FINAL/SO: Devils 2 at Bears 3

Scott Stuccio references the Albany Devils as the best, quietest team in the AHL. A team well out of contention for the top spot in the North Division, but running away with the second seed describes the Devils soundly.

The Albany Devils traveled to Chocolatetown to battle the Hershey Bears, in a night we celebrate the legendary career of President and General Manager Doug Yingst.

With 10:30 left in the opening period, Travis Boyd finished a tap-tap passing play in the slot. Boyd finished a feed from Jakub Vrana, last night’s overtime hero, and tallied the period’s lone goal.

Dan Ellis stopped all seven Albany shots he faced in the first.

The back and forth pace picked up into the middle period. 2:14 in, Corbin McPherson roofed a shot to the top corner past Dan Ellis, tying the game at 1-1. 6:22 later, Chandler Stephenson sent a Kuznetsov-like, behind the back pass from the trapezoid to Riley Barber. With Ken Appleby looking to his left, Riley Barber stuffed a shot short-side to Appleby’s left.

Hershey’s second lead of the night lasted less than a minute, courtesy of Albany’s Jim O’Brien. From the low slot, O’Brien placed a perfect deflection low to the ice off a Reece Scarlett feed. The 2-2 gridlock carried into second intermission.

Both clubs exchanged six more shots on goal in the final period of regulation, all turned aside by Ellis and Appleby. An eventful sudden death overtime concluded, leading to the skills competition. Riley Barber scored the game-winning shootout goal in the top of the fifth round, followed by a game-winning stop by Ellis.

A 3-2 shootout victory for the Hershey Bears combined with a Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins loss to Providence put the Bears back in soul possession of first in the Atlantic.

An appropriate ending to a night where we honor a great in the hockey circuit.

Many thanks, Doug.

Submitted by Matt Trust

Honoring a Legend – 3/26

To this day, there are moments when I walk into the radio booth at GIANT Center and think “oops.. this isn’t the right door.”

I still remember coming to this venue as the visitor and walking down the press row hall to catch up with John Walton on lineups, recent play, and have a few hard laughs about stories emanating from the former “I-81 Mafia” (myself, John and Binghamton’s Grady Whittenburg).

I can still remember hoping we weren’t going to be whipped to badly by the mighty Hershey Bears.  But now I realize that I AM in the right place.

One man took a chance on hiring me on the very same day that I lost a dear member of my family.  On Tuesday, August 23, 2011, I was leaving the Grontkowski Funeral Home in Nanticoke, just south of my home town of Laflin, near Wilkes-Barre.  My great Uncle Syl Kuligowski was one of my idols growing up because of the wide array of eloquent $100 words he used to use when talking to me and my brothers.  I used to laugh at those instances, and then promptly head to find a dictionary.  On my desk at my parents’ house sits one of the last birthday cards I received from him.  The words are tremendous.  And there is still $1 inside it.

Most people know that I hold a degree in meteorology from Penn State, and – via a whirlwind of story outcomes – jumped into the American Hockey League to work for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins with only a half-hour in between careers as a TV meteorologist.

There is only one man who would have taken a chance to bring someone who truly loves calling games to the most historic AHL franchise.  One man who could convince this dedicated fan base “hey, give this guy a chance.  We will mold him into our next voice.”

Doug Yingst is that man.

I dedicate my two broadcast careers to my great Uncle Syl because of his ability to speak and get people’s attention.  He was an instructor at Canisius High School in Buffalo, New York.  He taught two things: economics and driver’s education.  His most famous student was the late Tim Russert (former host of NBC’s Meet the Press), who wrote about him in one of his books.  At the funeral, Russert’s book was open to the pages in which he mentioned Uncle Syl.  That was a tough, draining day.  He was in the Merchant Marines, and the military ceremony will always be in my mind.  He and a few other family members now deceased, along with my thankfully healthy Dad, are the very reason that I get chills during any of the national anthems played before all of our games – here or on the road.  (I think Utica’s pre-game anthem last night was wonderful).

And I truly believe he was right there with me at 2:00 PM on August 23, 2011, when I walked away from the post-funeral luncheon over to my car.  As soon as I buckled my seatbelt to head for home on that warm and sunny day, I received a phone call, with a voice at the other end of the line saying “we would love to have you as our next voice of the Hershey Bears.”

I hope I’ve made my great uncle proud.  And I will never stop trying to make our fans, and readers of this blog, proud as well.  I won’t succeed for some people, I know that.  But I’m not going to stop trying.

Thank you, Doug, for bringing me to Hershey.  I really hope I can be the voice that calls your sixth – my first – and the Bears’ 12th – Calder Cup championship.

-Stucc

What a Game – 3/25

Well, it wasn’t all Aaron Ness – but still, the 1-0 lead that the blueliner gave the Bears early in the second period turned out to be huge.

The Bears, forced to kill nine penalties against the Utica Comets, were assessed a parade of penalties not long after the goal and had to deploy the penalty killing units several times.  Early in the third – on a lengthy two-man advantage – Jordan Subban received a pass at the right point and walked in to take a slapper.  You could see it coming, with traffic in front and a bit of room at the upper-right corner of the net.

That turned out to be the only goal that Justin Peters allowed at the Aud in the Bears’ two trips to upstate New York.

The goaltending of Richard Bachman and the Comets’ top-ranked home penalty kill earned the club a huge point.  But despite giving Utica the overtime possession early, the Bears did not allow the Comets a shot on goal.  Not even T.J. Hensick’s backhander from the low slot.  That got blocked with good stick work.

With the trio of Nathan Walker, Ryan Stanton and Jakub Vrana on the ice inside the second minute of the three-on-three, Utica was on the move.  A shot went wide, and off of the back wall, Stanton poked the puck to the neutral zone that came right into Vrana’s skating lane.  He took off, came in one-on-one with Bachman, and snapped a shot stick side to empty the Hershey bench.

Usually, in 1-0 or 2-1 final scores, the two goaltenders and the game-winning goal scorer are your three stars.  You can’t argue that here tonight.  Bachman could have been second with the difficulty of his saves, but was named third.  Peters – who had to stop Ronalds Kenins just 10 seconds into the contest and Joseph LaBate on a second-period shorthanded breakaway, earned the second star.  Vrana is your number one, as he became the 17th different Bears player to register a game-winning goal this season.

Here is the box score and here is a link to the recap.

The bus is pointed toward Chocolatetown.  The Bears host the Albany Devils tomorrow, who are about 45 minutes ahead having lost 3-1 at Syracuse.  Nobody needs reminding of how special tomorrow night will be for our retiring President/GM Doug Yingst.  Be there early for a pre-game ceremony.  Stay late for the Dietz & Watson Ham Shoot.

And be loud in-between as the Bears look to complete a big week.

GO BEARS!

-Stucc

IN-GAME UPDATE: Bears 1 at Comets 0 – End 2nd

Aaron Ness may very well be a hero.

He is the only player to solve Richard Bachman, who has stood upside-down, backwards and every which way possible to keep this a close game.  The Comets backstop made his best save when the Utica defense attempted a clear out of their own right corner.  The puck banked off of an official’s skate and right into the low slot where Chandler Stephenson was.  He had Chris Bourque to pass to, and did, but Bachman lunged over to rob Bourque of his 200th AHL goal.

At the other end, Hershey’s defense – and penalty killing – has been the savior.  12 shots on goal against and when the 12 got through, Justin Peters has been there.

Let’s get this score to hold or improved through 20 more minutes.

Box score here, release below.

GO BEARS!!
-Stucc

 

OFFICIAL RELEASE:

Neither team could get on the scoreboard in the first period, but the Comets had the first chance just 10 seconds into the game. Ronalds Kenins jumped right through the Hershey defense and got a shot away from in close, but Justin Peters kept the puck in front of him with a nice stick save.

At the other end, Richard Bachman would then pass test after test, stopping all 11 shots he faced including a breakaway by Dustin Gazley and a shorthanded partial break-in by Zach Sill.

The Bears finally broke through on Bachman at 3:03 of the middle period. Gazley worked the puck up high to Aaron Ness, who teed off from the center point and beat Bachman low inside the right post for his fifth goal of the season. Hershey’s penalty kill again came up big, holding off three more Comets chances with the man advantage.

 

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

This one has the look of a goaltending and special teams duel after 20 minutes of play.  Justin Peters had to pass a tough test just 10 seconds into the game, while Richard Bachman had to dial in – and stay in – for a good bit of the period.  Hershey was the clear favorite in the limited 5-on-5 play we had.

No score after one.

Box score is here.

GO BEARS!!

-Stucc

 

OFFICIAL RELEASE:

Neither team could get on the scoreboard in the first period, but the Comets had the first chance just 10 seconds into the game. Ronalds Kenins jumped right through the Hershey defense and got a shot away from in close, but Justin Peters kept the puck in front of him with a nice stick save.

At the other end, Richard Bachman would then pass test after test, stopping all 11 shots he faced including a breakaway by Dustin Gazley and a shorthanded partial break-in by Zach Sill.

Last Roadie of March – 3/25

20160325_162540Greetings from the historic Utica Memorial Auditorium, where the Bears are about to take on the Utica Comets in the final meeting of the regular-season series.

The difficulty in sweeping teams in back-to-back games on weekends has been discussed many times this season.  But there lies a far greater difficulty coming up with tonight’s matchup: the Bears have a chance to sweep the season series from the Comets, and that will be no easy task within one of the greatest AHL hockey atmospheres ever.

By the numbers:

  1. Chris Bourque leads the head-to-head scoring in the series with three goals and two assists.
  2. Hershey has outscored Utica 12-4 in the three games combined.
  3. One of the Bears’ five shutouts occurred here at the Aud back on October 23 – Justin Peters recorded it.
  4. The Comets have dropped four straight games, including a 3-1 setback (after leading 1-0) on Wednesday against the Syracuse Crunch.
  5. The Comets are riddled with injuries, including names like Hamilton, Zalewski, Lain, Negrin, and Archibald – all who played against the Bears at one time or another this season.

Peters will get the net for the Bears in tonight’s game again, as planned and explained by Troy Mann on Tuesday when Mark Dekanich was recalled from South Carolina.  Dekanich, incidentally, is here to back up Peters, and Dan Ellis (again as expcected) did not make the trip so he could be rested and ready for tomorrow’s March finale against Albany.

Coming off of an 8-0 blitzing in Lehigh Valley on Wednesday, the Bears will have no other changes to make.  And why would there be any?  More numbers:

  1. Every Bears player finished with a plus-minus of plus-one or higher.
  2. Five of the six defensemen recorded at least one point, with a total of seven (2-5-7) coming from the blueliners.  The defensemen were a combined plus-15 as well.
  3. The offense factored into the highest road shutout in franchise history.  78 years and no shutouts by eight goals or more is a feat for the ages.  And that is from the AHL VP of Communications Jason Chaimovitch – so you know it is a legitimate statistic.  Stick taps to you, J.C.
  4. The win, coupled with Hartford’s overtime loss, dropped the Bears’ magic number to clinch a playoff spot to 13.
  5. Chris Bourque is one goal away from his single-season career best (29), set last season with the Hartford Wolf Pack.  He is also two points away from his second-highest single-season total (73), set in 2008-09 with the Bears.  The magical goal that would equal his single-season best will also be the 200th of his AHL career.

Former Bears defenseman Jon Landry is back in the Comets lineup, after suffering an injury to his foot that kept him out of the GIANT Center portion of the series.  Landry is having an exceptional season offensively, as he is tied for the most power play goals (four) on the Comets’ active roster, has posted 21 points (6-15-21) for 10th best on the squad and is two goals away from his AHL single-season best eight, set in 2012-13 with Bridgeport (he has the 21 points in only 37 games).

A big addition that the Comets have recently made is the highly-skilled power play specialist T.J. Hensick.  The Bears last saw Hensick with the 2013-14 Hartford Wolf Pack.  He is a fantastic signing that came at an opportune time, with the injuries that the Comets have experienced.  He will surely be a player for Hershey to watch if and when the Bears have to deploy their penalty kill.

Speaking of, Utica is still exceptionally good on that portion of special teams, ranking sixth in the league at 85.4%.  Hershey has been treading the water of the bottom 10 in the AHL in power play success, currently ranking 20th (17.3%).

Lastly, just announced a little while ago, Comets leading scorer Alexandre Grenier has arrived after being reassigned by the parent Vancouver Canucks.  Grenier is Utica’s leading scorer (13-24-37) and has one of the Comets’ four goals against the Bears in the season series.

We will again see Jonas Siegenthaler on defense for Hershey tonight.  He certainly did everything expected of him on Wednesday, ending the evening with his first AHL assist and minor penalty and coming within a foot of his first AHL goal (the shot was deflected over the net in the first period).  He will again pair with Erik Burgdoerfer, who himself had another multiple-point game (1-1-2).

Air time is at 6:20 PM.  Game notes are set for you here.

GO BEARS!!

-Stucc

Hershey’s Own Great 8 – 3/24

I’ll have to give Matt Trust a break here.  Usually he is posting game recaps and highlights for me here on the blog, but last night was a bit busy for one of the Hershey Bears interns.

Hailing from the Lehigh Valley himself, Matt helped out on the broadcast last night at PPL Center.  Like trying to predict an 80-degree high temperature in January, nobody could have predicted the outcome of last night’s Bears-Phantoms matchup.  Since we were busy with all the statistical updates surrounding the Bears’ 8-0 trouncing, Matt didn’t have a chance to log in and get the update posted.

Here are the Phantoms’ video highlights, courtesy of SendToNews, in case you wanted to see the “Great 8” – Hershey’s highest offensive output and largest margin of victory this season:

The gang buses to Utica today, and will take on the Comets tomorrow night at 7PM.  Radio pre-game hits the air at 6:20.  Look for the game notes in the morning as well.

Thanks for checking in everyone, and sincere thanks for all the kind words regarding Matt’s participation on the air.  He is a true diamond in the rough, and honestly is the third person I’ve encountered in my working career to whom I would truly give all I have to make sure he succeeds.  He WILL be on the air with me again… very soon.

GO BEARS!

-Stucc

Siegenthaler Debuts in Last Visit to the Valley – 3/23

Greetings from the bus, where the gang is resting and getting ready for the last visit of the regular season to Allentown.  The Lehigh Valley Phantoms and their PPL Center faithful are preparing to welcome the Bears, who are looking to get back on track after a pair of weekend setbacks against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.

Neither in-state rival has been a walkover this season for Hershey – and that shouldn’t surprise anyone.  No matter how strong of a lineup that either team might field, the clubs in the opposing uniforms have played the Bears very well.  And just how well has Lehigh Valley played?  The Bears need to win the last two games of the regular-season series just to earn a split.

Funny thing is, the Bears have just two regulation losses against the Phantoms – but Lehigh Valley officially is 6-4-0-0 against the Bears.  The first sentence sounds and looks better.

Our old friends haven’t been faring too well lately, entering tonight’s game having dropped seven in a row.  Taking this game for granted would be a big mistake, though.  The Phantoms have a winning record against just three teams.  Two of them are the second-place Bears and third-place Providence Bruins.  Frustrating for the two teams battling for playoff positioning, and enjoyable for the team looking to play the spoiler role.

Here is my video posted earlier today, “Roaring on the Road”, which outlines the last few meetings between the rivals and the week that lies ahead for the Bears:

A lot has been made today about the recall of goaltender Mark Dekanich from the South Carolina Stingrays.  Many people have been deciphering head coach Troy Mann’s Sunday evening press conference in their own ways.  Mann said that Dan Ellis has been dealing with ever-lengthening recovery times from dehydration (and I touched on that with him today, which you can hear during tonight’s pre-game show), so Dekanich was summoned to have that extra body around.

For the record, Ellis is fine.  He is getting the start tonight for Hershey against the Phantoms, and has not lost in regulation against them (2-0-3).  Justin Peters will serve as backup.  Dekanich practiced with the Bears at morning skate today, and went to join those not making this trip for a post-practice workout.  He is thoroughly thrilled to be here, and in the few minutes I had to chat with him, brought me up to speed on how well the Stingrays have been playing.  The modest backstop is a big reason for that excellent play.  He said that Vitek Vanecek has progressed so well with his English that he is “joking around with the boys and even chirps in English”.

Mann and I talked about the goaltending plan for the week ahead as well, which you can also catch on tonight’s pre-game show.

The other portion of tonight’s game that bears watching (no pun intended) is the AHL debut of defenseman Jonas Siegenthaler.  Donning Connor Carrick’s old number 25, Siegenthaler has earned the right to play tonight per Mann, who also felt that “changes needed to be made” after last weekend’s set of games against the Penguins.

I watched him at practice yesterday and he is just as advertised.  He is a big guy (6-3, 220) who can skate very well for his size.  Mann said that he uses his stick very well and obviously will only need to adjust to the smaller ice surfaces here compared to the Swiss-A league from which he came.

The only negative that I could find regarding Siegenthaler?  I have to write his name down next to Erik Burgdoerfer, as the two will play as the third defense pair.

Lehigh Valley has Mark Alt and Sam Morin.  Hershey has Jonas Siegenthaler and Erik Burgdoerfer.

In the immortal words of former head coach Bruce Boudreau (and I’ll never forget this one when a colleague of mine once asked him how to pronounce a few of his players):

“Ah, heck… they’re all Smith!”

Game notes are all set right here.  Radio pre-game hits the air at 6:25.  Matt Trust and I will talk to you soon.

GO BEARS!!

-Stucc

FINAL/OT: Penguins 6 at Bears 5

The rematch. In the various home-and-home stretches between the Hershey Bears and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, the back game is always crucial. For Sunday’s game, not only are the Bears looking for redemption,  but first place in the Atlantic Division is on the line.

The Penguins, similar to last night, drew first blood. Following video review, Kael Mouillierat was awarded a goal after a shot glanced off the top shelf and bounced out at 1:51.

Following a kill of a Tyler Lewington minor, Madison Bowey tied the game at 4:09. He snapped a shot past the blocker side of Tristan Jarry on an offensive rush. A second shy of the period’s halfway mark, the Chocolate and White grabbed a 2-1 lead. On the power play, Sean Collins tipped in a backdoor feed from Christian Djoos. This came moments after a key stop by Justin Peters on a shorthanded breakaway opportunity.

A fun, intense first period closed with the Bears leading 2-1, and trailing in shots 10-6.

Hershey fanned on a couple 5-on-3 opportunities thanks to solid goaltending by Jarry in the middle frame. As a result, Dustin Jeffrey tied the game for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton at 12:35. He banged home a rebound following an Adam Krause shot Peters saved through a screen.

Nonetheless, the Pens’ penalty box parade continued, and Jakub Vrana tallied to make it 3-2. Travis Boyd sent a puck towards the backdoor, deflected in by Vrana past Jarry. Nearly 90 seconds later, the Pens converted on a shorthanded rush to make it 3-3. Adam Krause took on Chris Bourque 1-on-1 and elevated a backhand shot over Peters at 18:26.

The back and forth game continued into the third period, with the Bears grabbing a 5-3 lead. Ryan Stanton and Zach Sill scored 32 seconds apart, bringing a sold out crowd of 10,985 to their feet. Jean-Sebastien Dea and Tom Kostopoulos answered for the Penguins, sending a 5-5 game to overtime.

In the 3-on-3, after a point-blank stop by Jarry, WBS countered and Will O’Neill scored the game winning goal to cement a 6-5 final.

Submitted by intern Matt Trust

The Rematch – 3/20

Greetings from the GC!

I can’t tell you how great it is to be back to play a game here.  There is way too much going on in this building during the final full month of AHL hockey.  Tonight is the Bears’ 33rd home game of the season, which means (including tonight) there are six games remaining in the campaign to be played here.  Hard to believe, isn’t it?  63 games are in the books, and – although it took a while – the Bears grabbed the Atlantic Division lead.

But tonight, first place is on the line in the rematch against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, as the Bears hold a slim edge in percentage points (.008).

Plain and simple, Troy Mann said today that one word can be used to describe the overall effort on offense last night – lazy.  He didn’t say that to describe any one player in particular, moreso it was about the overall play.  There were lazy plays.  And lazy plays result in penalties.  And too many penalties against the Penguins will eventually burn you, especially for a penalty kill that has not been able to maintain the steady success it had early in the season.

All that aside, this game – hands-down – favors the Bears.  There will be nearly 11,000 fans in the seats in just a little while, starving for a big win for their home team.  They haven’t seen one since March 5 – a 6-2 thumping of the Penguins.

I’m looking forward to seeing a repeat.  The Bears have outscored their rivals 15-3 here at Giant Center, where three of the remaining four games in the season series will be played.

Justin Peters gets the crease for the Bears tonight, with rumblings that Dan Ellis was suffering from some cramping after last night’s contest.  Ellis has been one of the league’s shining stars of late, going 14-4-1 in calendar year 2016.  He has allowed two or fewer goals in eight straight starts in and in 11 of his last 12 – but unfortunately got only one goal from the offense in back-to-back setbacks.  Peters played very well against St. John’s in earning the win last Sunday, and he will need the backing of the best fans in the league from the moment he steps on the ice.

Garrett Mitchell is also back tonight after serving his three-game suspension handed down for a hit on Penguins forward Tyler Biggs on March 6.  Biggs is still out of the lineup as a result.  With Mitchell rejoining fellow bulldozers Liam O’Brien and Zach Sill, look for the Penguins to have their heads on swivels.

Game notes are all set right here.  Matt Trust and I have “Opening Faceoff” live from the Bud Light Champions Club at 3:50, and the pre-game radio broadcast hits the air at 4:20.

A Sunday sellout in Chocolatetown – I wouldn’t have it any other way.  Let’s get this done tonight!

GO BEARS!!

-Stucc