Welcome to December everyone!
The mustaches are shaved off from the men’s health awareness month of “Movember”. The tough setbacks against Lehigh Valley and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton are far in the rear-view mirror. And for this first game of December, the Chocolate and White return to the place where the campaign ended last spring in the Eastern Conference semifinals – the XL Center in downtown Hartford, Connecticut.
It’s the third of four matchups against the Hartford Wolf Pack.
Hershey is doing quite well, considering four key players are on the injury shelf. Garrett Mitchell, Liam O’Brien, Ryan Stanton and Jakub Vrana all continue to mend as quickly as possible, but their losses are key. Vrana’s power play prowess is especially missed; Stanton’s solid stay-at-home defense is a setback; and the penalty killing and physicality of Mitchell and O’Brien is tough to match.
But, the Bears have had many players step in to these roles – especially on defense. Key the two rookie blueliners Madison Bowey and Tyler Lewington. Despite a small sample size for Lewington, it was easy to see that he can play the physical game. Bowey is rounding himself out as well as a speedy skater with good size. Without Stanton, there is no time for these guys to think about what to do. Their practices have been awesome and their work ethic is full of eagerness to learn.
Nathan Walker has done a great job in a third- and fourth-line role, and you can just see his confidence picking up with each game. He has five points (1-4-5) in his last six games, and was second star last Friday at Lehigh Valley. He continues to climb the Bears’ scoring ladder in the process.
And finally, on to goaltending. The rotation of starters will end at 20 games tonight as Justin Peters gets the net for the second straight game. He was outstanding in his last two games and will figure in here tonight for sure.
On the pre-game, we have Bears President/GM Doug Yingst to reflect on the first 1/4 of the season and head coach Troy Mann on the upcoming matchup tonight. Forward Paul Carey and I chatted about his recent Leitzel’s Jewelry Player of the Month honor, as well as the Hockey East schedule getting into the thick of things tonight. His Boston College Eagles take on Northeastern University, the team that took BC out of last year’s Beanpot tournament. Great guy and a great chat.
The puck drops at 7:15 and the pre-game starts soon… 6:35.