Hershey Bears pack up locker room, reflect on engaging AHL season
Chris Bourque, right, celebrates with Chandler Stephenson after a second-period goal during Wednesay’s 4-2 Game 7 loss to Providence.
All the shifting inside the Hershey Bears locker room on Friday was another reminder of an AHL season that might have been.
The mood on pack up day hovered between pride and regret.
“It’s kind of upsetting, obviously, when the season ends,” said veteran wing Chris Bourque.
“Obviously a roller coaster type of season. A lot of ups and down, and a lot of moments that where we didn’t know if we could get into the playoff picture. We made a run at it. All in all, I think a pretty successful season for a lot of guys in this room.”
On Wednesday, Hershey’s whirlwind tour came to a crashing halt with Providence claiming a 4-2 victory in Game 7 of the Atlantic Division Finals.
It was a bittersweet conclusion for the Bears, a postseason afterthought in early February.
That playoff push was the most popular opinion Friday as season-ending evaluations were conducted and travel plans endorsed.
“I think that’s the reason why I’m really proud to be a part of this team,” center Travis Boyd said.
“Obviously we didn’t make it as deep as we did last year, but for us to get into the playoffs, and into the third seed in this division, fantastic job. We couldn’t ask for anything better out of these guys.”
Boyd added: “Everyone said it but it’s true. We were in a playoff run since February, basically. It was a great end to the regular season. We came into the playoffs riding high and battled it out.”
While the Bears (43-23-8-3) charged through March and into the Atlantic playoff picture, a sticking point was Hershey’s anemic 1-5 postseason record at Giant Center.
After swiping a pair of road wins over the Bruins to earn a 3-2 series lead, Providence won two straight in Hershey to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals opposite Syracuse.
“I think there are a lot of positives,” said defenseman Aaron Ness, slated to return next season.
“It was pretty cool to see a lot of guys step up in key situations and get us to where we needed to be. I think we can take some things from the loss, as well.”
“Being up 3-2 and playing Games 6 and 7 at home, we had a good chance to move on to the Eastern finals,” added Boyd.
Hershey’s Game 7 loss was its first since the 1997 conference finals.
“The season meant a lot, having that experience and having that veteran presence of the guys we had,” said center Chandler Stephenson, who was prepping for a 32-hour drive home to Saskatchewan, Canada.
“Game 7s can go either way. It just wasn’t the way we wanted it to end.”