The Hershey Bears entered Binghamton on Saturday with an opportunity to clinch playoff berth with a win and out of town help. The out of town assistance was provided, but the Bears fell short in a 4-2 decision against the B-Sens. Out of town, both the Norfolk Admirals and Connecticut Whale lost in regulation to open the door for Hershey.
An hour south of Binghamton, the Manchester Monarchs won their battle against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins to clinch the Eastern Conference’s seventh playoff position.
There is currently a three-way tie in points for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Tied with 79 points each are the Connecticut Whale, Norfolk Admirals and Hershey Bears. The Whale rapped up their regular season with a 5-1 loss to the Portland Pirates. Both the Bears and Admirals have one game remaining and will finish the season Sunday.
With only one spot remaining and the regular season concluding Sunday evening, here are the playoff scenarios:
- Hershey clinches playoff spot with regulation/overtime/shootout win despite a Norfolk win in regulation/overtime/shootout or loss.
- Norfolk clinches postseason berth with regulation/overtime/shootout win AND Hershey regulation/overtime/shootout loss. They can also clinch with a overtime/shootout loss AND Hershey regulation loss.
- Connecticut reaches the postseason with Hershey regulation loss AND Norfolk regulation loss. The only way the Whale can reach the postseason is if the season ends with a three-way tie still intact.
Back to Saturday’s game against Binghamton, early breaks handed to the Senators in the first period later proved to be costly. First on an even-man rush, Michael Latta deflected a shot off his skate and into the net. The goal was washed out immediately by referee Terry Koharski to keep the game scoreless.
Later Koharski’s quick whistle robbed the Bears of the game’s first goal off a Ryan Potulny 2-on-1 rush. After a neutral zone Senators turnover, Potulny entered the zone with odd numbers and handcuffed Marc Cheverie with a snap shot. As a juicy rebound bounced in the blue paint for Casey Wellman to dunk into the net, Koharski’s whistle sounded to stop play. His whistle was later no where to be seen in the third period.
Not even a minute later, the B-Sens drew first blood with a power play goal on their first man-advantage of the night. Shane Prince converted off a backdoor feed from Stephane Da Costa for his 18th goal of the campaign.
With 3:20 left in the opening salvage, Wellman finally tallied for Hershey after chance followed by chance. His goal also came via the Bears’ first power play of the night. After a shot whistled wide from the point, the puck took a fortunate bounce off the back wall and landed right on the tape of Wellman’s stick for him to tie the game.
But only 2:09 later, the Sens struck again on Philipp Grubauer. Brett Lebda fired a shot from the left wing through a screen set in front of the net to give Binghamton a 2-1 lead at intermission.
Mid second period, Da Costa added the Sens’ eventual game-winning goal on a 5-on-3 power play after the Chocolate and White were whistled for two infraction only two seconds apart. First Cameron Schilling was called for his second minor of the night, followed by a face off violation by Latta for hand passing the puck off a face off.
The Bears were held to just five second period shots and a low total of 12 through 40 minutes of action. Shots on goal has been a consistent problem for Hershey all season, even in games they have escaped successfully with a win.
Garrett Mitchell brought the Bears within one with 1:26 left in regulation, but was only followed by a Senators empty net goal by Mark Stone.
The Hershey Bears return home the next night for the 2012-13 season finale against the Manchester Monarchs. In front of a sellout Giant Center crowd, it is a must win game for the Chocolate and White to clinch a spot for the 2013 Calder Cup Playoffs.