Bears Enter Final Full Month in Tight Division Battle
The busiest week of the season for the Hershey Bears Hockey Club was not a kind one; however, despite picking up one standings point on the week, the Bears hit the road for Norfolk just five points off of the East Division lead.
Entering the third period of Tuesday's game at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton tied 2-2, seven more goals were tallied - four by the Penguins - sending the hosts to a 6-5 victory. Captain Dane Byers scored twice to pace Hershey, while Jeff Taffe, Casey Wellman and Nicolas Deschamps added goals.
The Hartford Wolf Pack hosted the Bears on Friday, and it turned into a battle between two solid goaltenders. David Leggio kept the Pack off of the board through two periods, while Peter LeBlanc scored his 12th of the season to give the Bears a 1-0 lead to start the third. But Hershey found themselves in penalty trouble, and despite Leggio's top effort of the year, Hartford's Ryan Bourque would knot the game 1-1, a score which held through 65 minutes. Ryan Stoa opened the scoring for the Bears in the shootout, but Dov Grumet-Morris stopped the next four Hershey shooters while getting help from Marek Hrivik and T.J. Hensick to earn the win.
The Charlotte Checkers then came to Chocolatetown for a pair of games this weekend, and after being outscored 13-4 in their own building back in November, turned the tide by claiming a 4-1 win on Saturday and a 6-3 victory on Sunday. Stoa scored in both games for the Bears this weekend, while Taffe and Tyson Strachan netted the other two goals. Zach Boychuk had four goals on the weekend, including a hat trick on Sunday, to pace the Checkers' offense.
HERSHEY BEARS NEWS AND NOTES
GREAT DANE: Bears captain Dane Byers had a memorable week, picking up four points in the four games played. His two-goal effort on Tuesday at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton allowed him to finish the 12-game season series with five goals and five assists against the Penguins. He then returned to face the organization which drafted him on Friday, and assisted on the Bears' only goal of regulation at Hartford. The game was also the 500th of Byers' American Hockey League career. He would finish February with 11 points (five goals, six assists) in 12 games.
GIVE A PAT ON THE BACK: D Patrick Wellar also reached a milestone this week, when he appeared in the 600th game of his professional career on Saturday against Charlotte. Wellar is now nine games shy of 300 AHL games, entering the new week with 291. The three-time Kelly Cup champion and 2010 Calder Cup champion also has played in 309 ECHL games in his 10-year career. 245 of his 291 games have been played in Hershey, where he has recorded 44 points (seven goals, 37 assists). His 512 penalty minutes rank 23rd in Hershey history.
HILLEN HELPS: Washington Capitals D Jack Hillen was loaned to Hershey on Tuesday for conditioning, and appeared in his first two AHL games since 2008-09 on Tuesday at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and Sunday against Charlotte. He led the Bears with five shots on goal on Tuesday, and then chipped in two assists against the Checkers on Sunday for his first two points with the Bears.
TAFFE'S ON TOP: C Jeff Taffe chipped in three points during the week, including his team-leading 16th and 17th goals of the season. His assist on Sunday moved him into a tie with RW Brandon Segal for the team scoring lead (17-21-38).
APPROACHING MILESTONES: - RW Joel Rechlicz is one game shy of 100 with the Bears.
- D David Kolomatis is one game shy of 300 in the AHL.
- C Ryan Stoa is three games shy of 100 with the Bears.
- C Ryan Potulny is three games shy of 400 in the AHL.
- Hershey, five points behind the Norfolk Admirals in the East Division, makes its first visit of the season to Hampton Roads this weekend. The Bears are 2-0-0-1 against Norfolk to date.
- The Bears are 20-1-0-1 when scoring four or more goals.
- The Bears are 11-3-0-0 at GIANT Center in calendar year 2014, and are 16-9-1-1 overall in 2014.
- Hershey has played the most home games (32) of any AHL team, and have the second-most home wins (19) in the Eastern Conference. The Bears are 29-21-3-4 at the three-quarter mark of the season and are set to play 13 of their final 19 games on the road.
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