While “X” marked the spot in Wilkes-Barre Township with the Penguins celebrating a playoff berth, the Hershey Bears aimed to inch closer in a battle against the Springfield Falcons.
65 minutes was not enough for either side, leading to Hershey’s 12th skills competition of the 2013-14 campaign. Ryan Stoa became the AHL leader in shootout goals, but the Bears dropped a 4-3 decision in five rounds.
Nate Schmidt, seen here earlier in the season, scored his first goal since opening night with Hershey on Friday night against Binghamton during the Bears’ 5-4 loss to the Senators (Kyle Mace / Sweetest Hockey on Earth)
The Bears face another nearly must win situation tonight, when they face one of the best teams in the league, the Springfield Falcons. Hershey remains in control of the 8th and final playoff spot in the AHL Eastern conference, by just one point, with five games to go.
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.
Casey Wellman, seen here earlier in the season, scored the game winning goal during Hershey’s 3-2 win over Worcester Saturday night. (Kyle Mace / Sweetest Hockey on Earth)
At the start of the third period, Worcester Sharks’ play-by-play commentator spoke the words, “The Sharks’ season is on the line in this period.” At the moment, Worcester trailed to Chocolate and White by a 2-1 score entering the stanza.
This was a playoff games in the eyes of the Sharks, as they entered play in the tenth seed of the Eastern Conference, five points removed from the Bears and six from Norfolk. Dan DaSilva tied the game for Worcester with the extra attacker on the ice in the final minute, sending the game to overtime. But Casey Wellman ended the game in Hershey’s favor by finishing a quick, breakaway chance at the OT’s 2:49 mark, to conclude a massive 3-2 victory.
It was a rare Friday night home game on Giant Center ice, and nothing short of the biggest win of the season. Trailing 1-0 entering the final stanza against the Albany Devils, the Hershey Bears responded with four unanswered goals and cruised to an astonishing 4-1 win.
With out of town help provided by the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, the Bears are now within three points of the eighth and final playoff spot.
There are 11 games remaining in the regular season for the Hershey Bears, who are now five points out of the 8th and final playoff spot. That’s not an impossible obstacle to overcome, but the Bears current slump is making the road to the playoffs even harder. Hershey dropped two of three this weekend with back-to-back losses in Worcester on Saturday and in Manchester on Sunday afternoon.
I don’t believe there is anything more daunting than having to play a hockey game of great importance, in the same arena that housed the end to Hershey’s season a year ago. But that was the adversity the Hershey Bears had to overcome Friday night at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence, Rhode Island.
On the same rink where Hershey faced a first round elimination from the 2013 Calder Cup Playoffs in May, it was a night of redemption. The Bears beat the eighth seeded Bruins by a 2-0 final thanks to a 28 save clean sheet by David Leggio.
Hershey entered the match five points behind Providence with two games in hand. With a two point night in the bag, the playoff possibilities are thankfully far from dead.
It was a fun game to watch on television, listen in on radio, or even follow on twitter. But most of all, it was an excellent way to end a six-game skid.
The Hershey Bears traveled to Virginia Beach and throttled the Norfolk Admirals by a 3-2 count. It was their first game played of the season at the Norfolk Scope, and it had a homecoming feel for Bears’ Head Coach Mike Haviland. Haviland was an Admirals’ assistant coach last season and the head bench boss for the 2005-06 and 2006-07 campaigns.
Dane Byers scored a third period insurance marker, which later proved to be the game-winner in a 3-2 decision. With out of town help by the Utica Comets, the Bears now stand within one point of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, and three points within the division lead.
“12 Rounds” may be an epic movie starring entertainer John Cena, but in a way the action film’s title describes the annual rivalry between the Hershey Bears and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.
Both teams battled in round 12 on Tuesday night to end the 2013-14 regular season portion of the I-81 rivalry. The back and forth game ended in a victory for the Baby Penguins, beating Hershey 6-5.
Saturday night the Hershey Bears leap frogged the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in the standings with a high-scoring 5-4 victory. While Giant Center has been an intimidating building for Bears’ opposition of late, Mohegan Sun Arena in Wilkes-Barre Township does not have a much kinder reputation.
Sunday the Chocolate and White concluded a home-and-home stretch against their I-81 rivals, and escaped victoriously for the first time this season in the W-B. Ryan Potulny scored a third period game-winning goal en route to a 3-1 win over the Penguins, finishing off a perfect six point weekend sweep for Hershey.