/With 5-1-1 stretch, the Bears fighting for their playoff lives

With 5-1-1 stretch, the Bears fighting for their playoff lives

After looking to be dead in the water just two weeks ago, the Hershey Bears have begun to show signs of life with just under 25 games remaining in the 2017-18 season. Winners of five of their last seven contests and owners of a six-game point streak, Hershey has been finding ways to win and is staying afloat despite being without their best player in veteran forward Chris Bourque since February 7th, when he, Hershey’s leading scorer, was loaned to Team USA for the 2018 Winter Olympics. Without their first line winger and focal point of Hershey’s top powerplay unit, the Bears have, surprisingly, had no problem finding the back of the net, with 26 goals over the past 7 games.

With their late-season hot streak, the Bears have clawed their way out of the Atlantic Division cellar into seventh place, with 54 points and a .474 point percentage. To return to the postseason for the fourth straight season, Hershey, for now, has their eyes set on chasing down the fourth-place Charlotte Checkers, who hold down the last playoff spot in the Atlantic with 65 points and a .570 point percentage. If the Bears can continue to gain ground on a playoff spot, Hershey could possibly have a huge two-game weekend series with Charlotte on the final weekend of the season, which could either propel them into the playoffs, or sink their postseason dreams. Also ahead of Hershey in the standings are the Providence Bruins, who have concluded their season series with both the Bears and the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, who the Bears fell to on Sunday 3-2. The Bears and Penguins will meet three more times this season.

Hershey’s road to a playoff berth will be difficult to navigate and they will need help from many other teams to keep teams ahead of them from pulling away in the final stretch of the AHL season.

Stepping up in Bourque’s absence, Nathan Walker has caught fire of late, tallying six points during a four-game point streak. Since being re-acquired by the Bears in late December, Walker has brought a much-needed boost to the Bears offense, tallying 20 points in 23 games with the Bears. Recent acquisition Joe Whitney has also been a nice surprise for Hershey, and should have great chemistry with Chris Bourque when he returns to the lineup, as Whitney was a teammate of Bourque’s during his one-year stay with the Hartford Wolf Pack.

The Bears will return to action on Friday for a home-and-home with division-leading Lehigh Valley on Friday and Sunday, and a matchup with the Utica Comets on Saturday night. Hershey will enjoy the return of Chris Bourque and will need to pick up some much-needed points to keep up with Charlotte, who is also slated for three games. This could be a huge weekend for the Bears as they try to make one final push for a playoff spot.

Dean is a lifelong Philadelphia sports fan (note the Carson Wentz photoshop) and an aspiring sportswriter. He is a student at Millersville University where he is studying sports journalism. The primary way of contacting Dean is at this email: dsnock@gnghockey.com.