In-Game Update: IceCaps 2 @ Bears 4 FINAL

The Canadian flag made its debut on the new scoreboard and LED ribbon with the St. John’s IceCaps’ first visit of the season. The new AHL Affiliate for the Montreal Canadiens came out with fire and grabbed a 1-0 lead 3:51 in. Darren Dietz tallied his second goal of the season with a floater of a shot past Justin Peters.

Credit Peters, however, for keeping it a one-goal deficit in the early going. He made two dandy saves en route to a successful 5-on-3 penalty kill. Both saves required quick, explosive moment from post-to-post to deny a back door chance.

Hershey’s best scoring chance of the frame came half way through, when Paul Carey faced an open net and had the puck roll up on his stick.

Into the second period, St. John’s began the period in similar fashion with an early strike. Charles Hudon scored his fourth goal of the early season 1:09 in. But this time, the Chocolate and White quickly bounced back to cut the Caps’ two-goal lead in half. Less than three minutes later, captain Garrett Mitchell relentlessly stormed the slot area under heavy pressure and scored on Zachary Fucale.

The Bears looked solid on the offensive forecheck throughout the period, and did a solid job throwing more pucks on goal. We also saw an increasing amount of odd-man rushes for Hershey.  Nonetheless, for Hershey to come away victorious, they will have to overcome a third period, 2-1 deficit.

The first, third period comeback win of the season for Hershey was indeed in the cards. A three goal third period for the Chocolate and White capped a thrilling 4-2 win.  Liam O’Brien tied the hockey game at 4:14, setting up Paul Carey’s eventual game-winning goal with 10:02 left.

Chris Bourque earned the primary helper on Carey’s goal with a beautiful feed to cap his 400th game as a Hershey Bear.

Dustin Gazley hit the empty net with 25 seconds on the clock to seal the win.

It wasn’t your 60 minute complete game effort coaches dream of, but it was nonetheless a grind-em-out, physical and mental effort put forth in spurts. Thankfully, a third period spurt topped with solid goaltending by Justin Peters was the recipe for a “W”.

See you at the Den tomorrow!

Submitted by intern Matt Trust

PRE-GAME: IceCaps at Bears – 10/31

Happy Halloween everyone!

While I sit here in the booth and jot down some notes on tonight’s matchup between the Bears and St. John’s IceCaps, I’m just baffled as to how the last two weekends have gone.  A trip to Utica, a return at 3:30 am last Saturday, and then the home opener.  Last night, a trip to Syracuse, a return at 2:00 am, and a game tonight against the early North Division leaders.

WHY couldn’t those two games be on back-to-back nights – two towns separated by 40 minutes??

Eh… that’s why I do what I do, I guess!!

Anyway, no time to dwell on last night.  I’ve been asked by four different people since I took my seat here: “why are they playing so badly?” or “didn’t they play at all last night?”.

Case #1: the team is NOT playing badly.  The group IS trying to find a team identity, and over the last four games, coach Mann has moved players around to find just that right combination.

Case #2: the team DID play last night.  First period? As dominant a period as I’ve seen in years.  No shots for Syracuse until halfway through, and the only thing that gave them any life at all was a late-period power play – on which Dan Ellis was tremendous and the defense in front of him was in prime position.

What happened last night – and, in some cases, the weekend in Portland – boiled down to one thing: clears.  The Bears did not get good clears from their own zone last night.  And as Mann likes to say, “once you prevent a clear once, you’ve got momentum on your side and you’ll do it again and again.”  That happened to the Bears more and more as the game went on.  The ultimate results?  Turnovers.  And those turnovers happened at the wrong time, and ended up in the back of the Bears’ net.

Tonight, you have a group of developing Montreal Canadiens in here with points in eight of the ten games they have played.  You have a group that plays a bit differently than we have seen in recent weeks – not as aggressive, a bit more passive.  The IceCaps give up the blue line a little bit more, resulting in more shots allowed (to the tune of over 32 per game average, sixth from the bottom in the AHL).  But they rely on strong goaltending (Zach Fucale is 4-0-0 and will play tonight) and get points from just about everywhere.

Pre-game airs in 15 minutes.  Click here for tonight’s notes.  Intern Matt has in-game updates tonight.

GO BEARS!!

-Stucc

FINAL: Bears 1 at Crunch 4

Two turning points in this game.

Two goals in 16 seconds could do in any team.  But a goal scored two seconds after a four-minute penalty kill can be just draining.  The Bears had both happen… and then a breakaway goal sent to a player that emerged from a penalty box right as a four-on-four switched to a power play.  That happened too.

Dan Ellis played VERY well.  The game was his late in the first period and early in the second.  Not getting the puck out of the defensive zone after such saves, and turning the puck over after forechecking so well, is what cost the good guys here tonight.

That’s eight consecutive wins by Syracuse over Hershey… that’s also pretty impressive.

Time for some rest on the bus, regroup, dust off and get at it tomorrow against the North Division-leading St. John’s IceCaps with some home cooking.

See you at the GC.. and thanks for listening tonight!

-Stucc

FROM EARLIER:

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More great forechecking by the Bears in the middle frame, especially from the line of Gazley-Walker-Herbert.  Walker had a nice redirect that was stopped by Vasilevskiy, and Ellis ripped off a few glove saves in succession early.

But man, did the Crunch ever wake up that period.  Matt Taormina was the leader in the comeback, scoring on the power play to tie the game and just 16 seconds later sending Matthew Peca and Anthony DeAngelo into the Bears’ zone on an odd-man rush. DeAngelo put the Crunch in front with his third goal of the season.  Connor Carrick’s 4-minute high sticking penalty carries over into the third period, and if the Bears can withstand this, they can grab momentum right back.  It could be worse… Jake Dotchin’s drive from the slot on a Hershey turnover glanced off the post not long after Syracuse took that lead.

_________________________________________

The first would have been the Bears’ most dominant period of hockey I’ve seen, had it not been for a late Syracuse power play.  Forechecking, forcing turnovers, scoring early… the Bears did it all.

Dustin Gazley’s second of the year from Madison Bowey (who has points in three straight games now) is what the Bears have.

Andrei Vasilevskiy made a great stop on Riley Barber on the Bears’ lone power play chance, and Dan Ellis was just outstanding on that power play as he did not face a shot until halfway through the period.  There was some puck luck there too, as – with Ellis down – a Mike Angelidis pass through the crease went behind Ellis and along the goal line.

When it’s not going well, it’s not going well… Syracuse is now 2-for-33 on the power play this season.

Official writeup for the press release:

The Bears came out flying after the opening faceoff, and thanks to a relentless forecheck, grabbed the game’s first goal just 2:46 in. Rookie Madison Bowey would force a turnover behind the Syracuse net, and the puck popped out into the slot to an untouched Dustin Gazley. The winger ripped the puck past the glove of Crunch netminder Andrei Vasilevskiy for his second of the season.

Syracuse would finally get some shots at goaltender Dan Ellis later in the frame on their only power play of the period, but the backstop was up to the task and made two point-blank stops on captain Mike Angelidis to send the Bears into the intermission with the lead.

The Crunch woke up from that opening period and turned the tide by scoring twice in a span of 16 seconds in the middle frame to take a 2-1 lead after two. Matt Taormina would tie the game, sending a low slap shot through a screened Ellis at 11:36. He would then send Matthew Peca and Anthony DeAngelo into the Bears’ zone two-on-one, a play that finished with DeAngelo sliding Peca’s pass behind Ellis at 11:52.

Early in the third period, at the expiration of a double-minor carry-over penalty to Connor Carrick, Jeff Tambellini redirected a Taormina pass inside the right post from the hash marks at 2:28.

Later, while a four-on-four situation was turning into a Syracuse power play, Mike Blunden emerged from the penalty box and collected a Dylan Blujus pass for a breakaway that he converted at 6:43.

Vasilevskiy made 27 saves on 28 shots and improved to 2-0-0 in his conditioning stint. Ellis made a season-high 28 stops but fell to 2-2-0. The Bears finished 0-for-4 on the power play and 4-for-6 on the penalty kill.

 

PRE-GAME UPDATE: Bears at Crunch – 10/30

Garrett Mitchell talking sticks with equipment manager Josh Carter and assistant Brian Mundy.

Garrett Mitchell talking sticks with equipment manager Josh Carter and assistant Brian Mundy.

Warmup video from press row:

Greetings from press row at the War Memorial Arena in Syracuse.

Getting set for air time in about 20 minutes from one of the best vantage points in the AHL – and also one of the most difficult to navigate.  Every year for the past three, I have lost a belt loop having to duck down and squeeze through up here.  John Walton must miss this place….

Anyway here is your Chocolate and White lineup for tonight, with Jakub Vrana out (hand), Zach Sill out (personal), Christian Djoos out (healthy) and Austin Fyten in:

Collins-Camper-Bourque
Carey-Boyd-Barber
O’Brien-Fyten-Mitchell
Gazley-Walker-Herbert

Stanton-Burgdoerfer
Ness-Carrick
Moore-Bowey

Ellis

And now for some significant milestone alerts:

1) Chris Bourque.  Seems like he always is nearing something big, but this one – you’ll want to be at GIANT Center tomorrow to come salute him.  He is one point away from 400 in his Hershey career (133 goals, 266 assists).  All that has come in 398 games in Chocolate and White.  That means that tonight is is 399th Hershey game and tomorrow, at home, will be his 400th.  Quite an accomplishment.

2) Dan Ellis. If the goalie rotation continues like Troy Mann says it will – and tonight is Ellis’ net – the backstop will play his 200th career AHL game on Sunday at GIANT Center.

3) Ryan Stanton.  The veteran blueliner plays his 350th professional game tonight (230 AHL, 119 NHL coming into this one)

4) Dustin Gazley.  The forward plays his 150th AHL game tonight.

Updates after each period.

GO BEARS!!

-Stucc

GAME PREVIEW: Bears at Crunch – 10/30

Matchups 2015-16 HER at SYRGreetings from downtown Syracuse!

Tonight marks the first of six meetings between the Hershey Bears and the Syracuse Crunch.

There were two things that really struck me after about a 40-minute walk with equipment manager Josh Carter from our hotel to Tim Horton’s to the War Memorial Arena this morning.  First and foremost, I didn’t think the Bears had relatively easy times winning games at this building in recent years.  I didn’t think it was easy for the Bears to win games against Syracuse, period, in recent years.  Ever since the Tampa Bay Lightning came here as the NHL affiliate, talented prospects have filled the roster.  The Syracuse crowds have always been loud and behind their team.  The ice was a bit shorter, the corners tighter, and things happened very quickly in games.

Looking at the historic building now, you can tell that renovations have been made.  A number of seats have been taken out of the northern end, reducing the capacity crowd number but effectively bringing the ice surface up to a regulation 200 feet long.  The benches are 7 feet longer.  The scoreboard is now offset slightly from the center circle.  And (this tidbit comes from Crunch radio voice and good friend Dan D’Uva), “Crunchman”‘s pinky finger sits further away from the center faceoff dot now.

All cosmetics aside, it turns out that the Bears HAVE had their struggles taking two points home from Syracuse.  The Crunch went 4-0-0-0 last season, with big goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy in net for each game.  The last time that the Bears defeated Syracuse was on January 25, 2014 – a 3-2 decision at GIANT Center.  The team’s last win here in Syracuse was one day earlier – a 4-1 win.

Time to exorcise those demons on this Halloween eve.

The Bears will have to win this game without two of their key players.  Forward Jakub Vrana did not make the trip, and according to head coach Troy Mann, is likely out for this entire weekend due to a hand injury suffered during a practice earlier in the week.  That’s a huge loss, considering Vrana’s speed, talent, timely scoring and shot power.

Zach Sill is also not here, as he is in Kitchener, Ontario attending the funeral of his uncle.  That is a loss at the center position, where the Bears have not been thin at talent, but thin at bodies since Chandler Stephenson was recalled to Washington.  Carter Camper and Travis Boyd are very capable, as is the converted-to-center Nathan Walker.  But Sill’s departure left a big void.

Here is Troy Mann from yesterday, talking about these two losses:

 

That void at center will be filled at least tonight with Austin Fyten, who was recalled from the South Carolina Stingrays yesterday.  He had a flight and a half from Florida, where the Stingrays were playing.  He arrived (in the 35-degree wind chill) after midnight, and sat with me to chat this morning before taking to the ice for morning skate.  We’ll have that chat during the first intermission tonight.

I did say that there were two things that struck me on our walk this morning.  Besides the difficulty winning here, I think this is the first time in at LEAST three seasons that there is no snow, and there are still some leaves on the trees.  I simply can’t remember the last time I saw the ground here in Syracuse.  Last year we trudged through two feet and it wasn’t the end of December yet.

Hope it stays that way for a while.

Here are the game notes and broadcast information for tonight’s contest.  Air time is at 6:20.

Updates after each period here.

GO BEARS!!

-Stucc

 

Weekend Preparation – 10/29

Good morning from the GC.

About 3/4 of the team hit the ice early today (as they often do) for some – what the coaching staff calls – “skills work”.  There are three nets (one at each end and one right against the referee’s half-circle against the penalty box side) and each coach takes a group of players for some skating, passing and shooting drills.  This is more of a one-on-one session that players can’t get during a normal one-hour practice that involves more system work.

By early, I mean 9:15 am.  Like, 45 minutes before practice.

Development coach Olie Kolzig is in town and is spending some time on the ice with the youthful corps of players.  Assistant coach Bryan Helmer is working on one end on some shooting drills, while assistant coach Ryan Murphy is putting some players through some in-tight skating around cones with shooting at the third net.

I’d be interested to get the thoughts on our two veteran goaltenders, who spend the time out there as well.  Ultimately, some of these days turn into 2+ hours of being in practice gear.  It has to be something new and rigorous for them, but at the same time, quite helpful and motivating.

The ice gets resurfaced at 9:45 and then is ready for the skate-around and full practice by 10.

It really is something to see.  So is the annual shootout for the pink helmet, which always takes place on the practice day of a road trip.  I’ll have results of that later on today.

Below are two of my favorites from Saturday’s home opener… the 1980 Calder Cup championship team and the 2015-16 squad as they lined up around the center circle.  Good stuff.

JustSports Photography

JustSports Photography

And now for a sneak peak at our 2015-16 team photo….

CropPhoto

Yep.  Troy just came off with one of his classics about my hair… or lack thereof.  Could you tell?

Off to Syracuse at 1:00 PM today.  Andrei Vasilevskiy was assigned on conditioning by Tampa Bay yesterday, and his 29 saves helped the Crunch to their third win of the season in a 3-1 decision over the Toronto Marlies.  Guessing we would see him tomorrow… creating a big challenge in moving the Bears’ 18th-ranked offense (which, let’s face it, just needs a bit more time to gel) into the top half of the league.

Then we welcome the St. John’s IceCaps and Lehigh Valley Phantoms to the Den on Saturday and Sunday.  Get your tickets… Sunday is going fast with our first Hersheypark Pass Night.  Great seats remain for Saturday.

More to come.

GO BEARS!!

-Stucc

 

Wolf Pack 3 at Bears 2 – Final/SO

With GIANT Center glistening in pink throughout the night, the Hershey Bears look to conclude their first three games in three nights stretch of the season with a clean sweep.

The Hartford Wolf Pack drew first blood at the 9:08 mark of the opening period. Nick Tarnasky slammed in his first goal of the season following a centering pass from Brady Skjei. Hershey’s Madison Bowey answered less than three minutes later with his first professional goal. He tallied on an NHL-like snap shot from the left face off circle. The 1-1 score carried into first intermission.

The middle stanza saw a furious offensive push by the Chocolate and White, eventually leading to their first power play of the night at the 11:40 mark. The man-advantage was killed off despite a few deflections in close on Hartford goaltender Jeff Malcolm. The 1-1 deadlock soon carried into the second intermission.

With 7:16 left in regulation, the Pack forced Hershey onto their heels with Tarnasky’s second tally of the night. But with Justin Peters on the bench for the extra attacker, Jakub Vrana found the equalizer with 13 seconds left. Overtime was a necessity for the second consecutive night, but unlike the previous match up, 3-on-3 solved nothing.

The Hershey Bears went to their first shootout of the season and fell, 2-1.  Brian Gibbons scored for Hartford in the bottom of the second round, only to be matched by a Chris Bourque strike in the top-half of the third.

Marek Hrivik scored for Hartford in the bottom of the third round to win the shootout.

Nonetheless, the Hershey Bears grabbed five out of a potential six points in their first three-in-three stretch of the campaign. Considering the youth of this year’s Bears team, that’s surely an accomplishment in itself.

See you back here at GIANT Center on Halloween!

Submitted by intern Matt Trust

GAME DAY: Wolf Pack at Bears – 10/25

Matchup_HFDatHER

CLICK HERE FOR TONIGHT’S GAME NOTES.

Good morning from the offices here at the Den.

It is never easy early in the season when you play your first stretch of three games in three days.  But the Bears and Hartford Wolf Pack are doing just that today.  Hartford started with a 4-3 win at Syracuse, and saw a two-game win streak snapped last night in their 3-2 overtime loss at the Giant Center.

Hershey won 1-0 at Utica on Friday, took the 3-2 decision yesterday and has already “won the weekend”, as head coach Troy Mann likes to say.  Four out of a possible six points are in the can after a game that, honestly, had a very slow development to it.  There was not too much crisp passing, there were a lot of fanned-on pucks, and no real emotion showed until the latter stages of the second period.

It’s another game whereby adrenaline will have to kick in for the players.

For me, yesterday was a complete whirlwind.  Following the aura of seeing the 1980 Calder Cup champions right there on the ice, and following the big bomb dropped when president and GM Doug Yingst announced his retirement following this season, long-time friend of Hershey and a man who really needs no introduction was making his rounds along press row.  Mike ‘Doc’ Emrick ALWAYS has time for people.  Always.  When I opened the booth door and saw him talking to a few people, I found out that he was waiting to come and see me.  He is truly the most kind-hearted celebrity I have ever known.  After complimenting me on the pre-game video that Great Save Productions manufactured, and asked how I did it in one take, he found out about my TV weather days and how I did everything without a teleprompter.  In a way only Doc can put it:

“You know, that’s a profession in which you can come into work dressed up as a dragon, or a clown… and nobody would think anything.”

And, on the impending retirement of Doc’s long-time friend Yingst:

“Come next summer, he might be an even bigger free agent than LA’s Anze Koptiar if HE doesn’t re-sign.”

IMG_17341-1

Puck drops at 5:00 PM, radio pre-game at 4:20.  See you here to #DefendTheDen.

GO BEARS!!!

-Stucc

 

FINAL: Wolf Pack 2 at Bears 3 (OT) – 10/24

Click here for the box score, and click here for the press release on last night’s overtime win over Hartford.

It certainly was an incredible atmosphere for the pre-game, highlighted by the 1980 Calder Cup championship team being introduced on the Giant Center ice.  Another not-so-great highlight came just prior to the starting lineups being announced.  Bears president and general manager Doug Yingst – about to pass the legendary Hall of Famer Frank Mathers in time spent in his dual role – announced is retirement to the crowd, teams and world over the internet broadcast on Caps Radio 24/7.

The man is a true legend.  He hired me, taught me, showed me how to be a coach and mentor even though I didn’t play the game at nearly the level some people did, and gave me advice on getting rid of my desire to “just stay put at this level of broadcasting”.  He trusted a guy that came from the rivals up north on I-81.  I honestly had no words when I heard the news… and you could just feel the air come out of the building as well.  At least he is going to be here through this season.  It’s now time – more than ever – to get that 12th Calder Cup.

Rematch between the Bears and Wolf Pack is coming up at 5:00 PM.

GO BEARS!!

-Stucc

GAME DAY: Wolf Pack at Bears – 10/24

Matchup_HFDatHERWell, it’s FINALLY here!

No, not nap time – although all of us could certainly use it after a safe arrival at 3:30 this morning.  Adrenaline, coffee and sugar will be fueling a lot of the staff as we get set for the 78th home opener in Hershey Bears history tonight at the Giant Center.

A few “things to watch”, if you will:

1. The new center-hung scoreboard, halo, and 360-LED fascia.  Sure you’ve seen it on Season Ticket Holder pickup night and during the pre-season.  I’m not giving away anything, as Great Save Productions has been working feverishly for the last several months to get ready for tonight… but trust me, get in your seats early for quite a show.

2. The 1980 Calder Cup champions.  We will honor Dave Parro, Tony Cassolato, Greg Theberge and many other members of the club that celebrated the championship 35 years ago.  And wait until you see the jerseys that this year’s Bears will be wearing…if you haven’t already.  They will be auctioned off live post-game.

3. Magnet schedules, thanks to PNC Bank.  The first 8,000 of you will get one on entry tonight.

The Hartford Wolf Pack are out of the gate with a 4-1-0-0 record and won their first road game of the season last night at Syracuse by a count of 4-3.  The Bears are looking to make it two in a row for home opening wins, after taking a 4-1 decision from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton last October 25.

(Useless?) stat of the day: the Bears won their fourth (road) game of the season last night at Utica by a score of 1-0, scoring with only 71 seconds left in regulation.  The Bears also won their fourth game of the season last year – on the road – at Hartford – also by a score of 1-0.  Casey Wellman ended it with 1.5 seconds left in overtime.

We have a special one-hour pre-game show on the Bears Radio Network tonight (6:00 air time), so if you’re in the building, catch us on 88.9 FM.  Be sure to be here… don’t settle for sitting home listening to me babble.  If you’re in the area, come out and help pack the house.

Pre-game ceremonies are set to begin around 6:55 PM… so grab your beverage, Uncle Andy’s pretzel, and be ready in your seats.  Puck drop should be around 7:18 PM if all goes smoothly and I don’t mess up the player introductions.

To those of you not attending, here is how you can catch us tonight.  Sincere thanks to the crew of Caps Radio 24/7, who will have tonight’s game AND tomorrow’s on the Caps Radio 24/7 and Caps apps, and online at capsradio247.com:

  • WQIC-FM 100.1
  • WTKT-AM 1460
  • WOYK-AM 1350
  • iHeartRadio app (Fox Sports 1460)
  • Caps Radio 24/7
  • AHL Live

Click here for tonight’s game notes to get yourself ready.  Wear your Bears swag.  Be loud.  Have fun.  And let’s #DefendTheDen!!!!

Here’s hoping for a celebration like this after tonight… thanks to Lindsay Mogle & the Utica Comets for the photo.Celly at UTI Lindsay Mogle

GO BEARS!!!

-Stucc