The Hershey Bears return to the ice with three crucial games this weekend. The Bears’ travel to Wilkes-Barre Friday night, to face off against the Penguins. Hershey then returns home for games on Saturday and Sunday, facing the Syracuse Crunch and the Connecticut Whale. The Bears’ are currently positioned two points behind the Penguins for the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference, which lands the extra home game in the first round.
4/6/12: Hershey Bears (38-21-4-7, 87 points) at Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins (41-23-2-5, 89 points)
This game is arguably the biggest game of the year for the Bears’. Wilkes-Barre is Hershey’s biggest rival as games are always very physical. The Penguins are led offensively by forwards Ben Street and Bryan Lerg, who have registered 54 and 49 points on the season respectively. Rookie defenseman, Alex Grant commands the blue line offensively for the Penguins accumulating 36 points on the year placing him sixth in scoring for Wilkes-Barre Scranton. Expect Brad Thiessen in net for the Penguins, who has had a subpar year to his standards with a 2.86 goals against average. This will be an emotional game for the Bears’ and a tough one on the road. Hershey needs to match the intensity of the Penguins to earn a road win.
4/7/12: Hershey Bears (38-21-4-7, 87 points) vs. Syracuse Crunch (34-27-5-5, 78 points)
Syracuse enters play Friday night holding onto the seventh seed with 78 points on the year. The Crunch must hold on to that seed for any chance of success in the playoffs, because falling another spot would set them up in a matchup against the Norfolk Admirals in the first round. High scoring forward, Patrick Maroon leads Syracuse offensively with 72 points on the year after joining the team last year. The Crunch have numerous scorers on their club including, Kyle Palmieri and Dan Sexton with 55 and 42 points on the year respectively. One player to watch is defenseman, Mathieu Carle who has posted a new career high in points with 37. Expect goaltender Iiro Tarkki to make the start for the Crunch, who leads the Crunch with 47 games in net. Hershey should have no problem with Syracuse as long as they play a full sixty minutes, which they sometimes struggle with when facing lesser opponents. Don’t be surprised if goaltender, Matt Tendler could get his first AHL start in this one, as Dany Sabourin could use a break in goal.
4/8/12: Hershey Bears (38-21-4-7, 87 points) vs. Connecticut Whale (34-24-7-5, 80 points)
Connecticut enters Friday holding the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference, setting them up for a first round matchup against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. The Crunch are led offensively by forwards, Kris Newbury and Jonathon Audy-Marchessault who have combined for 121 points. Many of the Whale have been called up to the New York Rangers, leaving the Whale with a solid veteran presence in Wade Redden. Sean Avery was let go by Connecticut earlier this year and has announced his retirement from professional hockey. Tomas Kundratek faces his former team once again following the trade that sent him to Hershey. Expect Chad Johnson in goal for Connecticut, Johnson has posted a 2.48 goals against average along with one shutout on the year. This game is another must win for Hershey, in need of points to pass the Penguins for the fourth seed heading into the playoffs. Special teams will be crucial in this one, so keep an eye on the Bears’ power play and penalty kill with Cody Eakin still with the Capitals.