GAME DAY: Bears at Pirates – 10/18

Carter Camper and Rob Schremp face off in second-period action in Portland on Saturday. Photo courtesy Mike McSweeney, Portland Pirates.

Carter Camper and Rob Schremp face off in second-period action in Portland on Saturday. Photo courtesy Mike McSweeney, Portland Pirates.

Good day from Portland, where the clock has just struck twelve and the wind chill just got above freezing.

I’ll never say “thank goodness this trip is early so the weather will be somewhat warmer” EVER again.

Time to get to the matter at hand – and that is shaking off a 3-2 setback last night, putting forth a great effort today while making the most of a short rest, and getting on the bus with a 2-1 record heading into the final leg of the four-game road swing to open the season.

Looking back at last night, here are a few coach’s observations made after breaking down the game video:

1.  Justin Peters was good – not perfect, and not A-plus (which he will agree on), but good.  From my vantage point, I thought he was fine.  The power play goals that came somewhat bang-bang in the middle period would rattle any team.  But he rebounded nicely and had some great help in front of him in the third period, when the Bears were trying to get back that last-minute go-ahead tally by Portland in the second.  I thought he was very good in the first period.

2. Mike McKenna was not good – until the third.  I have never seen a goaltender come so far out to challenge a first-shot that he takes himself almost completely out of the play.  I honestly thought I saw myself out there.  But had it not been for the scrambling defense and forwards protecting the top of McKenna’s crease, that game was 5-2 in favor of Hershey, at least.  HOWEVER – fast-forward to the third.  It was one point-blank save after another, with the last one coming against Riley Barber in the slot, and the horn would end a furious Bears rally.

3. Sean Collins, the coaches felt, had to digest so much information in so little time and go in to play a position he hasn’t played much of since college (center).  Today, he will return to his natural left wing.  But overall, he had a pretty decent game.

4. Paul Carey was the best forward on the ice that did not hit the score sheet, hands-down.  That came from me and the coaches agreed.  Fans, this is one guy you will love to watch when we get back to Giant Center next weekend.  He just does not stop working and he is never out of position.

5. You cannot teach players to recover from a lost puck or (I use this term very gently, since he doesn’t make them often) recover from a mistake like Chris Bourque does.  Producing at a point-per-game in his overall Hershey tenure is awesome, sure… but doing the little things without the puck is what makes really good players great.

5. Dustin Gazley stands up for his teammates – against some of the biggest players on the opposition.  I like that – a lot.

Dan Ellis will go back in goal for the Bears today… and I would guess that prospect Sam Brittain gets a chance today for Tom Rowe’s Portland Pirates.  There will also be a few lineup changes on head coach Troy Mann’s lineup card.  Don’t expect any changes to the top line (Carey-Camper-Bourque), but the rest will look different.

Here is a link to today’s game notes.  Let’s see if last year’s league leaders in scoring the game’s first goal can make it three-for-three this young season, and take it to the house.

Air time is 2:20 on the Bears Radio Network.



Game Day: Bears at Pirates – 10/17

101715_and_101815_MatchupGood morning from Portland!

The Bears, one week removed from their 5-1 win over the Springfield Falcons, get back at it tonight in the first of two against the Portland Pirates.

Portland is another team that enters this week with only one game under its belt… a 6-4 setback against the Providence Bruins on Sunday.  It has to be tough to score four and lose, but the Pirates ran into the league’s first CCM/AHL Player of the Week in the process.  UMass-Amherst star Frank Vatrano scored four goals on the night, and Alex Khokhlachev also produced a four-point game – with four assists.  Goalie Mike McKenna’s return to the Pirates’ lineup did not go very well, with the netminder stopping 18 of 24 shots.

The Pirates have a few things going for them this year.  First things first – a new affiliation.  The Florida Panthers have a wealth of talent to develop, and Rocco Grimaldi and Kyle Rau are two of them.

Grimaldi, the 33rd overall pick in 2011, was assigned by the Panthers on Sunday but did not appear in the game.  He is coming off of a 14-goal, 42-point rookie season in San Antonio and his NHL debut season in which he dressed in seven games with the big club.  He should make his debut tonight.

Which brings me to another advantage for the Pirates – tonight is their home opener.  The Pirates fans are faithful and loud and have stuck with their team no matter the affiliation.  Having Grimaldi in the lineup tonight will be a big boost.

Rau, college teammates with Capitals/former Bears blueliner Nate Schmidt and current Bears centerman Travis Boyd at the Univesity of Minnesota, is also no slouch either and got off to a great start.  Rau was one of five Portland players to post a goal and an assist on Sunday, and will be a threat for more coming into the pros with 67 goals on his collegiate resume.

Pirates head coach Tom Rowe did not run much of an organized morning skate, so we don’t have a good look at line combinations.  Mike McKenna should get the start in net for the home club’s opener.

For the Bears, Justin Peters is expected to get the start in goal.  With this weekend being a back-to-back – and with tomorrow’s game slated for 3:00 PM – it’s Peters’ time.  No Capitals followers will be surprised at this, but it should be said for all of Bears Nation that Peters has been the consummate professional that he has been all along.  He chatted with the media last week (and I’ll have some of that in tonight’s pre-game show) about the assignment to Hershey, where his focus is, and about the team of which he is now a big part.  So let’s quell any comments and rumors now about having two veteran NHL-proven netminders and “what their attitude might be”.

I wouldn’t expect much more of a change to the lineup, either, except for the obvious swapping of Chandler Stephenson and Sean Collins.  Stephenson made his NHL debut against Chicago a few nights back, and Collins will make his debut for the Bears in the spot vacated by Stephenson.  Carter Camper will move up and play with Paul Carey and Chris Bourque.

Christian Djoos and Caleb Herbert are both on the trip, so we’ll see what coach Troy Mann decides after today’s skate.

Click this link for tonight’s game notes and to watch edition two of “Roaring on the Road” presented by TC Apparel and Promotions.  Just click the multimedia triangle at the very bottom of the game notes page to watch.

More to come after a lobster roll lunch.



Game Day Morning Skate Update: Bears at Falcons – 10/10



From the morning skate, it looks like Dan Ellis is going to get the start in goal for the Chocolate and White in the season opener tonight.  Head coach Troy Mann said that Ellis has been here the longest in camp and is the most settled, and thus the most prepared.  It is his shot.  He said that Justin Peters will most likely make his season debut in one of the two games at Portland next weekend.  Looking forward to seeing both of these guys in goal… two legitimately fantastic human beings who are ready to take this team far.

Christian Djoos looks to be out for this game as the healthy scratch.  He was out the latest at the morning skate.  Defenseman Tyler Lewington and forward Caleb Herbert did not make the trip, so Djoos would be the lone scratch for Hershey.

I saw winger Paul Carey skating with Chandler Stephenson and Chris Bourque this morning, which should make for a formidable top line.  And mark my word, the line to which you’re going to want to pay closest attention – if you’re a Bears fan, or if you’re their opponent – is the combination of Liam O’Brien, Zach Sill and Garrett Mitchell.  Talk about an aggressive, physical forechecking trio…

I’ll have the full lineup here prior to the pre-game skate at 6:20, and information from the Falcons’ side as well.


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Pre-Season Game Day: Penguins at Bears – 10/3

100315_MatchupA little bit of a delay today in getting this published, but I just had to see how Army could possibly still be in the game against my alma mater….and how Purdue just might shock Michigan State…….

No, seriously though.  The delay was waiting for word off the waiver wire.  Veteran center Zach Sill has cleared, and is now officially reassigned to the Chocolate and White, along with Connor Carrick, who was reassigned yesterday.

Cut after Thursday night’s game was defenseman Joey Leach, who reports to ECHL South Carolina.

(While I think about it – thoughts are with everyone in the Palmetto State today.  That rain looks awful.)

The roster, available here, now stands at 23 players heading into tonight’s tilt with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins – a 7:00 PM battle here at the GC.  One thing you’ll notice is that today is Dustin Gazley’s birthday.  Happiest of days to a great guy!

Now, from the morning skate, the expected lineup that Wilkes-Barre/Scranton will face.  Note that during the regular season, you won’t see this – only some practice combinations, and those players staying on the ice later on the day of a morning skate (which, 99 times out of 100, indicates that night’s scratches).  Here it is:

(28) Carey – (15) Boyd – (17) Bourque
(21) Vrana – (18) Camper – (13) Barber
(10) Gazley – (14) Fyten – (36) Mitchell
(12) Walker – (19) Sauve – (40) Herbert

(4) Djoos – (37) Lewington
(6) Moore – (7) Bowey
(2) Shea – (34) Burgdoerfer

(31) Ellis
(30) Vanecek

Ellis is expected to play the entire game in net for the Bears.  We will catch up with him after tonight’s contest to talk about one of his first-ever games as a member of the Eastern Conference.

A few things to note on the roster tonight.  First, defenseman Tyler Lewington is wearing #37, as Carrick will don his usual #25.  Carrick won’t play, and Sill hasn’t arrived in town yet.

But that’s not the most obivous thing, is it??  Of course not.  Chris Bourque will make his return to the Bears’ lineup.  Even though it is pre-season, it’s a big deal.  Mike Moore also makes his 2015 Bears debut – having only played in one game in Washington’s camp, this is big for the veteran, since his next game will be next Saturday’s regular season opener at Springfield.  Not a lot of time to get into game shape with that schedule, is it?

One thing I remember most about W-B/Scranton’s pre-season game here last year was the blind-side hit placed on Caleb Herbert by northeastern PA native Patrick McGrath.  Looks like both are in the lineup tonight.

After Hershey takes morning skates, the coaching staff often engages in a (friendly?) “Game to 5” against players not in that night’s lineup.  Today, Carrick, Moore and Bourque took on head coach Troy Mann, assistant coach Bryan Helmer and assistant coach Ryan Murphy.  Taran Kozun was the goaltender.   Having lost 5-0 to the player trio on Thursday, Mann said that “today, we have to be better.  Especially Helmer.”

Mann and Murphy scored for Team Coach, but Bourque et al. took them down by a count of 5-2.  Mann said that the coaches were indeed much better.  I won’t go any further into his comments on his teammates.

The puck drops at 7.  Hope to see you here!



Getting the First Look – 10/1

Morning skate concluded at about 11:00 for the Bears, with those playing in tonight’s game exiting much earlier than those who are not.

“Those who are not” includes LW Chris Bourque, who will undoubtedly face the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins on Saturday in the Bears’ last game on the short pre-season slate.

20150930_092618Incidentally, here’s a great photo of Bourque and RW Garrett Mitchell sharing a warmup conversation from yesterday’s practice.  I had a flashback to 2012 when I watched this… two guys who grew to be great friends, and two guys who now have two-year contracts in their possession.



Others not expected to play tonight include goaltender Dan Ellis, forward Cole Wilson (minor injury), and defensemen Mike Moore, Nick Jones and Nick D’Agostino (minor injury).

Vitek Vanecek, Washington’s second-round draft selection in 2014, is expected to start in goal.  He will be developing with the ECHL’s South Carolina Stingrays this season and has a really good mentor with veteran Mark Dekanich recently reporting to North Charleston.

Carter Camper joined the squad for his first practice after returning home to Ohio upon reassignment from Washington, and he is being thrust right into the top-line center position tonight.

Russian referee Evgeny Romasko will work the game with Peter MacDougall.  Veterans Bob Goodman and Scott Pomento have the lines.

Practice lines from this morning’s skate:

(21) Vrana – (18) Camper – (13) Barber
(28) Carey – (15) Boyd – (10) Gazley
(12) Walker – (40) Herbert – (36) Mitchell
(14) Fyten – (19) Sauve – (26) Koules

(4) Djoos – (25) Lewington
(2) Shea – (7) Bowey
(5) Leach – (34) Burgdoerfer

(30 Vanecek
(1) Kozun




Pre-Season Game Day: Devils at Bears – 10/1



Good morning from the Den!

First of all, I sincerely hope all of our season ticket holders had a great time at the ticket pickup event last night.  The unveiling of the scoreboard was certainly the highlight of the night, wasn’t it??  I also heard tons of comments about how approachable and kind the players were to our fans.  That’s pretty much a given in my mind.  We had a wonderful turnout of nearly 3,000 people and folks, what you saw on the board will not even scratch the surface of the list of things it can do during the regular season.  I can’t wait either, believe me!

Madison Bowey won the hardest shot competition too, firing a blast of 98 mph on his second attempt (his first: 97).  In a neat twist, assistant coach Bryan Helmer went up against Bowey and fellow competitors Riley Barber and Bobby Shea.  Helmer fell 0.5 mph short of Bowey’s reading, and unfortunately for the players, did not have to buy dinner for them.  I still think Helmer – with his heart of gold – will still treat, even if it happens to be at Chipotle or McDonald’s.

During the event, the Albany Devils arrived at Giant Center and began to load into their locker room in preparation for tonight’s pre-season opener.  Former Bears centerman Jim O’Brien was one of them, and hopefully we get a chance to see him at some point.

The parent New Jersey Devils went through one heck of a transition in the off-season, with long-time GM Lou Lamoriello heading to the Toronto Maple Leafs and former Pittsburgh Penguins GM Ray Shero moving in to Lou’s spot.  Shero brought up his former staff in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, with head coach John Hynes getting his first crack on an NHL bench.  Hynes, in turn, swiped assistant coach Alain Nasreddine from northeastern Pennsylvania and took him along for the NHL ride.  Another of Shero’s former colleagues in Pittsburgh, then-special assistant Tom Fitzgerald, is now serving as the GM of Albany.  The Albany coaching staff has largely remained the same, with Rick Kowalsky back again to try to take his crew through a new-look division.

20150930_092620What we see tonight should be a mix of a few veterans and a lot of prospects or camp tryout players – on both sides of the center red line.

Hershey’s morning skate gets underway at 10:00 am, and Albany will take the ice at 11:15.  I’ll have lineup information and a few interviews later on today.  Here’s hoping that with Lou’s departure comes the removal of the embargo on talking to his entire staff!