Wednesday, March 17, 2010
B-I-N-G-O, BEARS FINALLY CLINCH TITLE
The Hershey Bears, coming off of one of their worst losses of the season, took to the road and responded in fine fashion on Wednesday night against the Binghamton Senators, sinking the Sens 5-3 and clinching the Eastern Division title in the process.
With the win, the Bears upped their AHL league-leading total to 105 points, nine more than their closest competitors, the Hamilton Bulldogs. The Bears and Bulldogs each have thirteen games remaining on their respective schedules, but the Hamiltonians have just four more home dates at Copps Colisem while the Bears have seven games remaining on their Giant Center slate.
The Bears jumped out to an early lead on Sean Collins’ first goal of the season, only 1:45 into the contest. Collins’ goal was only the second of his AHL career, with his only prior tally coming over a year ago on March 8, 2009, at Lake Erie.
Kyle Wilson, who has made a habit of stinging the Senators in his tenure in Chocolatetown, sacked the second goal of the game at 9:32 by converting the rebound of Michael Dubuc’s shot to give the Bears a 2-0 lead.
Still in the first period, Senators’ winger and former NHL 50-goal scorer, Jonathan Cheechoo, sliced into the Bears lead at 14:17, ridding himself of the check of Hershey captain, Bryan Helmer, before roofing a shot by Hershey netminder, Braden Holtby.
With Hershey on an early second period power play, Wilson collected his second goal of the game 1:58 into the session, canning his 22nd tally of the season and fifth on the power play. Wilson’s two-goal outing was his fifth career multi-goal effort against the B-Sens, and fourth at the Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena.
It looked like the rout was on for the Bears just prior to the halfway point of the game when Andrew Joudrey wristed a shot by Binghamton netminder, Chris Holt, 9:59 into the second period to give the Bears a 4-1 lead.
However, the boys from Binghamton, still clinging to their faint playoff hopes, closed the Bears’ bulge late in the stanza with goals from Geoff Kinrade (shorthanded) and Kaspars Daugavins, making it a one-goal game entering the third period.
Before the third period, the Bears penalty-killing unit, ranked top in the league, had not faced a single Senators’ power play opportunity. However, they showed their mettle in shutting down three B-Sens manpower advantages before Andrew Joudrey’s empty net, short-handed goal sealed the deal at 18:59, giving the Bears the 5-3 win.
Holtby, the fine rookie backstopper who faced down 44 shots, the most shots he has ever faced in a game while tending the twine for the Bears, earned his 20th win by collecting 41 saves.