Should There be a Pennsylvania Cup? – 7/30

Preseason 2014-15 Dates ReleaseHello and welcome back, Bears Nation!

I’ve admittedly taken some time off of blogging, but there was also a combination of technical issues that prevented me from posting here.  Updates will be much more frequent, especially beginning later in August, when we find out who we play, when we play them, how often we play them, and how long we’ll be away from home.

Today, we present a majority of the information you will need to get set for the 77th season of hockey here in Chocolatetown.  I’m stoked, to say the least.  Pre-season begins in just over two months, and it won’t be long until the puck drops “for real”, as they say.

The highlight of pre-season (is there such a thing…?  I’ll let you argue that!) is that the Bears will be the first (second…) team to christen the ice at Allentown’s brand-new PPL Center.  (I say first because the visiting team sometimes takes the ice first for pre-game skate.)  Either way, that’s going to be an exciting time for Flyers faithful, as the top AHL developmental affiliate of Philadelphia is finally back where they belong – in Pennsylvania.  Three PA teams will be in the AHL for the first time since the 2008-2009 season (R.I.P., ol’ Spectrum), and I can’t wait.  That’s why I have “Pennsylvania Cup” as a part of this post’s title.  I would LOVE to see that happen, even if it were for pre-season.  Heck, I miss the old I-81 Cup days (should be brought back, too, even if it was just a really cool name for bragging rights between Syracuse, Binghamton, W-B/Scranton and Hershey).

The Bears and Phantoms will also meet at the GC two days later, and the pre-season will wrap up with a home-and-home set against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.

We would LOVE to see you at Giant Center in early October, fans.  This might be the first time in a LONG time that there will be actual prospects taking to the ice to battle for spots – not just those already destined to return to juniors or fly to South Carolina.  I can already hear some complaints, though… “won’t we be seeing these teams 38 more times this season anyway?”

Probably.  That’s the nature of the league right now… travel dollars just aren’t there for Western Conference crossovers unless you are in the Calder Cup finals.

But hey… it’s HOCKEY.  And it’s almost here.

Check out the pre-season information by clicking here.

GO BEARS!!!

Stucc

Posted in Hershey Bears Hockey

Byers Plays 500 but Bears Fall – 3/1

JustSports Photography

Dane Byers works for a rebound in a February 15 home game against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Photo courtesy JustSports Photography.

Good morning Bears Nation!

If anyone thinks that the Bears should have won the game last night in Hartford (those of you who listened, to be fair), raise your hands.

I obviously can’t see you, but I can visualize – in much the same way that I hope you can, while listening to the games – what the response is.

I did too.

That game should have been at least 3-0 Hershey heading into the third period.  Instead, after Hershey fought for a 1-0 second-intermission lead, played smart hockey for 50:00 and got absolutely stellar goaltending from David Leggio, the team found themselves tied at one after 65 minutes of play.

Where did the game get away?  During the parade to the penalty box midway through the third.

Ryan Bourque was thus able to deflect a shot from Oscar Lindberg past Leggio while the Hartford Wolf Pack worked a lengthy 5-on-3 advantage, and give the hosts the boost of momentum they needed to go on for the extra standings point.

Hartford was outplayed and outchanced in the game at full strength.  Make no mistake about it.  The opportunities that the Bears were given were Grade-A.  Not that Hartford didn’t have their share, but the Bears had more.  Many more.  Trouble is, Dov Grumet-Morris was equally as good.

In a game of lopsided chances, you HAVE to execute, you HAVE to bear down, and you HAVE to finish.  Somehow.  Even if the opposing goaltender is frustrating you.

The Bears couldn’t.  And last night’s game – for as entertaining as it was through 60 minutes – ended up going to the dreaded skills competition and the Wolf Pack persevered.  Yes, I still call it “dreaded” even though the Bears won their previous five shootouts.  Games like this don’t need to be decided like that.

Either way, the Bears got one standings point out of a 2-1 shootout loss at XL Center last night.  The line of Dane Byers – Peter LeBlanc – Matt Watkins was outstanding, and not just because they worked for Hershey’s lone goal.  They worked hard all night.

You can tell that Byers had a bit of a swagger to him after celebrating the goal that LeBlanc scored, his 12th of the season.  The Bears captain (and former Hartford captain from 2009-2011) played the 500th game of his AHL career, in his old home rink, against the organization which selected him.  Pretty neat how things come full circle.

Check out my “Roaring on the Road” feature, which includes some great stuff on Byers from his time in Hartford and his words prior to the team departing for the Connecticut capital in case you missed it.  (I just realized what “ICMYI” means, which ends up in tweets every day that I read.  That’s pretty sad, actually, that I just figured that out.  I will NEVER write it again though.)

The standings point was nice, because it allowed the Bears to vault the Providence Bruins and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins for 7th place in the Eastern Conference.  But, the opposite side of the coin has tarnish – it was the fourth consecutive defeat suffered by the Bears.  That is a new season high, friends, and it needs to stop now for the Bears to make their March push.

Here is a link to the score sheet.  Should the Bears have been given more power play chances?  Yep.  One, anyway – a blatant hook that David Kolomatis took while leading a neutral-zone rush in the second period – but you can’t turn back time.

Up next are the Charlotte Checkers, who were embarrassed by the Bears in their home rink back in November in a pair of games.  Time to BEAR down.

Preview of this game is forthcoming.

GO BEARS!!!

-Stucc

Posted in Hershey Bears Hockey

Seeking Five Straight at the Midpoint 1/18

STP_0095

David Leggio makes a save early in Friday night’s action at Syracuse. The Crunch defeated the Bears 4-2. Photo courtesy of Scott Thomas Photography.

Good morning Bears Nation!

After a 2:00 AM arrival from Syracuse, it goes without saying that today will feature an optional morning skate as the team prepares to face the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.

It also goes without saying that – for the Bears to move closer to the middle of the East Division and the Eastern Conference – that the team must win tonight’s contest.  Last night, with the Crunch winning 3-2, the Bears officially slipped back into the division cellar – even in points with the Crunch, but officially in fifth because Syracuse now has the advantage in the head-to-head series with the same number of victories (17) in the same number of games played (37).

This is also a must-win considering where Bridgeport is in the standings.  The team is seven games below .500, following a 6-2 thrashing at the hands of the Binghamton Senators last night.  The Sound Tigers are 14-21-1-4 overall.

But, they are 1-0-0-1 – and have three out of a possible four points – against the Bears.

Should the Bears win, you can chalk up five straight at GIANT Center – which lengthens the current season-best for the good guys.

Check out tonight’s game preview and information right here, as there are plenty of storylines setting up for tonight.  Brandon Segal is on a hot streak for the Bears, but no streak compares to that of Sound Tigers rookie center Ryan Strome.  His six-game assist streak and ten-game point streak both are the longest active streaks in the league.  And, he has just returned from NHL duty with the New York Islanders.  And (again), he tallied four points in the Sound Tigers’ 4-2 win over the Bears back in December.

Happy Halfway-Point-of-the-Season to all.

GO BEARS!!!

-Stucc

Posted in Hershey Bears Hockey

Deschamps Joins Elite Company; Sharks Rematch 12/22

Hershey Bears Hockey

Nicolas Deschamps looks for a scoring chance against the Syracuse Crunch on Wednesday. Photo courtesy JustSports Photography.

Good morning all,

Something struck me while I was compiling all the Bears’ stats from last night’s 3-2 loss to the Worcester Sharks.  I usually go over all the stats immediately after a game, to ensure that everything gets to the visitors in a timely manner.  But since Worcester isn’t even coming to the rink for a morning skate today (neither is my colleague Eric Lindquist, the voice of the Sharks), I thought I would come in this morning and take my time perusing some numbers.

I found out something pretty hard to believe.

And no, it’s not that Nicolas Deschamps is on fire right now.  Everyone knows this kid has it in him.  He didn’t play enough last season to really shine.  He is now.  But the numbers that Deschamps has put up in his last few games put him in elite company.

With his one goal + one assist effort in last night’s contest, Deschamps has strung together points in four consecutive games.  In the streak, he has nime points (four goals, five assists).  He also is a cumulative plus-seven.  Working with Ryan Stoa and Brandon Segal will do that to your numbers.

But, the four-game streak is made up entirely of multiple-point games.  Can you guess who the last Bears player was, to string together four consecutive multiple-point games?

Jeff Taffe?  Nope.

Ryan Potulny?  Nope.

Jon DiSalvatore?  Nope.

Jacob Micflikier?  Nope.

Tomas Kundratek?  Nope.

Okay, you must have figured it out.  Keith Aucoin.

NOPE.

I couldn’t believe it either.  But then Chris Bourque came to mind.

We have a winner.

Not ONE Bears player put together four straight multiple-point games last season.  Bourque put up nearly identical numbers during his string, and it began just about two calendar years ago.  He posted nine points (four goals, five assists) in a span of games from December 28, 2011 through January 7, 2012.

So, congrats to Nic Deschamps.

He was one bright spot in a 3-2 setback against the Sharks that was, essentially, the Freddie Hamilton show.  Hamilton turned a power play goal-post ringer by Jeff Taffe into an unassisted wraparound tally at David Leggio’s end for a 1-0 lead.  He then helped set up Matt Tennyson’s power play goal for a 2-0 first-intermission advantage, and fished the puck out of a pile for a five-on-three tally in the third period.  Not a bad night for him.

Deschamps, meanwhile, assisted on Julien Brouillette’s five-on-three goal, and then converted a nice Matt Watkins transition steal in the final frame.  Really good game for all of these players.

Brouillette has ALWAYS been who I call the quietest, hardest-worker on this blue line corps.  He just gets things done.  A rare mistake?  He accounts for it – and often makes up for it.  Remember how he was boarded by Binghamton’s Matt Puempel after scoring two goals last Saturday?  He came back, finished the game and was named number one star.  He took a hard hit last night late in the second period and unfortunately did not return – he is due to be evaluated this morning.  Let’s hope all is well there, because this guy is a valuable asset.

Protecting against turnovers, playing tonight’s game like the team did in the first ten minutes of the first and third periods last night, and figuring out how to get the puck past a very large armada of Sharks players are all in the recipe for tonight’s 5:00 rematch.

Here is a link to the game preview and notes.  Labatt Blue pint glass for the first 3,000.

See you later on.

GO BEARS!!!

-Stucc

Posted in Hershey Bears Hockey

Shark Weekend 12/21

Good morning all!

I’m going to keep this post short to follow up yesterday’s writeup.

With Norfolk, Syracuse and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton all losing last night (Binghamton was the only team to win – over Syracuse – and snapped their 7-game skid in the process), take a look at the Eastern Conference standings:

Standings

Six points more, with a little help from those teams in the middle, and the Bears aren’t just out of the East Division cellar, but the club is right in the thick of the playoff picture heading into the end of calendar year 2013.

See what stringing some wins together could do?

Hershey does have its work cut out for them.  Worcester took just 19 shots on goal last night, against a typical smothering Penguins defense, but this time rookie Eric Hartzell was beaten on three of them.  Harri Sateri – whom the Bears solved on FOUR of 19 shots last March – put up the victory.  In fact, the only Penguins goal in last night’s 4-1 win was a Nick Drazenovic penalty shot tally in the third.

Sounds like the Sharks play some pretty good defense as well.  With Hershey the lone team in the division off last night, this contest is setting up to be a pretty good one.  Not to mention that Worcester is nipping at the Bears’ skate laces in the standings.

The Caps won 4-2 in Raleigh last night, and with Marcus Johansson not finishing the game, I wouldn’t expect a Casey Wellman return today.  The Bears stayed healthy after that marathon shootout win on Wednesday, and could get healthier, as defenseman Chay Genoway has been cleared for a possible return at some point this weekend.

Oh, and with that Caps win, Philipp Grubauer is now 4-0-1 in the NHL this season.  Great to see a super kid getting this chance.  But with three goalies on the Caps roster, and Grubi playing this well, the Bears crease is David Leggio’s right now.  64 games out of 76 for Rochester last season means that he won’t mind.

Check HersheyBears.com later this morning for tonight’s game preview.  And read Tim Leone’s writeup on tonight’s Joel Rechlicz bobblefist giveaway before you come.  Be one of the first 5,000 and you’ll have this collector’s item to take home.

See you tonight.  GO BEARS!!!!

-Stucc

Posted in Hershey Bears Hockey

Another Comeback; Sharks Up Next – 12/20

HB12_0011Good morning Bears Nation!

Nearly two days removed from a thrilling 4-3 shootout victory over the Syracuse Crunch on Wednesday night – in front of a season-high crowd of 10,801 – I’m sitting here pondering three really good things that have the pot of recent success set to boil over.

1) The play of Ryan Stoa.  This player may not be running up the points – heck, he hasn’t even gotten on the score sheet in four of the December games played to date – but by a LONG shot, he has been playing the best hockey since he has been wearing a Hershey sweater.

He is getting the puck deep.  He protects it so well in the corners and along the boards.  He is making plays happen in the offensive zone.  He is smart.

Oh, and not to mention, he is 5-for-5 and leading the AHL in shootout goals.  (That’s just a bonus.)

Stoa needed to be better this year, and he is now playing with a no-panic look to his game.  Having Brandon Segal and Nicolas Deschamps (or Josh Brittain, or Nathan Walker) as linemates hasn’t hurt either.  Speaking of which:

2) The play of Brandon Segal.  There was no doubt in my mind that once coach Haviland stopped scratching Segal as the veteran, he would produce.

Segal_Brandon

He is playing with an edge to his game, he is jumping up on plays, and in the last three games, he has produced two goals, four assists and a plus-five rating.

His two goals?  Timely.  One was a game-winner (Saturday vs. Binghamton) and one was a game-saver (tied the score with 3:02 left against Syracuse on Wednesday).

And his three-point effort for third-star (??????) honors on Wednesday (I’ll do it again: ????? … I STILL can’t figure that one out) have vaulted him to the top of the Bears scoring lead.

3) The play of Nicolas Deschamps.  Finding this player’s proper linemates has been like my mom finding just the right amount of Bacardi for her Christmas rum cake.  Once it’s there…….WOW.  Segal and Stoa have been just what Deschamps needed.  He is now tied for second on the Bears in goals (six).  And he is now my early-season prediction as the first Bears player to score 20 goals.

Can you imagine if the team took the three things that HAVEN’T been as good as they could be, and upped the production on all?  If these happen through the weekend – and in the final three games of 2012, December 26-28 – Christmas will come early for a lot of Bears fans, and the pot of points will finally pile up and boil over.

1) Get a big goal from last year’s MVP.  Jeff Taffe is due.  LONG overdue.  He hasn’t been able to buy a goal since a power-play strike on December 1 vs. Providence.  I was out of my seat when he got the puck behind the Syracuse defense with time winding down in Wednesday’s first period and with the Bears trailing 2-1.  I was also out of my seat when he was set up from behind the net for a point-blank chance that the lunging blocker of Kristers Gudlevskis swatted aside.

Taffe is due.  And he’s due on the power play.  And it will happen at least once this weekend.

Speaking of that?

2) Get at least three power play goals this weekend.  The Sharks have allowed the fourth-fewest power play goals on the road (eight) in 2013-2014.  It will be a good test to watch the Bears finally get their man-advantage mojo going.

3) Don’t give the puck away – in ANY zone.  I can remember one goal on Wednesday against Syracuse (the first of Evan Rankin’s three), one on Saturday against Binghamton (Mark Stone’s shorthanded breakaway), one on Friday at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (Tom Kostopoulos’ second of the game)…. it’s a chain that needs to be broken.

4) Get production from other lines.  32-27-26 can’t – and shouldn’t – be doing it all.

5) Win the “home for the holidays” games.  The Bears are off to a good start.  Beginning with last Saturday, the team plays eight of ten games at GIANT Center, and are 2-0-0-0 in them.  Worcester is right behind Hershey in the conference standings, while Binghamton (12/26), Syracuse (12/27) and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (12/28) – well, we all know where they stand.  But their comfortable leads in the division are starting to shrink, and the Bears know it.

Joel Rechlicz bobblefist figurines (courtesy UGI) for the first 5,000 fans tomorrow, and Labatt Blue pint glasses for the first 3,000 on Sunday.  Bears…. Sharks…. it should be a great time.

Hope to see you here.

GO BEARS!!

-Stucc

Posted in Hershey Bears Hockey

Defending Conference Champs Visit – 12/18

JustSports Photography

Bears celebrate a second-period goal against Binghamton in Saturday’s 7-4 win. Photo courtesy JustSports Photography.

Good morning everyone!

Once again this blog seems to have been hit by some kind of bug that hasn’t allowed me to access it.  Apparently I also can’t revert back to an old password, either.

Frustrating… to say the least… having to keep a saved sheet of passwords now.  I used to have a great memory.  But now, phone voice mail; WordPress; Facebook; Twitter; Bitly; AHL stats; and my very-own PC and laptop ALL require CHANGES to passwords.

Anyone else have this issue???  It’s enough to give me road rage.

But now I’m okay again.  It’s time to get to the topic at hand – the Hershey Bears hosting the defending Eastern Conference champion Syracuse Crunch on Hersheypark Pass Night at GIANT Center.

A big crowd on a Wednesday; two teams separated by just two points in the division; one team that has been reeling lately, and another trying to stop alternating wins and losses.  It all sets up for what should be a great matchup.

The two teams played completely different games in their last respective contests on Saturday.  For the Bears: 11 combined goals, 78 combined shots on goal, 142 combined penalty minutes, 14 combined power plays, three third-period ejections, an NHL goaltender returning to Hershey for conditioning, a fight four seconds into the game, and a snow-forced attendance shortage.

Result?  Bears 7, Binghamton Senators 4.

For the Crunch: 1 combined goal, 54 combined shots on goal, eight combined power plays, 18 combined penalty minutes.

Result? Crunch 1, Rochester Americans 0.

Maybe the Amerks had a Frozen Frontier hangover… after watching the Lake Erie Monsters tie that outdoor contest with a fraction of a second left in regulation, and then going on to win in a shootout.  Maybe Syracuse just played solid defensive hockey and got strong goaltending.  Maybe Rochester was really good on their penalty kill, being outchanced on power plays seven to one.

Maybe it was a combination of all three.

Crunch rookie netminder Kristers Gudlevskis posted his second clean sheet of the season in a 27-save performance.  Rochester was really good on the penalty kill, wiping out all seven Syracuse chances.  Syracuse kept Rochester at bay defensively.  And the Amerks certainly had to be riding a high of playing in one of the AHL’s two spotlight games of 2013-14.

But said another way, Syracuse’s power play hasn’t been working.  This is something that tonight, in my opinion, will be the key factor in determining the outcome of this game for the Bears.   Hershey is playing MUCH better than their opponents when there is 5×5 play – there is no question about it.  The Bears, despite getting two power play strikes on Saturday, had NINE total man advantages in the game.  The good guys’ power play needs to get better.

But… the Hershey penalty kill has dropped from a high of 6th in the AHL to a new low of 18th, after allowing nine power play goals over the last four games.  That could be just the remedy a team like Syracuse needs.

This is not the same Eastern Conference championship team, either – but, Rob Zettler, Trent Cull and Stacy Roest still have this team ready to go and it is still a dangerous team to underestimate.  The club is still led by feisty veteran center Mike Angelidis, who can turn around the complexion of the game with either his physical play or a key goal.  Dangerous forward Brett Connolly, who was a power-play specialist last season, is ready to turn the Crunch’s struggle on the power play around.  And on any night, any one of the three Syracuse  goaltenders could steal a game when needed.

Links on the current-and-former-player front- although not expected to be here tonight – Syracuse landed former Bears winger Jon DiSalvatore this week, after DiSalvatore returned from a short stint in Europe.

Forward Jamie Johnson was released from his Hershey contract, and will return to Dynamo Riga, the team for which he played prior to coming to Chocolatetown.

Congrats to Caps prospect Connor Carrick, who joined Team USA for the 2014 World Juniors.

Nate Schmidt, who scored the Bears’ first goal of this season in his only game – and who tallied his first AHL point in his first AHL game, against Syracuse – is back.

Derek (Huff?) Whitmore celebrated his 29th birthday yesterday.

And here is tonight’s game preview.

Enjoy the game… and GO BEARS!!!

-Stucc

Posted in Hershey Bears Hockey

East Division Doubleheader Weekend 11/23

Hershey Bears Hockey

Casey Wellman celebrates his power play goal against Binghamton on November 10. Photo courtesy JustSports Photography.

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!

GO BEARS!!!

-Stucc

Posted in Hershey Bears Hockey

An Admiral-ble Weekend; Bears – Tigers Tonight 11/9

Mitchell_OTWinner

Garrett Mitchell celebrates his overtime winner against Bridgeport on March 16 with Chay Genoway. Photo courtesy JustSports Photography.

Good morning fans!

Recently, it seems as though every next-opponent that the Bears face has previously played another East Division rival.  The Norfolk Admirals – league leaders in shootouts played – came to GIANT Center on Sunday and handed the Bears a 4-3 setback that had to be decided in more than 65 minutes of play.

The night before that game, Norfolk visited the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, but fell in a shootout – by the same 4-3 score.

Norfolk completed a successful six-game road trip in the process, winning both weekends’ worth of three-in-three’s.

Tonight, the Bears and Sound Tigers will face off for the first time this season, and – with both teams coming off of games against the overtime-working Admirals – it will be a good test to see how things match up.

First of all – as many of the recent rosters that the New York Islanders put in place in Bridgeport have shown – the Sound Tigers are built on youth and speed.  Goaltenders Kenny Reiter and Anders Nilsson have split duties for the early portion of the season, and it took a while for either of them to get things going out of the gate.  The Sound Tigers that skated in front of their netminders managed only seven goals in the team’s first four games.  But recently – helped largely by a seven-spot posted last Friday at Worcester – Bridgeport has found its scoring touch.

That will prove to be the biggest challenge facing Hershey.  Having once again had no test of a mid-week game to keep a rhythm going, the Bears will have to be sharp from the drop of the puck through three periods.  And for those who have attended the past games, the Bears are starting to put things together.  No, none of us like to see a second period like the team played against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton last Saturday, nor does anyone like the way Sunday’s game started.  But when faced with adversity – or urgency – this Bears team does have what it takes to respond.

The real cure for what has ailed the team will be to eliminate said adversity altogether.

That could come in this game tonight – for two reasons.  One, forward Josh Brittain is healthy again and could very well be in uniform.  He is a big guy, a hard-worker, and one that will go to the net to make plays happen.  We saw that last year when he skated for Trent Yawney, Mike Haviland and the Norfolk Admirals.  Should he play, that gives the Bears a huge advantage on left wing in terms of pure size.

I would expect a different result altogether – in a very positive way – for the Bears tonight. Here is the game preview to get you started.  You’ll note a former Bears defenseman is on the Bridgeport roster – all 6-foot-8 of 2005, 27th-overall pick Joe Finley is back.  But the thing you will notice most is the speed and scoring ability of Bridgeport’s top four on offense in Mike Halmo, Anders Lee, Johan Sundstrom and rookie center Ryan Strome.

Or maybe you won’t – if the Bears have something to say about it.

Puck drops at 7:00, pre-game hits the airwaves at 6:20.

GO BEARS!!

-Stucc

Posted in Hershey Bears Hockey

Tale of Two Periods; Norfolk On Deck 11/3

Hershey Bears HockeyGood afternoon Bears Nation!

Yep… definitely a somber feeling around the office today… and it’s not only because I feel like I have no friends, being here by myself from 7:30 AM until a little past 12:30 PM.  I don’t think I’ve ever had a more difficult time making a period sound upbeat than in last night’s second stanza against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.  It was tough to do.  But my thanks go right to David Leggio for his unreal – absolutely unreal – performance in the period.  Half of the saves he made on the night were in that barrage.

So what happened between the first period – when the Bears were dominating in all aspects except shots on goal (they were down 12-7 after 20:00) – and the second?

I’m completely at a loss.  But I will comment on two things:

1) The Bears somehow have to find a way to eliminate stick fouls.  Coach Haviland said it best when he described them as “lazy”.  I’m not sure how much weight one can put on the extensive penalty kill ice-time as a reason for the slide, but it makes sense that if your penalty killers are out for a long time, their even-strength linemates will have to move about.  And that translates into inconsistency.  1+1=2.  Expect that to improve, and improve fast.

2) Chay Genoway – or some other Bears player that was standing in front – was undoubtedly denied a goal last night.  Remember the puck that was fired from the high slot, disappeared near the right post without a sound, and came back out away from Jeff Deslauriers in the second period?  And then was reviewed but disallowed?  It was on edge and went into the very beginning of the white portion of the bottom of the net.  There were players on both sides who even stopped because of the expected goal.  Now, was that the game-changer?  It certainly would have helped, but there are far more pressing things to remedy than worrying about confirming a goal.

Anyway, the game is over.  Tonight is a rematch with old friend Dave Steckel and the Norfolk Admirals.  It’s another three-in-three for the Ads, and another one in which they are seeking a perfect weekend.  The Bears put the stop to that last Sunday, and will look to enter the new week on an upswing.

Dmitry Orlov was returned from D.C. today and will be back in the lineup.  He is the Bears’ leading scorer with six points (1-5-6) through four games played.

Dane Byers (2-1-3) and Nathan Walker (1-2-3) have points in three straight heading into tonight.

Lineups, scratches, and game action is on Twitter @ScottStuccio and @TheHersheyBears.

It’s HERSHEYPARK Pass Night so it should be a great crowd.  I’m sure we’ll all have a lot to cheer for tonight!

GO BEARS!!

-Stucc

Posted in Hershey Bears Hockey