The Bears concluded their regular season home games this weekend, and what a weekend it was.
Friday night the Bears visited the Rochester Americans (Florida Panthers), and fell short to Rochester and former teammate Graham Mink. Rochester defeated the Bears with a score of 3 to 1. Mink finished the night with 2 goals, and the Amerks played spoiler in keeping the Bears’ from their 58th win of the season. The lone Hershey goal was scored by Francois Bouchard with assists from Kyle Wilson and Grant McNeill. Braden Holtby was in net for the Bears and allowed 2 goals on 22 shots, 1 of which came on a Rochester Powerplay. The Bears outshot the Ameriks 33 to 23, but Rochester Goalie Tyler Plante was solid.
Saturday the Bears were back at home and reunited with Mathieu Perreault (who was returned from Washington). The Bears took on the Syracuse Crunch (Columbus Blue Jackets), and got win number 58 (an AHL single-season victory record) and clinched the #1 seed in the playoffs. A final score of 6 to 1 reflects the 1st in the East-Division Bears facing the second-to-last in the East Division Crunch. Jay Beagle finished the night with 2 goals on 2 shots and the #1 star of the game. Boyd Kane was the 2nd star of the night with 1 goal, 1 assist, and a +3 on the night. The third star of the game was defenseman Patrick Wellar with 1 assist and an incredibly solid night on the blue line. Karl Alzner, Alexandre Giroux, & Zach Miskovic also scored for Hershey. Keith Aucoin & Mathieu Perreault chipped in 2 assists apiece. Good thing Perrault took that elbow to the face during his recall, it helped prepare him for a penalty-filled night in Chocolatetown. Michal Neuvirth was back in action for the first time in weeks, and though he wasn’t tested much, he made 16 saves on 17 shots.
Sunday brought win number 59 as the Bears defeated Norfolk (Tampa Bay Lightning) at Giant Center 3 to 2. Number 1 star of the night, Mathieu Perreault finished the night with a goal and an assist. Other goals were scored by Alexandre Giroux and new-comer Cody Eakin (who was named the Number 2 star). Anton Gustafsson made his debut and tallied two assists on the night. Braden Holtby was back in net for the Bears and made 23 saves on 25 shots.
The Awesome: The 2011 AHL All-Star festivities will be held in Hershey! The announcement was made during the first intermission of Saturday’s game. Mark your calendars for the skills competition on Sunday, January 30th and the All-Star game on Monday, January 31st. The official AHL press release can be found here.
The Good: The young guys are making a case to take on more permanent roles with the team. Cody Eakin comes as advertised. Scoring 2 goals in 3 games, he’s shown that he’s not afraid to park in front of the net, and is quite skilled in physics/geometry (his redirect on Gustafsson’s shot last night was a thing of beauty). Eakin seems to be adapting the American League rather quickly, and proves to have a bright future. Anton Gustafsson is also working hard. 2 assists in his first game is not a fluke. Baby Gus can skate with the rest of them, but as Coach Mark French stated last night, this summer he needs to work on increasing his strength. He was pushed off the puck and outworked along the boards a little too easily.
The Bad: #84, referee Jamie Koharski (that’s right, son of Don-go-eat-another-donut-Koharski). The Bears had him Friday & Sunday nights. He’s that bad. Jim Playfair of Abbotsford was fighting for all of the AHL last week when he stood on the boards and smashed sticks to protest Koharski. With only 1 ref on the ice, Jamie, it’s your job to control the game and protect the players. You’re capable of neither.
The Ugly: The Bears’ Power play. Four of the top-twenty scorers in the AHL are Bears (Aucoin, Giroux, Gordon, Bourque). The Bears have 7 players with 20 or more goals this season (Aucoin, Giroux, Gordon, Bourque, Bouchard, Wilson, Kane). With all that firepower, how is it possible to go 2 for 20 on the power play over the weekend? 10%! 0/4 on Friday against Rochester, 2/11 against Syracuse on Saturday, and 0/4 on Sunday against Norfolk. (If the fact that Bears had 11 power plays on Saturday frightens you, you’ve obviously never heard of referee Nygel Pellitier – he makes Koharski look fantastic).
Note: Tickets to the Bears first two playoff home games went on sale this morning. While the opponent has yet to be determined, the Bears will play Wednesday, April 14th and Friday, April 16th at the Giant Center. If you’re planning on making the trip to Chocolatetown, don’t forget that the Sheraton Harrisburg Hershey is offering rooms at $89/night for those making the trip to see the Bears. Call 717-564-5511, ask for in-house reservations, and then for the Bears’ fan rate. Tell ‘em Rock the Red sent you!