The Bears have 5 games over the next 7 days. 2 against division leaders (Manchester, WB/S), 2 against teams looking to catch Hershey (Binghamton, Norfolk), and 1 against a team that beat Hershey earlier this season but is currently out of the playoffs (Providence).
4 of those games are on the road with only the Binghamton game coming in Hershey.
Keeping pace with the Baby Pens is the name of the game from here on. The Bears aren't going to just catch and pass them some weekend. They are going to have to make up a point here or there and then win the head to head matchups.
So wins over Atlantic division foes are always good. And it would surely help their confidence if said wins were to come over division leading foes like Manchester.
The Bears played host to the Monarchs back on Halloween and finished that game with a 7-3 victory. But that really doesn't mean much now.
Manchester is quite possibly the most balanced scoring team in the league. They have 9 different players with 11+ goals. Hershey only has 6. None of the Monarchs has more than 16 goals so no one is standing out but that is a lot of guys to keep an eye on. Every defensive pairing has to be ready to go tonight.
A couple weeks ago the argument could have been made that Hershey had a decided edge in goal over the Monarchs. Sure, Martin Jones was an All-Star and is having a terrific season but Hershey had Braden Holtby and Dany Sabourin who had been playing fantastic hockey of late.
Now Hershey has Todd Ford and Jared DeMichiel. Although to be honest, based on the rotation (or lack there of) last weekend I would say the Bears don't even have DeMichiel.
While Ford is definitely a solid goaltender he isn't Holtby or Sabourin and he isn't Jones either. He has not exactly been dominant in the lower levels either. He has a career 2.69 goals against and a save percentage just a tick over 90%. Those aren't bad numbers but those numbers in the AHL would result in about a .500 record.
Hershey needs better play than that this weekend.
The defense can help him too. This past weekend I saw multiple occasions where a Manitoba forward was left wide open to pick up a rebound and shoot.
To put it simply....that can't happen. With Dany or Braden in net...maybe you get away with it for a little bit. But (no offense to Ford) no one is going to mistake Todd Ford for Sabs or Holtby.
Better play from the defense and an exceptional effort from the journeyman goaltender and Hershey can come away from Manchester with a win.
And a lead after 1 would be good too. Manchester is undefeated this season when they lead after one period...Hershey has only lost 2 in regulation when leading after 1 (2 shootout losses too).
Some more fun facts for tonight's game:
- Manchester is best in the AHL when scoring first with a .875 win percentage.
- Hershey is 3rd at .824
- Manchester is #2 in the AHL in overall points with 67
- Hershey is 3rd with 66
- Manchester is 7-3-0-1 against the East division
- Hershey is 3-2-0-0 against the Atlantic.
- Manchester has the #4 power play on home ice
- Hershey has the #4 power play on the road
- Manchester has the #18 penalty kill at home
- Hershey has the #18 penalty kill on the road
- Manchester is #7 in goals scored per game with 3.23
- Hershey is #1 in goals per game with 3.51
- Manchester is #9 in goals against per game with 2.71
- Hershey is #1 with 2.37 goals allowed per game
record ~ 31-14-1-3 66 points
standings ~ 2nd in East Division
most recent game ~ 5-1 Win vs Manitoba, 2/6
last 5 games ~ 4-0-0-1
road record ~ 14-6-1-1
goals for ~ 172
goals against ~ 116
power play ~ 22.9% (2nd)
penalty kill ~ 84.9% (8th)
record ~ 31-16-1-4 67 points
standings ~ 1st in Atlantic Division
most recent game ~ 4-0 Win @ Albany, 2/5
last 5 games ~ 4-1-0-0
home record ~ 17-7-1-0
goals for ~ 168
goals against ~ 141
power play ~ 19.3% (11th)
penalty kill ~ 84.6% (9th)
last time teams met - Hershey won 7-3 on Halloween in Hershey. This is the 2nd and final meeting of the regular season.
Players to watch:
C Jay Beagle (21) - Hasn't played since 12/12 due to recall to Washington. He brings with him exceptional penalty killing and the ability to grind out goals. He has 7 goals and 4 assists on the year.
F Brian Willsie (18) - Has an 8 game point streak (9 goals, 4 assists in those games). Tied for the team lead in goals (22) and second in points (48).
C Keith Aucoin (11) - Has at least one point in 11 straight games (3 goals, 15 assists in that timeframe). Has taken over the team points lead (49 points) despite missing 17 games.
C Oscar Moller (10) - Has 13 goals and 21 assists on the year and is leading the team in points per game with .89 ppg. Has 4 goals and 2 assists in last 5 games.
C Marc-Andre Cliche (22) - Has 14 goals and 15 assists on the season including 6 goals and 7 assists in his last 12 games.
D Viatcheslav Voynov (76) - Leads the team in points with 37 (12 goals, 25 assists). The All-Star has 3 goals and 2 assists in his last 5 games.
LET'S GO BEARS!!!