club this season have proven that the Bears are nothing if not resilient. They need to be able to put a team, a series away when they are up. They’ve responded well to adversity (winning the LV series after seeing their 2 games to 0 lead evaporate). Now it’s time to find that killer instinct, clean up the miscues, and take one more step closer to #12. After all, it’s just 10 wins away.
By Julie Beidler
— Beids (@juliebeidler) May 7, 2017