By tomorrow evening, the Atlantic Division playoff race could be a clearer shade of mud. On the other hand, this division has been a five-team race most of the season, so why would it get any clearer with one week to go in the regular season?
Hershey, which needed to run the tables from their 5th place spot in the division, got off on the right foot last night in Rochester with a 3-2 victory, putting the Bears at 91 points (more on that later). Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, which is already in, earned a 3-0 shutout in Lehigh Valley, which keeps the Phantoms at 93 points. Providence topped Bridgeport 2-1 at home in the first of a home-and-home series. Providence now also sits at 93 points while Bridgeport remains at 90. Wilkes-Barre and Providence both have five games remaining, Lehigh Valley and Bridgeport each have four, and the Bears have three.
Hershey traveled to Toronto following their game last night, arriving early this morning for their 5:00 start against the North Division leader. The Marlies clinched their playoff berth last night. Lehigh Valley hosts Springfield (previously eliminated from contention) while Wilkes-Barre/Scranton heads to Hartford (also previously eliminated from contention).
Sunday’s games include Hartford at Bridgeport and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton at Providence. Hershey and Lehigh Valley are off.
With half of the playoff field set, Hershey’s first step towards a second come-back run this season (miraculous March) started off last night with a 3-2 victory in Rochester.
Tyler Lewington scored the game-winning goal with just over a minute to play in the second period and the two goalies stood their ground the remainder of the way for Hershey’s first of four must-win games.
Liam O’Brien assisted on Jakub Vrana’s first period goal, his 17th of the season, that tied the game at 1-1 and also assisted on Riley Barber’s game-tying, power play goal in the second period. Barber now has 13 goals on the season.
Also logging assists on the score sheet Friday night for Hershey were Travis Boyd (Vrana’s), Christian Djoos (Barber’s) and Chris Bourque (Lewington’s).
Meanwhile, Pheonix Copley stopped 25 of 27 shots in the game. The goalie was also tagged with a delay of game penalty midway through the third period, which was served by Chris Bourque. But the Bears kept Rochester’s power play off the board last night, going 5-for-5 on the PK. Hershey’s PP was 1-for-4.
By Julie Beidler
— Beids (@juliebeidler) April 2, 2017