Better late than never as Bears take command

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Hershey forward Chris Bourque tied the game at 19:09 of the third period, and Francois Bouchard scored 10:38 into overtime to give Hershey a dramatic 3-2 road win over Manchester in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Thursday at the Verizon Wireless Arena.

The Bears took a 3-2 lead in the best-of-7 series and can clinch their second straight trip to the Calder Cup Finals – and fourth in the last five years – with a win at home in Game 6 on Saturday night.

The teams played scoreless hockey for two periods and into the early stages of the third before Monarchs forward Bud Holloway broke the deadlock on the power play at the four-minute mark, his seventh goal of the postseason.

Bears center Kyle Wilson answered at 11:41 when he converted a backdoor feed from Boyd Kane to beat Monarchs goaltender Jonathan Bernier and tie the contest back up at 1-1.

It marked Hershey’s first goal in a span of 130:29 since Mathieu Perreault scored early in the third period of the club’s overtime loss in Game 3. The Bears, who have never been shut out in consecutive playoff games, suffered a 1-0 defeat in Game 4 on Tuesday.

The Monarchs moved ahead once again courtesy of another power play goal, as rookie defenseman Jacob Muzzin scored from the right circle at 17:26 for his first professional marker. Thomas Hickey earned his second assist of the night on the play, while Holloway picked up the other helper.

But with goaltender Michal Neuvirth pulled in favor of an extra attacker, Hershey found a way to tie it. Coming off a timeout, Bourque sent a shot from the right boards through some bodies and past Bernier with less than 51 seconds to play in regulation, with Alexandre Giroux and Keith Aucoin recording assists.

Both teams had golden opportunities to end it in overtime, but Bouchard finally cashed in for the Bears at 10:38 when he collected a rebound in the slot and fired it home before a sprawled-out Bernier was able to recover from an initial shot by Perreault.

Hershey improved to an impressive 6-1 in overtime this postseason and handed Manchester just its second loss at home (6-2)

Neuvirth (9-2) finished with 27 saves on 29 shots in the winning effort, while Bernier (10-5) took the loss after making 32 stops for the Monarchs.

Eastern Conference Finals – Series “M” (best-of-7)
E1-Hershey Bears vs. A3-Manchester Monarchs

Game 1 – Wed., May 12 – HERSHEY 4, Manchester 2
Game 2 – Sat., May 15 – HERSHEY 3, Manchester 2 (OT)
Game 3 – Mon., May 17 – MANCHESTER 3, Hershey 2 (OT)
Game 4 – Tue., May 18 – MANCHESTER 1, Hershey 0
Game 5 – Thu., May 20 – Hershey 3, MANCHESTER 2 (OT)
Game 6 – Sat., May 22 – Manchester at Hershey, 7:00
*Game 7 – Sun., May 23 – Manchester at Hershey, 5:00