Last-Day Ticket Punch
It all came down to the final weekend of the regular season for the HERSHEY BEARS Hockey Club, and the team made it count by winning on Friday and Sunday to grab the last available playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. On Friday in Glens Falls, the Bears came back from a 1-0 deficit to defeat the Adirondack Phantoms by a 2-1 final score. After Jason Akeson gave the Phantoms a late first-period lead, Cameron Schilling tied the score late in the second. Michael Latta then recorded his first goal with Hershey, the eventual game-winner, in the third period. Philipp Grubauer stopped 20 shots to pick up the win in goal.
On Saturday in Binghamton, penalty trouble burned the Bears as the Senators struck twice on their three opportunities en route to a 4-2 victory. After having two potential goals taken away in the first period, the Bears tied the game on a Casey Wellman power play marker with the team behind 1-0. A Brett Lebda goal late in the first and a two-man advantage goal in the second by Stephane Da Costa would give the hosts a two-goal cushion. Garrett Mitchell scored to pull the Bears within one inside the final two minutes of play, but Mark Stone finished the game with an empty-netter with 59 seconds left.
In the regular season finale on Sunday, Chay Genoway's first goal with the Bears came just 16 seconds into the contest, Boyd Kane added a goal and Jon DiSalvatore deflected in a pair of third-period tallies to cap off a 4-2 win over the Manchester Monarchs. Grubauer finished a three-in-three with 23 saves for his 15th win. The Bears controlled their own playoff fate and only needed to win to advance. The eighth-seeded Bears will now meet the top-seeded Providence Bruins in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals beginning this weekend.
BEARS NEWS AND NOTES
AS CAPITALS AFFILIATE: The Hershey Bears continued an impressive streak of moving on to the Calder Cup playoffs in each year since the beginning of the affiliation with the Washington Capitals in 2005-06. The 2013 Calder Cup playoffs mark the eighth consecutive appearance as a Capitals affiliate, and in that span, the Bears advanced to the Calder Cup Finals four times (2006, 2007, 2009, 2010), wining the coveted hardware in 2006, 2009 and 2010.
STRONG FINISH: RW Jon DiSalvatore, who sat as a veteran scratch for five consecutive games, ended the regular season with points in four straight. After tallying one assist on Friday and on Saturday, DiSalvatore scored two goals - including the game-winner - on Sunday vs. Manchester.
WEEKEND OF FIRSTS: C Michael Latta's first goal with the Bears was a memorable one, as it ended up as the winning strike in the Bears' 2-1 victory over Adirondack on Friday. D Chay Genoway's first Hershey goal was also something special, as it came on the first shot of the game - just 16 seconds into the contest - on Sunday vs. Manchester.
TAFFE ON TOP TWICE: C Jeff Taffe finished up 2012-2013 tied for the league lead in assists (53 in 73 games) and led in power-play helpers (21). His point total (18-53-71) was four shy of Rockford's Brandon Pirri, who won the AHL scoring title on Sunday with 75 points in 76 games. His 53rd assist was also the 500th point of his AHL career, and made him the third Bears player this season to hit the milestone (Jon DiSalvatore, Boyd Kane).
PLAYING WELL: RW Casey Wellman, following his acquisition from the Florida Panthers on January 31, finished up as one of the Bears' top point producers. In 33 games with Hershey, Wellman posted 30 points (nine goals, 21 assists), including five power-play goals and a team-best three insurance goals. He saw a six-game point streak snapped in the regular-season finale.
COMPLETING THE 10K: A sellout crowd of 10,984 fans packed GIANT Center to watch the Bears advance to the postseason on Sunday. The Bears averaged 10,042 fans in 2012-2013 to finish on top of the American Hockey League in attendance for a seventh consecutive season.
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