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
But no sooner is that challenge met then the Bears have to face Wilkes-Barre/Scranton tonight at
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.