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!