Greetings from Hartford’s XL Center Veterans Memorial Coliseum!
(This place will ALWAYS be the Hartford Civic Center to me, by the way.)
To get things started for the weekend, watch Roaring on the Road presented by TC Promotions:
Nine games remain on the Hershey Bears’ regular-season schedule. Five points are needed for the Bears to punch their playoff ticket for the second straight season under head coach Troy Mann and assistant coaches Bryan Helmer and Ryan Murphy. It’s a longer jaunt to a division title, but heading into tonight’s game, the Bears are on top of the Atlantic Division thanks to a sweep of their three-game schedule last week. But to remain there – and pad their lead – the Chocolate and White have to do three big things:
- Beat Hartford in regulation. All three games in the season series have required at least overtime, and the Bears only won one of them. A regulation win chops four points off of Hershey’s magic number, which sets up a possible clinch at some point this weekend in Providence. (This building is not very well air-conditioned today, either, so taking care of business in 60 minutes is paramount.)
- Beat Hartford, period. The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins are idle tonight (somehow, some way, no team has played as many three-in-threes as Hershey, and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton is one of them), so Hershey must win to put a nice cushion between them and their arch-rivals. A point will keep the Bears in first as well, but let’s face it……
- Beat Providence in their building. The team travels from one state capital to another after the game tonight, a 2 1/2-hour trip. The last 2/3 of the Bears’ final three-in-three of the season will be played at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center, where the Bruins have 21 wins and points in 28 of their 34 home games played. Depending on roster moves, the Bears need to take advantage of some high-scoring talent that is currently on recall (Frank Vatrano and Seth Griffith, to name two). Providence is at Portland tonight, and it is not a very long ride back.
A few items of interest:
- Goaltender Adam Carlson inked his amateur tryout agreement yesterday morning and participated in his first practice at Hersheypark Arena. He jumped into some late power-play drills and some in-zone cycling work with coach Scott Murray but it wasn’t a full skate for him. He is not on the trip to New England, so today was an off-ice workout day for him and the players that also did not travel. Murray chatted with me this morning about Carlson, and I’ll have that in tonight’s pre-game show. Murray loves scouting character and skill (he says character first, most often), and forecasts a bright future for the Minnesota-born Carlson.
- Ryan and Chris Bourque will play against their former team together as opponents for the first time. It will be interesting to see the response from the Wolf Pack faithful. Both players were very well-liked here, stating the obvious.
- All-around good man Chris Brown got up from his seat at dinner last night in the same restaurant that we all patronized, making a point to give a hug and greet all of us. You just can’t root against guys like him. He is definitely missed here in Hershey, and will face the Bears for the first time as an opponent since his days with the Portland Pirates.
- Once again, I’ll have to drop a bunch of first names on the broadcast tonight, with Chris and Ryan Bourque playing for the Bears and with Chris and Tyler Brown (unrelated of course) dressing for the Wolf Pack. You just can’t avoid it. Bourque, Brown, Ellis (Matt, in Rochester), O’Brien… I’ve lost count this year.
That’s about it for now. Dan Ellis will get the start in goal for the Bears, his 39th game of the season. Sure seems like he’s played a lot. But it’s almost nothing compared to Hartford’s Magnus Hellberg, who is expected to make his 49th appearance, and 29th start in the last 34 games.
Game notes for tonight are set here. Intermission updates will be out as well.