Sunday, May 20, 2007

The Bear Essentials: Hershey 7 - Manchester 2

For the second week in a row, The Peerless headed up to Hershey to watch the Caps in waiting march toward a Calder Cup. And, they did not disappoint. They beat, and beat on the Manchester Monarchs to the tune of 7-2 to take a 1-0 lead in games in the Eastern Conference final.

The story lines coming in were three . . . Bruce Boudreau faces old club, Dean Arsene makes his return, and Manchester plays in its first conference final ever. The only one that seemed to matter a lot on the ice was the last of the three. Manchester came into the game with 51 wins in the regular season and eight in the playoffs – same as Hershey. That is where the similarities ended.

The Peerless noted in the mail bag preceding this post that Jason LaBarbera had two rather dismal first periods in his two games against Hershey in the regular season – a 4.23 GAA and .769 save percentage -- and that scoring early might be a factor here. He did not improve upon that much last night, and it was a factor. Manchester opened the game looking for all the world like a club overwhelmed by their surroundings. LaBarbera didn’t exactly bail them out. Dave Steckel swatted a ricochet behind LaBarbera 140 seconds in. Scott Barney added a power play goal at 7:32, and Steckel then added a shorthanded goal at 9:12. Not ten minutes in, and the Monarchs found themselves down a field goal. Looked a lot like the two regular season games.

Manchester got one back late in the first, but the period had to qualify as just what Hershey was looking for – a fast start that got their fans (including The Peerless – the “1” in the 9,001 official attendance) into it.

Speaking of fans getting into it, The Peerless had a fine seat in section 121, right next to the tunnel to the Manchester players’ bench. This afforded us the opportunity to once more be entertained by the Hershey faithful making life annoying to the visitors. As the goals mounted, the barbs got louder and more specific. Doug Nolan and Petr Kanko were singled out for special abuse. It got bad enough to where one of the Monarchs decided to spray water on the fans behind the bench. Well, actually, it would get even worse than that . . . in the third period, fans were taking advantage of the architecture (the gap between the panes of glass behind the bench) to let the Monarchs have it. Oleg Tverdovsky took a two handed swing at the glass behind his bench out of frustration over what was happening in front of the bench and the razzing he was getting from behind it. One is tempted to say it was the only shot he took all night . . . well, the only one that hit anything. Head Coach Mark Morris then called over referee Terry Koharski to do something about it. Koharski called security over to quell the fans and restore a modicum of decorum (yeah, right).

The product of this abuse was Hershey adding a goal in the second (offset by a Manchester tally), then piling on with three in the third, the first two of which chased LaBarbera – making him 0-for-2 in finishing games in Hershey this year. Barry Brust waved as a drive by Kyle Wilson went sailing by to end the scoring for the evening.

Observations . . .

-- Manchester won 51 games this year; they can’t be that bad. But they were very bad tonight. They simply could not match Hershey physically.

-- One gets the feeling Louis Robitaille emerged from his mother’s womb jawing at the doctor.

-- Tomas Fleischmann has really done all he can do at this level. Three more assists – that’s eight points in his last two playoff games, kids.

-- David Steckel really had a fine game, and that was without the weird shorthanded goal where he pushed LaBarbera and the puck into the net.

-- Frederic Cassivi played what looked like a very “calm” game – no wasted movement. He seemed to be in position where he needed to be just about all night.

-- If there was one concern tonight, it was that after the third goal in the first, Hershey looked as if they took their foot off the gas. They were about to run Manchester right out of the rink and almost let them back into the game.

-- We’ll say it again…Hershey is a fine place to watch a game. Even better when they win.

-- LaBarbera was of a mind that the goals were fluky . . . “They were BS bounces," he commented after the game . . . o-o-o-o-o-o-kay.

-- Monarch’s coach Mark Morris was more succinct . . . "We were totally outclassed." The Peerless thinks that a fair assessment.

-- And is it me, or does Jason LaBarbera look like a cross between Elmer Fudd and Vlade Divac?

Or maybe just Elmer…

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