By: Cassie Burgess
With the Hershey Bears more than halfway through the 2014-15 season, what better time to recap the last 54 games and honor some of the highlights the hometown team has had over the last five months.
With your Bears sitting confidently at the top of the East Division with a record of 33-14-5-2, the team currently sits tied for the crown of the Eastern Conference with the Manchester Monarchs at 73 points. Although the season has shown some areas of struggle, the teams’ success and strengths have certainly outshined the rough patches.
Let’s take a look at the prominent season highlights shall we?
January and February were no doubt prosperous months for Hershey. With the very last February game upon us, the Bears finished 8-1-0-1 in January and currently hold a 8-1-1-0 record heading into tonight’s final February game versus the Albany Devils.
It was the January 17th game versus the Devils that birthed a thirteen game point streak, with the Bears earning at least one point in the standings for thirteen consecutive games. Unfortunately, the streak was halted after losing to the Binghamton Senators, 3-5 on the road on February 20th.
Arguably the brightest and more notable focal points this year was Connor Carrick’s club milestone sniper past Lehigh Valley’s goaltender Anthony Stolarz on January 30th that brought the Hershey organization to 20,000 franchise goals. Carrick’s goal also helped the Bears to a dominating 6-1 victory over the Phantoms. It was certainly an exciting goal and historical moment for Bears fans, as well as hockey fans all around.
So who have been this season’s stand-out stars to date?
Well, Tim Kennedy is an easy and appropriate answer. Leading the team with 44 points and ranking second in the American Hockey League in assists (39), he certainly has had a successful season thus far. Kennedy boasted a league-high point streak in assists earning one goal and 14 helpers in nine games between November 26th to December 14th. The star center is well on his way to surpassing his career-high 49 assists from when he was with the Portland Pirates for his rookie season in 2008-09.
Casey Wellman has also paraded his way into having a momentous season and has been, in my opinion, the most intriguing player to watch at this point. Whether the team is at home or on the road, the right winger never seems to miss a step as he has dressed in every single Bears game this season. Wellman’s 19 goals and 20 assists have already earned him his career best 39 points heading into March. He ranks second in the league in insurance marker goals (5) and already has remarkably twelve multi-point games so far.
It’s also impossible not to mention and partially designate this season’s success to goaltender Philipp Grubauer. Earning 36 starts to date, Number 31 has earned a rightful spot between the pipes for Hershey sitting at 22 wins, almost double what he earned last season (13). Grubauer’s 2.08 goals against average is also the fifth best in the AHL. Additionally, the Germany native has battled to victory 15 times on home ice, losing only three games at Giant Center this year. With that said, he is definitely someone who is going to continue to help the Bears climb the standings into the latter part of the season.
With a solid record heading into these final months, I can safely say that I, along with all the other Hershey Bears fans, will be looking forward to a potential playoff run in the postseason. Six of the remaining 13 road games will involve back-to-back road trips as the team will make their sole trip to Portland and St. Johns in the coming weeks, along with their final trip to Norfolk in April.
There is a lot to be excited about in the final stretch of what has been a very exciting hockey season. With how the team has been playing and the buzz that this year has induced, I have confidence that the remaining 22 games will not disappoint.