With races in our first ever SHOEY Awards very close, we decided to extend voting another week! We will count up the final votes Saturday, May 10th at midnight and announce all of the winners on Monday, May 12th. We still have two final categories to breakdown and they just happen to be the closest races of them all.
The award ceremony at the end of each regular season is normally a kick off to the playoffs for the Hershey Bears, but this season it’s a bit different. This year the Bears are out of the 2014 playoff race for time in eight seasons. Despite the disappointing end to the season, the Chocolate and White thanked the Giant Center crowd with a win Saturday night.
In all honesty, the intensity of a hockey team on the cusp on clinching the 2014 Calder Cup Playoffs, in the season’s dying weeks is worthy of a documentary. But while the HBO Sports crew is off completing bigger and better projects, it’s now on our shoulders to recap the parade of American Hockey League events on Sunday.
The Hershey Bears entered the weekend finale with a game in hand against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. The Tigers were noted as a team of unknown rookies all bidding for future stays in the AHL. The Bears-Sound Tigers matinee was scheduled for a 3pm start time, as well as a game between the seventh seed Albany Devils and Adirondack Phantoms. Hershey entered play only three points back from the Devils with one less game played.
Lastly, also in Connecticut, the Hartford Wolf Pack played host to the Norfolk Admirals. Norfolk entered one point in front of Hershey for the eighth and final playoff seed in the Eastern Conference. It was an absolute perfect standings night for the Bears, as shortly after an entertaining 5-4 win in Bridgeport, both Albany and Norfolk fell to their respective opposition in regulation.
The infamous Arabic proverb, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” suggests two parties have the ability to work together, and overcome a common enemy. In the world of sports, the term could easily be applied currently to the Hershey Bears and their push to qualify for the 2014 Calder Cup Playoffs.
Entering Saturday night, the Bears and their I-81 Rivals from Wilkes-Barre both opposed a common enemy. The Penguins battled the eighth seed Norfolk Admirals, who sit in the conference’s final playoff spot, three points ahead of Hershey.
While the Pens attempted to provide a helping hand to the Chocolate and White, the Bears’ personal attention was focused on the St. John’s IceCaps. Wilkes-Barre followed through with a 2-1 victory over Norfolk, as the Bears topped St. John’s, 2-1 in a 12 round marathon shootout.
We are in a crucial point of the regular season where every game is a playoff game. At this point it’s undeniable the Hershey Bears are on the outside looking into the Eastern Conference playoff bubble, and are a better hockey team than indicated by their record.
Friday, the Chocolate and White began their weekend with its lone away tilt in Syracuse, New York. Seeking revenge after getting embarrassed in the AHL Showcase, the Bears fell to the Crunch by a 3-2 overtime count in the debuts of Chris Brown and Kris Newbury.
In 2009, the Hershey Bears dropped the Manitoba Moose in six games to win the Calder Cup. Shortly after the cup clinching game, “Count ‘Em Ten” T-shirts were released to the general public to celebrate the franchise’s tenth Calder Cup Championship.
Saturday night, fans gained the right to break out the former catch phrase in honor of not the Bears’ tenth Cup, but their tenth consecutive victory on Giant Center ice. Dane Byers scored a third period game-winning-goal, and the Chocolate and White celebrated a 2-1 over the Portland Pirates.
It may not show in the standings just yet, but at the halfway point of the AHL season, the Hershey Bears have developed some valuable momentum. Saturday night at Giant Center, the Bears pulled out a 5-3 win over the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. The victory gave the Bears their fifth win in the last seven games.
The Hershey Bears debuted on Giant Center ice for the only time this weekend with a Saturday night match against the Springfield Falcons. Bears Play-by-Play voice Scott Stuccio tweeted hours before puck drop, “Bears undoubtedly will be ready to go for this one. Springfield (25-6-1-3) is the AHL’s top team (.771 points %).”
Hershey dropped a 4-2 tilt in Binghamton, NY the night before. However, Stuccio also tweeted Saturday afternoon that the Senators appeared to have too many men on the ice during their second period, game-winning goal.
Just as Stuccio warned, the Bears were ready to play and grinned out a 5-3 win over the top team in the American Hockey League.
After back to back losses to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, the task grew larger on Sunday with a duel against the 6-2-0-3 Norfolk Admirals. The lead affiliate of the Anaheim Ducks were led in the season’s opening month by goaltender John Gibson.
The Ducks’ prospective goalie entered play with a 4-1-2 record and an astonishing 1.44 goals against average, as well as a save percentage of 95.5 percent. Former Hershey center and 2006 Calder Cup champion Dave Steckel was listed on the Admirals’ roster wearing number 39. The Bears’ offense tallied three quick first period goals but surrendered a game tying marker with 1:02 left, leading to an Admirals’ shootout win.
Friday night in the Eastern Conference finals of the OHL playoffs, the London Knights and Plymouth Whalers faced off in a game that London would win and eliminate the Whalers. On that Whalers team was Washington Capitals prospect, Tom Wilson.
After the loss, Wilson and teammate Connor Carrick were informed they were going to Chocolate town USA to join the Bears in their run at Calder Cup number 12.