Hershey update: 39-19-5-7, 1st in the Atlantic Division. Last week: 1-1-1-0
The Bears are officially playoff bound! Hershey needed just one point over the weekend and punched their postseason ticket in an overtime loss to Providence on Saturday. They now have a three-point cushion over Wilkes-Barre/Scranton for the division lead.
It was a good weekend for the usual suspects. Nathan Walker and Riley Barber each recorded two points while Jakub Vrana scored two goals and an assist.
Hershey has six games remaining in the regular season to try to hold onto first place, including three against the Penguins.
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Other prospect notes:
Shane Gersich is one win away from an NCAA Championship as North Dakota defeated Denver 4-2 in the Frozen Four. Fellow Caps prospect Zach Sanford will not be joining him, however. Boston College narrowly fell to top-ranked Quinnipiac on Thursday. Both Gersich and Sanford were held to zero points in the semifinals.
You can watch the championship game between North Dakota and Quinnipiac on Sat. April 9 at 8 p.m. on ESPN2.
Tim McGauley's Brandon Wheat Kings fended off the upset bid of Edmonton and advanced to the second round of the WHL playoffs. Brandon won the series in six games with McGauley tallying five assists. Regina also advanced in the WHL playoffs with a five-game series win over Lethbridge. Prospects Colby Williams and Connor Hobbs now advance to play Reed Deer.
Goalie Vitek Vanecek continued his impressive season in the ECHL with his fourth shutout of the season, a 24 save performance over Atlanta. With the win, South Carolina qualified for the Kelly Cup playoffs.
Vanecek was named the Warrior Hockey ECHL Goaltender of the Month for March and was also named to the ECHL All-Rookie Team. For the season, Vanecek has a record of 18-7-5-1 with four shutouts, a .917 save percentage and a 2.03 GAA. That's the second-highest GAA in the ECHL.
Vanecek's shutout came on the heels of a poor performance in which he gave up five goals on 17 shots in on overtime loss to Orlando. He has shown a clear ability to bounce back this season and is now playing well despite a very tough stretch midseason.
Check out the highlights of both games here:
Now lets be fair. These highlights primarily feature Vanecek getting scored on. He does not look good in the first game. Because it is the ECHL, you're not going to be able to find a lot of good highlights on Vanecek. Most of the highlights are of him getting scored on and not him making great saves.
At the end of the day, his stats say he is having a great season and the accolades back that up...but boy those goals he allowed against Orlando look soft.
The playoffs will be critical for Vanecek considering the goalie situation in Hershey next season. Justin Peters is on the final year of his contract and is unlikely to return while Dan Ellis is on a one-year deal and is 35. If Vanecek can impress in the postseason, he will push to make the jump to the AHL next season.
When you're watching those highlights, be sure to check out Caleb Herbert. Herbert is making the most of his trip to the ECHL and scored three goals and two assists over the week. He also may have scored the goal of the year in the overtime loss to Orlando.