Happy holidays everyone! I sincerely hope your Christmas was a blessed and wonderful one with family and friends.
A few notes on player moves before we get to our game setup for tonight.
First, goaltender Mark Dekanich has been recalled from the South Carolina Stingrays. Fans might remember seeing the Nashville Predators’ draft pick back in 2011 at GIANT Center, as he suited up for the Western Conference at the AHL All-Star Classic.
Needless to say, he is thrilled to be playing in North America again. I’ll have a pre-recorded interview with him for you sometime this weekend.
He will dress as the backup tonight to Dan Ellis as the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins are back in Chocolatetown. Putting two-and-two together means that Justin Peters is not ready for game action just yet, after leaving Sunday’s game against the Syracuse Crunch after one period. Peters did skate a bit and took some shots with the team at morning skate today, but didn’t stay on for the full time. The move was to give him some work after the long layoff and see if he could go, but he just isn’t ready yet. No sense in rushing things. Here’s to hoping Petey is back out there very soon.
Next up? Connor Carrick, who was reassigned by the Capitals on Tuesday and promptly recalled this morning. The Caps, who host Montreal tonight, are presumably still waiting for Brooks Orpik to give his word that he is good to go. Until then, the Caps need an extra defenseman, and Carrick is the man.
Third up? Chris Bourque. I’ll give you some encouraging words: he seems to be feeling much, much better. He will be looked at by the team physicians one more time on Monday and the determination on his return will then be made. Hoping for Tuesday, fingers crossed.
Fourth up? Garrett Mitchell. This is the guy that Troy Mann said was the closest to returning, and in my pre-game interview with our head coach, you’ll hear just how close.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton also has the injury bug in the room, but is also dealing with another bug – that of the recall variety. Two of their top scorers – Conor Sheary and Scott Wilson – are currently with the big club, as is the 2014-15 goaltender of the year Matt Murray. Add in the injuries to defensemen Barry Goers and former Bears captain Steve Oleksy, forwards Tyler Biggs and Tom Sestito and backup goaltender Tristan Jarry, and the phone to Wheeling was busy.
The Penguins have gone 5-0-0-1 in their last six games, and haven’t lost since the teddy bear toss game on December 6 here in Hershey. That loss – a 4-1 decision – matched their most lopsided setback of the campaign as well.
The Bears have a huge chance to put a stamp on this season series tonight. If the boys can get the legs going early, get the first goal, forecheck, forecheck, forecheck, and stay out of the penalty box, things will be looking up as we roll through this seven-game homestand.
On the personnel front, a few items to note this early afternoon as the Bears get set to face the Toronto Marlies.
First of all, Chris Brown was placed on waivers yesterday, cleared at noon today, and has formally been reassigned:
Will he play tonight? Head coach Troy Mann did not have that planned as of last night, or early this morning. The Bears did not have a full morning skate and he wasn’t sure if plugging #24 right into the mix tonight would allow Brown to be fully prepared. But, as always, we will let you know during the pre-game show tonight on radio if he goes.
There is also one other word on which the team is waiting. Liam O’Brien earned a match penalty for a check to the head of Lehigh Valley Phantoms defenseman Mark Alt last night, which means that O’Brien is suspended “pending league review”. There will either be a suspension or there won’t be… the coaches just have to wait for word from the AHL offices and as of the time of this posting, they are still waiting. O’Brien may get to play tonight after all and we just have to wait and see. If he doesn’t and Brown doesn’t, Caleb Herbert is still available. Be sure to tune in tonight for the decisions.
Whatever the lineup, the Bears will face the best team in the league. That’s right, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton can no longer lay claim to that title. The Toronto Marlies own the distinction after wiping out a 3-0 deficit with three shorthanded goals – you read that correctly – in a span of 2:34 to force overtime and eventually take a 4-3 shootout decision from the Penguins last night at Mohegan Sun Arena. That win extended Toronto’s road point streak to 14 games, and their road win streak to eight. They face the Bears, who have won seven in a row at GIANT Center and who tonight begin a stretch of seven in a row at home.
There are lots of weapons on this Marlies club, from AHL all-star Mark Arcobello, to defensive sniper T.J. Brennan, to Calder Cup champion Richard Panik. Prospect Kasperi Kapanen has joined team Finland for the World Juniors, and AHL leading scorer William Nylander is expected to head to World Juniors as well. Goaltender Antonie Bibeau was recalled today to replace the injured Garret Sparks with the parent Maple Leafs, and that move resulted in the signing of veteran netminder and noted tough guy Ray Emery.
I’ll say this phrase quite often, as I did after the depleted Phantoms skated off with that 6-4 win last night: “it doesn’t matter who you are playing.” It’s how you play. Tonight, the Bears will need their best effort to halt the Marlies in the visitors’ last game before the holiday break.
The coaches have their laptops out, doing some last-minute analyzing and preparation for the pre-game video meeting tonight while we are en route to Allentown. From the Lehigh Valley Phantoms’ power play, to their penalty kill, to their goaltending, even to the upcoming weekend opponents – all types of video are being looked at as we get set for the sixth matchup of the 12-game season series between the Bears and Phantoms.
The teams will meet for the sixth time in the 12-game season series, and for the third time in the last four at PPL Center. Despite the Phantoms having a slight edge in wins, the Bears remain unbeaten in regulation against their in-state rivals (2-0-1-2). The last game played on December 9, however, was the one that really irritated us the most. It was one that was in the bag – a 2-0 lead halfway through the third period. No matter if the opponent were one of the league’s best teams, or in Lehigh Valley’s case, one of the lower-ranking teams, you cannot blow a two-goal lead with only 10 minutes left from two points. Obviously that was already addressed, and the Bears are focusing on what got them the additional four points last weekend: hard work, puck support, good decisions, and… very good goaltending.
Although he hasn’t come out and said it verbatim, it’s obvious that Troy Mann is going with the hot hand in goal. Justin Peters is that hot hand, 3-0-1 with stingy goals-against and save percentage numbers in December and a three-game win streak. But this will be the first time he faces the Lehigh Valley Phantoms this season. Ellis has started and played every minute against the Phantoms – and, by the process of similar situations, is unbeaten in regulation against them in his five games. He deserves the credit for how the Bears were able to battle for points in all five contests.
The part that made last Wednesday’s setback more painful was the fact that Lehigh Valley is playing with an injury-riddled roster. Seven players are currently on the sideline, and one will sit as a healthy scratch. Two players returned from injury recently – those being forward Cole Bardreau and goaltender Jason LaBarbera. But, take away defenseman Matt Lashoff who was recently injured, and the Phantoms are right back to that huge man-games lost number (Marti, Sundher, Parks, Conner, Lashoff, Brent and Pyett).
On paper this seems to be a win for Hershey. Sure, the Phantoms are missing three of their top ten point producers because of injury or recall, but they have three of the top ten in scoring against the Bears. Hershey will be looking to shut down LW Petr Straka (15-5-20 overall, 5-1-6 vs. HER), LW Tyrell Goulbourne (3-0-3) and LW Taylor Leier (2-2-4) tonight while watching leading scorer C Nick Cousins (7-15-22). With LaBarbera having played Wednesday in the Phantoms’ shutout loss against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, I would expect “Stolie the Goalie” Anthony Stolarz to play tonight.
On the Bears’ side of things, Garrett Mitchell (thumb) and Jakub Vrana (wrist) are skating with their team more and more as the days go on. I can’t wait to see both of them back. With Connor Carrick recalled to Washington, Aaron Ness having been returned and former Phantom Austin Fyten loaned to South Carolina, the Bears have two injuries and one healthy scratch to eliminate from their roster. Peters is expected in the crease for his fourth consecutive game.
It will be all about the start to this game for the Bears in order to pull out a victory. I have a gut feeling that this team will continue their strong play tonight, looking to extend its point streak to seven. The Bears are due in this venue.
Here are some stats for you, located here.
The radio broadcast hits the air at 6:25 PM on the following network stations: WQIC-100.1, WTKT-AM 1460, via the iHeartRadio App (Fox Sports 1460 Harrisburg), online at FoxSports1460.com and on AHL Live (AHLLive.com).
For the weekend home game news, it’s all about goaltending. Toronto Maple Leafs netminder Garret Sparks apparently suffered an injury in last night’s game,and the Leafs reported that the last starter left on the AHL Toronto Marlies, Antoine Bibeau, will be recalled. The Marlies are in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton tonight (who also have a bit of a goaltending issue, with Matt Murray on NHL recall and backup Tristan Jarry injured the other night in this very building that we are rapidly approaching), and will be racing the Bears back to Chocolatetown later tonight to rest for tomorrow’s first matchup in over two years. Rob Madore, an ECHL veteran, remains on the Marlies roster. Brian Foster and Casey DeSmith are the Penguins’ tandem until Jarry and Marc-Andre Fleury get better – whichever comes first (the Penguins visit the Bears on the day after Christmas).
Wrapping things up for Sunday, Andrei Vasilevskiy and Kristers Gudlevskis have been swapped back and forth between the AHL Syracuse Crunch and the NHL Tampa Bay Lightning a few times. The juggle was made again yesterday, with captain Mike Angelidis joining Gudlevskis with the big club – who play the Capitals tonight at Verizon Center. Vasilevskiy has struggled at the NHL level this season, but apparently loves playing Hershey. He is 5-0 in his last five starts against the Bears, but will have a much different 18 on the ice in front of him than what Syracuse put out on their opening night.
Even more reason to get up for this weekend. I’m looking forward to our team effort in this last three-in-three before the holiday break… and I hope you are too. Let’s pack the Den tomorrow (UGI snow globes for the first 5,000) and Sunday (HERSHEYPARK Pass for all fans; pre-game Hershey Bears Hockey Club Hall of Fame induction pre-game; Hall of Fame chocolate bars post-game for all fans; AHL 80th anniversary live jersey auction post-game). A continued thanks to all for your support of some of the greatest guys I’ve ever worked with.
Turning the page on a book is a fairly easy task. For the Hershey Bears, their 2015-16 season book has just begun to be written – and thus, turning the page on what happened last night at Mohegan Sun Arena should be easy.
For one thing, the Bears were the better team, five-on-five – especially in the second and early third periods. Discipline was a big issue, as it often is against your arch-rivals, and that really hurt – to the tune of three power play goals against, and three of the six power plays awarded cut short by retaliation penalties.
The 7-0 setback was the largest since an 8-1 loss on December 26, 2005 – also at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
And now, it’s history.
The Bridgeport Sound Tigers, led by former Bears defenseman Brent Thompson, are in the house for the second meeting out of six in the season series. Hershey went up to Webster Bank Arena just 10 days ago and was the enemy in the Sound Tigers’ annual students’ day matinee. Behind two Paul Carey tallies and 39 saves from Justin Peters, the Bears took a 4-2 win from Bridgeport – just the second home loss out of 10 for the opponent.
In fact, that was Bridgeport’s last loss. The Sound Tigers won five of their last six, and two of their last three were by shutout. Star forward Ryan Strome is down from the New York Islanders, and is absolutely deadly with speed and vision. With defenseman Adam Pelech on recall to the big club, there would be one change for Thompson to make on defense from what we saw last Wednesday. But other than that, that should be it. Joe Whitney is leading the league in scoring with 18 points (5 goals, 13 assists), while veteran Bracken Kearns and forward Alan Quine are tied for third in overall league scoring.
This will be another big test for the Bears, but I can tell you this – they are ready. Tonight is the first of five straight on home ice. And hopefully, this one will end in a regulation win (four of the Bears’ five home games have gone past 60 minutes). I honestly heard applause after the team’s morning meeting today. That should tell you that the boys are ready to go.
Expect Riley Barber back in at forward too. With Chris Brown here on a conditioning loan, there is an abundance of capable right wingers. Dustin Gazley will sit this one out, his first scratch of the season – and again, I emphasize, NOT because of poor play. It’s just bodies – an abundance thereof.
Chris Bourque will move to left wing tonight too. For only the second time this season, the three-time champion was held off of the score sheet in back-to-back games. He is at his best in keeping that string from reaching three.
Finally, Justin Peters is your starter – and is unbeaten in regulation in his last five starts (3-0-2).
Ellis You can get the game notes here. Radio pre-game gets underway at 6:20. Frank will have Madison Bowey for a live interview during warmups at ice level, and I’ll have coach Thompson along with Bears head coach Troy Mann and Chandler Stephenson as my pre-recorded conversations.
Sean Collins and Carter Camper battle at the crease of Jason LaBarbera in Friday night’s win at Lehigh Valley. Photo courtesy JustSports Photography.
Greetings from the GC!
Well, the Hershey Bears are winners of two straight on the road and have produced points in four consecutive games (3-0-0-1) thanks to a big 4-2 win at PPL center last night.
This team is getting contributions from throughout the lineup, and is coming together at a really nice time. The defensemen are playing more physical and are shooting the puck more, finding lanes to get those shots through; the third and fourth lines are seeing their ice time increase as they are deployed after a goal for; goaltending is no issue; puck support has come a long way; players are responding when challenged by the coaches; and team defense is becoming more and more evident throughout games rather than in spurts.
Take last night for example. Dan Ellis, although seeing only 22 shots (team defense – check) was stellar. His best save came on a breakaway that was barely a shorthanded chance as Hershey saw a power play expiring, but is glove came out and robbed Kevin Goumas’ opportunity (goaltending – check).
Nathan Walker has goals in back-to-back games and is feeling his confidence soar after every shift. He scored the go-ahead goal and immediately took the ensuing center-ice faceoff (third & fourth lines shifts increasing – check).
Ryan Stanton is making plays in all ends of the ice. He placed a big hit (defensemen playing more physically – check) on forward Aaron Palushaj – who scored the game’s opening goal – and forced the puck to Connor Carrick, who in turn sprung Walker for that goal. He later stopped a rim-around clearing bid by the Phantoms and in a second swift motion fired a shot toward the net (defensemen shooting more – check) that Carter Camper tipped home for the eventual game-winner.
The Gazley-Walker-Barber and O’Brien-Sill-Mitchell lines were really good last night at cycling the puck offensively, but also protected the puck well in defensive zone coverage. One of these forwards was always there to help out their defense when Lehigh Valley ramped up their forecheck (puck support – check) and the players also made that first pass with a good decision.
Camper and Sean Collins were two forwards that Troy Mann challenged to produce. You don’t need to vocalize that much at all with these two players. Camper was money last night, getting to the slot area as well as using his vision to create scoring chances. Collins, as good as he is along the boards, was even better in the same areas that Camper was going to. His stick work was perfect, forcing a turnover right in front of the Phantoms’ net that Camper grabbed and fed to Stan Galiev for that classic blast of a slapper (players responding – check).
All in all, as I said earlier, that was a total team effort victory. Here are the goal calls from the radio broadcast:
Tonight, the Bears are back home to reacquaint themselves with the St. John’s IceCaps. Last Saturday, the visitors were leading the North Division and played an opening half that mirrored last season’s Calder Cup champion Manchester Monarchs. There was not much room on the ice at all; the IceCaps came at the Bears and dictated the pace; and they deflated the bench demeanor, much to the dislike of coach Mann, when they grabbed 1-0 and 2-0 leads. The response that the Bears brought, however, was nothing short of incredible – and it might explain where the IceCaps are right now as this rematch looms at 7:00 PM.
At the time of this writing, St. John’s is still in Wilkes-Barre Township. The team had their skate at 11:15 AM at Mohegan Sun Arena and will bus here for a 4:45 PM arrival, rather than traveling to Hershey after last night’s game up I-81. It was not a good stay in northeastern PA for the IceCaps as the club lost games of 5-2 on Wednesday and 4-1 last night.
When the IceCaps arrive, they will be here to finish up 11 days away from Newfoundland and Labrador. (The San Antonio Rampage, who vacate the AT&T Center mid-season for much longer periods of time due to their annual “Rodeo Road Trip”, probably scoff at 11 days.) But that’s a long time to be on the road. Think of packing a bag for that long. By the way, the IceCaps haven’t left Pennsylvania. The trip began one week ago Wednesday, a game in which the team lost 5-1 at Lehigh Valley. They responded with a 3-2 win last Friday at PPL Center and came to GIANT Center with all the momentum.
Fast forward to last Saturday’s second period.
The Bears scored four unanswered goals to win 4-2. Then the IceCaps allowed nine more over their last two games, and helped the Penguins to wins number seven and eight in a row.
And now they are here. Is this one of those proverbial “trap games”, in which the winning team might feel too good about itself? Probably not. But it is one that Mann says will allow the Bears to come out firing this time and catch the IceCaps down from these last two contests.
A former Capitals/Bears signing is back with St. John’s as well. Goaltender Eddie Pasquale has recovered from multiple surgeries that kept him out of action all last season, and was summoned from the ECHL’s Brampton Beast this week. The “original IceCap” has appeared in the last two games, but started and lost last night’s 4-1 decision. Zach Fucale, the talented rookie who looked good last Saturday, was chased on Wednesday. Dustin Tokarski was recalled by Montreal to make room for Pasquale. Head coach Sylvain Lefebvre has some decision to make in choosing his netminder carefully – one that will face a Hershey squad that has scored four goals in each of its last four games, and one that has struck for nine third-period goals in those four games.
Justin Peters will start for the Bears, that’s for certain, continuing the goaltender rotation for another week. The only downfall to that, for me, is that neither Peters nor Ellis could run away with the team (or eventual league) lead in wins. (I just love to get our players nominated for league honors, and that one statistically will be really tough if this continues.) Both have three entering tonight and have done a tremendous job in backstopping the Bears over the last several games.
Connor Carrick will be Frank’s on-ice interview guest during pre-game warmups. You can catch the broadcast beginning at 6:20 on WQIC-FM 100.1, WTKT-AM 1460, WOYK-AM 1350, via iHeartRadio (Fox Sports 1460), online at FoxSports1460.com or AHL Live. If you are at the game, listen live on your radio at 88.9 FM.
Face-off is at 7:00. Here’s hoping for a big finish to a great week so far.
So this is happening right now. For the first time since February 24, 2010, the Bears will play a morning matinee for local students of all ages. That game was in Cleveland against the Lake Erie Monsters, which the Bears won 3-2 in a shootout (let’s hope this doesn’t go that far).
The Sound Tigers do a great job with this. In the picture are high school students, being addressed by various members of Bridgeport’s staff about sports management careers and the like. By the way, this was at 9:00 AM. Now they are getting fed. I’m waiting for my delivery to the broadcast booth.
So let’s get to the business at hand. Bridgeport is 5-1-0-0 here at Webster Bank Arena and got back to their winning ways at home with a 3-2 overtime win against Utica on Sunday. The (bounce-back) Bears have points in two straight after a comeback win against St. John’s on Saturday and a comeback shootout loss against Lehigh Valley on Sunday. Can you tell the one word that needs to be eliminated? I talked to head coach Troy Mann about that. He had some great things to say about the team’s battle level and I’ll have that in the pre-game show, about 15 minutes from now.
Assistant coach Bryan Helmer’s brother-in-law, Bridgeport defenseman/coach Matt Carkner, is not in today’s lineup. So I would assume that means he scratched himself…(?) Seriously though, I think it is awesome that anyone – a player, coach or staff member – can catch up with family while on the road. Helmer’s parents came to Syracuse last Friday and now he got to visit here too.
No further update on Jakub Vrana. I thought I would have one by now, but I simply didn’t have a chance with this schedule to go into detailed questions. I also am not even sure that Troy knows yet, either.
What I do know is that Mike Moore will sit this one out on defense, putting Madison Bowey and Christian Djoos on the Bears’ blue line. These two have had fantastic back-to-back games, and this is just the type of opponent they need to face in the first game of three in four nights. Austin Fyten and Vrana are the scratches at forward, putting Caleb Herbert back in on fourth line wing.
Justin Peters gets the start, and continues the goaltending rotation today.
And here are today’s game notes,which includes the Bears’ 2-0-0-0 record in their last two morning matinees. Anyone remember exactly when and where they were? That would impress me if you pick it out before reading the notes.
Tonight marks the first of six meetings between the Hershey Bears and the Syracuse Crunch.
There were two things that really struck me after about a 40-minute walk with equipment manager Josh Carter from our hotel to Tim Horton’s to the War Memorial Arena this morning. First and foremost, I didn’t think the Bears had relatively easy times winning games at this building in recent years. I didn’t think it was easy for the Bears to win games against Syracuse, period, in recent years. Ever since the Tampa Bay Lightning came here as the NHL affiliate, talented prospects have filled the roster. The Syracuse crowds have always been loud and behind their team. The ice was a bit shorter, the corners tighter, and things happened very quickly in games.
Looking at the historic building now, you can tell that renovations have been made. A number of seats have been taken out of the northern end, reducing the capacity crowd number but effectively bringing the ice surface up to a regulation 200 feet long. The benches are 7 feet longer. The scoreboard is now offset slightly from the center circle. And (this tidbit comes from Crunch radio voice and good friend Dan D’Uva), “Crunchman”‘s pinky finger sits further away from the center faceoff dot now.
All cosmetics aside, it turns out that the Bears HAVE had their struggles taking two points home from Syracuse. The Crunch went 4-0-0-0 last season, with big goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy in net for each game. The last time that the Bears defeated Syracuse was on January 25, 2014 – a 3-2 decision at GIANT Center. The team’s last win here in Syracuse was one day earlier – a 4-1 win.
Time to exorcise those demons on this Halloween eve.
The Bears will have to win this game without two of their key players. Forward Jakub Vrana did not make the trip, and according to head coach Troy Mann, is likely out for this entire weekend due to a hand injury suffered during a practice earlier in the week. That’s a huge loss, considering Vrana’s speed, talent, timely scoring and shot power.
Zach Sill is also not here, as he is in Kitchener, Ontario attending the funeral of his uncle. That is a loss at the center position, where the Bears have not been thin at talent, but thin at bodies since Chandler Stephenson was recalled to Washington. Carter Camper and Travis Boyd are very capable, as is the converted-to-center Nathan Walker. But Sill’s departure left a big void.
Here is Troy Mann from yesterday, talking about these two losses:
That void at center will be filled at least tonight with Austin Fyten, who was recalled from the South Carolina Stingrays yesterday. He had a flight and a half from Florida, where the Stingrays were playing. He arrived (in the 35-degree wind chill) after midnight, and sat with me to chat this morning before taking to the ice for morning skate. We’ll have that chat during the first intermission tonight.
I did say that there were two things that struck me on our walk this morning. Besides the difficulty winning here, I think this is the first time in at LEAST three seasons that there is no snow, and there are still some leaves on the trees. I simply can’t remember the last time I saw the ground here in Syracuse. Last year we trudged through two feet and it wasn’t the end of December yet.
It is never easy early in the season when you play your first stretch of three games in three days. But the Bears and Hartford Wolf Pack are doing just that today. Hartford started with a 4-3 win at Syracuse, and saw a two-game win streak snapped last night in their 3-2 overtime loss at the Giant Center.
Hershey won 1-0 at Utica on Friday, took the 3-2 decision yesterday and has already “won the weekend”, as head coach Troy Mann likes to say. Four out of a possible six points are in the can after a game that, honestly, had a very slow development to it. There was not too much crisp passing, there were a lot of fanned-on pucks, and no real emotion showed until the latter stages of the second period.
It’s another game whereby adrenaline will have to kick in for the players.
For me, yesterday was a complete whirlwind. Following the aura of seeing the 1980 Calder Cup champions right there on the ice, and following the big bomb dropped when president and GM Doug Yingst announced his retirement following this season, long-time friend of Hershey and a man who really needs no introduction was making his rounds along press row. Mike ‘Doc’ Emrick ALWAYS has time for people. Always. When I opened the booth door and saw him talking to a few people, I found out that he was waiting to come and see me. He is truly the most kind-hearted celebrity I have ever known. After complimenting me on the pre-game video that Great Save Productions manufactured, and asked how I did it in one take, he found out about my TV weather days and how I did everything without a teleprompter. In a way only Doc can put it:
“You know, that’s a profession in which you can come into work dressed up as a dragon, or a clown… and nobody would think anything.”
And, on the impending retirement of Doc’s long-time friend Yingst:
“Come next summer, he might be an even bigger free agent than LA’s Anze Koptiar if HE doesn’t re-sign.”
Puck drops at 5:00 PM, radio pre-game at 4:20. See you here to #DefendTheDen.
No, not nap time – although all of us could certainly use it after a safe arrival at 3:30 this morning. Adrenaline, coffee and sugar will be fueling a lot of the staff as we get set for the 78th home opener in Hershey Bears history tonight at the Giant Center.
A few “things to watch”, if you will:
1. The new center-hung scoreboard, halo, and 360-LED fascia. Sure you’ve seen it on Season Ticket Holder pickup night and during the pre-season. I’m not giving away anything, as Great Save Productions has been working feverishly for the last several months to get ready for tonight… but trust me, get in your seats early for quite a show.
2. The 1980 Calder Cup champions. We will honor Dave Parro, Tony Cassolato, Greg Theberge and many other members of the club that celebrated the championship 35 years ago. And wait until you see the jerseys that this year’s Bears will be wearing…if you haven’t already. They will be auctioned off live post-game.
3. Magnet schedules, thanks to PNC Bank. The first 8,000 of you will get one on entry tonight.
The Hartford Wolf Pack are out of the gate with a 4-1-0-0 record and won their first road game of the season last night at Syracuse by a count of 4-3. The Bears are looking to make it two in a row for home opening wins, after taking a 4-1 decision from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton last October 25.
(Useless?) stat of the day: the Bears won their fourth (road) game of the season last night at Utica by a score of 1-0, scoring with only 71 seconds left in regulation. The Bears also won their fourth game of the season last year – on the road – at Hartford – also by a score of 1-0. Casey Wellman ended it with 1.5 seconds left in overtime.
We have a special one-hour pre-game show on the Bears Radio Network tonight (6:00 air time), so if you’re in the building, catch us on 88.9 FM. Be sure to be here… don’t settle for sitting home listening to me babble. If you’re in the area, come out and help pack the house.
Pre-game ceremonies are set to begin around 6:55 PM… so grab your beverage, Uncle Andy’s pretzel, and be ready in your seats. Puck drop should be around 7:18 PM if all goes smoothly and I don’t mess up the player introductions.
To those of you not attending, here is how you can catch us tonight. Sincere thanks to the crew of Caps Radio 24/7, who will have tonight’s game AND tomorrow’s on the Caps Radio 24/7 and Caps apps, and online at capsradio247.com:
Finally… we are down to the last game of this three-stop, four-game swing to open the 2015-16 season. The Bears have had great practices all week long, and after a five-hour trip north yesterday, are getting ready to take morning skate at a very historic place.
The renovated Memorial Auditorium in downtown Utica, New York will play host to the Bears and Utica Comets tonight at 7:00 PM. Utica, the top developmental affiliate of the Vancouver Canucks, is in its third AHL season under the current affiliation.
I thought I would start off with a bit of history today. The eldest and most historic franchise in the American Hockey League should have a nice game archive, wouldn’t you think? Thanks to president/general manager Doug Yingst having enough office space to store all of this, I was able to dig through the four-inch-think binders that sit in our copy room and find the last game sheet from the last time Hershey visited Utica.
Just three days after the end of the “Superstorm of 1993” – a monster that paralyzed half of the United States at some point with blizzard conditions, amazing snow totals, severe storms and beach erosion – Hershey traveled to upstate New York to face the then-named Utica Devils. The 1992-93 season was Utica’s last in the AHL, or so we thought… until the 2013-14 campaign got underway and hockey came back to this region.
It was St. Patrick’s Day. A little luck was needed everywhere just to navigate the highways, but Hershey made it. At the end of the night, the Bears came out on top by a count of 6-2. And they scored six goals against someone who… well… let’s just say had a heck of a career.
Bears forward Carter Camper, who came out of the first three games with four points (1-3-4) and is tied with rookie Jakub Vrana for the early Bears scoring lead, chatted with me about his time playing against the Comets last year while with the Binghamton Senators. I’ll have that interview in-between periods tonight, in what should be a great game and fantastic atmosphere. Utica is sold out for pretty much the rest of their season. I’m told it’s a loud, rowdy crowd of nearly 4,000 that is all the way behind their defending Western Conference champions.