IN-GAME UPDATE: Phantoms 3 at Bears 1 – FINAL

The Hershey Bears Hockey Club look to close out the 2015 calendar year on a high note against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. New Year’s Eve matinees are nothing out of the ordinary for the Chocolate and White, as the Bears possess a franchise record of 14-2-2 (W-L-T) all-time on home ice.

Hershey enters with three consecutive New Year’s Eve victories against the Phantoms, dating back to a 2004, 4-3 shootout win.

The Orange and Black jumped out to a first period lead with 8:48 to play in the frame. Aaron Palushaj swatted a rebound from the low-slot into the net past Justin Peters. This came on Lehigh Valley’s second man-advantage of the evening. Palushaj’s seventh tally of the season would stand as the lone mark in the period.

Into the second period, the Bears continued to get pucks on Jason LaBarbera, but struggled getting to the net front to win rebounds chances. With 6:22 remaining in the second period, Lehigh Valley doubled their lead to 2-0. Danick Martel muscled his way to the net front and scored in close on Peters.

Both Phantoms’ goals were generated by crashing the net hard on Justin Peters. It’s the same game plan that was successful for Syracuse two nights prior, and it’s unfortunately now working for Lehigh Valley.

Unfortunately for the Bears, a 2-0 lead would be plenty for LaBarbera. After Christian Djoos got Hershey on the board with 2:35 left on a center-point blast, Martel hit the empty net on a breakaway with 1:01 left.

The Bears are now without a win in both three straight against the Phantoms, and overall at GIANT Center. As Hershey’s home stand finale looms for Saturday, I would imagine the tough decisions begin to build for Head Coach Troy Mann. Do you rest a young team in the thick of a six games in nine nights stretch, or do you practice to improve on what has lacked the last three games?

Only time will tell.

Submitted by intern Matt Trust

IN-GAME UPDATE: Crunch 3 at Bears 1 – FINAL

The home stretch of the calendar year is in full throttle, as the Hershey Bears welcomed the Syracuse Crunch to town for a rare Tuesday night tilt. The Chocolate and White entered with the goal in mind to bounce back after a setback against the Binghamton Senators on Sunday.

Chris Bourque and captain Garrett Mitchell both returned to the lineup from their respective injuries to hopefully contribute an offensive flavor. The Bears went 0-for-3 on the power play in the opening frame en route to there being no score at intermission.

Andrei Vasilevskiy turned away a dozen Hershey shots in the first period, and saw his club provide a 1-0 lead in the middle period. Off a turnover, Tye McGinn scored his third goal against the Bears in the last four periods.

Hershey was handed a four minute power play late in the second period after Ryan Stanton was clipped at the 14:25 mark. On the man-advantage, Carter Camper elevated a rebound into the top corner of the net to knot the game at 1-1.

But with 15 seconds left before intermission, Syracuse pulled ahead on a short-side shot past Dan Ellis. David Broll threw a shot on net from the bottom of the left circle, near the goal line. Certainly a shot Ellis would want to have back. An unfortunate momentum shift in favor of the Crunch right before break.

With 15:02 to play, McGinn knocked in his second of the night to give the Crunch a comfortable two goal lead. Syracuse would not look back and carry the 3-1 score into the finish line.

Vasilevskiy’s play in net for the Crunch may have certainly been the difference. He played like a first round draft pick and soon to be NHL goaltender. Hershey’s 1-for-7 mark on the power play, including a miss on a 4-on-3 for full two minutes late in the third period would also haunt their chances.

The stretch at GIANT Center will continue on New Year’s Eve against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.

Submitted by intern Matt Trust

The Captains and the Crunch: 12/29

JustSports PhotographyGreetings from the GC!

Who can forget this picture?  There are actually two of these in our collection, and they look very similar.  Chris Bourque scored the overtime winner against the Hartford Wolf Pack in the home opener on October 24, and then scored with 20 seconds-and-change left in the game on December 5 against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, breaking a 1-1 deadlock and sending the Chocolate and White to victory.

Why the fuss?

Because he’s back.

After missing the last three games with an upper-body injury, alternate captain #17 returns to the lineup and he is going right to work with top-line minutes.  He comes back with the league’s longest active point streak under his belt as well (eight games, 4G-7A=11 points).  It goes without saying that this is a massive boost to the power play.  He was missing from the lineup a week ago Sunday, when the Bears last played Syracuse and came back from 3-0 down to win 5-4 in overtime.

Three games felt like an eternity without Bourque – but the Bears did grab two wins in his three absences and still scored a combined 13 goals.  Now, the top offensive player is back in there again.  I wouldn’t want to be on the Syracuse defense tonight.  The Bears are climbing the ladder – fast – in goals per game average and it’s great to see.

Besides Bourque, you will notice another familiar face – and letter-wearer – back in the lineup.  Whether it be because of a quick heal or because of the recent recall of our other alternate captain Zach Sill to Washington, Mitchell will play.  Mann calls it “a boost of energy in the room to get this week started off right.”  Who can argue that?  Mann said yesterday after practice that Mitchell could be ready to go as early as the New Year’s Eve contest against Lehigh Valley at GIANT Center, and here he is ready to jump in for the first time since November 21.

Here is a chat I had with Mitchell just before game time:

Syracuse, however, will also have a new-look lineup – one that is actually bigger than the 20-player minimum.  Captain Mike Angelidis, Mike Blunden, Yanni Gourde and Tanner Richard have returned from NHL recall duty in Tampa Bay to bolster Rob Zettler’s forward lineup; former (Adirondack) Phantoms forward Luke Pither has been signed on to a tryout; and goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy, although having played on Sunday, is rested and most likely will bring his 5-0-0 record against the Bears to the opposite crease.   Forward Henri Ikonen, who took the hit from the suspended Liam O’Brien last Sunday, did not play in Syracuse’s last two games, and it’s not clear if he is ready yet for tonight.

Back on the side of the Chocolate and White, goaltender Mark Dekanich departs the cold and rainy central Pennsylvania for sunny Orlando to join his South Carolina Stingrays teammates for their game against the Solar Bears tonight.  He made 18 saves on 22 shots in his Bears debut on Sunday against the Binghamton Senators, and backed up Dan Ellis on Saturday in the 5-0 win over the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.

This means that Dan Ellis and Justin Peters are BOTH okay.  Morning skate looked as normal as ever today, and it’s fantastic news that Ellis’ injury suffered during the third period of Saturday’s game against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton was not serious.  Peters suffered his injury during the first period of the last contest against Syracuse, and has ramped up his practices ever since resting for two days.  Great news all around, indeed.

That’s about as positive as things can be as we get set for tonight’s matchup with the Crunch.  Despite all of their roster issues, the Crunch are a respectable 12-12-4-1 on the young season and just saw an eight-game win streak against the Bears snapped last Sunday.  Here’s hoping for a big W for the good guys – which would be a nice birthday present for last Sunday’s hero, Sean Collins, who turns 27 today.

Game notes are all set right here.

Air time is at 6:20 and a reminder that you can tune in to all home games inside the GIANT Center live on 88.9 FM.  The rest of the broadcast availability can be found by clicking the link above.



IN-GAME UPDATE: Senators 5 at Bears 3 – FINAL

The Chocolate and White looked to ride their emotional, 5-0 blow out win over Wilkes-Barre/Scranton from the previous night into today.  The Binghamton Senators came to town as the opponent with hopes of breaking up Hershey’s perfect weekend.

The AHL Affiliate of the the Ottawa Senators would strike first at 8:26. Nick Paul tallied his second goal of the season against goaltender Mark Dekanich in his Bears’ debut. Chris Brown responded with 5:58 to play before intermission with a bullet past Chris Driedger.

The tied gridlock carried into the second frame, when Binghamton regained the scoring edge.  With 11:45 remaining in the period, Matt Puempel capitalized after a two-man advantage turned into a 5-on-4. Following a cross ice feed, Puempel beat Dekanich high, glove-side as he was sliding across.

But the lead lasted just 52 seconds, thanks to Paul Carey snapping a shot from the slot into the cage. The Sens countered and grabbed a 3-2 advantage heading into second intermission on a goal three minutes later by Buddy Robinson. He capitalized on a near 2-on-0 breakaway at the net front.

Unfortunately for the Bears, Binghamton shut the door in the third period, coming away with a 5-3 victory. Puempel scored his second of the night, and the eventual game-winner only 81 seconds into the period.

Travis Boyd cut the deficit back to one with 8:37 to play, but the Chocolate and White could not find the equalizer late. Colin Greening hit the empty net with a minute left to round out a 5-3 decision at GIANT Center.

The good news, there is barely any time to dwell on the set back. The Bears are back in action in less than 48 hours, defending the den at home.

Submitted by intern Matt Trust

GAME DAY: Senators at Bears – 12/27

Greetings from the GC!

Your Hershey Bears are rolling at home, fans – and they are doing it without some of their top guns.  A 5-0 throttling over the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins last night in front of over 9,500 fans has the team tied for the second-most home wins (11) in the AHL with the Binghamton Senators coming into town tonight.

Here are my three takeaways from last night’s win, three things that need to continue against a Senators team that has won two straight for the first time all season:

1) Shot blocking.  Individual efforts last night that simply cannot go unnoticed: Ryan Stanton, Christian Djoos and Madison Bowey.  Stanton was a machine on the penalty kill, stepping in front of many a Penguins shot; and collectively, I don’t think I’ve seen better hand-eye coordination from Bowey and Djoos, knocking passes and shots down out of mid-air with ease.

2) Discipline.  Take away the three third-period penalties last night and the Bears were guilty of just two over the first 45 minutes of action.  Binghamton came in stagnant on the power play over four previous games, but ripped off three power play goals last night in a win over the (struggling) Hartford Wolf Pack.  The Bears have to keep their focus, and in fact force Binghamton to the kill… the Sens lead the league in penalty minutes.

3) Fast start, fast finish.  Hershey rattled off a season-best four first-period goals back on December 12 against the Sens – and that was against Andrew Hammond.  But, Binghamton was allowed back into the game before the Bears ended the contest 5-3 winners.  The Bears didn’t let Wilkes-Barre/Scranton anywhere near a comeback last night, and that needs to continue.

Regarding Dan Ellis, all I can say is that he will dress as the backup tonight to Mark Dekanich, who makes his Bears debut in goal.  Read into that what you would like… but at least he can dress and skate.  Justin Peters, by the way, looked in great spirits after the team meeting this morning and after today’s rest day is expected to attempt practice tomorrow.

Chris Bourque will miss one more game tonight, but I think he could make his return as early as Tuesday per what Troy Mann said in his post game press conference last night.

One man who will make a return very soon is our captain, Garrett Mitchell, who has been cleared for full-contact practice.  I would think that means tomorrow.  Updates will come on him as soon as we get any.

Pre-game hits the air at 4:20, and the game notes are right here.



IN-GAME UPDATE: Penguins 0 at Bears 5 – FINAL

If there was any concern the Hershey Bears would be a bit rusty in their first game back from Holiday Break, those concerns were erased nearly immediately following opening puck drop. With the division leading, and arch rivals from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in town, the Chocolate and White put forth a dominating first period effort.

With Matt Murray currently with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Tristan Jarry out of the lineup, it was an opportunity for the Bears to put up a crooked number of goals. Just 34 seconds in, Aaron Ness started the scoring with a bullet of a slap shot past Brian Foster.

Only 49 seconds later, Chris Brown tallied his second of the season after tapping a beautiful feed from Mike Moore into the net.

Hershey went to their first man-advantage at the 9:26 mark, and a World Juniors Championship Gold Medalist in Madison Bowey made it 3-0. Bowey capitalized on a point-blank chance after a centering pass from Carter Camper.

Excellent opening 20 minutes, as the Bears appeared multiple steps quicker than the Penguins. They were attacking forward for seemingly all 20 minutes, and read most of WBS’ breakout attempts from their defensive zone.

The middle stanza of any hockey game can always be crucial. If a team is on top, it’s an opportunity to put the hammer down and run away with the game by second intermission. If behind by a large deficit, it’s an opportunity to chip away and shrink the deficit for the third period.

Luckily for the Chocolate and White, the hammer was activated with two more goals added, leading to a 5-0 lead after 40 minutes.

Three seconds past the half way mark, Paul Carey tallied the team’s second power play goal of the night. They are 2-for-3 on the man-advantage through 40 minutes. With 8:38 to play in the frame, Erik Burgdoerfer joined the scoring parade to make it a 5-0 game.

Dan Ellis would shut the door in the third period, earning first star honors and his first shutout of the season on a 21 save effort.

I can’t think of a better way to kickoff a weekend.

See you tomorrow!

Submitted by intern Matt Trust

Back from the Break – Penguins at Bears – 12/26

Happy holidays everyone!  I sincerely hope your Christmas was a blessed and wonderful one with family and friends.

A few notes on player moves before we get to our game setup for tonight.

First, goaltender Mark Dekanich has been recalled from the South Carolina Stingrays.  Fans might remember seeing the Nashville Predators’ draft pick back in 2011 at GIANT Center, as he suited up for the Western Conference at the AHL All-Star Classic.

Dekanich’s recent playing history has been well-documented.  Prior to signing with the Stingrays (and eventually with Hershey on October 17, giving him a Bears-only one-way agreement), he played two years with Zagreb Medvescak of the KHL.  The problem is, he wasn’t paid.  Here is a link to an interview with Yahoo’s Puck Daddy, in case you missed it all.

Needless to say, he is thrilled to be playing in North America again.  I’ll have a pre-recorded interview with him for you sometime this weekend.

He will dress as the backup tonight to Dan Ellis as the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins are back in Chocolatetown.  Putting two-and-two together means that Justin Peters is not ready for game action just yet, after leaving Sunday’s game against the Syracuse Crunch after one period.  Peters did skate a bit and took some shots with the team at morning skate today, but didn’t stay on for the full time.  The move was to give him some work after the long layoff and see if he could go, but he just isn’t ready yet.  No sense in rushing things.  Here’s to hoping Petey is back out there very soon.

Next up?  Connor Carrick, who was reassigned by the Capitals on Tuesday and promptly recalled this morning.  The Caps, who host Montreal tonight, are presumably still waiting for Brooks Orpik to give his word that he is good to go.  Until then, the Caps need an extra defenseman, and Carrick is the man.

Third up?  Chris Bourque.  I’ll give you some encouraging words: he seems to be feeling much, much better.  He will be looked at by the team physicians one more time on Monday and the determination on his return will then be made.  Hoping for Tuesday, fingers crossed.

Fourth up?  Garrett Mitchell.  This is the guy that Troy Mann said was the closest to returning, and in my pre-game interview with our head coach, you’ll hear just how close.

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton also has the injury bug in the room, but is also dealing with another bug – that of the recall variety.  Two of their top scorers – Conor Sheary and Scott Wilson – are currently with the big club, as is the 2014-15 goaltender of the year Matt Murray.  Add in the injuries to defensemen Barry Goers and former Bears captain Steve Oleksy, forwards Tyler Biggs and Tom Sestito and backup goaltender Tristan Jarry, and the phone to Wheeling was busy.

The Penguins have gone 5-0-0-1 in their last six games, and haven’t lost since the teddy bear toss game on December 6 here in Hershey.  That loss – a 4-1 decision – matched their most lopsided setback of the campaign as well.

The Bears have a huge chance to put a stamp on this season series tonight.  If the boys can get the legs going early, get the first goal, forecheck, forecheck, forecheck, and stay out of the penalty box, things will be looking up as we roll through this seven-game homestand.

Game notes are available here.



IN-GAME UPDATE: Crunch 4 at Bears 5 – FINAL/OT

The Hershey Bears would close out their weekend on Sunday night with the annual Bears Hall of Fame festivities. It would be the final opportunity to pick up points on the weekend after dropping games in the last two nights against Lehigh Valley and Toronto.

The Syracuse Crunch entered GIANT Center looking to spoil Hall of Fame, as well as Hersheypark Pass Night. They would strike first on the power play with 11:54 to play in the opening frame. Tye McGinn finished a tic-tac-toe passing play and scored on Justin Peters’ weak side.

Liam O’Brien returned to the lineup after an absence last night, due to an illegal check to the head on Friday in Lehigh Valley. O’Brien’s return was the opposite of ideal, and unfortunately short live. At the 9:19 mark, O’Brien was handed a five minute major penalty and a game misconduct for a check from behind.

Just like Friday, the opposition capitalized twice on the major penalty. 1:26 after O’Brien’s infraction, Adam Erne scored for his second point of the night. In the final minute of the major, McGinn tallied his second of the game. McGinn’s second strike was on a deflection through the five-hole of Peters, ending his night.

The Bears would need to put their hard hats on in the second period to chip away at a 3-0 deficit. Two goals were added by the Chocolate and White to cut Syracuse’s lead to 3-2, and it happened via 5-on-5 play.

As a Big 10 hockey enthusiast in myself, I have noticed the former University of Minnesota goaltender, Adam Wilcox, in his college days was a beat slow on the glove side. That’s exactly where Ryan Stanton cashed in for his second goal of the season at the 13:39 mark.

The momentum shifted, and Chandler Stephenson capitalized high, blocker side on Adam Wilcox only 1:03 later.

It’s also notable the Bears whiffed on three power play chances in the period. On a positive note for the power play unit, Christian Djoos nicely filled in for Chris Bourque in terms of manning the blue line on the man-advantage. He worked the puck around the offensive zone nicely when he was on the ice.

Into the third period, the Bears ultimately recorded what could be known as the comeback of the season. 2:25 in, the Crunch pushed their lead back to two on a shorthanded breakaway goal by Jeff Tambellini. Sean Collins capitalized on a passing play down low with 11:00 to again, cut the deficit to one. 2:22 later, Christian Djoos’ hard work throughout the night would pay off, and it came even strength to tie the game at 4-4.

Overtime was forced, and it lasted just 25 seconds before Collins notched his second goal of the night, and sent over 10,000 fans home happy. The Bears conclude the weekend with two points, and do so in a thrilling come from behind fashion.

A great way to send off into the Holiday break!

Submitted by intern Matt Trust


Four More to the Hall; Crunch Visit Chocolatetown – 12/20


Bears President/GM Doug Yingst presents 2014 inductee Dunc Fisher with his Hershey Bears Hockey Club Hall of Fame plaque on December 20, 2014.  Photo courtesy JustSports Photography.

The last game before the holiday break is nearly upon us and the Bears are looking to close things out on a strong note.  It certainly has been a (surprisingly) difficult two nights, as the Chocolate and White allowed six goals in back-to-back games.  The surprising part came on Friday night, as the injury-riddled Lehigh Valley Phantoms somehow found another way to get past the Bears.  Not so surprising was how good the Toronto Marlies are.  The Bears really played the Marlies well for the first half of the contest last night, but – as head coach Troy Mann alluded to in this morning’s interview – the goal that Toronto scored just 29 seconds into the second period was followed by a flat ten minutes of hockey that put the Marlies firmly in control.

Speaking of injury-riddled, enter the Syracuse Crunch.  Due to a plethora of recalls – including one that just came down as I’m writing this – the top developmental affiliate of the Tampa Bay Lightning will make their first visit of the season to Chocolatetown with the bare minimum roster – two goaltenders and 18 skaters, nine of which are defensemen.  There were 10 forwards until it was announced at 11:45 AM that center Tanner Richard was recalled by Tampa Bay.

Remember that quote I wrote on Friday?

“It doesn’t matter who you play.  It’s how you play.”

The Syracuse Crunch have won their last eight games against the Bears – eight – a stretch that spans parts of two full seasons.  The Bears’ last win did come at GIANT Center, a 3-2 victory on January 25, 2014 – and the Den will be the host location of the next two games in the season series, tonight and nine nights from now.

In the last five Syracuse victories, Andrei Vasilevskiy was the goaltender.  He is a perfect 5-0-0 against Hershey, but played on Friday in a 4-0 win over Binghamton and last night in a 3-0 loss against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, both in Syracuse.  Nothing says a goalie can’t play a three-in-three and he was on the ice this morning at GIANT Center, taking shots from assistant coach Trent Cull while being recorded.  Adam Wilcox is the other Crunch netminder on the roster, a college teammate of Travis Boyd at the University of Minnesota who has gone 2-3-3 in eight appearances this AHL season.

A few personnel notes from last night’s game on the Hershey side.  We will have an update on Chris Bourque’s availability in tonight’s pre-game show on radio.  Mann said that if Bourque is rested tonight it will be a huge factor in getting him back as quickly as possible, and will also be a chance for other players to step up their games in his absence.  More on that later.

Defenseman Erik Burgdoerfer figures to rest up tonight as well, after absorbing a shot during Friday night’s warmup skate in Lehigh Valley.  Mann is a big advocate of Burgdoerfer and how could you not be?  He has probably been the Bears’ steadiest blueliner since getting a permanent role on this team.

As for the pre-game pomp and circumstance, I love this night every year.  Four historic Hershey Bears fixtures will enter the Hockey Club’s Hall of Fame in a ceremony that, each of the past three years, has been emceed by the legendary voice of the NHL, Mike ‘Doc’ Emrick.  Roger DeJordy, Howie Yanosik and Larry “The Rock” Zeidel will go in as players, and William “Scotty” Alexander will go in under the general category.

I would expect the face-off to take place at around 5:15 PM.  Be in your seats if at all possible by 4:50 to catch this wonderful presentation.

One-day Hersheypark passes and commemorative Hall of Fame wrapped chocolate bars will be distributed to all fans in attendance.  The Bears are wearing the AHL 80th anniversary jerseys, which will be auctioned off live following the game.

Here is a link to the game notes for tonight’s game, which is just about sold out.  I’m looking forward to a crowd of nearly 11,000… let’s get behind the boys tonight!



IN-GAME UPDATE: Marlies 6 at Bears 2 – FINAL

The Hershey Bears returned home to “Defend the Den” on Saturday night against the top team in the American Hockey League. Arguably, this is the toughest test to date for the Bears, especially after falling in Lehigh Valley the previous night, 6-4 to the Phantoms.

Dan Ellis would tend the pipes for the Chocolate and White, and 200 feet away stared former Philadelphia Flyer, Ray Emery.

Hershey’s three rookies blue liners in Tyler Lewington, Madison Bowey and Christian Djoos were all placed in the lineup against Toronto. Sure enough, just 4:25 in, one of the mentioned made an impact. Madison Bowey fed Aaron Ness on the back door for an early 1-0 lead.

At the 15:14 mark, Toronto capitalized on a two-man advantage to tie the game at 1-1. Mark Arcobello snapped a shot through Erik Burgdoerfer attempting a block, and past a screened Dan Ellis.

Chris Brown cleared waivers earlier in the day and was assigned to Hershey from Washington. In his first period back, Brown looked forceful in the offensive zone with a few scoring chances.

The Marlies would grab their first lead of the night following first intermission, and it would take only 29 seconds. Zach Hyman tallied his fifth of the season to make it a 2-1 contest. At the 8:11 mark, Toronto doubled their lead to two after Brendan Leipsic finished a goal mount scrum, and forced the puck over the goal line.

The ice remained titled in Hershey’s defensive zone, and the Marlies would tack on a fourth unanswered goal 1:20 later. Stuart Percy beat Dan Ellis high, glove side to end his night, and but the Bears in a 4-1 hole.

Carter Camper would stop the bleeding at 10:53 and cut the deficit to 4-2. Camper found day light on an offensive rush and capitalized for his second strike in as many nights. Bowey picked up the primary assist for his second point of the night.

The previous night, Lehigh Valley scored five unanswered goals against the Chocolate and White. Camper’s goal prevented the Bears from suffering the same fate nearly 24 hours later.

But unfortunately, at the end of the night, there was indeed a daunting similarity between tonight’s game and last night versus the Phantoms. The Bears for the second consecutive night would have six goals posted against, this time resulting in a 6-2 defeat.

T.J. Brennan scored twice in the frame with once on the power play at the 3:51 mark, and again with 7:15 to play. It completed a three point night and first star honors for Brennan.

All attention will have to immediately turn to tomorrow’s match up. It’s a special night at GIANT Center with the annual Hershey Bears Hall of Fame induction ceremony, along with Hersheypark Pass Night.

The Chocolate and White will welcome the Syracuse Crunch to town, in their final opportunity to claim standings points on the weekend.

Submitted by intern Matt Trust