Monday morning might be the final time some Bears players ever walk though Giant Center as a Bear. As the 2013-14 season comes to a close, the Bears players took some time to reflect on their season as they cleaned out their lockers. It was a surreal moment for all as Hershey missed the playoffs for the first time in eight seasons.
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.
It was a perfect cap to the end of a season. With a crowd of 10,964 in attendance and the Chocolate and White out of the playoffs, Hershey would go on to beat Adirondack by a score of 2-1 in the season finale of the 2013-14 season.
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.
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.
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.
It’s has been high riding for the Hershey Bears this season against the Northeast Division, entering Saturday with an a 7-3-2-1 record in 2013-14. But Cal Heeter and the Adirondack Phantoms have haunted the Bears this season with three wins in the previous four meetings.
With the Phantoms in the Eastern Conference dungeon, their playoff chances are fading away by the second. But for the Chocolate and White, all 16 games remaining entering Saturday have the significance of playoff games. Two points removed from the eighth seeded Albany Devils, Hershey sought a needed home-ice victory.
Four different Hershey goal scorers propelled them to a 4-1 victory over the Phantoms. It was the team’s 20th win on Giant Center ice this season.
With a snow storm approaching the central PA area Sunday night, it couldn’t have been a better time for Hershey’s first 4pm start time to a Sunday Giant Center tilt.
The Hershey Bears closed out their season series with the Charlotte Checkers Sunday in front of 9,942 fans at Giant Center.
On a night where the first 3,000 fans received a baseball cap promotion sponsored by Capital BlueCross, Charlotte’s Zach Boychuk notched a hat-trick in a 6-3 win over Hershey.