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

Penguins Win Testy Game; Rematch Tonight 11/2

Prim_FulClrGood morning Bears Nation!

Taking a look at the video highlights of last night’s game at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton led a lot of us on the front of the bus to several conclusions.

For me, these are the conclusions I made:

1) Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, no matter what amount of talented, skilled or even ECHL-destined players is on the team roster, is probably the hardest-working team out there.  They are fast.  They skate.  They look for mistakes.  They play with a purpose. 

2) You need at least a four-goal cushion heading into the third period against the Penguins.  The team has now outscored their opponent 18-4 in third periods after last night.

3) Dane Byers’ hit on Simon Despres is going to be tough to judge with the lone camera angle given to everyone.  Some buildings don’t have the capability like the GC does to have two or three slash-cameras spread about.  The angle I saw was from the back of Byers’ jersey going forward.  It was definitely a huge hit, and the fact that Despres’ helmet flew off leads me to believe that motion was directed at the very least at his shoulders…and probably a bit higher.  A 5-minute charging major and game misconduct will certainly be looked at.

4) There were two other notable hits/events in the game that went undetected, if – and only if – one wants to make comparisons.  Penguins forward Andrew Ebbett’s hit on Connor Carrick early in the game is one.  Although he was penalized, the hit was directed just as high as the hit on Despres.  Video does not lie, fans.  The second event occurred immediately after the Byers hit on Despres and the resulting confrontation between the remaining players on the ice.  Forward Brian Gibbons hauls down defenseman Tyson Strachan with a blatant slew-foot move.  Once again, video does not lie.  Check out both the Byers hit and the aftermath here, about :20 in.

5) It should be a fun rematch tonight at the GC!  Expect a few changes to the lineup once again, as some players have worked their way in with solid play lately.  There will definitely be a lineup change if there are repercussions from the Byers hit in last night’s game.  That would be too bad, because the Bears captain has been the best player in the past few games.  He has scored in back-to-back contests and has posted a plus-5 rating in the last three games.

Here is a link to the game sheet from last night.

Due to an outage around the company which is preventing me from accessing my personal drive – and thus the file I need to write today’s game notes – there will be no full-blown game preview on HersheyBears.com.  Tickets are available for tonight, which is a Dietz & Watson Dollar Dog Night… hope to see you here!

GO BEARS!!

-Stucc

Posted in Hershey Bears Hockey

“Roaring on the Road” to the W-B 11/1

Hershey Bears Hockey

Dane Byers and his teammates celebrate a second-period goal in Sunday’s game vs. Norfolk. Photo courtesy JustSports Photography.

Good morning fans!

First of all, let’s get you primed up for a busy weekend of hockey as the Bears get set for their short trip to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton tonight:

CLICK HERE FOR EDITION 3 OF “ROARING ON THE ROAD”!

Ready yet??

So November is upon us – and that means a heaping helping of Hershey Bears hockey is on the menu.  After just six – yes, six – games spanning the first four weeks of the season, tonight will be the first of 12 that the Bears will play in the next 29 days.  That’s an average of one game every 2.5 days.  So it’s safe to say that the times of having six days in between games are over!

Does that bode well for the Chocolate and White?  Absolutely.  Every player to whom I’ve spoken attributes the hit-and-miss October to the slow start out of the gate.  The best players in the world can only practice so much, and can only get so much out of such a stuttering rhythm.  Forward Jamie Johnson and I sat down this morning to discuss just that, and to talk about the upcoming busy month – which starts with what he referred to as a “statement weekend.”  That interview will play in tonight’s first intermission from Wilkes-Barre Township.

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton started the season very impressively, getting points in their first seven games.  But, the team has dropped two straight – a shootout loss at Binghamton last Friday and their first regulation loss of the season at the hands of the Norfolk Admirals on Saturday.  The team is mad, and wants the top spot in the AHL – which they held just over a week ago – back in their possession.

For the Bears, it is a chance at an eight-point swing.  The home-and-home starts tonight in the building that saw the Penguins claim a 3-1 home-opener victory on October 12.  The two teams meet for the first time this season at GIANT Center tomorrow.  If anything, a win tonight will boost the confidence of a squad that should be confident – the team won two of their past three games and scored 11 goals in that span.  The Bears have the best road penalty kill (17/18, 94/4%) in the AHL.  And, as head coach Mike Haviland alluded to in this morning’s interview with me, “I really like the way we’ve played.  In the past three games, we outchanced all of the teams.  I like the way we’ve played, and I really liked the week we had at practice.”  Coming from a blatantly honest coach, fans should be excited for the start of this month.

I firmly believe we’ll see the true Bears team that was assembled come shining starting tonight.

Goaltending matchups, scratches, starters and in-game updates can be found @ScottStuccio on Twitter.  @TheHersheyBears will also have goal and period updates.

Pre-game hits the air at 6:25, followed by a 7:05 PM puck drop.

Be sure to keep checking here all season long and at HersheyBears.com for the latest on the most storied franchise in the AHL.  And, be sure to keep tuned for information on how you can help support a great cause as the Bears take part in “Movember” once again – a movement that brings awareness to men’s health.

GO BEARS!!!

-Stucc

Posted in Hershey Bears Hockey

Schmidt Up, Roaring on the Road 10/12

Hershey Bears Hockey

Nate Schmidt takes the ice on home-opening night, 10/5/13. Photo courtesy JustSports Photography.

Good morning Bears Nation!

Hopefully you’ve all had a chance to unwind after all of those exciting games over the past week.

Okay… unless you’ve been tuned in to AHL Live and catching all the OTHER teams playing since the AHL’s first week, there hasn’t been much to unwind from!  On a very light start to the calendar, the Bears are getting set to play only their second game of the season tonight.  But, it is a big one.  It is the first bus trip of 2013, to play the first of 12 against the Bears’ arch-rivals from up Interstate 81. 

The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins are in the same boat, believe it or not.  The Pens have played just one game this season as well.  Trouble is, theirs went a lot better than Hershey’s did.  The Pens put up a 5-2 win over the Bridgeport Sound Tigers last Saturday, and have been doing the same thing that the Bears have been doing – practicing, practicing, practicing.

During the team’s “down time” between games, I decided to start something new for our road trips this season.  We’re calling it “Roaring on the Road”.  It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while, but due to staffing issues, I wasn’t able to get it exactly where I wanted it.  Now, thanks to the super guys down in the “cellar” in Great Save Productions, we are able to bring you road game-day updates throughout the season.

This inaugural edition features a quick look back at last Saturday’s opener, a recap of the WBS-Bridgeport tilt, an interview with defenseman Nate Schmidt about playing on the road, and broadcast information for tonight. 

I have to close this with a disclaimer – one in which I hope our players will grab and read.  For my last six interviews – and this dates back to last season – the player either scored a goal or was called up to Washington. 

Immediately after this segment was produced, Schmidt earned his first recall to the NHL. 

So, it’s time to start planning on my interviews for the big trip to St. John’s next week…….!

Air time is 6:25 tonight on the Bears Radio Network presented by Turkey Hill Minit Markets, with “Scho-Daddy” Frank Schofield joining me on the headset.  The puck should drop around 7:15 tonight, after Wilkes-Barre/Scranton amps up their crowd with a pre-game ceremony honoring the start of their 15th season in the American Hockey League.

Click here to get your day started with “Roaring on the Road”, and we’ll talk to you tonight from the Casino (Mohegan Sun Arena)!

GO BEARS!!!

-Stucc

Posted in Hershey Bears Hockey

Rechlicz Clears; 30 Players Heading Into Saturday 9/30

Recker_Bench

He’s back.

The Recker has cleared NHL waivers at noon today and is once again Chocolatetown-bound.  Actually, he’s already here.  It’s just a formality of waiting until that deadline to see if another team claimed him.

This is going to make MANY people happy… yet another reason to get your tickets in hand for Saturday’s season opener against the Adirondack Phantoms.  Remember who had 10,000+ in the stands last year for a season average, and over 9,800+ in the GC stands not counting the Outdoor Classic.  That’s impressive.  Let’s do that on opening night.  The guys showed in pre-season how they are not going to be intimidated or not play 100% in this house. 

It’s time to Defend the Den.

Here is your current 30-man roster after today’s cut of 10 players (9 to Reading, 1 to Bakersfield).

GOALTENDERS (2):  Philipp Grubauer, David Leggio

DEFENSEMEN (11): Julien Brouillette, Michal Cajkovsky, Chay Genoway, David Kolomatis, Tomas Kundratek, Dmitry Orlov, Cameron Schilling, Nate Schmidt, Tyson Strachan, Patrick Wellar, Patrick Wey

FORWARDS (17): Josh Brittain, Dane Byers, Nicolas Deschamps, Stanislav Galiev, Jamie Johnson, Peter LeBlanc, Garrett Mitchell, John Mitchell, Joel Rechlicz, Tyler Ruegsegger, Brandon Segal, Ryan Stoa, Jeff Taffe, Nathan Walker, Matt Watkins, Casey Wellman, Derek Whitmore

 

Posted in Hershey Bears Hockey

Pre-Season Wrap-Up, Roster Update 9/30

Prim_FulClrGood morning Bears Nation!

Not a bad pre-season showing from the Chocolate and White, wouldn’t you say?  Outscoring the opposition 13-3 collectively, allowing just one power play goal, having five players post three points or more, and not having one goaltender allow more than one goal: that pretty much sums up the exhibition schedule.

One observation: our coaches are going to be fantastic for the type of team that will take to the ice beginning this Saturday.  And I LOVE the way head coach Mike Haviland managed the roster as the weekend progressed.  He wanted to make sure our fans got a glimpse of as large a portion of our “opening night roster” as possible, by dressing such a team on home ice both Friday and Saturday.  He originally said that he wanted to give our fans a reason to cheer again at home, knowing that the record at GIANT Center last season was not one about which to be proud.  President/GM Doug Yingst addressed that notion when he introduced Haviland at his press conference back in June.  And so far, all of the players in camp have bought in.  That’s a great sign.

One more observation: assistant coach Ryan Mougenel is going to have quite the defense corps to manage as time passes, especially with Tyson Strachan having cleared waivers just days after Tomas Kundratek did.  Dmitry Orlov is here now too.  That makes it very difficult to define a “top six”.  The Bears have 11 defensemen on their current roster, who could very easily make up a second very good team..

As it stands, the Bears have 29 players, with the opening night roster due in to the AHL offices on Thursday, October 3.  With all the competing going on, and with Reading opening camp this weekend, there may not be much more movement before Saturday’s season opener.  The Bears will have 30 if Joel Rechlicz clears waivers at noon today.

Dane Byers, who is a strong candidate for the Bears’ captaincy this season, stopped by the offices this morning and is about as excited to get going as any veteran I’ve ever seen – all smiles and thrilled to be playing more steadily.  He was a lower-role player in Oklahoma City last season prior to his acquisition for defenseman Garrett Stafford, due to the crop of talent playing in the Sooner State during the NHL lockout.  It’s just awesome to see players with that attitude before the season starts. 

And he wasn’t the only one.

T-minus six days until opening night.  Got your tickets???

GO BEARS!!

-Stucc

Posted in Hershey Bears Hockey

Pre-Season Pre-Game #2, Roster Update 9/28

Prim_FulClrHello BEARS fans!

And, a pleasant welcome-back to all of you to Stucc’s Glove and Blogger.  The new season is just about upon us and that means it is time to bring the blog out of hibernation!

Not a bad start to the pre-season campaign and the Mike Haviland/Ryan Mougenel era, what do you think?  Six different goal scorers, goals from a member of all four forward lines, two power play strikes, a perfect penalty kill, a shutout, and 15 of 18 players to find the score sheet.

It amazes me how coaches sometimes, somehow find something out of place or not executed well in a game that dominant.  Haviland didn’t.  “From the cage on out, they were good,” he said in his post-game comments to the local media.

I agree.

Did Utica dress their opening night lineup?  No.  However, to me, that doesn’t matter.  You had several players new to this organization who have never spent more time together than the minutes dressing for practice during camp – and maybe a lunch or dinner – playing on GIANT Center ice for the first time.

Standout player, in my book?  The kid I call “Aussie Mega”.  Nathan Walker – the first Australian to play in the American Hockey League – left a HUGE impression on everyone in the Bears’ suite and locker room.  He scored the first goal of the game by unleashing a high-rising slap shot fed to him on a platter drop-pass by Jeff Taffe.  The puck hit Comets goaltender Joe Cannata near the throat guard, and then dropped down, trickled over the goal line and into the net for the 1-0 Bears lead. 

Then he went out and blocked two key shots on second-period Utica power plays.

Then he hip-checked Alex Friesen along the boards.

Then he got me about 45 new Twitter followers from Australia.

Okay… last line doesn’t matter… but still, he had my vote for one of our top three forwards.

My second vote goes to Brandon Segal, who only earned one assist but should have had at least four goals.  Cannata had his number, swiping away a sure goal on the Bears’ 5-on-3 chance in the first period, then getting a piece of a second-period breakaway.  It appeared that Cannata also got a piece of Segal’s power-move to the net from the left corner in the third.  Segal can still get the job done and doesn’t look a step out of place.  He shouldn’t, having won two Calder Cups – one of which came just two years ago.

My third goes to Cameron Schilling.  If you ever want to see what it might be to take the lid off of a cauldron of boiling gasoline, check Schilling into the boards 1 1/2 seconds after the horn sounds to end a period.  Cauldron=Schilling, lid=John Armstrong.  Schilling played with emotion after that, something that I am sure is what the Washington Capitals have been waiting to see.  There is not one person who wouldn’t verify how well Schilling played.  Save for one ill-advised pass along his blue line in the second period, he was solid.

And a fourth star: to David Leggio.  Remarkable saves in the first and third period from in close, but credit the Bears for keeping a bunch of Comets shots to long-range.  He saw the puck well, covered it when needed and kept it moving when needed.  He was also quick to credit the communication between his defense corps in his post-game comments.  That’s a guy you love to have in the room.

The tough part was finding someone who DIDN’T have a good game.  I really can’t.

The lineup for tonight will have a few tweaks, but you can expect to see some of the veterans play another game against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins tonight at 7:00 PM.  Philipp Grubauer is expected to go the distance tonight, while the Penguins – who have brought back names that will make you think it is 2005 all over again – are expected to stick Andy Chiodo between the pipes.  Jeff Deslauriers, who was a part of the Penguins’ dual-affiliation team with the 2006-07 Edmonton Oilers, is expected to backup and may play the later stages.

Former Bears centerman Mike Carman is on the WBS roster on a tryout in camp, has played both of the Penguins’ pre-season games to date, and could face some of his old teammates tonight.

The current Bears roster, by the way, has been reduced by three.  Goaltender Matt Tendler (“GoalTendler”), F Louke Oakley and D Bryant Molle have been released from camp.  The roster sits as follows:

G (4): Brandon Anderson, Riley Gill, Philipp Grubauer, David Leggio
D (12): Mike Banwell, Julien Brouillette, Erik Burgdoerfer, Brett Flemming, Chay Genoway, Ryan Kavanagh, David Kolomatis, Tomas Kundratek, Cameron Schilling, Nate Schmidt, Patrick Wellar, Patrick Wey
F (18): Josh Brittain, Nicolas Deschamps, Stanislav Galiev, Dustin Gazley, Jamie Johnson, Peter LeBlanc, David Marshall, Garrett Mitchell, Domenic Monardo, Tyler Ruegsegger, Brandon Segal, Ryan Stoa, T.J. Syner, Jeff Taffe, Nathan Walker, Matt Watkins, Casey Wellman, Derek Whitmore
IN WSH: LW Dane Byers, D Michal Cajkovsky, D Connor Carrick, C Michael Latta, D Dmitry Orlov, RW Joel Rechlicz

$12 general admission seats tonight.  One week till our 76th season begins.  Life is good….

GO BEARS!!!!

-Stucc

Posted in Hershey Bears Hockey

Bears Earn AHL Honor for Fan Experience 7/11

Fans1The American Hockey League today honored teams and individuals for their services during the 2012-13 season.

Your Hershey Bears were recognized as the Eastern Conference’s top team for outstanding fan experience at home games.  It is impossible for me to name each and every individual that makes the experience as great as it is, but everyone involved in some way at GIANT Center deserves praise for this: the entire crew of Great Save Productions; Corporate Partnerships; GIANT Center food services, maintenance and Rink Rats crews; our smiling ushers; ticket and box office staffs; the cleaning crew, who rarely get the thanks they deserve; and of course, all 10,046+ of you who attended each home game.  Give yourselves pats on the back!

Goodman2Also, huge congrats to a truly “good man.”  Hershey native Dr. Bob Goodman, a veteran by all standards among American Hockey League linesmen, was bestowed the Michael

Condon Memorial Award for outstanding service by an on-ice official.

Read the official AHL press release here.

 

-Stucc

Posted in Hershey Bears Hockey

LeBlanc Re-Signs 7/11

LeBlanc2A general manager who makes mid-season moves like Doug Yingst did last season needs to have confidence that the players he acquires will fit the team’s needs right away.

Peter LeBlanc and Casey Wellman were two players acquired to give the Bears some much-needed scoring help.  Both played in the Western Conference last season, so not too many knew what the two were about.  Wellman, however, finished the 2011-12 season in Connecticut, and we were able to see what he could do.

As for LeBlanc, there weren’t many who were familiar with what his game was like.

The questions were certainly answered after January 31, when both came to Hershey.

Wellman clicked at nearly a point-per-game, with 31 points (9-22-31) in 33 games.  LeBlanc’s performance wasn’t too shabby at all either, as he posted (8-10-18) in 33.  But then he went on to rack up eight assists in the five-game Eastern Conference quarterfinal series against Providence, which was enough to lead the Chocolate and White in playoff scoring.

Wellman was signed to a two-year deal by the Capitals on March 28 – a well-deserved contract extension for a guy who has unceremoniously been dealt around several times.

Yesterday, the other part of the January 31 acquisition duo was signed.

LeBlanc had to be tendered a qualifying offer after he became a restricted free agent at the end of the 2012-13 season.  Just eight days passed before LeBlanc was then signed to his deal.

So many people have asked how both of these players struggled to put up points prior to coming to Hershey.  After all, coming to a team with offensive talent such as Jeff Taffe, Joey Crabb and Ryan Potulny doesn’t exactly put a player in the best position to improve his numbers.  Wellman was never able to get into a groove with his other teams, and LeBlanc was playing fourth-line minutes on a lockout-overloaded Rockford roster.  Both took the challenge of playing in Hershey and ran (skated) with it.LeBlanc3

The center position was packed here last season (Potulny, Taffe, Carman, Kalinski, and Zach Hamill before LeBlanc arrived).  Potulny has taken his talents overseas; Carman and Kalinski have not yet been extended offers to return; and Hamill was the other part of the Wellman acquisition.  The Bears did sign Jamie Johnson, but he can play center or wing.  I would expect LeBlanc to work himself up to perhaps second-line center this season, a spot at which I believe he could excel.

Here is the official release on LeBlanc’s return.  It’s great to have Petey back for another season.

GO BEARS!!!

-Stucc

 

Posted in Hershey Bears Hockey