Bears advance to Eastern Conference Finals

Coco, Hershey Bears (Photo by Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images)
Coco, Hershey Bears (Photo by Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images) /

The Hershey Bears completed the sweep of the Hartford Wolf Pack last night with a 3-1 win in Game 3 to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals.

The hero was none other than Lucas Johansen who broke a 1-1 tie in the third period at the XL Center. The Bears are in the conference finals for the first time since 2016.

The Wolf Pack outshot the Bears 13-4 in the opening period and it was their final shot that beat Hershey goaltender Hunter Shepard from Turner Elson at 17:40.

Hershey tied it late in the second period as Mike Vecchione fed Vincent Iorio and scored his first career Calder Cup playoff goal at 15:05. Henrik Borgstrom also assisted.

The Bears had a chance to take the lead at 3:28 of the third period when Sam Anas was awarded a penalty shot but he was stopped by the glove of Louis Domingue.

Johansen’s heroics came at 4:22 off a feed from Vecchione. It was Johansen’s first of the playoffs and it couldn’t have come at a better time. Both Bears goals were scored by defensemen.

The Bears added insurance with Joe Snively feeding the puck in between his legs to Connor McMichael who shot it and Garrett Pilon rebounded with the score at 7:25. It was Pilon’s second of the playoffs.

The Wolf Pack led in shots 34-16. Shepard went 33 for 34. Both teams failed to score on the power play as the Bears went 0 for 1 while killing off all four of their penalties.

The Bears will face the Rochester Americans in the Eastern Conference Finals. It’s a best of seven series between the two oldest teams in the American Hockey League with a trip to the Calder Cup Finals on the line.

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Game 1 is on Tuesday May 23 at Giant Center. Game 2 is that Thursday also in Hershey. The series will shift to Blue Cross Arena on May 27 and 29 for Games 3 and 4.