One piece of business before I get into the weekend...if my partial season ticket holding neighbor Kiss Cam Mike is reading this...please email me (hersheybearshockey(at)gmail.com)...I have a question for you.
Now, back to your regularly scheduled post...
Coming into the weekend the Bears were riding a 5 game losing streak and falling further and further behind in the East Division.
One of things was remedied with the two home games this weekend. The Bears won both and therefore aren't in the midst of a losing streak.
Unfortunately, it would appear as though the race for the East Division is all but over. The Norfolk Admirals have won 12 straight games and have an 8-point lead over 2nd place Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and 10-point lead over 3rd place Hershey. Obviously there is still hockey to be played...anywhere from 16-18 games for each of the teams, but an 8 point deficit (and 10 points for the Bears) is a very difficult one to make up this late in the season.
But we all know that the East Division crown means nothing more than home ice in the playoffs. Which, of course, would be nice, but 100% not necessary to win the Calder Cup. Just ask Ryan Potulny. Last year, his Binghamton Senators only got in thanks to the divisional crossover rule which allowed the 5th place team in the East (Binghamton) to cross over and play in the Atlantic Division's playoffs.
They won 4 series, 16 games, and the Calder Cup. And I am pretty sure they didn't have home ice advantage for any of those series.
The more important standings information for Bears fans is this...Hershey is 5th in the conference, 2 points back of 4th place Wilkes-Barre. And maybe even more importantly...10 points ahead of 9th place Manchester.
So, the Bears are in solid footing in regards to the playoffs.
Now, to the weekend...
That might have been the sorriest 4 point weekend of the season. On Saturday night the Bears played host to a group of individuals that apparently confiscated the Binghamton Senators jerseys and decided to give ice hockey a try.
I have seen bad games from teams before, but the Senators performance on Saturday might have been the worst ever. Just a complete lack of focus, effort, and skill. It was bad. It has been a bad season for the Senators, but if that is how they typically play, I wouldn't show up to any home games as a fan.
Let me give the Bears their due though...they played well. I didn't think they dominated the play so much as they were the better team in that one. Although, I am pretty sure Lebanon Valley College could have taken down the Sens on Saturday.
The Graham Mink, Ryan Potulny, and Kyle Greentree line was clicking on this night as they each scored a goal giving Hershey a 3-0 win on the night.
Braden Holtby made 17 saves to pick up the shutout.
To explain how bad the Senators played and how easy a game Braden really had just consider that he was NOT a star of the game. Mink, Potulny, and Greentree took home those honors.
I think Braden had one, maybe 2, big saves...the rest were easier than shots he faces in warmups.
But a win is a win and considering how the Bears have been playing of late...a game against a team like Binghamton was perfect to get back on track.
The Springfield Falcons entered Sunday's game having given up 10 goals to Norfolk on Friday and Saturday night. 5 goals each night, both losses.
On the season the Falcons are 24th in the AHL in goals allowed, with over 3 goals per game scored against them. The Falcons goalie last night, Paul Dainton, was playing in his 3rd straight game and was pulled in Saturday night's game in Norfolk. On the season he has a 2.92 goals against average.
The Bears scored 2.
That isn't good enough. The Falcons entered the contest 13th in the conference. The Falcons were coming off of 2 straight road losses, were involved in a pre-game fight Saturday night, drove almost 6 hours for a 5pm faceoff, and were without their leading goal scorer.
And the Bears allowed them to get a point in the standings and hang around for 60+ minutes of hockey.
Again, a win is a win and the Bears needed a weekend like this to gain some confidence. But Sunday night was not an impressive victory. It was a team with more talent, hanging on long enough to get an extra point in the standings.
Matt Pope and Potulny got the Bear goals. Dany Sabourin got the start thanks to Braden's recall to Washington and made some big saves to pick up the win.
But the effort wasn't there from the team. According to the score sheet Hershey managed 26 shots. 14 of those were in the third period and overtime.
12 shots in the first two periods?
The Bears had a 5 on 3 for almost a full minute and couldn't hit the net. Until the final goal they had gone 0 for 5 with the man advantage and looked bad doing it.
At the end of the day 2 points is still 2 points. And the Bears are learning to play close, low-scoring games. Which is good, because that is what wins in the playoffs.
The Bears have 2 more games against Binghamton this year...hopefully they aren't still looking for confidence when those game arrive.