This weekend brought more points, more victories, and more milestones to Hershey. With Saturday's 4-0 win over the Wilkes Barre-Scranton Penguins and Sunday's 4-2 win over the Adirondack Phantoms, the Bears continued their stellar 2009-2010 season.
The Bears now boast a record of 49-12-0-2, have reached the 100 point mark, clinched a playoff spot, and need only 5 more points to claim the East Division Title... with 5 weeks remaining in the regular season.
In the 2nd period of Saturday's contest against the Penguins Andrew Gordon and Keith Aucoin both hit the 30-goal mark. In Sunday's game against Adirondak Boyd Kane hit the 20-goal mark and Bryan Helmer notched his 387th career AHL assist. Helmer now leads all-time for AHL defensemen with assists.
Also in Sunday's game? The Bears broke the overall professional hockey record of 22 consecutive home victories with a win. The new record is now 23 straight home wins.
After coming out shaky on his last few starts, Braden Holtby was nothing short of phenomenal in Saturday's game against the Baby Pens. He turned aside all 25 shots he faced, and was the difference maker in the game. The Bears' looked overmatched, slow, and lackluster in the first period on Saturday, and Holtby did everything in his power to keep his team in the game. He's getting much more comfortable making the saves that used to trouble him (top-shelf blocker side, for example), and his positioning is improving as well.
Chris Bourque has played with a renewed drive since getting a taste of the NHL with Pittsburgh earlier this year. I was his biggest critic last year, but he's been slowly turning me back into a Bourque fan. This weekend he only made the score-sheet in the assist column (1 on Saturday and 2 on Sunday), and still made my standout list. He's constantly buzzing, even without the puck. He wreaks havoc on the opposition, forces turnovers, and is not afraid to grind along the boards with a guy twice his size.
Defensively, the Bears were without John Carlson this week because of a recall. As a result, the dynamic Carlson/Alzner D-pairing was not an option, and Alzner was instead paired with veteran Bryan Helmer. The Carlson/Alzner duo usually produces Alzner steadying the Blue Line while Carlson pinches in and takes on the "more offensive" role of the two. With the Alzner/Helmer pair - Helmer was the stay-at-home guy while Alzner took on the more offensive role. While Alzner's stability has been questioned, he fluidly transitioned to a different role without too many noticeable mistakes.
The Bears will play their next 4 games on the road - Friday in Adirondak, Saturday in Springfield, Sunday in Worcester, and next Wednesday at Binghamton.
On Friday, March 19th - The Bears will face the Albany River Rats at home. This will be Oskar Osala's first trip to the Giant Center as a visitor since being dealt to Carolina on deadline-day.