In minor league hockey, what exactly are the factors needed to create a classic? Obviously good officiating is always appreciated at the American Hockey League level, leading to a fast paced, open, end-to-end hockey game. But in addition, how about a great atmosphere inside arena? Or even a game that may decide a team’s future postseason fate?
All those factors came into play and meshed perfectly on Sunday evening, which built-ed towards a 1-0 overtime win over the Binghamton Senators.
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.
Photo via @washcaps
While the Washington Capitals’ playoff hopes for 2014 has come to a halt, the organization’s attention now turns to the future. That future will include Chandler Stephenson, who recently has agreed to a three year entry level contract with the Capitals’ organization.
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.
Entering the month of April, the Hershey Bears are aware the Calder Cup Playoffs will only be in their near future if they can string wins together away from Giant Center. To kick off the month, the Bears began their five game road-trip, the longest of the 2013-14 season.
Wednesday marked the first night of the lengthy road trip with a joust against the Portland Pirates. Already eliminated from possible playoff contention, the Pirates hoped to play the role of spoiler against the Chocolate and White.
Caleb Herbert made his professional hockey debut and tallied a goal and assist in a grand 3-2 victory. The win leaped the Bears into the eighth seed of the Eastern Conference standings, one point ahead of Norfolk.
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.
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.