Despite once holding a 3-0 series lead and even a 2-0 lead...
Little ‘Rays of Sunshine (Cue the Minor League Second Seasons)
It as a busy night around the Caps organization. The Capitals won yet another shootout on the strength of Matt Hendricks (and a Mr. Semin), the Bears lost to the homeward bound St. John’s IceCaps 3-2 in regulation, and the Stingrays rocked the house down with a 5-2 win over the Greenville Road Warriors in their final game of the regular season.
Two of those three games resulted in a clinched playoff berth, but probably not the two you’d expect. While Washington walked away from tonight with a win (and two points of security over Buffalo), it’s the Hershey Bears who get to put their playoff tickets on sale this coming Tuesday. They owe this bit of good fortune to a loss by the Portland Pirates, rather than any particular greatness on the ice this evening. Given how the game v. St. John’s went, they can use all the good news they can get.
The Bears game tonight was ugly in the worst ways. It wasn’t blood or injury that cast a shadow on tonight’s game – it was a disconcerting sort of blankness. The boys in chocolate & white were blanked on the power-play (six times), muffled in their entanglements with the visiting IceCaps, and generally caught short-handed (figuratively and literally) out on the ice tonight. Hershey opened and closed the scoring, but the lack of overall game control cost them at the end of the night. Mike Carman and Ryan Potulny had the two tallies for the Bears, while Patrice Cormier dominated scoring for the opposition (with a little help from Arturs Kulda).
The loss also breaks goalie Dany Sabourin‘s 7-game winning streak (it was his 9th consecutive start). To soften the blow, keep in mind that the IceCaps’ goalie (Chris Carrozzi) walked away from the evening with his first AHL win (he’d been called up from the ECHL’s Ontario Reign). It’s hard to begrudge a first W, especially in light of the Bears’ newly clinched playoff berth.
That’s all the detail we’re going to delve into about the loss, because some games are better set on the shelf and left to gather dust. Everyone has the occasional rough night for inexplicable reasons; the Bears are entitled to theirs. However, if they fail to shake off whatever caused tonight’s tangible awkwardness, then it will be a matter for deeper analysis.
In Better News: For those interested, single playoff tickets go on sale at 9AM @ the Giant Center Box Office – 717-534-3911. I expect to see all of you there (and possibly Keith Aucoin, although that’s looking less likely for Round 1 with the Caps moving 2 points ahead of the Sabres after tonight’s games). The playoffs themselves don’t start until mid-April (the last regular season game is scheduled for April 15).
In the Best News: Despite an uncertain rank in the standings and a late-season losing stretch, the South Carolina Stingrays have managed to glide into the playoffs with a final two wins in the regular season. Maxime Lacroix & Daniel Koger – both faces who’ve graced the ice at Giant Center in the last month – were instrumental in the wins. Recent signees Nielsson Arcibal & Shea Walters both scored their first professional goals tonight & Michael Dorr scored his second.
Newly healthy goalie Daren Machesney was in net for both.
Movers & Shakers (AKA Personnel Notes):
Forward Billy Ryan made his Hershey Bears debut tonight, having been called-up from the Stingrays. Recent signee Cam Schilling took warmups, but did not play. With Patrick McNeill still out with an upper body injury (caused by a puck to the face last Saturday), the defenseman may get the chance to stretch his legs sooner rather than later.
The other party who may see time in Hershey before the end of the season is Daren Machesney, who’s first in line if the Bears reach down the line for an experienced goalie to back Sabourin (Matt Tendler is currently serving as backup, but a lack of pro experience may become an issue as playoffs approach).
Photos: As always, photos from the night will be going up in a gallery over the next 36 hours on the author’s flickr page.