Back inside the warm confines of GIANT Center, the BEARS are about set to take to the ice for morning skate in preparation for tonight’s game against the St. John’s IceCaps.
Yes, once again, some snow is coming on a home game night. And yes, the game will be played as scheduled.
The IceCaps came into town on Wednesday night, fresh off of a 3-0 loss to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. Following the BEARS’ Thursday practice at HERSHEYPARK Arena (Bon Jovi apparently rented GIANT Center to set up and test stage/lighting for the past three days), the IceCaps also headed to the Old Barn to get their off-day practice in. The team, from my perpective, looked tired just walking down the hall. Rigthfully so – they just finished playing four road games in six nights. Tonight is their fifth in eight. And they’ll head to Syracuse tomorrow to conclude a six-game road trip,a jaunt that took them through the entire East Division.
For the BEARS, suffering an overtime loss in a game that the hosts dominated wasn’t an easy pill to swallow. Dany Sabourin was excellent in goal. Two breakdowns at the defensive blue line helped the Penguins score their goals. That is something that torched the BEARS in the Adam Oates – Mark French co-coach regime. Despite the setback, the BEARS are still playing solid defensively. We know that defense is working. The offense – including the power play – has come in spurts, and that needs to change now that we are officially into the second half of the season. The BEARS do not want to tinker with a 7th- or 8th-place spot in the Eastern Conference. The team needs to build a cushion somehow.
But it won’t be easy in these last two games before the All-Star break. This is an IceCaps team that has three of its NHL camp attendees back (forwards Maxime Macenauer and Spencer Machacek, and defenseman Derek Meech), and two of the three factored into the three goals that St. John’s has mustered over the three games against the BEARS this season. Goaltender Eddie Pasquale also knows how to keep games tight. And although backup Chris Carozzi hasn’t seen much game action (40 minutes, six shots, six saves), he was excellent last season and picked up one of his wins against HERSHEY.
Then it’s off to Binghamton to play a Senators team that leads the league with 15 wins on home ice and a third-best 54 points through 39 games.
A good challenge, indeed.
Let’s start with tonight. Prep yourself with the game notes, and be safe traveling to HERSHEY tonight.