It has been quite a 2014 so far for the Hershey Bears.
They entered the year with a 13-12-2-3 record. Which really translates to a 13-17 record with a few more points thrown in for losing late.
They were scoring goals at a rate of 3.1 per game and were allowing 3.0 per game. So the near .500 record seems pretty accurate.
And they were a borderline playoff team at that point...at best.
But 2014 has been much different. Everything has been better.
Since January 1 the Bears are 16-4-1-0 or 16-5.
That's damn good...but it actually gets better.
They are scoring 3.3 goals per game, a slight increase over the first 30 games...and they are allowing ONLY 2.3 per game.
That is DAMN good.
In fact, if those were full season numbers the Bears would rank 3rd in goals for per game and 1st in goals against per game.
So yeah, the Bears are playing good hockey right now. And now they are the 4th seed in the Eastern Conference and no team in the AHL would want to play them right now.
But will it continue? After all, most of those wins (12 of them) were at Giant Center. And a few weeks ago I put up a post about how they were struggling on the road while playing superbly at home.
Over the rest of the season the Bears have 25 games to play. 16 of those are on the road. Including 3 of the next four after tonight.
But there are signs that their road play is improving.
In the first 4 road games of their 2014 domination the Bears went 1-2-1-0 and scored only 2 goals per game while allowing 2.3. The defense was still rock solid, but the offense was sputtering.
Well, in the 6 road games since I wrote that previous post they have started to turn it around. They are 4-2-0-0 in those games while scoring 2.8 goals per game and allowing only 2.5.
Obviously its a small sample size, but it is all we have at this point. We will surely learn more over the next few weeks as 6 of their next 9 games are on the road.
Anyone who has been to Giant Center over the last few weeks knows that this team has finally gelled and seems to be playing some good hockey.
Their record supports that and so do the stats.
The Bears are the 4th seed in the Eastern Conference and are playing as well as anyone in the conference. They are only 6 points out of 1st in the division and have a game in hand with Binghamton.
If they keep playing the way they have over the past month...the sky is the limit for this Bears team.
Later this week (or next weekend) I will have a post up about the remaining schedule and how it sets up pretty nicely for the Bears. So check back to read that (or follow us on Facebook so you don't miss anything).