Sunday, March 13, 2011

Bears looking to complete weekend sweep

Tonight wraps up the toughest travel stretch of the year for the Bears.  After playing 6 games in 5 different cities over the last 8 games the Bears return to Hershey to bring the trip full circle and face off against the team that started this stretch, the Norfolk Admirals.

But plenty happened the last couple of days so let's start there.

French gets win #100 (and 101 the next night)

Coach Mark French became the fastest in AHL history to reach 100 wins in his career.  He did it in only 147 games and has an overall winning percentage of .707.

He is the 10th Hershey coach to reach the milestone and with a win tonight would tie Bruce Boudreau for 9th on the Hershey list with 102 wins.

Congrats Coach French!!

Greentree and Willsie step up

On Friday in my players to watch section I basically said the whole team needed to step up.  But I specifically mentioned Brian Willsie and Kyle Greentree.  The duo had not been scoring of late and it was hurting the Bears as they really are the only true goal-scorers active right now.

On Friday night they both scored and Saturday Greentree added his 24th of the year in overtime to lift Hershey over Adirondack.  

While the two weren't stuck in a long scoring drought it is (was) becoming apparent that when one or both of them fail to score Hershey really struggles to get wins.  When your team is missing 3 players that has scored 15+ goals you are bound to struggle a bit.  Willsie and Greentree, fair or not, are the players that need to pick up the slack and carry the team.

I think they can do it.

Bears comfortably in 2nd place

Hershey has found a cozy little for themselves in the East Division right now.  They remain in 2nd place and are 6 points behind Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and 7 points ahead of 3rd place Charlotte.  

While that can obviously change over the course of 2/3 games it is nice to have a bit of a place at this point in the season.

The Baby Pens have not been playing that well of late, picking up their first shootout loss of the season last night in Abbotsford.  They have only won 4 of their last 8 games which has allowed the Bears to remain within range of them for 1st in the division. 

Charlotte has been even worse.  Since their 5-0 maiming of the Bears back on the 20th of February they have played 9 games and have won only 4.  During those 9 games they have scored only 20 goals (that includes 5 in one game).  Do you think they miss Jerome Samson???

Either way Hershey begins the final stretch (12 games - 7 home, 5 road) in very good position.  They have a cushion to 3rd place and are a full 15 points from missing the playoffs.  Definite wiggle room.


Now onto tonight's game.  The last time they met, last Saturday in Hershey, there was a little bit of controversy. 

To refresh your memory:
  • Odd goal call at the end of the 2nd
  • Cheap shot on Aucoin in the 3rd
  • Questionable officiating for much of the game.
Hershey won the game 3-2 on Mathieu Perreault's goal late in the 3rd period but the loss of Aucoin to what is believed to be a concussion definitely stands as the defining moment of the game.

Norfolk captain Chris Durno was suspended for 3 games for the hit.  Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on which side you are on) he will miss tonight's game as he serves the 3rd and final game of the penalty. 

Obviously Hershey fans and likely some of the players were looking for a little retribution against the Admirals captain.  But that will have to wait.  (Hershey visits Norfolk on April 2 and 3).

Still there was plenty of other activities that will surely be fresh in the minds of the Bears players when they take the ice tonight. 

This game will likely have a distinct playoff feel to it with plenty of physicality. 

The way hockey should be played.

Hershey Bears
record ~ 41-22-1-4 | 87 points
standings ~ 2nd in East Division
most recent game ~ 3-2 OT Win @ Adirondack, 3/12
last 5 games ~ 2-2-0-1
home record ~ 20-11-0-2
goals for ~ 217
goals against ~ 176
home power play ~ 21.9% (4th)
home penalty kill ~ 86.7% (3rd)

Norfolk Admirals
record ~ 33-19-8-5 | 79 points
standings ~ 4th in East Division
most recent game ~ 8-3 Win vs Binghamton, 3/11
last 5 games ~ 3-2-0-0
road record ~ 17-12-3-1
goals for ~218
goals against ~ 175
road power play ~18.8% (10th)
road penalty kill ~ 83.0% (16th)

last time teams met - 6th meeting between the teams this season with Hershey leading the season series 4-1-0-0.  This is Norfolk's final regular season game in Hershey.  The Bears visits Norfolk twice more this season in April.

Players to watch:

C Mathieu Perreault (24) - Not exactly producing at the same rate prior to his Washington call-up but he did score the game winner against the Admirals last Saturday and added another goal and an assist since then.
LW Boyd Kane (12) - You know that Boyd is going to be focused tonight as he will want to make the Admirals pay for the Aucoin hit.  He has only scored 1 goal (and no assists) in his 8 games so hopefully he can help out on the scoreboard tonight.
LW Andrew Kozek (21) - The newest Bear has played 2 games and already has an assists for Hershey.  He will likely get more opportunities than he had in Chicago and hopefully he can capitalize and help Hershey win again.

C Marc-Antoine Pouliot (78) - Leads the team in assists (36) and points (51) while also sitting tied for third in goals with 20.  He has 2 goals and 2 assists in the 3 games since they played Hershey.
LW Johan Harju (90) - The team leader in goals with 21 he also sits second on the team in points with 45.  In the 3 games since Hershey he has 2 goals and 3 assists.
RW Matt Fornataro (39) - One of 10 Admirals with double digit goals (16) he scored against Hershey last time they met and has 5 assists in the 3 games since then.


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