Final Regular Season Records:
#3 Hershey Bears: 43-22-8-3 (97 pts — 3rd in Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference)
#4 Providence Bruins: 43-23-6-4 (96 pts — 4th in Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference)
Division Semifinals Results:
Hershey Bears: 3-2 over Lehigh Valley
Providence Bruins: 3-2 over Wilkes-Barre/Scranton
SERIES SCHEDULE: (Home Team in BOLD CAPS and all times local):
Game 1 –Saturday, May 6 – Providence at HERSHEY 7:00 pm ET
Game 2 – Sunday, May 7 – Providence at HERSHEY 5:00 pm ET
Game 3 – Thursday, May 11 – Hershey at PROVIDENCE 7:05 pm ET
Game 4 – Friday, May 12 – Hershey at PROVIDENCE 7:05 pm ET
*Game 5 – Sunday, May 14 – Hershey at PROVIDENCE 3:05 pm ET
*Game 6 – Tuesday, May 16 – Providence at HERSHEY 7:00 pm ET
*Game 7 – Wednesday, May 17 – Providence at HERSHEY 7:00 pm ET
*=> If Necessary
Season Series Recap:
The 2016-2017 regular season installment of the battle of bears was mostly an even match-up with Hershey squeezing out the season series victory by one point. In six meetings, Hershey went 3-2-1 with all three of those wins in their final three match-ups of the season. Providence came out with a 3-3-0 record in the season set.
How Hershey Wins:
Providence goaltender, Zane McIntyre led the league in save percentage and was second in goals against average. He stole the show in Game five of round one with a 50 save effort to eliminate the league’s number one team, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. The Bears will have to get inside position on the Bruins defense in order to get to second and third chance opportunities.
The Bears failed to score on 13 chances with the extra man in round one. They were able to compensate for it thanks to a variety of different heroes, but up against a tougher goalie and a more structured team, the power play needs to be heard from. On the flip side, the penalty kill sits at of 76.9% effective, which isn’t going to cut it against the hottest power play in the playoffs. The Bruins scored six power play goals against the Penguins, more than anybody left in the playoffs.
Watch out for Danton Heinen as he has the hot hand with six points in five playoff games for the Bruins. Another name to keep an eye out for is Wayne Simpson. He’s been a thorn in the Bears side and has a history of putting up big numbers come playoff time. In 2015 while with the South Carolina Stingrays of the ECHL, he set a league record for playoff points with 38 in 27 games en route to a game 7 loss in the Kelly Cup Finals.
How Providence Wins:
The key for the Bruins will be to force the often turnover-prone Bears into mistakes in their own zone. Don’t let Hershey break out of their own zone easily. Winning puck battles will be a point of emphasis for Hershey but they are the smaller of the two teams. The Bruins would be well served to take advantage of their size and muscle the Bears off the 50/50 pucks.
Depending on what happens with Washington in the NHL, the Bears could be down to just two natural centers. The Bruins meanwhile, have the luxury of five centers and used all of them in the first round. Center depth could certainly be an exploitable area of weakness even if Chandler Stephenson is returned from the NHL.
Stanislav Galiev currently leads the Bears in scoring and at one point in the season, he was Hershey’s hottest scorer. His goals tend to come in bunches so he can’t be lost in the wash. One-time Providence forward Chris Bourque had a relatively quiet first round with just two points. When he’s on, Bourque is a game changer offensively and could pose real problems if he breaks out.