EDIT: Adding a late note on the departure of Jonas Siegenthaler, as the rookie and the Bears reached a mutual agreement for his return home to Switzerland. Click here for the official release.
Greetings from the GC!
The Bears are down to just six games left in the 2015-16 regular season. Four of those six will be played right here at the Den, a place where the Bears have orchestrated a record of 21-6-2-5 in 34 games.
The problem is, none of those 21 wins were against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.
Five out of six games have been played in the regular-season series, and neither home team has won a game yet. The Bears swept the Sound Tigers at Webster Bank Arena and outscored them 11-3 in the process. Bridgeport returned the favor, winning 5-0 here on November 14 and then battling back to win 7-6 in a shootout – one of the craziest offensive games of the season and Hershey’s highest in terms of combined goals in one game.
The Sound Tigers enter tonight’s game needing seven points to clinch a playoff berth, and they have six games in which to do it – so the postseason is not far out of reach. Bridgeport is currently in the fifth spot in the Atlantic, which would cross over to knock out the North Division’s fourth seed (Syracuse) if the playoffs were to start today. But that doesn’t mean that the Sound Tigers – under head coach and former Bears captain Brent Thompson – won’t put up a fight tonight.
In my opinion, they are thin only in one spot: goal. Christopher Gibson earned a recall to the New York Islanders and was famous for defeating the Washington Capitals earlier this week for his first NHL victory. Jean-Francois Berube is also with the Islanders. Minnesota State – Mankato product Stephon Williams has the starting nod for the AHL club, with Boston College product Parker Milner as his backup and Penn State grad Eamon McAdam as third-stringer. I always say that stats don’t matter this time of year, as teams are giving it their absolute best to win games in whatever way possible – so whoever faces Hershey, forget the fact that they aren’t one of the league’s top netminders. They can win for you. Milner came on in relief of Gibson on February 10 and stopped 16 of 17 shots, and then was perfect in three shootout rounds to grab the win.
Up front, watch out for veteran forward Bracken Kearns. He leads, or is tied for the lead in, all offensive categories for the Sound Tigers: goals (22), assists (30), points (52), power play goals (five) and shorthanded goals (two). He also leads in plus-minus (+21). Four of his 22 goals came against the Bears, which include two in that February 10 victory.
For the Bears, it’s Dan Ellis’ turn in goal. A few (four, actually) hit goal posts kept the Bears from cruising out of Dunkin’ Donuts Center with a big win on Sunday. Instead, the Providence Bruins captured a 2-1 win. It was Ellis’ second 2-1 setback in four weeks (the Bears didn’t have any all season long before March 12 at St. John’s). His offense, in particular the veterans involved, will be stepping it up tonight to match the awesome weekend recorded by rookies Riley Barber (24th goal at Hartford on Friday), Jakub Vrana (two goals, one assist on Saturday at Providence) and Christian Djoos (shootout goal Saturday and game-tying goal Sunday at Providence). Watch out for Chris Bourque as well. When he is held relatively quiet for an entire weekend, his point total often explodes. I expect him, fresh off being named to the AHL First All-Star Team yesterday, to be flying with Chandler Stephenson and Riley Barber as his linemates.
The Bears have another magic number for which to aim as well: 10. 10 points gained will clinch the Atlantic Division regular-season title. And that CAN happen this weekend if:
- Hershey wins in regulation tonight OR WBS loses in regulation to LV
- Hershey wins both games vs. WBS in regulation tomorrow and Sunday.
Air time is at 6:20.
Notes for all listeners:
- The iHeartRadio App station you want is now WHP-AM 580. NOT WTKT-AM 1460. You will hear Harrisburg Senators baseball on 1460.
- The internet URL is now WHP580.com, NOT FoxSports1460.com.
- If you use the Bears Mobile App, you won’t need to do anything. Just click Listen Live.
- Listen live inside GIANT Center any time on 88.9 FM.