Providence, RI - The Providence Bruins are off to the second round of the Calder Cup Playoffs, following a 3-2 victory over Hershey in the decisive fifth game of the first round series. The win Wednesday night was the third in a row after the Bruins had fallen behind two-games-to-zero in the series.
Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy was pleased his team was able to fight back from being behind in the game and in the series in order to advance. "Nothing is automatic in the playoffs. We were down. We had our backs against the wall. I'm proud of the way our guys came back, but we showed a lot of resiliency," said Cassidy.
For the fourth time in the series, Hershey got on the board first. It was reminiscent of how the series went for Providence. The Bruins had to dig out of a hole more than once. "We've done it the hard way all year. We're in a lot of close games and we've had to pull them out," said Cassidy.
Casey Wellman staked the eighth seed out to an early 1-0 lead when he scored off a transition play just 1:19 into the first period. Dane Byers fed Wellman as the Bears were streaking up ice after the Bruins were caught deep in their own zone. Defenseman Chay Genoway, playing in place of Dmitry Orlov, recorded the secondary assist.
Hershey, pinning the Bruins in their own zone, dominated the first five minutes. It looked as if the Bruins were sluggish until their energy line evened the score at the 5:04 mark. Bobby Robbins and Justin Florek brought the puck up ice before Florek took a shot from the left half wall that deflected off a Bears defenseman into the back of the net.
Jordan Caron gave Providence its first lead of the game at the 15:08 mark of the second period. Carter Camper and Jamie Tardif were working behind the net when Camper dug it out and fed an open Caron waiting in the high slot. Caron, who played 17 games with the parent club this season, quickly wristed it high into the back of the net.
"The ice wasn't that great tonight, but the puck bounced to my stick and I saw Jordan out there and I got it to him and he made a nice shot on net," said Camper.
It didn't take long for the Bears to tie the game in the last period of regulation. Off a poor turnover by Bruins defender Garnet Exelby, Joey Crabb backhanded one past Niklas Svedberg just under four minutes into the third period. Peter LeBlanc intercepted the puck off the errant pass by Exelby. It was Crabb's fifth goal and LeBlanc's eighth assist of the series.
Midway through the third period, the Bruins regained the lead for good when Jamie Tardif backhanded a loose puck past Hershey goalie Philipp Grubauer. The initial save was made on Kevin Miller's shot from the right point, and in the scrum, Tardif found the puck and slid it in.
"I just got back to doing what I do best. I went to the net and created traffic. It was a great play by Miller to get the puck on net. I kept seeing the puck at my feet and kept whacking at it. I didn't even see it go in, but I heard the crowd erupt," said Tardif on his game-winning goal.
Hershey pulled its goaltender to push for the tying goal, and had a near miss when the puck was lost in a scrum in front of the Providence net. The Bruins' Kyle McKinnon took a hooking penalty to give the Bears a six-on-four for the final half minute, but Providence held on for the victory.
The loss ended the season for the Hershey Bears. It was a tough pill to swallow for Bears head coach Mark French. "I thought we got off to a good start, but backed off a little in the second. They were able to have the last moment. Anytime a season ends it is difficult," he said.
The Baby Bruins will face the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in the second round starting Friday night at the Dunkin Donuts Center in Providence. The fifth seeded Penguins swept the Binghamton Senators in the first round.
"I assume [Wilkes-Barre] is going to play the same way they did in the regular season. We're similar teams. They have a terrific penalty kill. I think it's going to be a hard-nosed, low-scoring series," said Cassidy.