After four good practice days this week – which head coach Troy Mann described as “energetic and upbeat” – the Chocolate and White continue their five-game homestand tonight and tomorrow with the Portland Pirates in town.
Last Sunday, the Bears defeated the Rochester Americans by a count of 3-1. Be honest – didn’t it feel like a goal couldn’t be handed to the Bears after that first period? After being blanked in two straight games, the Bears ran into a stone wall named Nathan Lieuwen. The Amerks backstop turned aside all 12 shots he faced, and was into the same rhythm for the first half of the middle period before Paul Carey finally lit the lamp. The goal was awesome, the celebration even more so as Carey’s teammates piled on him along the boards.
It was the very picture of relief. Other teams might just have patted Carey on the head, or fist-bumped him along the bench. If that celebration doesn’t tell you that the Bears care and are working as hard as they can, I don’t know what does.
Garrett Mitchell added the game-winner, Zach Sill an empty-net insurance marker, and Mike Moore had a first-period fight that sparked everyone in the building. It certainly was a captain’s night.
Portland defeated the Bears 3-2 back on October 17, behind two power-play goals from Logan Shaw, and got another one of those huge goaltending performances of their own from Mike McKenna – who kept the Bears’ rally at bay with 15 third-period saves.
The Pirates also claimed the next day’s game with a 5-2 decision. The team struggled after that, but coming into tonight, has won four straight – with McKenna in net for all of them. This is a team that is getting its act together defensively as well – ranked fourth-best in shots allowed per game. It will be a challenge for a Bears team that has gone 30 straight power plays without a goal, a team that just wiped out a 40-year-old “last time” (last back-to-back shutouts against) and a team that is ready to move ahead.
In-game updates to be provided by intern Matt Trust.
Here is your lineup: