HERSHEY, PA – Jon DiSalvatore celebrates his first goal during Hershey’s 4-2 win over Manchester, and clinching them a playoff spot in the 2013 Calder Cup Playoffs (Kyle Mace – Sweetest Hockey on Earth)
It came all the way down to the wire, but it game 76 of the 2012-13 regular season, the Hershey Bears clinched a spot in the Calder Cup Playoffs for the eighth consecutive season. During first intermission of the Bears-Monarchs game Sunday evening, news broke at Giant Center that the Providence Bruins defeated the Norfolk Admirals by a 4-3 count. The regulation loss eliminated Norfolk from playoff contention leaving just Hershey and Connecticut fighting for the eighth seed.
With the Connecticut Whale wrapping up their season the night before, they could only watch and hope for a Bears regulation loss. However with the final window of opportunity wide open for Hershey, they put forth an impressive 4-2 over the Manchester Monarchs to punch their ticket to the Calder Cup Playoffs.
Professional hockey games consist of a 60 minute regulation length. Some duels can be loss from the get-go, while other matches are decided by late game heroics. The Hershey Bears in dire need of a victory faced the Manchester Monarchs in New Hampshire. The New England states continue to deny the Bears of fortune in a 4-3 loss to the Monarchs.
The game was decided early with a crucial, first period scoring assembly which included three Manchester goals in a 1:49 span.
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 battled the Manchester Monarchs at home for the first game in February. With playoff races weeks away from beginning and the Bears currently on the outside looking into the top eight teams in the conference, they looked for a bounce back effort against the the Monarchs. Martin Jones made 42 saves for Manchester, but the Bears squeaked past the Monarchs, 2-1.
The penultimate game of the regular season: Hershey Bears on the road versus Manchester Monarchs.
There were four goals to talk about during the first period; unfortunately only one of them belonged to the Bears. Richard Clune started off the night by deflecting the puck off of his foot. Ryan Potulny tied it up with yet another power play goal from him. He’s pretty good at those. But Monarchs scored two more times on Daren Machesney. A shorthanded goal and a five-hole goal made it 3-1 Monarchs after twenty minutes.
Fresh off of being on the wrong side of a shutout, the Bears seemed determined that tonight’s game against the Manchester Monarchs would not suffer the same fate.
Unfortunately, the Monarchs did take the lead just over a minute into the game. Justin Azevedo chipped a shot over Braden Holtby‘s glove hand on the first shot of the game.
Let’s take a trip back 2,837 days to April 17th, 2005. Eric Perrin is Hershey’s leading scorer after playing the end of last season with the Tampa Bay Lighting their Stanley Cup run. Peter Budaj has played almost 60 games for the Chocolate and White and Paul Fixter is the Head Coach for the Bears. But that April night in Bridgeport, CT, the Bears lost their sixth game in a row and was swept in their 3-in-3 series. That was the last time Hershey has lost three weekend games in a row. We are now at one day since Hershey has been swept in a 3-in-3 after the Bears fall to the Monarchs 4-2.
When you score four goals, you normally win a hockey game, but tonight was different for the Hershey Bears. After going toe-to-toe with the Manchester Monarchs the first two periods, the Bears gave up a late goal and the two points to the Monarchs in a 5-4 regulation loss.
The Hershey Bears traveled to Manchester to play the Monarchs for a rare mid-week game. Coincidentally, the goalie match-up was the exact same as when the teams played in Hershey back on Halloween. Todd Ford had his first start and win of the season and Jeff Zatkoff was pulled after allowing four goals on five shots.
I can only think of one word to describe this game: calm. Not too many penalties, not too many goals, not too many scrums. Last time the two teams met, Hershey blew Manchester out of the water with an 8-3 win. This time it was much closer.
By the start of the third period, the teams were even at 1-1. Hershey scored first. Keith Aucoin, falling down, passed to Boyd Kane. Kane’s shot rebounded to Patrick McNeill who slid it past Zatkoff. The second period saw the Monarchs tie it up on a rebound shot of their own.
The third period saw no end result and so we pushed on to overtime.
It got a little scary when Bud Holloway, who had already scored once, had a shot in between the face-off circles when he was hooked by Kane. But the Bears killed that off and it came down to the shootout.
Through four rounds, neither team was able to score and it was looking like we might have another extended shootout. But Kane, back against the wall, came up big and scored in the bottom of the fifth round. Bears win, 2-1!
Hershey had something to prove tonight. They needed to show that they could bounce back from even the most embarassing losses. I’d say they did a pretty good job.
Just one night after pulling their own goalie, Hershey forced Manchester to do the same. Jeff Zatkoff saw 5 shots in about 15 minutes of play. 4 of those shots became Hershey goals. Brian Willsie got the first goal of the night, as he often has this season. Thus began the back-and-forth action. Manchester tied it up only to have Hershey regain the lead on a goal from Zach Miskovic. It was his second goal in two games. Manchester tied it up again on a power play goal. Just over a minute later, Keith Aucoin had a great breakaway pass from Andrew Gordon and was able to get it past Zatkoff. Mathieu Perreault, back from his stint in Washington, added an insurance goal on a mini-breakaway.
And that was all just in the first period. “It was key for us to get a good start,” Andrew Joudrey said after the game. “It was a good response.”
The second period saw no scoring change, but Manchester went from having no minor penalties to having four. They were getting frustrated and it was obvious. Jones was pretty strong in goal despite not starting the game.
During the third period, Aucoin was taken down in the corner. He definitely seemed to be in some pain, but was able to skate himself to the bench. He stayed on the bench and returned to the ice after the Bears went on a 5-on-3. Gordon deflected a Lawrence Nycholat shot to add to the score but Manchester retaliated about 30 seconds later with a goal of their own.
Todd Ford saw his first full game of the season. He’s strong on the down low shots but could use a little more work up high. He stopped 27 of 30 shots. Coach French had a lot of praise for him. “He made big saves when we needed him to,” French said. Despite a decent outing, I think Hershey is really hurting for Braden Holtby to return. Having a goalie with confidence could go a long way.
When the final horn sounded, the players were far from done. Five penalties were doled out after the game had ended, including roughing minors to Jay Beagle and Richard Clune for their roles in a pretty bitter scrap.
With the 7-3 victory, I’m sure Hershey restored some their self-esteem that was bruised from the previous night. And they’ve got a week-long break to heal up until their next game Sunday.