Good morning everyone!
Tonight, your Hershey Bears begin a season-long five-game homestand… and it begins in a rather unique way.
Rarely do the Bears see East Division opponents on back-to-back nights in the same venue. But, due to a glitch appearing on the schedule when it was originally released back in August, one date this weekend required the swapping of two opponents: Norfolk and Binghamton.
Thus, the Bears saw Norfolk on consecutive Sundays, and will now see Binghamton on consecutive dates – actually, THREE consecutive home dates, counting November 10.
That switch in opponents really makes these games necessary wins for Hershey. The Bears still have the fewest number of games played in the American Hockey League (14), but watching opponents like Binghamton move up the standings chart – a team whom the Bears have owned in recent history – doesn’t do anything to move the Bears any higher.
Hershey sits in last place in the division, six points behind the Syracuse Crunch (who held the top spot in the East Division not too long ago). Only four points separate the top four teams. Two wins this weekend would do wonders for the Chocolate and White, in more ways than one. Why?
1) The Sens have won their past four games against Hershey. Like Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Binghamton is becoming a really difficult team to play.
2) The Bears have just two wins in their last 10 against the Senators.
3) There has only been one win by the Bears on Giant Center ice since the 2011-12 season (February 9, 2013 – a 4-3 decision).
4) The Bears have won 10 Saturday games since the 2011-12 season (10-20-1-2 in the past 33 Saturdays). With the majority of Saturdays being played along Hersheypark Drive, it’s time for the Bears to return to the winning ways for which they are known.
This weekend will be a big challenge, but it is one for which the Bears are well-prepared. The team is confident, coming off of a North Carolina trip that saw the team pack an extra 13 goals into their offense suitcase. The trip featured a four-goal, one-assist performance from Casey Wellman (including a November 14 hat trick), and multiple-goal games from Peter LeBlanc and Nathan Walker in the November 14, 8-1 rout of the Checkers.
And, personnel additions will happen now, as opposed to injury subtractions. Defenseman Julien Brouillette, who has only played in four games this season – mostly due to injury but earlier due to the plethora of blueliners on the roster – is likely to get into the lineup this weekend. Brouillette is one of the quietest yet hardest-working, steady defensemen of the past three seasons and it will be a huge plus getting him back. Chay Genoway, who missed last week’s road trip due to illness, is also healthy again and ready to go at coach Haviland’s call.
Defenseman Dmitry Orlov, who has racked up the recent travel miles in between Hershey and Washington D.C. – but still has yet to be inserted into the Capitals lineup – is also back in Chocolatetown, available to try to add to his Hershey-defense-leading eight points (2-6-8) in eight games.
Finally, probably the biggest plus will be getting captain Dane Byers back into the fold. Byers and his wife Ashley welcomed their first child, Boston Carter, into the world while the team was in between the games against Charlotte and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton last week. He has been a true physical presence for the Bears, especially when the Chris Wideman/John Mitchell-induced melee broke out the last time the Bears and Senators played. Not to mention, he is on a six-game point streak.
Brandon Segal (four game points, 1-3-4) and Derek Whitmore (three game points, 1-2-3) also enter tonight’s game on a string of offense.
It should be a fun weekend of a hard divisional battle. Hope to see you at the GC!