Greetings from the historic Utica Memorial Auditorium, where the Bears are about to take on the Utica Comets in the final meeting of the regular-season series.
The difficulty in sweeping teams in back-to-back games on weekends has been discussed many times this season. But there lies a far greater difficulty coming up with tonight’s matchup: the Bears have a chance to sweep the season series from the Comets, and that will be no easy task within one of the greatest AHL hockey atmospheres ever.
By the numbers:
- Chris Bourque leads the head-to-head scoring in the series with three goals and two assists.
- Hershey has outscored Utica 12-4 in the three games combined.
- One of the Bears’ five shutouts occurred here at the Aud back on October 23 – Justin Peters recorded it.
- The Comets have dropped four straight games, including a 3-1 setback (after leading 1-0) on Wednesday against the Syracuse Crunch.
- The Comets are riddled with injuries, including names like Hamilton, Zalewski, Lain, Negrin, and Archibald – all who played against the Bears at one time or another this season.
Peters will get the net for the Bears in tonight’s game again, as planned and explained by Troy Mann on Tuesday when Mark Dekanich was recalled from South Carolina. Dekanich, incidentally, is here to back up Peters, and Dan Ellis (again as expcected) did not make the trip so he could be rested and ready for tomorrow’s March finale against Albany.
Coming off of an 8-0 blitzing in Lehigh Valley on Wednesday, the Bears will have no other changes to make. And why would there be any? More numbers:
- Every Bears player finished with a plus-minus of plus-one or higher.
- Five of the six defensemen recorded at least one point, with a total of seven (2-5-7) coming from the blueliners. The defensemen were a combined plus-15 as well.
- The offense factored into the highest road shutout in franchise history. 78 years and no shutouts by eight goals or more is a feat for the ages. And that is from the AHL VP of Communications Jason Chaimovitch – so you know it is a legitimate statistic. Stick taps to you, J.C.
- The win, coupled with Hartford’s overtime loss, dropped the Bears’ magic number to clinch a playoff spot to 13.
- Chris Bourque is one goal away from his single-season career best (29), set last season with the Hartford Wolf Pack. He is also two points away from his second-highest single-season total (73), set in 2008-09 with the Bears. The magical goal that would equal his single-season best will also be the 200th of his AHL career.
Former Bears defenseman Jon Landry is back in the Comets lineup, after suffering an injury to his foot that kept him out of the GIANT Center portion of the series. Landry is having an exceptional season offensively, as he is tied for the most power play goals (four) on the Comets’ active roster, has posted 21 points (6-15-21) for 10th best on the squad and is two goals away from his AHL single-season best eight, set in 2012-13 with Bridgeport (he has the 21 points in only 37 games).
A big addition that the Comets have recently made is the highly-skilled power play specialist T.J. Hensick. The Bears last saw Hensick with the 2013-14 Hartford Wolf Pack. He is a fantastic signing that came at an opportune time, with the injuries that the Comets have experienced. He will surely be a player for Hershey to watch if and when the Bears have to deploy their penalty kill.
Speaking of, Utica is still exceptionally good on that portion of special teams, ranking sixth in the league at 85.4%. Hershey has been treading the water of the bottom 10 in the AHL in power play success, currently ranking 20th (17.3%).
Lastly, just announced a little while ago, Comets leading scorer Alexandre Grenier has arrived after being reassigned by the parent Vancouver Canucks. Grenier is Utica’s leading scorer (13-24-37) and has one of the Comets’ four goals against the Bears in the season series.
We will again see Jonas Siegenthaler on defense for Hershey tonight. He certainly did everything expected of him on Wednesday, ending the evening with his first AHL assist and minor penalty and coming within a foot of his first AHL goal (the shot was deflected over the net in the first period). He will again pair with Erik Burgdoerfer, who himself had another multiple-point game (1-1-2).
Air time is at 6:20 PM. Game notes are set for you here.