5 Takeaways From The Hershey Bears Game 5 Overtime Victory Over The Coachella Valley Firebirds

Photo: Twitter/The AHL

Game 5 of the Calder Cup Finals between the Hershey Bears and the Coachella Valley Firebirds was at times sloppy, gritty and of course nail-biting. That’s typical this late into the postseason, especially with a championship on the line.

Fortunately, the clutch heroics of Garrett Pilon ended the nerves with 9:59 left in overtime with a top-shelf snipe from the high slot to give the Bears a 1-0 win and a 3-2 series lead with the Calder Cup on the line.

Here are five things that stood out in the Bears third win of a three-game homestand.

Penalty kill Perfection

The Bears’ special teams have been terrific in this series, with the penalty kill taking center stage. The PK is now 7-for-7 in the last two games after going 4-for-4 in Game 4 and 3-for-3 in Game 5. The Firebirds have struggled to get their power play set up because of how aggressive the Bears penalty killing unit has been in the series.

While the power play was 0-for-5 on the night, the Bears had numerous high-danger chances that easily could have turned the tide of the game.

Defensive Stalemate

A big reason why Game 5 was so tight and low scoring was because of how well each team defended. Both teams had their sticks in passing lanes and shooting lanes, making it difficult to get quality shots on goal. Things started to open up in the latter half of the game, but neither team could convert.

Just as he was in Game 4, Hunter Shepard was locked in. He bailed out the home squad numerous times in Saturday’s matchup, especially in the second period when the Firebirds had the most of their opportunities. He finished the game stopping all 21 Coachella Valley shots.

Firebirds goaltender Joey Daccord was also solid with 30 saves.

Lack of Forecheck and Physicality

The Bears got the majority of their chances in Thursday’s win because of their aggressive play in the attacking zone. The ferocious forecheck was not on display as frequently in Game 5 as it was in the previous contest. It started to come alive at the start of the second period, but it was not consistent. 

Furthermore, the Bears were not playing with as much of a physical edge that made them successful in Game 4. 

Careless Puck Management

Hershey had a tough time managing the puck in its own zone. Shepard had to be sharp early, compared to Game 4, where he only faced one shot through the first 10 minutes. The Bears had a tough time on breakouts because they tried to force too many passes that were intercepted by the Firebirds’ defense.

Coachella Valley’s forecheck came out right from the start which led to some turnovers. Luckily when there was a breakdown, Shepard came up large to keep it a scoreless game.

Smart puck management was a big reason why the chocolate and white had lots of chances in the first period of Game 4, so they will need to clean that up headed into a potential clinching Game 6.

Failing to Finish

The bounces did not go the Bears’ way in the first period. It could have been 2-0 Hershey after 20, but Daccord stood tall. Connor McMichael, who does not have a goal in the series, had a wide open net just above the goal line, but shot it across the crease.

Mike Vecchione also had a glorious chance in front of Daccord in the middle frame, but he couldn’t settle a bouncing puck down and whiffed on it. He also had a glorious chance in overtime that just was out of his reach. 

Aliaksei Protas was snakebitten the most after fanning on at least three opportunities in front of the net. 

Game 6 comes Monday, Jun. 19  at Acrisure Arena at 10 p.m, with the Bears just one win away from their 12th Calder Cup. 

By Jacob Cheris

About Jon Sorensen

Jon has been a Caps fan since day one, attending his first game at the Capital Centre in 1974. His interest in the Caps has grown over the decades and included time as a season ticket holder. He has been a journalist covering the team for 10+ years, primarily focusing on analysis, analytics and prospect development.
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5 Responses to 5 Takeaways From The Hershey Bears Game 5 Overtime Victory Over The Coachella Valley Firebirds

  1. Jeremy says:

    What do you think of the Firebirds fans saying “The refs missed an extra man” before the goal? The overhead clips I saw only showed 5 guys for Hershey on the ice.

    • GRin430 says:

      Given how the first 2 games were called in CA, the CV fans have no right to complain about the officiating in this series.

    • Bob says:

      Looked at it repeatedly. Don’t see what they were complaining about.

    • steeleye5 says:

      I understand it’s frustrating to watch a game and see a missed call that changes the outcome of the game, but you absolutely cannot blame the refs for the way your team played. Coachella had plenty of chances to win that game but they couldn’t do anything with them. It really sucks but that’s the way it goes sometimes and blaming something/someone neither team can control does nothing to help that fact. If the roles were reversed I’d be saying the exact same thing too

  2. Prevent Defense says:

    Games 2, 4 and 5 of this year’s Stanley Cup Finals had equal penalties on each team. Game 3 FLA had six minors to VGK 5. But Game One, zebras dished out SEVEN minor penalties to FLA and Vega$ scored on several power plays. VGK had only two minor penalties.

    I watched all five games. FLA was not ridiculously undisciplined in Game One, nor was VGK a repeat of the 1987 Edmonton Oilers with a million offensive superstars and Glen Sather behind the bench. FLA spent most of Game One on the PK, chasing the whole game. Three of FLA’s minor penalties early in the game were manifestly invisible – except to the well-compensated linesmen and referees. Crooked Game One set the tone for the entire series.

    Yes, yes, yes, Zebras influence professional hockey games. Just the way the worldwide gambling industry likes it. Hershey will need to defeat both Coachella Valley Firebirds and The Unseen Hand behind the game.

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