It was an odd Friday night around the American Hockey League to kickoff a three game weekend, and one that was slightly beneficial to the Hershey Bears Hockey Club despite a 2-1 shootout defeat to the Hartford Wolf Pack.
Peter LeBlanc scored Hershey’s lone goal with 1:04 remaining in an end-to-end second period. David Leggio was superb and earned third star honors from stopping 34 of 35 shots through 65 minutes.
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.
As many know, we are in a current time stretch where football season has concluded, the countdown to Spring Training is in full throttle, and where fans continuously fall asleep on their sofa attempting to watch the NBA.
But at the American Hockey League level, the Hershey Bears enter a crucial eight week stretch of their schedule which takes them to April. It is a stretch which will truly decide whether playoff hockey will once again return to Hershey for a ninth consecutive season.
Sunday the Bears battled the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in the weekend finale, looking for four out of six standings points in the weekend. Dustin Gazley scored 47 second into overtime to down the Penguins in a Giant Center classic.
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.
Perhaps the Hershey Bears are trying to make a statement to the schedule makers. Three games in 31 hours is very unusual in any league. But when the Bears played Adirondack in Philadelphia, they were going for their seventh straight victory and second in an 18 hour span. In the first game with the Phantoms, the Bears came up with a 5-3 victory Friday night in Glens Falls, beating the Phantoms to keep their winning streak alive.
The historic Atlantic City Boardwalk Hall hosted the first meeting of the 2013-14 season between the Albany Devils and Hershey Bears. Brandon Segal continued to dismantle opponents on the scoring sheet, Michael Latta channeled his inner Joel Rechlicz and Riley Gill earned his first AHL win during a 4-1 Bears win.
The Hershey Bears aimed to close out the weekend with back-to-back wins at home. Their foe for the night was the Manchester Monarchs, who entered standing at second best in the Eastern Conference. It was nothing short of a 60 minute effort for the good guys in White, as the Bears beat down the Monarchs by a 6-3 count.
Fans packed Giant Center for a rare Friday night game against the Syracuse Crunch. Ryan Potulny made his anticipated season debut with the Chocolate and White and was inserted on an offensive line with Jeff Taffe and Casey Wellman.
A lackadaisical second period for the Chocolate and White set the stage for a 3-2 defeat to the Crunch.
On Saturday night, missed opportunities haunted the Hershey Bears against the Worcester Sharks leading to their tenth regulation set back of the season. A factor towards the defeat was having only a 1-for-7 success rate on the man-advantage, dropping their ranking to 24th in the 30 team American Hockey League.
The power play struggles continued into the next night against the Sharks, but the end result differed in Hershey’s 4-0 win.
The Hershey Bears were in search for home wins in consecutive days for the first time this season on Sunday. The Chocolate and White kicked off December with a 3-2 setback in a skills competion on their Hall of Fame Night, along with the annual Teddy Bear Toss spectacle.
National Hockey League legendary broadcaster Mike “Doc” Emrick again hosted the on-ice, pregame ceremony with inductions of Tim Tookey, Gordon ‘Red’ Henry, Arnie Kullman, Kenneth Hatt and J Bruce McKinney.