Hershey head coach Troy Mann has repeatedly said he believes that 95 points will earn you a spot in the AHL playoffs. This year, Hershey got that 95, but the Bears win over Providence Saturday night pushed them past the Bruins in the standings with 97 points to head into the playoffs as the third seed in the Atlantic Division.
For a team that had a rocky road to playoffs after a tough January, the Bears fought back after many had written them off. “I think throughout every season you have your ups and downs,” said Chris Bourque. “January was definitely a month that we would like to forget about, but I think that made us stronger, made us want the playoffs more.”
It feels like the Bears have been playing playoff hockey for the past month as they fought for their spot in the playoffs. With high-intensity play and five straight wins over the last two weeks, how does this Bears team transition into playoff mode from what already feels like playoff mode? Travis Boyd expects a seamless transition. “We’ve been in playoff mode for a while,” said Boyd. “I think that’s only going to help us moving forward because we should be pretty used to playing this way.”
Hershey will face off against Lehigh Valley for their first playoff series. The Bears have split the last two games with the Phantoms, going 5-5-1-1 overall against their in-state rivals. Boyd is confident going into this series, saying that he feels that they have played Lehigh Valley pretty tight all year. “I think the big thing for us is trying to take away their offense and their transition game. They are a really fast team and a skilled team, and they like to get up and go, and I think that when we turn pucks over, they’re fast to counter. They are obviously skilled enough to make us pay with those opportunities.”
Bourque echoes that saying the team from Allentown is a very high offensive power team and that shutting down some of their big forwards up front is going to be key. “They play a weird style there where they’re high flipping the puck in their own end and making a run-and-gun game. I think we are going to try and stay away from that and get on the forecheck and make it hard for their defenders to do that.”
Game 1 is this Friday, April 21, in Allentown. Puck drops at 7:05 pm.