After appearing in only 10 games last season with the Hershey Bears, Daren Machesney wasn’t expected to see a bulk of the starts or be one of the top goalies in the league. After all, he was backing up Frederic Cassivi, who led the Bears to back-to-back Calder Cup appearances.
After Cassivi got off to a slow start to the season going 2-6 in the month of October, Machesney finally saw his first action on the young season on November 2. He made the most of his first start by stopping all 36 shots the Albany River Rats fired his way for his first and Hershey lone shutout of the season.
On the very next night, Machesney was called in for relief duty when Cassivi struggled, allowing four goals on 14 shots. Machesney played the final 15:58 of the game; saving all four shots he faced. He wasn’t involved in the decision, but his play the previous two games was getting noticed by the Hershey faithful.
As time went on, then-Hershey coach Bruce Boudreau began to gain a lot of confidence in the rookie. Machesney’s starts increased towards the end of November by starting in three of the final seven games. During the month of November, Machesney had a record of 4-1-0 with a 2.26 goals against average.
The month of December proved to be an amazing month for the Hamilton, Ontario native. Machesney went on a tear posting a 5-1-1 record and a league best 1.84 goals against average. In his seven starts, he only allowed one goal five times.
In his first start in December, Machesney faced an Albany team he shutout a month previous. He stopped 32 of 35 shots in regulation. Sixty minutes wasn’t enough to settle the score, so they went to a shootout. Machesney allowed two goals on five shots, but Albany goalie Michael Leighton allowed only one goal.
The only regulation loss Machesney suffered during the month was a 5-4 loss in Bridgeport on December 26. Other than that loss and the shootout loss on December 9, Machesney posted wins over Norfolk (4) and Philadelphia.
When Washington Capitals goalie Brent Johnson suffered a sprained left MCL on December 27, it meant that either Cassivi or Machesney would get the call to the big club. Cassivi got the nod, and Machesney was poised to take the helm for the Bears (if only on an interim basis).
In his first game as the official number one guy, Machesney led the Bears to a 4-1 win over the Norfolk Admirals on December 28.
As the calendar turned to 2008, Daren found himself with the increased workload and enjoying every minute of it. With the Bears on a road swing through New England, Machesney was given the first game off on January 2, but was brought in to relief Davis Parley with the Bears down 3-1. Daren stopped all 19 shots he faced in 34 minutes of play.
Two nights later, Machesney was back in net, but had a rough outing in Hartford allowing four goals. The Bears were able to collect the win by getting to Wolf Pack goalie Al Montoya early in the game.
Throughout the season, Daren’s favorite team to play against has been the Norfolk Admirals. In seven games against the Ads, Machesney has posted a 7-0-0-1 record with an astounding 1.28 goals against average. Machesney hasn’t allowed more than two goals in all seven games against Norfolk.
Cassivi was reassigned to the Bears on January 12, but Machesney would still continue to see his fair share of starts. Since Cassivi’s return, Machesney has stumbled a bit going 1-1-0-1 and allowing four goals twice; once in a win over Lake Erie and in a loss to Albany.
In his last appearance of January, Machesney came in relief of Cassivi after the Bears went down 0-3 mid-way through the first period. The Bears battled back from the three goal deficit, with inspiring play from Daren, to defeat Binghamton 5-3 Saturday night.
Daren was given Hershey’s next start on February 2 against Albany. He held the River Rats scoreless through the first 49 minutes, but Albany scored two quick goals to tie the game at two with less than nine minutes remaining. Machesney didn’t panic and led the Bears to a 5-2 victory Saturday night.
“Cheese (Machesney) played well,” Hershey coach Bob Woods said. “He’s doing what he’s suppose to be doing.”
On the season, Machesney has an amazing record at 14-3-0-2 with a 2.13 goals against average. His 2.13 goals against average ranks third in the AHL, and .931 save percentage ranks first. Of his 22 appearances, Machesney hasn’t allowed more than one goal 11 times.
Daren is certainly enjoying the success he’s been having.
“Success has been great,” Machesney said. “I appreciate it a lot because last year was a tough year for me. I knew I had it in me, and I just want a chance to play and do my best.”
Hershey coach Bob Woods has gained a lot of confidence in Daren.
“He’s been great,” Woods said. “You look at the start of the year; he had three tough situations to be in. He made (the) most of the opportunities and when Freddy got called up, he had to step in and he did a great job.”
When asked if Machesney would see more starts down the stretch, Woods sounded even more confident.
“Oh definitely you’re going to see more starts (for Machesney).”
Machesney has proven this season that he has what it takes to be a premier goaltender in the AHL. Eventually Daren will get his shot to be a number one goalie in the AHL, whether it’s with the Bears or another team.