Home, sweet home: Bears oust Penguins in Game 7


Keith Aucoin gave Hershey a 1-0 lead just 50 seconds after the opening face-off, and the Bears never looked back en route to a 3-0 win over Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in Game 7 on Tuesday at Giant Center.

The Bears, who improved the home team’s record to 7-0 in this series, advance to their third conference finals in the last four years. Hershey will host either Providence or Worcester for Games 1 and 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Saturday and Sunday at Giant Center. The Bruins currently hold a 3-2 series lead over the Sharks in the Atlantic Division.

Aucoin’s second goal of the playoffs 50 seconds in turned out to be all the offense that the Bears would need. Alexandre Giroux and Graham Mink picked up helpers on the score.

Chris Bourque made it a 2-0 game on the power play at 4:54 of the middle frame, as he tipped Giroux’s one-time shot past Berkhoel for his second tally of the playoffs.

The Bears gained additional insurance midway through the third when rookie Steve Pinizzotto converted a 2-on-1 rush for an unassisted tally, his third goal of postseason play.

Hershey rookie netminder Michal Neuvirth made 24 saves to earn his second consecutive shutout and third of the playoffs. The 21-year-old becomes the eighth goaltender in AHL history to post a shutout in a Game 7, and he is the first in league history to record shutouts in both Games 6 and 7 of the same series.

Neuvirth and the Bears improved to 8-3 this postseason and 6-0 at home, and Hershey matched Rochester’s AHL record with its eighth Game 7 victory in team history (8-8).

The Penguins, coming off a Calder Cup Finals appearance in 2008, fell to 4-1 in Game 7’s and 5-1 in winner-take-all contests. Pens goaltender Adam Berkhoel took the loss with 32 saves on 35 shots.

Hershey will be gunning for its third conference championship in the last four seasons. The Bears defeated Portland in the 2006 conference finals en route to a Calder Cup title, and ousted Manchester in 2007 before falling to Hamilton in the Cup Finals.

Attendance at Giant Center on Tuesday was 8,376.

East Division Finals – Series “J” (Hershey wins series, 4-3)
E1-Hershey Bears vs. E3-W-B/Scranton Penguins
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Game 1 – Sat., May 2 – HERSHEY 5, W-B/Scranton 3
Game 2 – Sun., May 3 – HERSHEY 3, W-B/Scranton 1
Game 3 – Wed., May 6 – W-B/SCRANTON 3, Hershey 2 (OT)
Game 4 – Fri., May 8 – W-B/SCRANTON 6, Hershey 3
Game 5 – Sat., May 9 – W-B/SCRANTON 4, Hershey 1
Game 6 – Sun., May 10 – HERSHEY 3, W-B/Scranton 0
Game 7 – Tue., May 12 – HERSHEY 3, W-B/Scranton 0