The Three-Quarter Pole – 3/4

Greetings from Binghamton, where the final 1/4 of the regular season will get underway in just a few hours!

The Hershey Bears look to start off March as strong as they finished February, as the team looks to put some distance between themselves and the nearby division rivals now that Hershey is on top.

I did a lot of thinking on the way up here about how a truly new era begins tonight.  I talked to Garrett Mitchell, Carter Camper and newly-acquired Ryan Bourque before the team’s morning meeting about this.  For Mitchell, he sees two really good longer-term teammates head out – Connor Carrick and Chris Brown.  Mitchell’s words were perfectly said for both.  He was beaming with pride talking about Carrick getting the jump right to the NHL with the Toronto Maple Leafs, and he was happy to see Brown get his request to play elsewhere.

He also sees one of his childhood role models depart – Scott Gomez.  I never got that out of Mitchell until Gomez signed with Ottawa just the other day, but it was intriguing to hear how our captain idolized Gomez while growing up, and then got a chance to play on the same team for a little over a month.  I’ll play that interview between the second and third periods tonight.  Don’t miss it.

The first thing you will notice when listening to Ryan Bourque is that he has the very same dialogue as his older brother.  You can also tell why he, too, wore a letter on his jersey with the Hartford Wolf Pack.  Let it be said that this addition is a big one, and the fact that the two will play on the same line in their very first game together as Hershey Bears will be the obvious lead story.

Dan Ellis draws his fourth straight start tonight, and why not?  His numbers here at the Veterans Memorial Arena are stellar.  But the opponent tonight will be a far cry from what has faced the Bears in the six-game season series to date.  Five of the Senators’ top six forwards tonight are new acquisitions – including the entire top line of Ryan Rupert, Phil Varone and Jason Akeson.  Michael Keranen and Casey Bailey will be names that you’ll hear quite often tonight as well.

Matt O’Connor is the presumed starter tonight, with Chris Driedger on recall to Ottawa.  The Bears avoid leading goal-scorer Matt Puempel once again, as he is also on recall after coming back from an injury absence.

Game notes are available here.  Radio pre-game hits the air at 6:25.