Spring, a time for warmer weather, blooming plants, and…the fight for the playoffs! The Calder Cup playoffs are right around the corner and one mistake can be especially costly at this time of the year. Things are tight as every and every point matters. Hershey took two of three games last week and lost ground. Let’s breakdown how things unfolded and where they stand.
The week got off to a great start as the Bears hosted the Binghamton Senators on Wednesday. Defenders led the way in scoring for the Bears with the opening goal coming from Hubert Labrie, the second goal from Tom Gilbert and the third goal assisted by Madison Bowey.
Hampus Gustafsson recorded his first professional point on the Labrie goal and looked great paired with Riley Barber and Jakub Vrana. The trio is displaying great chemistry since Gustafsson joined the team on an ATO. He was unable to make the trip to St. John’s due to visa issues.
Next up the Bears traveled up to Newfoundland for a pair of games against St. John’s. The Bears surrendered the first goal but answered with two goals in 56 seconds (Tyler Lewington and Travis Boyd). Chris Bourque added a late goal for the 3-1 lead after one period.
Goals by Jeremy Gregoire and Yannick Veilleux tied the game at two going into the third period. It would stay that way until Madison Bowey failed to get a puck out of the defensive zone with under a minute to play. Keegan Lowe took advantage and scored the dagger with just 16 seconds left in regulation. It was only Pheonix Copley‘s second loss in eight starts for the Bears.
Sunday, the game was relatively uneventful for the better part of regulation. Riley Barber, Jakub Vrana, and Pheonix Copley were Hershey’s heroes in this tight one-goal affair. Vrana made an excellent play to steal a puck in the corner, get it to Boyd who set up Barber for the 1-0 Bears lead.
In the third, it was Riley Barber’s turn to set up Vrana. With the two flying in on a rush, Barber sent the perfect feed to Vrana cutting toward the net. He made no mistake for the 2-0 lead.
After powerplay guru Chris Terry scored his 15th powerplay goal at 14:55 of the third, Copley was under siege. He faced 17 shots in the third alone and 36 for the game stopping all but one. It was his fourth consecutive start and the 2-1 win makes him 7-2-0 since rejoining the organization.
Jonas Siegenthaler made his season debut on Sunday. He registered a shot on goal and made some good plays on defense. Depending on the health of Aaron Ness, we’ll probably see more of the Swiss defender.
Christian Djoos continues to roll along among top point scoring defenseman. He added two assists for a total of 41 in 59 games. His previous career high was 22 assist in 62 games.
Early on in the season, Djoos was hesitant in shooting the puck and was guilty of over-passing at times. Not anymore. Here are a couple of examples from Sunday of how’s he’s progressed:
This strong play taking the puck to the net and attempting the Kuznetsov twister pass very nearly worked out for Djoos on Sunday. pic.twitter.com/sX753M0pWW
— Sin Bin Bears (@SinBinBears) March 27, 2017
He gets the puck right to the net and makes a great pass that somehow doesn’t let to a goal. A grade A scoring chance nonetheless which is exactly what head coach Troy Mann wants and preaches for his players to create.
On the very same shift, Djoos bluffs a defender, skates around him and gets a quality scoring chance. pic.twitter.com/kyZaCD7b22
— Sin Bin Bears (@SinBinBears) March 27, 2017
Mere seconds later and we see another decisive play. Instead of looking to pass with somebody in his shooting lane, Djoos fakes the defender out and skates to a better shooting area. It leads to another grade A scoring opportunity in a short period of time.
After the weekend Djoos now sits third overall points by defenseman with 53 (12G, 41A).
Hershey is down to just eight games remaining in the regular season, five of which are in the division. Hershey and Providence each have 77 points but the Bruins own a game in hand and thus take the third spot. They’ll face each other one last time in the final game of the season on April 15th.
The Bears can further solidify a playoff spot over Bridgeport when the two teams meet on Saturday at Giant Center. The Sound Tigers with a game in hand sit five points back of the Bears as of March 27th.
Lehigh Valley comes to Giant Center Sunday in what will be the best opportunity for Hershey to trim the three-point deficit they have against the Phantoms. The following Wednesday Hershey will travel up to Allentown to close out the season set with the Phantoms.
But first, the Bears travel to Hartford to take on the Wolfpack on Friday night at 7 PM.