In Hershey, Revenge is Sweet. Carolina Just Takes it on the Road.

Posted January 8, 2012

You have to admit, the Outdoor Classic was most definitely shiny (All Photos Credit: M. Richter)

With the flashiness of the Outdoor Classic (full gallery of images), it’s easy to assume that nothing else of consequence went on over the weekend.  Sure, the Bears and Stingrays were both scheduled for three games in three days, but none of those games had fireworks or record-breaking attendance numbers (or were televised on NHL Network).  They can’t possibly have had anything worth noticing, right?  Wrong.

The last two games of the weekend held both a measure of vindication and a much-needed confidence boost for the minor league brethren of the Washington Capitals.  Saturday night’s jersey auction in Hershey also proved the New Year’s Eve earnings to be a mere pittance, with the final tally coming in at $57,650Keith Aucoin alone netted $4,000 (stick tap to PA Puck for the numbers).

Bears: Possessing of Claws

To stick with the AHL for a moment, the Bears wreaked havoc on the Friday night victors in the second half of their ‘home’-and-home with the Adirondack Phantoms.  Things wrapped off with a final score of 5-2, and there were plenty of penalty minutes to go around (8 majors, 3 misconducts, and 5 game misconducts).  My personal favorite was Phantom forward Tom Sestito‘s game misconduct for “Fighting off the playing surface (46.7),” because he couldn’t resist the urge to fight with Joel Rechlicz while standing on the bench (Have a Link, just in case they later post video).  More than one player headed down the tunnel for repairs after an altercation, and several more took the classic “if I press on it with a towel, my face will stop leaking” approach.

The win against Adirondack served two important purposes, both tied to the Outdoor Classic.  Not only did it allow the Bears to shake off Friday night’s OT loss, but it also had the moral-boosting factor of giving them a win in front of the friends and family who came to town for the big event and stuck around for the rest of the weekend.

Tonight, the Bears concluded their brief homestand with a 4-3 shoot-out win over the Rochester Americans (also known as the Amerks, AHL affiliate of the Buffalo Sabres).  It was their first meeting with the Amerks, and one of only two scheduled for the season.  It’s worth noting that Joe Finley, a former Caps first-round draft pick, is now amongst the Amerks.  Last year, he was in the Caps/Hershey/South Carolina system, but was never able to break the AHL line-up.

The game was also the Bears’ fourth appearance in OT in the last five games, and continued the Loss/Win/Loss/Win cycle of OT determinations.  It is also their last game at home for almost two weeks, with Charlotte and Binghamton serving as interim stops before the January 21 home game against the Manchester Monarchs.

Stingrays: Possessing of Poisonous Spines

The Stingrays broke with the ECHL stereotype this weekend, playing things close to the vest and collecting neither a major penalty nor a game misconduct over their three games on the road (Elmira Jackals, Wheeling Nailers, and Toledo Walleyes).  The sequence of their successes echoed those of the Bears, with a Friday night loss being followed by two wins (Hershey may have managed to earn a point in their loss courtesy of OT, but the Stingrays avoided giving up a point in either of their wins; each situation has its selling points).  In a final aspect of kinship with their AHL affiliate, the Stingrays will also spend another 4 games on the road before playing again in their home arena.

The recently completed games snap a 5-game losing streak, and also serve to close the book on two separate series for the Stingrays.  They will not face either the Nailers or Walleyes again this season, and have left them behind with solid wins. Both victories were backstopped by Capitals prospect Philipp Grubauer, who currently sits fourth in the ECHL in goals against average (2.27) and fifth in save percentage (.920).