03/13/2009 - HERSHEY begins a weekend with large East Division ramifications Saturday as the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins come to town. Face-off at GIANT Center is at 7:00 p.m., with the game already sold out.
Springfield scored the first goal of the game early in the first period Wednesday on the power play and never trailed in what turned out to be a 3-2 shootout win for the Falcons here at GIANT Center. The loss was HERSHEY'S second straight setback, following a loss in Cleveland to Lake Erie on Sunday. Alexandre Giroux scored his 46th goal of the season Wednesday, continuing to lead the league in goals scored by a wide margin. Goaltender Simeon Varlamov, making his third straight start, absorbed the shootout defeat. The BEARS won at Springfield December 31 by a final score of 2-0.
After spending much of the 2008-09 season in first place in the East Division, the BEARS find themselves looking up at the first place Bridgeport Sound Tigers as play opens this evening. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton holds down third place in the East. All three teams are battling for playoff positioning between now and the final day of the regular season on April 12. The top two teams in the East will earn home-ice advantage in the 2009 East Division Semi-Finals, while the third place club will have to settle for a one-game disadvantage in the first round. Bridgeport will be here on Sunday, and again on March 28. The Penguins return on March 29 and April 12.
The Philadelphia Phantoms, fighting for their very survival, travel to Albany to face the River Rats Saturday. The Phantoms, in the club's final season in Philadelphia, are in fifth place in the East Division trying to catch Binghamton for the fourth and final 2009 Calder Cup playoff spot in the East. The Senators are home Saturday night to face the Norfolk Admirals at Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena at 7:05 p.m. Bridgeport, the first place team in the East, is in Hartford Saturday to play the Wolf Pack.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton is coached by interim bench boss Todd Reirden, who assumed the coaching duties when Dan Bylsma was promoted to coach Pittsburgh last month. Tonight's game is the first for Reirden against the BEARS since assuming the coaching duties in northeast PA. Chris Cichocki is WB's new assistant coach. The Pens have a five-game winning streak against HERSHEY after allowing eight goals in an 8-4 loss to the Chocolate and White back on October 8.
Saturday's game can be heard via the BEARS Radio Network (100.1 FM, 1490 AM, Sportsjuice.com, AHLLive.com) beginning with the pregame show at 6:40 p.m. John Walton has the call of the action. Tickets are still available for Saturday's game by calling or visiting the GIANT Center box office at (717) 534-3911.