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.
On a night when the Chocolate and White punched their ticket to the 2013 Calder Cup playoffs, the players also accepted their awards for their accomplishments in a Bears uniform this season.
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.
It’s the home stretch of the 2012-13 regular season and the Hershey Bears entered Friday on the outside looking into the playoff picture. With the Norfolk Admirals, Connecticut Whale and Manchester Monarchs also in action, a pair of out of town losses combined with a Bears win could up rise Hershey back into playoff potential.
With a Connecticut 3-2 loss later followed by a Norfolk 6-1 road defeat, a bright light of opportunity shined on Hershey to make a rising dash in the standings. Rather than melting under the pressure of a must-win game, NHL Trade Deadline addition Michael Latta scored a late-game third period goal to give the Bears a 2-1 win over the Adirondack Phantoms.
Saturday night, American Hockey League history was made with Boyd Kane’s 500th career AHL point against the Manchester Monarchs. Kane became the 85th player in league history to reach the milestone. However, the memorable moment was soon spoiled, as Manchester came back to answer Hershey’s early scoring onslaught with a scoring parade of their own. The Monarchs tallied three goals in both the second and third period to down Hershey, 6-4.
The Hershey Bears looked to conclude a perfect weekend sweep against East Division teams on Sunday with a tilt against the Syracuse Crunch. It was the fourth meeting of the season between the Bears and Crunch with Hershey looking for their first victory against Tampa Bay Lightning’s top affiliate.
World Wrestling Entertainment legend Ric Flair often infamously said, “To be the man, you have to beat the man.” Sunday evening the Bears beat the man of the Eastern Conference with a stunning 5-3 win over the top seeded Crunch.