Most of the teams surrounding the Bears in the standings kept pace however. Entering the night the Connecticut Whale sat one point in front of the Bears and despite falling behind 2-0 to one of the Eastern Conference's top teams, the Springfield Falcons, in the first period, they came back to earn two points with a 4-3 regulation win to maintain their one point advantage in the standings.
The Norfolk Admirals, who trailed the Bears by 2 points, also beat one of the top teams in the conference, the Binghamton Senators, 2-1 to keep from falling any further behind.
The other two teams ahead of Hershey that the Bears can possibly catch in the standings, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and Portland, also won their respective games to maintain their 5 and 6 point advantages, respectively.
The only teams to lose last night were the teams that trailed Norfolk. The Albany Devils and Manchester Monarchs lost their games last night to fall even further behind in the playoff race.
After last night this is shaping up as a 3 team race for 2 playoff spots. The Baby Pens and Portland aren't clear of the woods just yet, but they would have to partially fall apart to fall out of the playoffs at this point.
For the scoreboard watchers out there...Norfolk again plays host to Binghamton at 7:15 tonight while Connecticut visits Bridgeport, with faceoff coming at 7:00.
Hershey welcomes the Syracuse Crunch to, what should be, a loud Giant Center tonight.
The Bears need points this weekend and a quick glance at the schedule prior to last night's game in Syracuse would have scared some backers. But the Bears couldn't have asked for a better time to play the Crunch. Despite clinching a playoff spot last night, along with 3 other top teams in the conference, the Crunch have struggled mightily of late. In their last 6 games they are just 1-4-1-0 and have scored a total of 8 goals and have been shut out 3 times.
The reason for the lack of offensive production seems to be a general lack of offensive talent. On the season the Crunch have 10 players with double-digit goals. The top 6 of those players are either recalled to Tampa Bay or are no longer on the team. The current goal scoring leaders are Ondrej Palat and J.T. Wyman who have each scored 11 on the season.
Hershey needs to take advantage of a weakened opponent and capitalize. They did last night as Syracuse didn't even get their first shot until around the 11 minute mark of the 1st period.
The Bears need to do it again tonight on home ice.
And they should get some solid support from the home crowd who will surely be excited to see enforcer Joel Rechlicz make his Bears 2012-13 debut after being a healthy scratch last night in Syracuse.
Hershey has 8 games left. 16 possible points. 13 clinches a playoff spot.
LET'S GO BEARS!!!!