One of the best things about the trip to Allentown is that it is the shortest we have all season.
One particular thing about this trip? The Bears have already played six road games. After tonight, there are just seven more left in the calendar year – and only two of them are “overnighters” (December 4 at Hartford and December 13 at Bridgeport).
The Bears evened their road record at 3-3-0-0 with a big 4-2 win over the Sound Tigers on Wednesday morning in Bridgeport. Chris Bourque set up both of Paul Carey’s goals in the contest, and both players (Bourque 1-4-5, Carey 3-1-4) extended their point streaks to three games. They have been impressive to watch together, that’s for sure. And let’s not downplay what rookie Travis Boyd has done while centering these wingers. Troy Mann has called Boyd “the de facto first-line center”, and thus has been dropped into big faceoff situations – obviously at even strength, but also as the center on the second power play unit. He got an assist on Carey’s first goal, and although not striking at the same pace as his linemates, has done an outstanding job in the role he has been given. He has an assist in back-to-back games, and tonight, returns to the place “where it all began” as I talked to him about this morning. Allentown’s PPL Center was the site of Boyd’s first game in the AHL last April 14. Although he didn’t get on the scoresheet (he was centering the fourth line in a 4-1 loss), what most impressed me was his play without the puck. He played a very solid two-way game and if/when he lost possession, he would battle and battle to get it back. Boyd would face Lehigh Valley the very next night and score a power-play goal and an assist.
Fast forward to this November 6. Boyd is about to face the Phantoms for the fourth time, meaning 1/3 of his young career has been played against the in-state rivals. In talking with him this morning, he is very excited to play tonight in a bigger role than he had last time. He loves the atmosphere, said that the ice was good, and that the Phantoms present a big challenge.
Carey, however, has been playing like a man possessed. He has really come through and we saw that with the two different ways he scored on Wednesday (taking a puck right to the net first, and later firing a dart from the center point through a screen). I’m really looking forward to watching this trio rack up points in the coming weeks.
No one can argue, however, that the spotlight will be shining on someone else for this contest. This morning, we got this news:
And sure enough by the time I re-tweeted this, Galiev was already on the ice before most of his teammates, taking some loops around the ice and firing pucks with ease into the top corners from 100 feet away.
Galiev’s conditioning loan puts him in Hershey for a maximum of two weeks or six games, whichever came first. Two weeks on the Bears’ upcoming schedule is five games, so that would mean he could play tonight, tomorrow (vs. STJ) and the three-in-three next weekend.
He is definitely in the lineup tonight. According to this morning’s rushes, he would pair with Carter Camper and Sean Collins, occupying the spot last held by rookie Riley Barber. But inserting Galiev and moving a few other forwards around is not a bad thing for coach Mann. There would be two forwards and a defenseman to scratch (not including the injured Jakub Vrana). Dustin Gazley and Nathan Walker have hit a stride in recent games. Liam O’Brien, Zach Sill and Garrett Mitchell? Well, as Sill told me this morning in an interview that I’ll have in the second intermission tonight:
“I wouldn’t want to play us.”
Expect both teams to be up and ready for this one tonight. Lehigh Valley has been idle since coughing up a 4-1 lead but winning in a 10-round shootout at GIANT Center on Sunday, and the Bears came off of Wednesday morning’s win unscathed and chomping at the bit to get to their next contest.
Talk to you soon Bears Nation.