A rough season up in Chocolatetown just gained some finality to it.
With a 4-2 loss to the Hartford Wolf Pack Sunday, the Hershey Bears were eliminated from AHL postseason contention with eight games left in the regular season. This marks the first time since 2013-2014 and just the 13th time in their 80 years that the Bears will not be taking part in the Calder Cup Playoffs.
The Bears struggled this season from the start, losing six of their first seven to set the tone for what would be a disappointing year. The team lost nine in a row and 12 of 13 as the calendar turned from January to February, struggling to find consistent scoring as a number of players underperformed following the promotion of key pieces like Jakub Vrana and Christian Djoos.
Even as the team stumbled, some bright spots emerged, like Riley Barber’s 20-goal season and Lucas Johansen showing flashes of the player he could possibly become. However, the lack of offensive depth eventually has caught up to the team as they have not been able to put together wins over the second half of the season.
From the Bears:
The Hershey Bears concluded a home-and-home series with the Hartford Wolf Pack in a 4-2 defeat on Sunday in front of 9,297 at Giant Center. The loss eliminated the Bears from Calder Cup Playoff contention.
A night after holding the Wolf Pack to only one goal in 60 minutes, Hartford struck twice in the opening stanza for a 2-0 lead at the first intermission, At 3:21, the Bears’ team leader in penalty minutes, Tyler Lewington, was called for a boarding minor following a collision near the penalty boxes. In the dying seconds of the man-advantage, the Wolf Pack drew first blood. Vinni Lettieri finished a tic-tac-toe passing play for his 20th goal of the season after Hershey goaltender Vitek Vanecek was pulled out of position at 5:08.
Before the period concluded, the Wolf Pack doubled its lead courtesy of former Bear John Albert. For the first time since being acquired by Hartford from Hershey, Albert hit pay-dirt with his new club at 12:56. Following a puck battle along the right wing, Dan DeSalvo found Albert on a quick pass to the inside. A quick trigger beat Vanecek for Albert’s fourth goal of the regular season. Shots after 20 minutes were 11-7 in favor of the Chocolate and White.
The Bears got on the board in the middle period, but the Wolf Pack answered on its second power play goal of the night. At 9:32, Zach Sill snapped a shot immediately following an offensive zone face-off into the net past Hartford goaltender Marek Mazanec for his sixth goal of the season. Following the ensuing draw at center ice, Sill received a high-sticking minor on the play, putting Hershey shorthanded for a second time. The Wolf Pack scored again on the power play to regain a multi-goal lead at 10:42. Ryan Lindgren received credit for a loose puck rolling across the goal line for his first American Hockey League goal.
In the final period, the Bears again inched closer but were unable to find the equalizer. On a rebound following an initial deflection in front of the net, Liam O’Brien pulled the score to 3-2 at the 14:46 mark. With Vanecek pulled in the final minute in favor of the extra attacker, Hershey could not hit pay-dirt despite various close calls at the net front. Following a turnover in the offensive zone, Adam Tambellini raced down the ice and converted into a vacated net to seal the score at the 19:46 mark.
Hershey went 0-for-5 on the power play, extending its seven-game drought to 0-for-22 on the man-advantage.
With the defeat, the Bears slide to 28-31-4-5. The loss guaranteed that Hershey will miss the playoffs for just the 13th time in the 80-year history of the franchise. Hershey last missed the postseason in 2013-14.
Headline image: @TheHersheyBears
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