FINAL: Comets 1 at Bears 5

The lone game for the Chocolate and White at GIANT Center on the weekend came against the defending Western Conference Champions, Utica Comets. An exciting, back-and-forth pace with key stops by Comets’ Richard Bachman was the first period story.

Nathan Walker broke through and capitalized following a crisp pass by Scott Gomez with 1:08 left in the frame. It was a period dominated by Hershey 5-on-5, and Walker’s goal was vital to give his club a well deserved advantage going into intermission. Shots on goal after 20 minutes were 10-8 Bears.

Into the middle stanza, the Bears quickly doubled their lead to two. Jakub Vrana slid a cross-ice pass to Travis Boyd, who finished into a gaping, open net.

Utica cashed in and got on the board thanks to a power play goal by Alexandre Grenier. At the 12:09 mark, Grenier tipped a point shot past Dan Ellis. Tonight’s start for Ellis marks his third consecutive nod for the Bears, and he has played outstanding of late.

Just 51 seconds later, Hershey responded 200 feet away, making it a 3-1 game. In similar fashion to the Travis Boyd goal, Nathan Walker sent a perfect pass across to Riley Barber on the back door.

Chris Bourque added a goal with 20.1 seconds left in the second period, extending Hershey’s lead to 4-1 prior to intermission. Vrana found Bourque on a stretch pass, and Bourque from a sharp angle snapped a target breaking shot into the net.

Zach Sill added a shorthanded breakaway goal at 10:45 of the third period to round out a 5-1 final.

The best news coming out of today, the Hershey Bears put the month of February to bed on top of the Atlantic Division. Hershey’s win, combined with a loss earlier in the day to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, and the Bears are division leaders.

Submitted by intern Matt Trust

Toppling the Top Team, Organizational Leadership – 2/28

Greetings from the GC!

First things first, in case you missed it on Friday.  Dan Ellis made 37 saves for his 19th win of the season, including one that I’m still trying to get a hold of that would top all highlight reels this season, and the Bears went on to a 5-2 win over the Toronto Marlies.

The Bears became just the eighth team this season to figure out the Marlies, handing the league leaders only their 10th regulation loss of 2015-16.

By the way, how mad were the Marlies after that loss?  Check out what they put up on the Rochester Americans yesterday.  Toronto became the first team since the Bears (May 1 of last season) to score 10 in a game.  For me, it’s not so much that the Marlies scored 10 goals.  It’s the fact that they gave up five through 40 minutes.

I think teams know their weakness right now.

Highlights of the Bears’ win are available here.  Chris Bourque, Dustin Gazley and Jakub Vrana all recorded two-point games in the contest.  A nice 31st win for the Bears, but don’t call it “lucky number 13” on the road.  That one was an entire team effort.

Now to the task at hand tonight with the Utica Comets in town.

Both the Comets and Bears are looking for a sweep.  Last night, the Comets may seem to have squeaked by the Lehigh Valley Phantoms in a 2-1 decision, but check out the shots on net.  Utica clearly was the better team.  Anthony Stolarz almost stole one for the Phantoms.

Utica has not yet defeated Hershey in three franchise tries – once in their inaugural pre-season and twice this season.  They are missing their old leading scorer, Hunter Shinkaruk, who was dealt last week to the Calgary Flames.  They also have three key injuries in former Bears defenseman Jon Landry, center Blair Jones and gritty forward Wacey Hamilton.  Hershey put up four goals on Joe Cannata back on January 10 and added two empty-netters, so that game was closer than the score looked.

The one interesting thing that could happen today is that all three members of the organization could lead their respective divisions.  The Washington Capitals are in the Windy City battling the Chicago Blackhawks as I write this; the South Carolina Stingrays are in Estero taking on the Florida Everblades, tied in standings points but officially in second place.  The Rays won their last two in a row against the Blades and could take over the South Division in the ECHL with a win in their 5:00 PM matchup.

And the Bears?  They can lead the Atlantic for the first time this season with a win tonight and a(nother) Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins loss.  The Springfield Falcons rolled over the Penguins 5-2 last night in Massachusetts, and now the Penguins face the Providence Bruins at the end of a three-in-three at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center.

If you’re so inclined to check out how close teams are to the playoffs, the AHL has revived the Playoff Primer – a great bulletin board-worth of information.  Check it out.

Game notes for tonight are available here.

GO BEARS!!

-Stucc

IN-GAME UPDATE: Bears 3 at Marlies 2 – End 2nd

We’ll just let the press release describe this one so far.  A truly great battle is unfolding here.  The Bears may have been outplayed in the first, but the visitors really handled a big Toronto momentum swing and lead it 3-2 after two.

GO BEARS!!

-Stucc

RELEASE:

The Bears’ top line came out flying and got the only goal of the period just 2:09 into the game. On a three-on-two rush, Jakub Vrana flipped a pass to his right. Chris Bourque collected it, skated to the bottom of the right circle and beat Garret Sparks with a short-side shot into the upper-right corner for his 23rd goal of the season.

At the other end, Dan Ellis turned away all 14 shots with one that will be seen for a while. With a Marlies player lying along the goal line in his crease, he lunged up to tip a Brett Findlay shot away from what was an empty net.

Toronto would turn up the pressure and strike twice in a span of 1:15 to take a 2-1 lead in the middle period. At 3:52, Nikita Soshnikov powered his way to the net and stuffed a shot inside the far post to tie the contest. Moments later, on Hershey’s first power play of the game, Zach Hyman and Sam Carrick applied furious pressure on a Bears breakout attempt, stole the puck and took the lead when Hyman found the upper corner.

But the Bears battled back with ferocious pressure of their own and took a 3-2 lead into the locker room. Vrana tied the contest by spinning off the left boards and taking the puck to the net. His shot bounced through the pads of Sparks at 8:42.

Dustin Gazley then blocked a shot attempt by David Kolomatis and had a breakaway all the way from his own blue line. He stuffed a shot under Sparks from the top of the crease, putting the Bears in front at 13:40 and ending Sparks’ night in net. Antoine Bibeau came on in relief, and immediately faced another breakaway, this time by Vrana. The netminder kept his pads together to deny Vrana’s low attempt.

IN-GAME UPDATE: Bears 1 at Marlies 0 – End 1st

Stick work, stick work, stick work.

Having a good stick is something that every head coach preaches to his team.  And the Bears won that period for that very reason.  Key blocks on shots and passes kept the Marlies from getting TOO many chances in front of Dan Ellis, but being outshot 14-3 after one will be something that Troy Mann and company will sure address.

Chris Bourque, at the other end, is back on.  His 23rd of the season was a thing of beauty, a shot from the bottom of the right circle over the right shoulder of Garret Sparks.  Not many players will light the lamp from there.

Dan Ellis?  Just incredible.  A fifteen-bell save on Brett Findlay at the end of the first period WILL make the highlight reel.  Mark my word.

1-0 after one.

GO BEARS!!

 

GAME DAY: Bears at Marlies – 2/26

Bonjour de Toronto!

Ok… I know this is about as French-speaking a city as Harrisburg is.  I was just in a happy mood this morning since this is the first time in three years that we are in Ontario to play a hockey game, and not transfer to another plane.

The beautiful, historic Ricoh Coliseum is our venue tonight, the home of the Toronto Marlies.

The league-leading Toronto Marlies, that is.

One curious note that I found while preparing for this one about our hosts is not the fact that they have 41 wins, it’s the fact that they have nine regulation losses and four in overtime.  That’s 13 total losses.  Six of those – almost half – have been at the hands of the St. John’s IceCaps.  Two have come from the Binghamton Senators, and one each from the Albany Devils, Lake Erie Monsters, Manitoba Moose, Utica Comets and Syracuse Crunch.

Seven teams have managed to beat the Marlies, some how, some way.  SEVEN.

The Bears will try to make it eight.  And if they can – and if Portland can defeat Wilkes-Barre/Scranton – there will be a new Atlantic Division leader.

Game notes are all set here.

Lineup-wise, Chris Brown will make his return – which I know will make many of our fans happy.  Brown is a good man and certainly deserves more permanent time.  But let me show you this, since he plays predominantly on the right side:

Riley Barber: 18-23-41
Sean Collins: 12-18-30
Garrett Mitchell: 8-11-19
Dustin Gazley: 10-14-24

That is the point production of the four right wingers that have been playing that position.  I ask: who do you take out?  Keep in mind the other characteristics that all of these guys bring to the table.

GO BEARS!!

-Stucc

 

FINAL: Bears 4 at Penguins 1 – 2/23

I don’t like to toot horns.  But I really wish I recorded what we said in the pre-game show tonight.

I commented that the Bears were due to defeat the Penguins in their building.  I also commented that the club was due for a dominant win.  Ryan Murphy also said it best in our live pre-game interview.  He said that getting 30 to 40 shots on goal didn’t matter as much as taking “meaningful” shots on goal.

Tonight, the Bears did it all.

The penalty kill went three-for-three against the fifth-ranked power play in the AHL.  The Bears’ power play went 1-for-4 against the third-ranked penalty kill in the AHL.  Scoring came in pretty much all varieties except shorthanded (although there were close chances at both ends on that one) and four-on-four.

And Dan Ellis was tremendous when he had to be.  Rewind back to Carter Rowney’s power play chance in the first period.  Ellis power-slid over to his right to smother a low Rowney shot under his outstretched pad, a shot that would have made it a 1-1 game.  Instead, the Bears held their lead, added to it and rode it all to victory.

And now, the point percentage is a slim .651 for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton to .636 for Hershey.

Toronto is beatable if the Bears play like this again on Friday.

Thanks for traveling to the game, Bears Nation.  Great to see you and hear you.

And thanks so much for listening.

Here is the game box score and here is the official recap.

The team practices tomorrow at 11:00 AM and then travels to Toronto on Thursday for the big Friday night matchup.

GO BEARS!

-Stucc

IN-GAME UPDATE: Bears 4 at Penguins 1 – End 2nd

This is dominant.  Just dominant.  Three more second-period goals for the Bears, who own the league lead in that statistic (70).

A penalty shot.  A 1-for-2 power play.  A 2-for-2 penalty kill.  It’s all going right, and needs to for just 20 more minutes.

Stick tap of the game goes to the line of Liam O’Brien-Zach Sill-Garrett Mitchell.  They have points in back-to-back games, and they are big points.

Third period next!

-Stucc

IN-GAME UPDATE: Bears 1 at Penguins 0 – End 1st

GREAT first period for the Bears… possibly their best of the season against a top team.  A 2-for-2 penalty kill, nice saves by Dan Ellis on WBS’ two power play chances and a beauty of a criss-cross zone entry between Scott Gomez and Nathan Walker all have combined to give the Bears a 1-0 lead after one.

Walker’s goal was his 12th of the season, and Gomez now has 23 points in 15 1/3 games.

Game sheet here... second period is on deck!

-Stucc

It’s Been A While… – 2/23

Greetings from a foggy Interstate 81.  I guess one could start a blog post like that about 87% of the year, no?

Anyway, it’s almost time to drop the puck on a rivalry that has been put on the back burner since Boxing Day.  Back then, the Bears boxed up a 5-0 victory over the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, behind a 22-save performance from Dan Ellis, goals from five different players, a 5-for-5 penalty kill and two power play tallies.

The Bears have a 9-1 lead over the Penguins in two games at GIANT Center.

However, the Penguins have a 10-2 lead over the Bears in two games at Mohegan Sun Arena – a place that is turning into the Syracuse War Memorial.

Tonight, Hershey is looking to snap a six-game winless skid at the Casino, where the club’s last win was recorded on December 6, 2014.  The final was 2-1.  It was actually Hershey’s only win that season at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.  Steve Oleksy set up the game-winning goal (he came into play a lot against the Penguins, didn’t he?).  Chris Conner scored twice.  Pheonix Copley made 28 saves.  Seven players on that night’s playing roster are still with the Bears.

The last truly decisive win that I could find in this building came back on December 27, 2012.  The Bears won that game 4-1.  It has been a haunted mansion ever since.   There was even a time when Hershey scored five goals, and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton still won (February 25, 2014 – almost two years to the day).

My point is, there comes a time when skids are broken – and are broken with determination and ferocity.  Those words have to come into the Bears’ game plan.  I have to tell you, I like the team’s odds this time around.  Don’t underestimate the injury- and recall-riddled Penguins, though.  They are at the top of the division for a reason.

But the Bears are due.  No more motivation is needed for this game.

Notes are here.  I’ll talk to y’all at 6:25 on the HBRN and worldwide on Caps Radio 24/7.

GO BEARS!!!!!

-Stucc

 

FINAL: Bruins 6 at Bears 3

The rematch and weekend finale for the Hershey Bears against the Providence Bruins was set for a 5pm puck drop. Unlike the previous night, Providence struck first via the power play.

Following a Connor Carrick tripping minor at 8:54, Seth Griffith capitalized 1:08 later. He blasted a shot that tickled iron and beat Justin Peters on the short side. The Chocolate and White stormed back to tie the game courtesy of the checking line of Garrett Mitchell-Zach Sill-Liam O’Brien.

Mitchell slipped a behind the back pass from the trapezoid to O’Brien for his fourth of the season with 6:02 left in the frame. Travis Boyd added a tally to give Hershey a 2-1 lead with 3:41 left before intermission following a feed from Dustin Gazley. At the 18:53 mark, Griffith cashed in his second goal of the night following a bad bounce near the face off circles.

After 20 minutes, the Bears escaped in a 2-2 deadlock after getting out shot 19-6. Despite two goals against, Justin Peters looked locked in, keeping his club close with several key stops early.

Into the second stanza, Frank Vatrano gave the Bruins a late, second period lead on an off balance, fade away shot that beat Peters low. Tough break for the Chocolate and White after a well played period which saw a goal washed out minutes prior to Vatrano’s strike. \

Just 2:21 into the third frame, Ryan Stanton rallied the Bears back into a 3-3 draw. A sharp angle shot alluded Zane McIntyre to even the score. But just 3:26 later, the Bruins pulled ahead once more with the eventual game-winner. Colton Hargrove scored unassisted on a snapshot to the top shelf past Peters.

Vatrano added his second and team’s second power play goal of the night with 5:49 left to grab a late two goal lead. Captain Tommy Cross hit the empty net with 1:17 to play, rounding out a 6-3 final at GIANT Center.

Submitted by intern Matt Trust