IN-GAME UPDATE: Comets 3 at Bears 6 – FINAL

Wild Card Weekend in the National Football League certainly did not prevent yet another tremendous turnout for Hersheypark Pass night at GIANT Center! The reigning Western Conference Champions and newest members of the Eastern Conference, Utica Comets paid their visits to Chocolate Town for a 5 PM tilt.

Just 3:22 in, the large crowd had an early reason to cheer thanks to Chris Bourque. Bourque fired a shot from the center point through a screen and into the net. Hanging on to a lead and keeping the foot on the gas pedal has to be an absolute key to this game. The Bears surrendered a 3-1 lead in Friday’s loss to the Rochester Americans, and two, one-goal leads the next night in Syracuse.

But, the top development club of the Vancouver Canucks responded 3:08 later. Mike Pereira tallied his first goal of the season on Dan Ellis. Hershey successfully killed off two Utica power plays before first intermission.

With 8:43 to play in the middle stanza, Utica grabbed their first lead of the night. Ellis left a juicy rebound right on the door step for an easy finish by Hunter Shinkaruk. The Comets’ first lead of the night, however, would only last a dozen seconds.

Sean Collins stormed down ice on an odd-man rush and buried a shot past the glove hand of Joe Cannata. Bourque picked up the lone assist for his second point of the night.

Back to the glove side is where the Bears found more success, and it came via a power play goal by Christian Djoos. On the transition with 3:01 left in the frame, Djoos received a drop pass and blasted the puck home to make it 3-2 Chocolate Town.

A late Hershey penalty would give Utica a carry over man-advantage to start the third period, and they capitalized. 1:14 in, Joseph LaBate tied the game at three goals apiece. The Comets would head to the power play again with 3:28 remaining in regulation, and it again appeared Hershey had their backs pressed against the wall.

Until with 2:41 left, Collins finished a shorthanded, 2-on-1 rush after a perfect centering pass from Dustin Gazley. That proved to be the decisive strike, as the Bears added a pair of empty net goals by Bourque and Garrett Mitchell in the final minute.

Bottom line, it was a game Hershey needed to win. They needed to come away with two standings points on home ice after dropping two tough tilts away from GIANT Center. Mission accomplished.

See you next week!

Submitted by intern Matt Trust

 

Crunched Again, Comets in Town – 1/10

Greetings from GIANT Center!  It certainly is good to be home after last night’s rainy ride down I-81.  The Syracuse Crunch pulled out a 4-2 win on the strength of three unanswered goals, wiping out nice efforts by Chris Bourque, Travis Boyd, Garrett Mitchell and Nathan Walker – who all extended points streaks with their work.

With no time to sit on that loss – or Friday’s, for that matter – we prepare to host the Utica Comets at 5:00 PM.

Tonight is a matchup of two teams hungry for a win.  The Bears don’t want their skid to reach three games – most especially with a near sellout crowd expected to welcome the team back home.  The Comets have an even bigger slide ongoing, having gone 0-4-1-0 in their last five.

Utica is undoubtedly highly motivated for this contest.  It marks the return of 1997 Calder Cup champion Paul Jerrard to Hershey, as the Winnipeg native is Utica’s assistant coach to Travis Green.  It marks the return of former Bears defensemen Jon Landry and Danny Syvret.  And it marks the first time that a Utica franchise has visited Chocolatetown for a regular-season game in almost 23 years.

Here’s the game sheet from that day.  It’s always cool to see some blasts-from-the-past in there.  Tooks, Yanick Dupre, Wes Walz, Dave Fenyves… just to name a few.

Sheet

81 combined shots on goal and 11 combined goals.  Those were the days!

Keeping this post short as it’s time to head up to the booth to set up for the call.  Catch it at 4:20 on the stations listed in the game notes, which are available here.

The puck drops at 5:00.  See you here!

GO BEARS!!!

-Stucc

 

IN-GAME UPDATE: Bears 2 at Crunch 2 – END 2nd

Chris Bourque in on fire.

Following up the rebound of a shot created by a beautiful Sean Collins drive to the net, #17 scored #14 on the season by chipping the puck behind Adam Wilcox.

Jeff Tambellini, however, can still do it.  He fired a slap shot on the Crunch’s second power play of the period, tying the game.  And that’s where we stand after one.

It could have easily been 3-0 or 4-0 in favor of the Bears had it not been for some lucky sprawling on the ice by Wilcox and decent net-front coverage by the Syracuse defense.

Christian Djoos (DJOOOOOOOOOOOOS) rang one off the iron and in to give the Bears the lead in the second frame, but a Mike Angelidis second-chance at the net front found paydirt and we remain tied after 40 minutes.

Let’s hope the goal-scoring pattern continues as is, just once more!

The official release is below, and here is the link to the box score.

_____________________________________

Following up the rebound of a shot by Sean Collins, Chris Bourque opened the scoring with his 14th of the season. He headed to the net and chipped the puck underneath the poke-check attempt of Crunch netminder Adam Wilcox at 4:04.

Syracuse was given two power play chances in the opening period and made its second one count. Jeff Tambellini unloaded a slapper off of a cross-ice feed from Matt Taormina from the top of the left circle, beating Justin Peters at 17:46 for the equalizer.

Christian Djoos would restore the Bears’ lead in the second period, moments after an abbreviated power play expired. Getting open at the left point, Djoos stepped into a shot fed to him by Nathan Walker and clanged the puck off the right post and behind Wilcox at 7:19.

But a failed clear would keep the Crunch in the offensive zone, where Mike Angelidis took the puck to the net. His first shot hit the post and bounced behind Peters, but he was able to find it before the Bears and hurry it into the net at 9:01 to tie the contest.

 

-Stucc

 

Across the Thruway: Bears at Crunch – 1/9

Greetings from Syracuse!

I’ll tell you what… having the kind of travel we did last night is a dream come true.  January?  New York State Thruway?  Lake effect snow belt?  No snow, but cold rain?

We’ll take it.

We’ll take something else tonight, too, which would be wonderful.  A win at Syracuse.  Five straight trips here to the War Memorial Arena have ended with a quiet bus ride home.  The last win here?  January 24, 2014 – a 4-1 Bears triumph.

(Wait… we’ll also take the Powerball jackpot too tonight… how could I forget that?!)

A few things have been going very well for the Bears since the calendar flipped to 2016.  Let’s take a look:

1) Offense.  Six goals on January 2 vs. Binghamton, five goals on January 3 at Bridgeport, four goals last night at Rochester.  That has vaulted the Bears all the way into seventh in the AHL in goals per game average (3.00).  Troy Mann credits the Bears following the team system of getting to the blue paint, creating more than two (not just one) scoring opportunity on each play at the net, and executing smart offensive zone play.  Obviously, Mann is now looking to bring up the goals against ranking a few stanzas higher.  But the offense is there, and it is clicking nicely.

2) Penalty killing.  Yes, the Bears did take a hit a few weeks ago on home ice, which knocked the team down to the bottom ten after sitting near the #3 spot in early December.  But, without one of the Bears top forwards for a while in Zach Sill (recall), and without captain Garrett Mitchell for four weeks (injury), the team truly showed a great effort in keeping opposing power plays at bay.

3) Discipline.  Have you noticed how the number of opponent power plays has decreased, taking away the occasional delay-of-game and too-many-men penalties out of the equation?  The Bears are down to 15th in the league in penalty minutes per game.

To have success against Syracuse, the Bears need to simply keep their legs moving and forecheck the heck out of them.  Mann said that the game on December 29th might have been the best that the Bears played this season without earning a win.  The Crunch, whose roster was bolstered by the addition of five players from Tampa Bay, were held to one shot on goal in the opening 20 minutes (and that shot was suspect, from a penalty-kill clear) and just 17 in the game.  But a man by the name of Andrei Vasilevskiy was in goal – and the Crunch were 5-0 heading into that night’s game with him in net.  Make it 6-0 now.  Thankfully, Vasilevskiy is on NHL recall.  Whom the Bears face tonight remains to be seen, as Latvian Kristers Gudlevskis left the game in Albany after one period, apparently ill.  Adam Wilcox was on in relief – the same Wilcox who watched his team blow 3-1 and 4-2 leads on December 20 and lose 5-4 in overtime.

The difference-maker for the Crunch, however, lies in up-and-coming star Jonathan Drouin.  He made his season AHL debut last night and scored two goals on five shots against the Devils, yet the Crunch still came out on the losing end.  Lots has been made about Drouin lately, and here is a good read on his desire to move.

Pre-game hits the air at 6:20 on the Bears Radio Network and on Caps Radio 24/7 (how I’m going to follow up John Walton’s instant classic from Madison Square Garden earlier today is beyond me).

Before we go, a photo or two from one of the best places in the league to watch hockey – Rochester’s Blue Cross Arena.  Is it me, or do the photos that come out of this venue look more awesome each season?  (Photos courtesy Micheline Veluvolu).

DSC_2214 DSC_2260 DSC_2212

Enjoy the broadcast and GO BEARS!!!

-Stucc

Next Guy Up; Bears at Amerks – 1/8

People golfing on Christmas Eve in Pennsylvania.

Nobody skiing in Pennsylvania over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.

No snow on the ground in Rochester, New York on January 8.

A player swap 2 hours before face-off.

Chalk these up as things unexpected.  But, they have happened… and adjustments must continue to be made.

Such is the case as we get ready for action tonight at the Blue Cross Arena at the Rochester War Memorial – a place to which we haven’t been since the 2013-14 season.  Rather than having a normal preparation for this game, it may have been the busiest week I’ve experienced in a long time, and thank goodness for the patience of the good people that manage the Amerks.  We had four back-and-forth changes to make to our roster and 20 extra minutes of fill time for which to prepare before tonight’s game as the Amerks celebrate a wonderful 60 seasons in the American Hockey League.

More on that later.  First, to the all-Chocolate-and-White news.

The week began with the recall of center Cam Reid from the Bears’ former affiliate, the Reading Royals.  The simple answer to the question “how do you call players up from somewhere besides South Carolina?” lies in the health of the only two forwards left with the Stingrays that are signed to AHL-ECHL contracts with Hershey.  Center Austin Fyten is out week-to-week with an injury, and center Maxime Sauve, who hasn’t been with the Bears since training camp, is out long-term.  The proximity of Reading, the great partnership with head coach Larry Courville at our former ECHL affiliate, and the fact that Reid may have been the “freshest” to play the center position were all factors in giving him a shot in Hershey.

Why was he recalled in the first place?  Zach Sill remains on recall, and is serving a two-game suspension for a hit on Boston’s Adam McQuaid.  The second of those two games is tomorrow afternoon, when the Caps visit MSG to play the New York Rangers.  Additionally, Chandler Stephenson remains on the sidelines here with an upper-body injury.  Stephenson did not practice with the Bears at all this week, and Troy Mann shared that he is likely out for the weekend.  Troy was toying with the idea of dressing 11 forwards and seven defensemen, but if that was the case, he said it wouldn’t be right to keep Reid here and not play him when Reading could obviously use him.  So, keep him, or reassign him?  Stand by.

The week continued with news that defenseman Mike Moore became ill on Wednesday.  He stayed away from the rink and hasn’t returned since.  No chance he would come on the road for tonight or tomorrow, so the Bears summoned defenseman Joey Leach from South Carolina – their last available player under contract with Bobby Shea still with the Bears (who will play tonight against the Amerks).

Fast forward to yesterday, about 3/4 of the way through the final practice before the team traveled here to Rochester.  Travis Boyd was the recipient of a deflected puck to the chin area, left practice and had to receive medical attention.  Remember Cam Reid?  He thus remained on the trip.  However, when we arrived in Rochester, news came to the coaching staff that Boyd was, in fact, doing very well and could even play.  This morning, the news was even better.  Boyd was en route to Rochester, arrived safely, and will dress tonight.  Reid’s status would now be determined after warmups.

Then came the swapping of Paul Carey and Ryan Stanton with the Capitals…literally 15 minutes ago.

It was determined that Carey deserved the chance to prove himself with the Caps, and was thus recalled.  I whole-heartedly agree.  The guy has been a warrior here, battles along the boards with the best of them, rarely if ever turns the puck over, and has a rifle of a shot.  Ryan Stanton was reassigned to make room on the salary-cap side of things, and is expected to be in Syracuse when we arrive there later tonight.  He did not come to Rochester.  Reid’s status is now determined: he is in.  It can be inferred that Carey’s recall goes along with the fact that the Caps play an early game tomorrow in NYC and have an unsure situation with Marcus Johansson, who is having a hearing with the Department of Player Safety this evening.

Catch your breath?  Same here!

A little over two hours from faceoff and here is your lineup as the Bears and Amerks play their 450th all-time game, with Erik Burgdoerfer expected to wear the “A” on defense tonight and the placement of the Bears’ two newly-named All-Stars, Chris Bourque and Connor Carrick:

Bourque-Boyd-Barber
Collins-Camper-Brown
O’Brien-Walker-Mitchell
Gazley-Reid-Herbert

Djoos-Burgdoerfer
Carrick-Lewington
Shea-Bowey

Ellis

This team has faced adversity and adjustment several times this season, and I’m looking forward to seeing how it handles tonight.  The coaching staff deserves the utmost praise for how they handled this week… so far.

We will have a special extended pre-game show tonight with the Amerks’ ceremony taking place prior to puck drop.  A crowd of well over 9,000 is expected, which will only make this a fun Friday night of hockey.

Enjoy the broadcast… and GO BEARS!!!

-Stucc

GAME DAY: Bears at Sound Tigers – 1/3

Have all of you come down from that awesome victory celebration last night?

Honestly, I don’t think I have, just yet.

I said five times after Chris Bourque scored the overtime winner against the Binghamton Senators, “I don’t believe it!”.  But, I did… and I did all along.  I even have audio proof of Frank Schofield and I talking about how the team was at least going to tie the game after going down 5-1.

They did.  And why did they do it?

1) Nathan Walker.  With his parents in the crowd visiting from Australia, Walker elevated his game above the NHL level in my opinion.  He was flying, he was crashing the net, he was stepping into scrums, and… oh yes… he scored two goals in the same game for the first time since the Bears blew out the Charlotte Checkers in North Carolina back on November 14, 2013.  Walker was absolutely clutch – and he is back in the building where he scored a big goal that allowed the Bears to defeat the Sound Tigers on November 4.

2) Garrett Mitchell.  Was it because he is Walker’s linemate?  Was it because it was just his second game back from injury?  Was it because he is the captain?  Whatever it was, he didn’t score a bigger goal than last night’s game-tying marker with less than two minutes left in regulation.  That goal was a thing of beauty – and, although he didn’t do it the same way, the timing reminded me of the game-winner he scored at Utica back on October 24.

3) Our fans.  To all of you, you were the loudest I’ve ever heard in a losing situation.  Trust me, the team built off of that.  Let’s bring that heat when we come back on January 10.

Tonight, the Bears wrap up their visits to Bridgeport with a 5:00 PM faceoff against the Sound Tigers.  Hershey is 2-0-0-0 here, and 0-1-0-0 at home against the Sound Tigers… so let’s keep that road-team-wins pattern alive and 2016 will be off to a really good start.

Here are tonight’s game notes, broadcast information and neat tidbits.

Air time in 5 minutes.  GO BEARS!
-Stucc

IN-GAME UPDATE: Senators 5 at Bears 6 – FINAL/OT

The Hershey Bears Hockey Club hit the ice for the first time in 2016 to close out their five game holiday home stand. The stretch began on December 26 in a 5-0 shutout over Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, and the Bears entered with hopes of finishing the stretch similar to its beginning against the Binghamton Senators.

With his club on the power play, Chris Bourque blew a tire in the neutral zone opening up a breakaway for Ryan Penny. He buried his first goal of the season through the five hole of Justin Peters for a Sens shorthanded goal at 4:24.

But just 1:33 later, captain Garrett Mitchell turned on his jets and carried the puck down the wing for a semi-breakaway. His chance was stopped, but Nathan Walker followed up to finish the rebound to tie the game at 1-1.

Binghamton regained the lead prior to intermission on a cross-ice pass that again, beat Peters low to the ice. Matt Puempel finished a pass from Cole Schneider at the 13:03 mark.

The Senators entered on a five game winning streak, and entered the middle period determined to push the streak to six. Binghamton posted a field goal in the period, and chased Peters from the game after their fourth tally.

Travis Ewanyk scored 2:03 into the period, and Buddy Robinson ended Peters’ night 38 seconds later. Ryan Dzingel became the fifth Senator to score, and the first to do so on Dan Ellis with 4:49 left in the period.

With 3:19 left before second intermission, Nathan Walker cut the deficit back to three on his second strike of the evening. If there’s a silver lining, Walker has continued to have an impressive breakout season despite all the team adversity faced in recent weeks.

Suddenly a once 5-1 deficit was cut to 5-3 in the final minute of the period. With 23 seconds left on the period clock, the scoring fest continued, and it was Travis Boyd contributing. He blasted a quick shot from the slot past Chris Driedger to get the GIANT Center faithful back to their feet once more before break.

It was oddly a tale of two periods. It could have been over when the score reached 5-1 in the second period. But, you need to admire the resiliency of the Chocolate and White, battling back to cut the deficit to two with 20 minutes to play. I just had that feel after 40 minutes that the game was far from over.

As it turned out, two late goals in the second period would set up arguably the comeback of the season for the Chocolate and White. Sean Collins redirected a Madison Bowey shot to make it a 5-4 game with 7:53 left.

Captain Garrett Mitchell found the equalizer on a quick entry into the offensive zone on a rush and snapped a shot past the glove hand of Driedger with 1:12 left.

It set the stage for 3-on-3 sudden death overtime, and Chris Bourque played the role of hero. Following a Binghamton 3-on-1 rush, Bourque countered on a breakaway and capitalized on the backhand with 2:36 left in the extra frame.

Resiliency at its finest.

See you next week!

Submitted by intern Matt Trust