Sunday, April 08, 2007

The Playoffs have begun . . . in the AHL

The playoffs have already started . . . in the AHL, that is.

Last night, Hershey opened a five-game sprint to the end of the regular season with a 6-1 smacking of the Norfolk Admirals, perhaps ending the Admirals’ ambitions to finish at the top of the Eastern Conference. Hershey has a four point lead with four games to play, and one game in hand over Norfolk.

But no sooner is that challenge met then the Bears have to face Wilkes-Barre/Scranton tonight at Giant Center. Hershey will, in fact, play a home-and-home this week against the Penguins (the teams meet at Wilkes-Barre on Friday) that will, no doubt, have a playoff feel to it. The Bears and Penguins each have four wins in the season series to date, and the clubs have split the results on each other’s ice (the only odd result – a shootout win for Hershey on February 12th).

If Hershey has incentive this week, it is in the ugly way they lost the last meeting to the Penguins on April Fools Day. Carrying a 2-0 lead into the last five minutes of the contest, thoughts of whether Frederic Cassivi would hang onto a shutout evaporated as the Penguins scored three goals – the last two coming in a 13-second span – to escape Giant Center with the 3-2 win.

Winning both games would clinch the top spot in the league for the Bears; losing both would almost certainly leave the Bears looking up at the Penguins in the final standings. And, it would be a statement – not a pleasant one for Bears fans – in that the Penguins would have won the last three games of the season set.

Both clubs are 8-2-0 in their last ten games. Hershey is likely to get a boost from the addition of defenseman Mike Green, center Tomas Fleischmann, right wing Eric Fehr (injured) and left wing David Steckel.

So, for the Bears – and the Penguins and the Admirals (all with at least 104 points) – the playoffs have begun.

1 comment:

Hooks Orpik said...

Our Edmonton ringers (Schremp, Pouliout and Gilbert) are going to be dressed by this Wednesday, it'll be interesting.