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.