Captain Mitchell & Roster Announced – 10/8

It may not seem like it in his official team head shot taken on Tuesday, but Hershey Bears right winger Garrett Mitchell ALWAYS has a smile on his face, to those fans who have known him for six years now in Chocolatetown.

Trust me, he was smiling on the ice a little while ago, a few minutes removed from being named the 43rd captain in the storied history of the Hershey Bears Hockey Club.100815_Captains

Numerous captain candidates are out there practicing right now.  Can we say that no one is more deserving than Mitchell to wear the “C” this year?  If you factor past captaincy into the equation, then the answer is, believe it or not, no – we can’t.  But if you are factoring leadership, dedication, and longevity in this community, then the choice is clear.  It is the 24-year-old Mitchell, who has played all 224 games of his AHL career wearing the Chocolate and White.

I can’t say how happy I am for Mitchell.  Like every player, though, he deflects any praise and congratulations and steers it to the teammates around him.  But, he is the leader now.  And it is just so neat to have watched him come fresh out of the Regina Pats way back when and grow into the leader, father, husband and wonderful human being he is today.

Last year’s alternate captain Mike Moore is back for a second term in that “office”.  This is the person who many believe could also serve as a captain, because he has done it so many times.  Not to mention, he has FOUR IOA/American Specialty AHL Man of the Year team awards on his resume, and several captaincies – most recently as a member of the Providence Bruins.

Chris Bourque is also a natural choice for a letter for the sole purpose of what this winger has done in the past to bring championships to this community.  A point-per-game average over his entire Hershey career?  It’s a future Hall-of-Fame achievement, make no mistake about it – both in Hershey and in the entire AHL.

Not many people know of Zach Sill, but let me say this – you are going to love his work on the ice and off.  He is one of the best in community appearances, a great talker, and an absolute bull of a player.  You won’t move him around easily at all.  You won’t win many faceoffs from him.  You won’t score many power play goals with him killing penalties.  And you won’t exceed the leadership he provides in the room.  Bears fans, you will get to know him in a great way.  He is the other Bears alternate captain for 2015-16.

One player not on this year’s list, but certainly would be should any of the above miss a game or two, is new defenseman Aaron Ness.  Rarely does a player not get a letter after serving as a past captain, like Ness did with last year’s Bridgeport Sound Tigers.  But that should tell you just how much character and charisma is in our locker room this season.

These were great choices, and I don’t envy the coaching staff.  The captains were all announced at the morning team meeting by head coach Troy Mann.  With some player vote assistance, the overall captaincy was ultimately decided by the Hershey coaches.

The full opening night roster was also announced today, and you can click here to check it out.

I’ll catch up with Mitchell and have some sound from him later on.  Then – after recording and mixing some 25-30 commercials for Saturday’s game – it’s time to FINALLY get going on this upcoming season.

More to come!


Vanecek Reassigned; Roster to be Announced – 10/7

Hershey_BearsGoaltender Justin Peters has arrived to join his teammates.  Peters came into town last night, and will appear in his first practice this morning.

It’s a special practice, because today’s squad that hits the Giant Center ice will be what the Bears have going into Saturday’s opening game at Springfield.

Vitek Vanecek, the 19-year-old, 39th-overall pick in 2014, has been reassigned by the Caps to the South Carolina Stingrays, who have their second day of training camp today in the hopefully-drying-out Palmetto State.

Look for the Bears’ opening night roster to be announced tomorrow… and we also expect word on those who will serve as captains of the 2015-16 Chocolate and White by tomorrow.


Roster Update – 10/6

It’s almost complete.

The Bears’ opening night roster, that is.

After this word came down from TSN’s Bob McKenzie earlier today, the Bears have about as close to an opening night roster as possible:


“Everybody” includes goaltender Justin Peters and defensemen Aaron Ness and Ryan Stanton.

The Bears’ current roster is available by clicking here.  One or two more moves are expected (which are removals from Hershey’s roster… not additions from Washington.)

Caps senior writer Mike Vogel indirectly alluded to that in a tweet from yesterday:


The Bears’ opening night roster will be announced tomorrow… and look for information on the 2015-16 captaincy later in the week, before we hit the road for Springfield.

Have a great day!


Roster Update – 10/5

Good morning Bears Nation!

Following the Capitals’ 6-2 blitzing of the New York Islanders yesterday at Verizon Center, preparations were being made to whittle down the big club’s roster to the 23-man limit (which must be in place by Wednesday).

Today, the Caps announced another large group, with five of six ultimately headed to Hershey:


Stephenson is here practicing with the Bears this morning, while O’Brien has not arrived yet.

Ness and Stanton will be nice veteran additions to the relatively younger Hershey blue line, assuming they clear waivers.

The players remaining in Washington camp that are on two-way contracts are forwards Sean Collins, Chris Brown and Stan Galiev.  Brown is nursing an injury; Galiev has reportedly gotten better through camp; and Collins, well, let’s just say has been outstanding.  No surprise, either – he was up with the Columbus Blue Jackets for a few weeks in each of the last three seasons.

Derek Roy was the Caps’ NHL-veteran tryout whom I thought had a decent camp.  Justin Peters, Braden Holtby’s backup in an injury-shortened (and number-of-Holtby-starts-dominated) season last year, is on his way to Chocolatetown – confirming what most thought to be the other half of the projected tandem in net (with Dan Ellis).

Having two goaltenders with 292 combined games of NHL experience certainly can’t hurt in Hershey.  However, expectations (as they always are) will be high, seeing as how rookie Pheonix Copley had such a remarkable season in 2014-15 and Philipp Grubauer won 27 other games.

The Bears will make corresponding moves in the next day or so to make room on their roster as well and to provide the South Carolina Stingrays with more players for their camp opener.

By the way, our thoughts and prayers are with all those experiencing the record flooding in the Palmetto State.  The Rays even had to cancel their opening day of camp because of this awful weather.

I’ll have the updated Bears roster on here tomorrow, as we wait for word off of the waiver wire.

Have a great day!


FINAL: Penguins 5, Bears 3 – 10/3

Here is the press release recap from tonight’s pre-season finale for the Hershey Bears:

Jakub Vrana scored two goals for the Hershey Bears and Chris Bourque returned to the Chocolate and White to set them both up, but the visiting Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins erased two deficits en route to a 5-3 win on Saturday night at GIANT Center.

Hershey got on the board first, on their first power play of the night. The hosts worked the puck around the perimiter, starting with a Paul Carey pass from the left boards up high. Bourque then slid a perfect pass for Vrana to rip past Matt Murray from the right circle at 12:16.

The Bears had a few more power play chances in the middle period, but on the first of three, it would be the visitors getting on the board. Matia Marcantuoni knocked down a pass in the slot, and had a teammate to work a two-on-none. Instead, Marcantuoni took the puck to the net and backhanded a shot past Dan Ellis at 4:33.

Riley Barber restored the Hershey lead at 14:27, taking the puck hard to the net on a two-on-one rush and deking Murray to the backhand.

Again, the Penguins would answer after a failed Hershey clear. Shane Bakker would deflect a rebound of a Reid McNeill point shot through Ellis’ pads at 17:35.

The Penguins took the lead at 5:24 of the third, when Clark Seymour floated a wrist shot through a screen and past Ellis.

Oskar Sundqvist made it 4-2 when a puck popped out of Ellis’ glove and toward the bottom of the right circle, where Sundqvist grabbed it and slammed it home at 15:23.

With Ellis off for an extra attacker, Vrana scored his second of the game by snapping a Bourque feed behind Murray from in close.

Sahir Gill ended the night by waving his stick at a Bears pass attempt. The puck deflected straight down the slot and into the net at 19:20.

Ellis finished the night with 18 saves on 22 shots, while Murray denied 21 of 24 in the win. Hershey finished 1-for-4 on the power play and 4-for-5 on the penalty kill.

The Bears kick off the 78th season in club history on Saturday, October 10 on the road against the Springfield Falcons. Faceoff from MassMutual Center is slated for 7:00 PM. Fans may listen to the game on the Bears Radio Network of affiliates WQIC-FM 100.1, WTKT-AM 1460 and WOYK-AM 1350, online at or via the iHeartRadio app for smartphones (WTKT-AM 1460).

The Bears open the home portion of the schedule on Saturday, October 24 at 7:00 PM against the Hartford Wolf Pack. The first 8,000 fans will receive a magnetic schedule courtesy of PNC Bank. The 1980 Calder Cup championship team will be honored prior to the game in celebration of the 35th anniversary of the title. The Bears will also wear special throwback jerseys which will be auctioned off live following the game.

Individual tickets for this and all Bears home games may be purchased at the GIANT Center box office, by calling (717) 508-BEAR or online at

Now, my picks for the Bears’ three stars:


#3 – Tyler Lewington.  An assist, a plus-1, and a big hit along the boards in the second period cap off a pretty nice night for the rookie blueliner.

#2 – Chris Bourque.  Excellent defensive coverage on a play that got away from the Bears in the neutral zone – he hustled to back-check and take possession as a third defenseman.  Not to mention his poise, vision and hands in the offensive zone.  He felled forward Tyler Biggs with his patented slapper too early on.  Two assists in his Hershey return.

#1 – Jakub Vrana.  Two goals, almost a third.  As head coach Troy Mann said, “this kid is the real deal.”

After the game, forward Max Sauve (ECHL South Carolina), goaltender Taran Kozun (ECHL Missouri) and defenseman Bobby Shea (ECHL South Carolina) were released from the camp roster.

Have a great rest of your weekend everyone… thanks so much for reading.  Day off for the team tomorrow, back at it on Monday.




Pre-Season Game Day: Penguins at Bears – 10/3

100315_MatchupA little bit of a delay today in getting this published, but I just had to see how Army could possibly still be in the game against my alma mater….and how Purdue just might shock Michigan State…….

No, seriously though.  The delay was waiting for word off the waiver wire.  Veteran center Zach Sill has cleared, and is now officially reassigned to the Chocolate and White, along with Connor Carrick, who was reassigned yesterday.

Cut after Thursday night’s game was defenseman Joey Leach, who reports to ECHL South Carolina.

(While I think about it – thoughts are with everyone in the Palmetto State today.  That rain looks awful.)

The roster, available here, now stands at 23 players heading into tonight’s tilt with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins – a 7:00 PM battle here at the GC.  One thing you’ll notice is that today is Dustin Gazley’s birthday.  Happiest of days to a great guy!

Now, from the morning skate, the expected lineup that Wilkes-Barre/Scranton will face.  Note that during the regular season, you won’t see this – only some practice combinations, and those players staying on the ice later on the day of a morning skate (which, 99 times out of 100, indicates that night’s scratches).  Here it is:

(28) Carey – (15) Boyd – (17) Bourque
(21) Vrana – (18) Camper – (13) Barber
(10) Gazley – (14) Fyten – (36) Mitchell
(12) Walker – (19) Sauve – (40) Herbert

(4) Djoos – (37) Lewington
(6) Moore – (7) Bowey
(2) Shea – (34) Burgdoerfer

(31) Ellis
(30) Vanecek

Ellis is expected to play the entire game in net for the Bears.  We will catch up with him after tonight’s contest to talk about one of his first-ever games as a member of the Eastern Conference.

A few things to note on the roster tonight.  First, defenseman Tyler Lewington is wearing #37, as Carrick will don his usual #25.  Carrick won’t play, and Sill hasn’t arrived in town yet.

But that’s not the most obivous thing, is it??  Of course not.  Chris Bourque will make his return to the Bears’ lineup.  Even though it is pre-season, it’s a big deal.  Mike Moore also makes his 2015 Bears debut – having only played in one game in Washington’s camp, this is big for the veteran, since his next game will be next Saturday’s regular season opener at Springfield.  Not a lot of time to get into game shape with that schedule, is it?

One thing I remember most about W-B/Scranton’s pre-season game here last year was the blind-side hit placed on Caleb Herbert by northeastern PA native Patrick McGrath.  Looks like both are in the lineup tonight.

After Hershey takes morning skates, the coaching staff often engages in a (friendly?) “Game to 5” against players not in that night’s lineup.  Today, Carrick, Moore and Bourque took on head coach Troy Mann, assistant coach Bryan Helmer and assistant coach Ryan Murphy.  Taran Kozun was the goaltender.   Having lost 5-0 to the player trio on Thursday, Mann said that “today, we have to be better.  Especially Helmer.”

Mann and Murphy scored for Team Coach, but Bourque et al. took them down by a count of 5-2.  Mann said that the coaches were indeed much better.  I won’t go any further into his comments on his teammates.

The puck drops at 7.  Hope to see you here!



Roster Update – 10/2

As the Capitals continue to trim their roster to the NHL-legal 23-player limit by Wednesday, Hershey gets two more after the four lost last night.tweet

Sill, a 27-year-old veteran who spent the entire last season in the NHL, must clear waivers before officially being reassigned.  Carrick does not and will be available for tomorrow’s morning skate.

The Bears also released defenseman (and all-around good guy) Joey Leach from the camp roster.  Leach, on an ECHL contract with the South Carolina Stingrays, will report to North Charleston.

With Carrick, the Bears now have 22 players on their camp roster… Sill would make it 23.

More to come.


First Cuts Made – 10/2

Hershey_BearsLast night after the Albany Devils defeated the Bears by a count of 2-1, head coach Troy Mann met with Bears president/general manager Doug Yingst and a few of the visiting personnel from the Washington Capitals.  Four players were eventually released from their camp tryouts, with all eventually expected to join the ECHL’s South Carolina Stingrays for their training camp.

Defensemen Nick D’Agostino and Nick Jones are signed to ECHL contracts with South Carolina and are on their way.  Forwards Miles Koules and Cole Wilson were tendered camp tryout offers with the Stingrays, and per Yingst, gave a verbal yes to attending.  It’s a win-win for both of them to head there and get some more experience.  Koules hasn’t done enough for Mann’s liking, and Wilson has yet to practice due to his recovering from a minor injury.

Everyone agreed that each player in last night’s lineup gave something positive to the game – especially, as Mann dubbed, “the kids”.  When I posted my picks for top three players midway through the game, I wasn’t sure if the coaching staff would have other names in mind or whether my picks would match.  But it turned out that I did pretty well.  Mann felt that Albany goaltender Ken Appleby was “the best player on the ice for both teams, no doubt.”  That was evident in the post-game three star selections.  I agreed, but admittedly didn’t until the third period.  He was outstanding, and won the game for the visitors.

For the Bears:

  • Vitek Vanecek played a poised, calm game, and even today after looking at video, nobody could see exactly how Blake Coleman’s redirect found its way into the net.  Most thought it banked off of Vanecek’s pad.  If it did, it was the one out-of-position blemish on an otherwise solid night.  Max Novak’s power-play goal was a hard one-timer from the slot – no chance for Vanecek to make the stop.
  • Tyler Lewington, Mann felt, may have ranked as the Bears’ best defensemen throughout the game.  For a stay-at-home type blueliner, he did everything expected of him.
  • Christian Djoos continued to carry the smart play that got him high marks in the Estero rookie tournament, and he is really challenging for a top-four role in Hershey.
  • Riley Barber, according to Mann and Capitals professional scout Jason Fitzsimmons, played with a compete level that exceeded their expectations.  He was skating hard everywhere, and made a terrific play to veteran Carter Camper on a two-on-one that truly should have been a goal.  Appleby got just enough of his toe guard to keep Camper’s attempt outside the left post.  He only “tried to do too much” once in the game, when he tried to beat three players on an on-the-fly line change.
  • Travis Boyd, really, shouldn’t be this far down in this writeup.  I voted him as the best two-way forward in the game.  You can tell that he is not afraid to shoot the puck when the opportunity is there for him; he battles hard along the boards; and without the puck in the offensive zone, he can interrupt what would almost certainly be a clean breakout for the opposition with his defensive smarts.

Defenseman Erik Burgdoerfer and forwards Garrett Mitchell and Dustin Gazley wore the “A” for the Chocolate and White.  All of the “Bears regulars” played very well according to Mann.

The game turned ugly in the third period, with three players receiving game misconducts and Devils forward Chris McKelvie getting tagged with two.  106 combined penalty minutes was the end result, in a game that – let’s face it, toward the end of the first period – seemed like it was headed for a ‘ho-hum’ night.

It’s never ‘ho-hum’ when the Bears and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins tangle, which will happen tomorrow at 7:00 PM.  No matter the roster, it’s that logo on the jersey that draws the ire of Bears Nation.

Grab a $12 ticket, sit anywhere you’d like in the regular seating, forget the name “Joaquin” for a while, and watch some hockey.  The prospects are expected to play again, but so are those expected on the opening night roster such as Chris Bourque, Dan Ellis, Mike Moore – just to name a few.

More reinforcements from Capitals camp are expected as well within the next 24 hours, so keep checking back here for updates.

Have a great day!



FINAL: Devils 2, Bears 1 – 10/1

20151001_182637 (1)Game recap:

Nathan Walker netted a shorthanded goal for the Hershey Bears, but Albany Devils goaltender Ken Appleby made 28 other saves, including several with time winding down, helping the visitors to a 2-1 victory on Thursday night at GIANT Center.

The opening period ended scoreless but was not without chances for both teams. Hershey had the advantage in possession for most of the period but not until after a turnover in front of backstop Vitek Vanecek was swatted aside.

The Bears’ best chance came on a two-on-one rush between Riley Barber and Carter Camper. Barber fed a cross-crease pass to Camper, whose slam-dunk attempt was held against the left goal post by the pad of Albany goaltender Ken Appleby.

A late first-period penalty assessed to the Bears would carry over into the second period, and with two seconds left on the Albany power play, Max Novak slammed home a feed from Raman Hrabarenka for a 1-0 Devils lead.

The Devils embarked on another power play moments later, but it would be the hosts to light the lamp. Garrett Mitchell and Nathan Walker took off two-on-two, and Walker was able to gain a step on a Devils defender and redirect Mitchell’s pass behind Appleby.

The score was even until late in the third, when the Devils broke into the Hershey zone. Joseph Blandisi sent a pass from the left wall to a cutting Blake Coleman, who got two taps at the puck to bang it past Vanecek at 13:27.

Tempers flared later in the frame, with three players ejected from the game with under four minutes remaining.

Appleby made a sliding two-pad stack save on Jakub Vrana to preserve the win, while the Bears skated with the extra attacker.

Vanecek stopped 21 of 23 shots faced in the setback.

Three stars: 3-Walker, 2-Blandisi, 1-Appleby.



Getting the First Look – 10/1

Morning skate concluded at about 11:00 for the Bears, with those playing in tonight’s game exiting much earlier than those who are not.

“Those who are not” includes LW Chris Bourque, who will undoubtedly face the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins on Saturday in the Bears’ last game on the short pre-season slate.

20150930_092618Incidentally, here’s a great photo of Bourque and RW Garrett Mitchell sharing a warmup conversation from yesterday’s practice.  I had a flashback to 2012 when I watched this… two guys who grew to be great friends, and two guys who now have two-year contracts in their possession.



Others not expected to play tonight include goaltender Dan Ellis, forward Cole Wilson (minor injury), and defensemen Mike Moore, Nick Jones and Nick D’Agostino (minor injury).

Vitek Vanecek, Washington’s second-round draft selection in 2014, is expected to start in goal.  He will be developing with the ECHL’s South Carolina Stingrays this season and has a really good mentor with veteran Mark Dekanich recently reporting to North Charleston.

Carter Camper joined the squad for his first practice after returning home to Ohio upon reassignment from Washington, and he is being thrust right into the top-line center position tonight.

Russian referee Evgeny Romasko will work the game with Peter MacDougall.  Veterans Bob Goodman and Scott Pomento have the lines.

Practice lines from this morning’s skate:

(21) Vrana – (18) Camper – (13) Barber
(28) Carey – (15) Boyd – (10) Gazley
(12) Walker – (40) Herbert – (36) Mitchell
(14) Fyten – (19) Sauve – (26) Koules

(4) Djoos – (25) Lewington
(2) Shea – (7) Bowey
(5) Leach – (34) Burgdoerfer

(30 Vanecek
(1) Kozun