WINNIPEG – Hershey Bears coach Bob Woods wasn’t surprised his players clawed back from a two-goal deficit to defeat the Manitoba Moose 5-4 in overtime and take Game 1 of the American Hockey League Calder Cup final Saturday.
After all, Alexandre Giroux’s hat trick that included the game-winner is just an example of what his Bears have been about all season.
“We’re the highest-scoring team in the league so I don’t think any lead really intimidates us,” Woods said of his team being down 3-1 entering the third period.
“We have the confidence, and usually it just takes one to get us going and once we get rolling we’re dangerous.”
Hershey led the league during the regular season in goals-for with 296, but Manitoba allowed a league-low 188.
Giroux, the AHL’s regular-season top scorer and the league’s most valuable player, notched his 12th goal of the playoffs at 13:33 during some scrambling play in front of Moose goalie Cory Schneider.
Giroux’s combined dozen playoff goals and 60 regular-season goals is an AHL record. He had 97 points in the regular season.
Hershey rookie forward Oskar Osala also scored a pair of goals in front of a sellout crowd of 15,003 at the MTS Centre.
Game 2 of the best-of-seven series between the Western Conference-champion Moose and Eastern-champion Bears goes Tuesday night in Winnipeg.
Manitoba got the game’s first goal from Matt Cullen, Michael Grabner added a pair and defenceman Maxime Fortunus tied it 4-4 at 18:44 of the third with the two-man advantage on a shot that beat rookie goalie Michal Neuvirth.
Moose coach Scott Arniel said his team started shooting themselves in the foot during the second period when they turned the puck over 15 times.
“We kind of self-inflicted a little bit of our own pain,” Arniel said.
“Then in the third period we were kind of on our heels and, give them credit . . . they’re one of the best teams in the third period for scoring goals.”
Giroux’s second goal came courtesy of a puck that bounced off Moose captain Mike Keane and defenceman Nolan Baumgartner.
It was the first meeting this season between the Moose and the Bears. Manitoba won the regular-season title with 107 points, one point ahead of Hershey.
“They’re by far the best team we’ve played this year,” Giroux said. “They play absolutely unbelievable.”
Hershey outshot the Moose 35-30.
Manitoba is looking for the franchise’s first championship in its 13-year history. It joined the AHL in 2001 after five seasons in the former International Hockey League. Hershey is chasing its 10th AHL title.
Penalties put the Bears in hot water early in the fast-paced first period.
Hershey forward Chris Bourque – son of NHL Hall of Fame defenceman Ray Bourque – was in the box for his second penalty of the game when he was joined by teammate Kyle Wilson.
With the two-man advantage, Cullen beat Neuvirth for his fourth goal of the playoffs at 7:35.
Manitoba was 2-for-10 on the power play and Hershey 2-for-5.
“You gotta stay out of the box,” Woods said. “You take 10 minors, you’re flirting with fire. They had three five-on-threes.
“When you give teams like that opportunities, you’re fortunate to get out of it with what we did.”
Notes: More than 11,200 tickets have already been sold for Game 2. . . . Anaheim Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle was in the building to watch the Moose, which he coached for six seasons in the International and American hockey leagues. His last season as bench boss was 2004-05.