All great things must come to an end. It’s an old, cliche saying, but it is also 100 percent true and fitting of the occasion. In a 3-1 loss to the Norfolk Admirals, the Bears’ eight season playoff streak has come to a crashing end. The Providence Bruins and Norfolk Admirals will grab the seventh and eighth seeds in the Eastern Conference.
The last time the Chocolate and White missed the postseason, it was the final year of the Colorado Avalanche affiliation.
As the Hershey Bears left South Central Pennsylvania Tuesday morning for Hampton Roads Virginia, they knew they were heading down south for arguably the two biggest games of their season against the Norfolk Admirals. The Admirals were tied in points with Hershey coming into Wednesday night’s game, but Hershey had the first tiebreaker, giving them the control of their destiny, but after the game, Norfolk now controls the final spot in the Eastern Conference as they topped Hershey, 5-3.
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.
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.
Despite a recent slide the last few weeks, the Hershey Bears entered Sunday’s matinee against the Norfolk Admirals with a golden opportunity to reclaim a playoff spot. A win over the Admirals would put the Bears at eighth in the Eastern Conference with about a month to play.
Norfolk was held to 12 shots the entire night Saturday in Wilkes-Barre en route to a shutout loss. The Chocolate and White had 12 shots under their belt within the first period against Adirondack before cruising to a 4-1 win.
In Hershey’s 2014 St. Patrick’s Day spectacle, the Admirals squeezed past the Bears by a 3-2 final. It was a heartbreaking, regulation defeat for the Chocolate and White, which puts them four points behind eighth seed Norfolk.
Saturday night as the Hershey Bears started their warm-ups, goaltender Philipp Grubauer stepped out of the Chocolate and White’s locker room sporting a brand new mask.
We are in a crucial point of the regular season where every game is a playoff game. At this point it’s undeniable the Hershey Bears are on the outside looking into the Eastern Conference playoff bubble, and are a better hockey team than indicated by their record.
Friday, the Chocolate and White began their weekend with its lone away tilt in Syracuse, New York. Seeking revenge after getting embarrassed in the AHL Showcase, the Bears fell to the Crunch by a 3-2 overtime count in the debuts of Chris Brown and Kris Newbury.
Everything seemed to be going so well. The Hershey Bears had won 12 straight at home and 5 straight overall. They were vaulting toward first place. And now in a five game span, the Bears have hit their worst slump of the season. The latest loss was a 4-1 defeat Saturday night at the hands of a team that’s also been struggling, the Charlotte Checkers.
The Giant Center goal horn was held silent on Saturday night when the Syracuse Crunch blanked the Bears by a 5-0 count. It ended a 12 game Giant Center win streak for the Chocolate and White, but eyes quickly turned towards an opportunity for revenge the next night.
Sunday was the second annual AHL Showcase held at Verizon Center in our nation’s capital. Last year Ryan Potulny was the hero en route to a 2-1 win over the Norfolk Admirals.
This year the Bears-Crunch battled in Washington D.C. only days before resumption of National Hockey League play. The Tampa Bay Lightning lead affiliate potted five more goals on Philipp Grubauer for the second consecutive night and topped Hershey, 5-2.