IN-GAME UPDATE: Bears 2 at Pirates 3 – End 2nd

Here is the official recap that eventually will be the final release on this one.  Hershey really settled down that period, and the Brett Olson goal would probably be the one Ellis wants back.  It may very well be the only one he shouldn’t have let get past him.  He has been absolutely outstanding, adding another breakaway save (his third of the game) on Wayne Simpson in that period.

The third period will start at full strength.

GO BEARS!!

-Stucc

Official Release:

Portland came out firing in the first period, and took a 1-0 lead when Kyle Rau muscled a faceoff win to the net and tucked a shot under Dan Ellis’ left pad at 6:11. The score could have been more lopsided, but moments earlier, Ellis stopped Corban Knight on a breakaway and Rocco Grimaldi with a glove save from the slot. Defenseman Dylan Olsen also rang the crossbar with a slap shot from the left point.

On a line rush, the Pirates took a 2-0 lead when Matt MacKenzie centered a pass that Ryan Stanton deflected away. But the puck took a Pirates bounce right to Rob Schremp, who backhanded a shot past Ellis at 15:49.

After missing on four power play chances, the Bears would find themselves in a four-on-four situation late in the period. Chris Bourque shoveled a pass between the Portland defense where Stanton was lurking. The blueliner hurried a snap shot over Mike McKenna’s glove with just under 14 seconds left in the period, putting Hershey on the board.

The Bears would kill off a two-man advantage for Portland early in the middle frame, but again found themselves down by two when Brett Olson took an off-wing wrist shot that eluded Ellis over the glove. Portland led 3-1 at 14:08.

Once again however, Hershey had the answer. A tired Christian Djoos would make a lunging poke-check to keep the puck on side. Travis Boyd grabbed it, whipped it into the mid-slot and Jakub Vrana one-timed it home from there at 15:49.

IN-GAME UPDATE: Bears 1 at Pirates 2 – End 1st

This could have easily been a 5-0 lead for Portland before Ryan Stanton injected some life into the Bears with a goal inside the final :10 of the opening period.

First, Corban Knight had a breakaway from just inside the blue line, and Dan Ellis got his jersey logo in front of the hurried shot.

Minutes later, Rocco Grimaldi came flying down the slot to catch up to a puck poked loose from the right corner. He stepped into one but Ellis flashed the leather to trap it.

After the Pirates went ahead 1-0, Dylan Olsen’s long-range slapper from the left point caught the crossbar.  That was checked on video at the next stoppage, but the puck wasn’t in.

Ellis really can not do any more for his team, who really owe him a good turnaround game here.  I have to believe that some of the rookies have some nerves on display, but the team definitely did settle in.  Additionally, the Bears cannot get any more help from the officials, who handed out four Hershey power plays that frame – the first four of the game. But at the start of the second, Portland gets a four-on-three that will turn into a five-on-three.

Nerves are out, now it’s time to get back to Bears hockey.

Game sheet is here.

GO BEARS!

-Stucc

It’s Go Time! – 4/22

Greetings from beautiful downtown Portland, Maine!

It took 10 1/2 hours to get here on Wednesday; another day of practice, walking around town taking in the gorgeous weather and stuffing ourselves with lobster; and another morning skate to get to this point.

But we are finally here!

(Did I mention that this broadcast will be fueled by lobster?)

The Hershey Bears open the 2016 Calder Cup playoffs tonight at the Cross Insurance Arena.  Standing in the way of the Chocolate and White are the fourth-seeded Portland Pirates, who got hot at the right time to get where they are today.  The top developmental affiliate of the Florida Panthers had a fairly good start to the season, hit a rut mid-way through, and then claimed points in 14 of their final 18 to lock up their spot.  It took until the very last day of the regular season to see if the Pirates would actually meet the Bears, or if the Bridgeport Sound Tigers would overtake them.  But Bridgeport faltered, earning them the unenviable task of taking on the league-leading Toronto Marlies.

This is going to be anybody’s series, if you were to ask me on the spot.  The home team won every game in the regular season, first off.  Portland outscored Hershey 8-4 in two games in this building back in October.  One month later, in a two-game set at GIANT Center, the Bears claimed wins of 4-2 and 3-2.

Troy Mann said it best yesterday, however, during the team’s evening meeting: all stats get thrown out the window today.  “Nobody has a goal, assist, point, win or loss,” he said.  “You have to be ready from the drop of the puck tomorrow and that’s that.”

Pretty well – and briefly – said.

I can almost guarantee that it won’t come close to what happened a month shy of 10 years ago, when the clubs last met in the postseason.  Remember this?

Gamesheet_ Portland at Hershey - May 30, 2006

Dan Ellis gets the start in net for the Bears in tonight’s opening game, and I can’t see any other reason to NOT expect Pirates franchise backstop Mike McKenna in net for the hosts.

Check out the game notes by clicking here, to get more of an inside look at the matchup from the regular season.

Aside from when the first layer of water is sprayed in the late summer; aside from when the first player takes a lap during opening-night warmups; and aside from clinching that playoff berth after a rigorous 76-game battle, THIS is the most exciting time to play hockey.

Let’s see if the boys can grab at least one W out of here this weekend.

Pre-game hits the air at 6:20.  Be sure to tune in on WQIC-FM 100.1; WKBO-AM 1230; via the iHeartRadio App (search WHP 580 Harrisburg); or check it out on AHLLive.com.  Doug Yingst, Troy Mann and Pirates radio voice Jeff Mannix are my pre-game guests, and we will also have some audio from captain Garrett Mitchell, alternate captain Mike Moore and rookie Riley Barber.

Lastly: a very happy birthday to Madison Bowey and Chandler Stephenson today.  I received a really nice email from Stephenson’s mom back in Saskatoon, and to the Stephenson family – and ALL of our players’ families from all over this and other continents – THANK YOU for the kind words.  You make this job what it is – an absolute blast.  We are rooting for your prides and joys!

GO BEARS!!

-Stucc

FINAL/SO: Penguins 1 at Bears 2

Game 76 of the regular season schedule for the Hershey Bears. It comes a night after claiming the throne as Atlantic Division Champions for the regular season. But with every game, there is a new task at hand. Tonight’s task featured the 12th and final regular season chapter between the Bears and the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.

Vitek Vanecek was called up last night from the South Carolina Stingrays to rest Dan Ellis and Justin Peters. The assignment also gives Vanecek a well deserved debut in Hershey after a remarkable season in South Carolina.

In the first period, Vanecek answered the bell to all 10 shots he faced leading to a scoreless intermission. He looked very calm and composed in net.

Vanecek and Casey DeSmith both continued their shutout bids into the third. Hershey went 0-for-4 on the man advantage through 40 minutes, similar to the Pens’ 0-for-3 mark. Through 40 minutes, Vanecek has continued to show great positioning in goal and great control of rebounds, deflecting most out of harm’s way.

4:53 into the third period, the Chocolate and White got on the board via power play. Jakub Vrana opened the scoring with a dart to the top shelf past DeSmith. Vanecek’s shutout bid unfortunately fell 3:17 short, as the Penguins answered back late. Dustin Jeffrey tallied his 20th of the season with a shot low to the ice on Vanecek.

Extra time was required, as well as the skills competition. Christian Djoos scored in the second round, and Riley Barber sent the fan base home happy with a strike in the third round to close out the game.

The Hershey Bears finish 43-21-5-7. It will be the Bears and the Portland Pirates squaring off in the first round of the 2016 Calder Cup Playoffs.

Submitted by intern Matt Trust

 

One More Kick at the Can – 4/16

Greetings from the GC!

Missing on their chance to clinch the division last night at Binghamton, the Bears are back in front of a sellout crowd at GIANT Center to try again.

This time, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms stand in the way.

For tonight’s game notes, click here.  We will discuss potential opponents during the broadcast tonight.

Dylan Margonari makes his AHL debut and Justin Peters gets the crease tonight.

(Busy day with the live show in the Club Lounge and LOTS of emails to sift through… apologies for the short post! Matt will have in-game updates here tonight as well.)

GO BEARS!!

-Stucc

Bears 2 at Senators 4 – FINAL – 4/15

I’d like to get a look at the video of Phil Varone’s empty-net tally to see just how far offside that play really was.  In the aftermath, a lot of people commented that it was closer than it looked – including the Hershey coaching staff.  But it was close enough for the team to argue relentlessly.  Garrett Mitchell was tossed at the time of the goal, which came with 1:00 left to play.  Did it really matter, though?  The Bears were down 3-2 since early in the third period and hit the post three times in the game before that.  If puck luck was to come, it would have already done so.

Turnovers and an 0-for-6 power play was the formula for this tough setback.  The Bears won’t get their 20 road wins and won’t have a 100-point season, but the Atlantic Division title is still up for grabs and the Lehigh Valley Phantoms are the next opponent standing in the way.  Will this be a pushover?  Heck no.  The Phantoms actually have the edge in the season series 6-5-0-0.  The Bears will be counting on a sold-out crowd to get behind them in tomorrow’s tilt, set for 7PM.

The game story can be found here.  Hope to see you tomorrow at the GC!

GO BEARS!!

-Stucc

IN-GAME UPDATE: Bears 2 at Senators 2 – End 2nd

Audio of the second-period goals in a 2-2 game here in Binghamton:

 

Here is the official release after 40 minutes of play here in Binghamton.  Simply stated, the Bears are turning too many pucks over – and could easily be in the lead by 4-2 or 5-2 if it had not been for two posts hit.

After missing on two consecutive power play chances and after hitting two goal posts, the Bears managed to get the jump in the game. Zach Sill collected a feed from Sean Collins, flew past the Senators defense and put a forehand-backhand move on Matt O’Connor at 14:36 for Sill’s eighth goal of the season.

But Binghamton would answer with less than one minute left in the period. Dan Ellis would make a blocker save on a long slap shot by Casey Bailey, but the puck blooped straight up into the air and landed behind him near the post. Max McCormick found it and poked it over the line at 19:03 for the equalizer.

Hershey would take the lead early in the second, on a beautiful play by Riley Barber. The rookie, one of the two players to hit a goal post in the opening period, also hit the crossbar with a move to the slot at 1:05. But this shot went down and in over O’Connor’s glove for Barber’s 25th goal of the season.

The Senators again responded with good pressure in the Hershey zone. Forcing a turnover, Phil Varone worked the puck to the right side for Jason Akeson. His pass found a cutting Matt Puempel for a tap-in at 9:45.

Third period on deck.

GO BEARS!
-Stucc

 

IN-GAME UPDATE: Bears 1 at Senators 1 – End 1st

Here is the audio of the two goals that have us tied 1-1 after one period:

The goal posts were certainly a factor in the first period of this one.  First, Danny Hobbs would beat Dan Ellis with a shot over the blocker, but the puck caught the left post.  At the other end, a trailing Ryan Stanton collected a feed from Chris Bourque but drilled the crossbar behind Matt O’Connor.  Riley Barber did the same thing, bidding for his 25th of the season, but the goalie’s best friend went 2-for-2.

Zach Sill finally hit paydirt with a nice move, but a bouncing blocker save from Ellis late in the period got away from him for Binghamton’s tying goal by Max McCormick.

The official release is below and the box score is here.

Second period coming up.

GO BEARS!
-Stucc

On the Road Again, For the Last Time! 4/15

Greetings from Binghamton, where the Bears have arrived to play their last road game of the regular season.

I just do not know where time goes, and I say this each and every year.  It seems like yesterday we were battling through the first four games on the road in Springfield, Portland and Utica.  And here we are at road game 38, ready to face a team that – although having been mathematically eliminated over two weeks ago – will certainly be giving it their best against a Hershey team loaded with more goals to achieve.

What goes are those?

  1. 20 road wins.  The team is 19-13-3-2 currently, and it’s almost uncanny how close the record is to last year at this time.  For the past two months, the Bears’ road record was within one shootout loss of identical.  So what’s the reason behind 20 road wins as a goal?  Head coach Troy Mann believes that to be a good benchmark that would define having as much home-ice advantage as possible in the playoffs.  There are five teams with 20 wins both at home and away – Hershey could become the sixth.
  2. The Atlantic Division title.  That’s an obvious goal.  It would be Hershey’s second straight, and first with the new eight-team division format.
  3. 100 points.  A weekend sweep would give Hershey another 100-point season.  Without looking past tonight, that would be an awesome addition to the coaching staff resumes – considering how much of a variety this lineup has.

Dan Ellis gets the start for Hershey, while Matt O’Connor is expected for Binghamton.  The Bears are 6-1-0-0 in the seven games so far, and this building has been very kind to them.  But expect a push.  Binghamton will be looking to spoil.

The Bears will also have the league MVP pushing for the scoring title as well.  Congratulations to Chris Bourque.  I can’t wait to see what this weekend has in store.

GO BEARS!

-Stucc

FINAL: Bears 5 at Penguins 3 – 4/10

W0410_0056

Photo Courtesy JustSports Photography

The one thing I love is going into opposing buildings and hearing fans absolutely give it to the officiating crew.  Let’s be honest here, Bears fans are guilty of it too.  But in this case, rule recognition certainly helps.

David Banfield and Mike Langin wore the orange armbands tonight. I’ll give you this: two trips were missed on the Hershey side.  But they were made up later.  But one apparent mystery penalty to the Penguins for having too many men on the ice was one that rattled the Mohegan Sun Arena crowd and was later verified as the correct call: Jean-Sebastien Dea did not have his helmet when he went into the penalty box to start the third period on a carry-over penalty.  Penguins captain Tom Kostopoulos came on the ice at the expiration of the two-minute penalty, and immediately the officials blew the play dead.  It was the correct call.  I judge it to be similar to having an empty penalty box at the expiration of a five-minute major.  That happened twice at GIANT Center to the Bears in the last two seasons.  You simply have to wait until a whistle to put someone on the ice if there is no one there… or in this case, if someone is there without proper equipment.

The Penguins didn’t and got caught.  And of course, the boos rained down.  But again… it was the proper call.

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton got two power play goals on five chances, but it still didn’t seem enough for the rival’s faithful.  It turned out that it wasn’t.  Chandler Stephenson was left all alone in the slot and after great cycling work by Chris Bourque and Travis Boyd, Stephenson collected a pass and lifted home the back-breaking goal with 1:51 left to play.  Add an empty net tally for Chris Bourque’s 30th of the season and the result is a gritty, gutsy 5-3 Hershey victory.

Click here for the official recap.  Congrats to Ryan Bourque for netting his first Hershey goal, and to Travis Boyd for joining the 50-point club.  Bourque has three more games to battle for his second league scoring title, and the Bears have one game in sight: Friday night at Binghamton.  The Atlantic Division title is the prize for a win.

Thanks for listening everyone.  And GO BEARS!!

(Click here for the box score.)

-Stucc