(Before reading on take a minute and read this piece on Brooks Laich...it will give you a reason to like the Caps again after they choked this past week)
The Albany River Rats skated off their home ice for the final time last night. A final time for both the season and forever as the team will be relocating to Charlotte next season.
And they sure tried to extend their playoff stay last night in game 4 with the Hershey Bears. For the 4th time in as many games the Rats had a third period lead only to Hershey rally for the victory.
3 of the 4 games went to overtime where Hershey's depth appeared to make a difference as none of the game winners came from a top line player. Even though Giroux now has 1o goals in 9 playoff games and Gordon has 9 in that same time frame neither of them scored in overtime against the Rats.
Justin Peters will be seeing Hershey in his nightmares for a long time to come. Overall this season he was 26-18-2 with a 2.54 gaa and a .917 save percentage. But against the Bears he was 2-4 with almost a 4.00 gaa and a .870 save percentage and that included 2 games early in the season when he held the Bears to one goal in 2 games.
Then in the playoffs he was good in the first round (about 2.5 gaa and .927 save %) collecting a 4 game sweep over the Wilkes Barre/Scranton Penguins. But then Hershey came calling and he earned 4 straight losses and posted a 5.00 gaa and a .873 save %.
He will be seeing Bears all summer long!
Hershey's depth is proving to be an insurmountable challenge for teams this postseason. They have trailed at some point in the third period in 7 of their 9 playoff games to date. And they have won 6 of those.
And now their defense is better. Both Karl Alzner and John Carlson were in the lineup last night, one night after playing for the Caps in their game 7 defeat. Hershey went from having severely limited depth after Tuesday's game to having quite possibly the 2 best defensemen in the AHL right now.
Not a bad way to finish a week.
But if there is one problem for the Bears it is that they will now have to wait at least a week to play again. The Worcester vs Manchester series is tied at one game a piece and game 5 isn't until Wednesday.
So the soonest Hershey will know its Eastern Conference finals opponent will be late Wednesday night. So it is likely that the Bears will not play a meaningful game until next Friday at the earliest.
Out in the Western Conference they are even further behind. The Chicago vs Texas series hasn't even started yet while the Abbotsford Heat are up 1-0 on the Hamilton Bulldogs with game 2 coming Sunday.
It is going to be a long couple of weeks coming up. If the Atlantic Finals go 7 then Hershey likely wouldn't play again until about the 10th or 11th.
There is appeal to an extended layoff to get guys rested and healed but there will surely be some rust by the time they play again.
Either way the Bears are yet again East Division Champs! And will be playing in the Eastern Conference Finals for the 4th time in the last 5 years!
Way to go Bears!!!!