Monday, April 28, 2008

A Look Towards Next Season

The Bears season is over and it pretty much sucks in my opinion. I imagine that I am slightly spoiled after the previous two seasons but so what. I don’t like that the season is over in APRIL!?!? I thought hockey was meant to be played in June.

It was a good season for the Bears considering everything. The roster turnover from last year to this was drastic. There were very few familiar faces in Hershey this season. But the Bears still made the playoffs and competed in the top of the division for most of the season.

Eventually the injuries, call ups, and a brutal road stretch took its toll and the Bears fell slightly. They still made the playoffs and played admirably even in defeat. Game 5 was much closer than the final score of 7-3.

I thought at the beginning of the year that the team was more like the 05-06 team than the 06-07 version. Mainly because of their perceived size and toughness. That 06 Calder Cup run was spectacularly physical and the Bears played it perfectly. Last year’s team was much more finesse and this year’s team seemed headed back to their physical past. Guys like Jason Morgan and Chris McAlister were coming in to hit people. But by the end of the season many of the big bodies were injured or hurting. Ben Clymer missed significant time, Scott Barney missed the playoffs, McAlister spent some time injured, Quentin Laing got his break and remained in Washington (congrats to Q), and maybe most importantly our captain Dean Arsene missed almost the entire season with different injuries. If all those guys are still playing at the end of the season I think it is a completely different outcome.

But they weren’t so it is on to next year. And as I am writing this there is no guarantee that Hershey will be affiliated with Washington next season. Although it is likely that they will be but it is not a sure thing. Some people have heard rumors about a return to the Philly organization but I think the Washington deal will get done sooner than later.

So I will look at off season goals and next years team as though the Bears remain with the Caps.

First a look at the returning players:

Chris Bourque, Alexandre Giroux, Kyle Wilson, Jay Beagle, Ben Clymer, Quintin Laing, Andrew Gordon, Steve Pinnizzotto, Sasha Pokulok, Sean Collins, Francois Bouchard, Andrew Joudrey, Mathieu Perrault, Patrick McNeill, Josh Godfrey, Sami Lepisto, and Daren Machesney are all under contract with Washington or Hershey next season.

That is already a pretty solid lineup, at least offensively. Maxime Lacroix is not on that list but will probably be in Hershey next season. Same can be said for Karl Alzner, although he could potentially make the Caps.

If all of these players start out in Hershey than there are already 12 forwards on the roster which would mean that there wouldn’t be many others brought back. And if you count Alzner than there are 6 defensemen, which would mean not many others, returning.

Now let’s look at the free agents:

Jamie Hunt, Tyler Sloan, Jonathan Paiement, Grant McNeill, Shawn Collymore, Jason Morgan, Matt Beaudoin, Ryan Flinn, Louis Robitaille, Dean Arsene, Chris McAllister, Josef Boumedienne, Scott Barney, Grant Potulny and Frederic Cassivi are all unrestricted free agents. Eric Fehr, Stephen Werner, and Danny Syvret are restricted free agents.

Danny Syvret is actually a RFA for the Edmonton Oilers. He was loaned to the Bears by them but remained under contract with them. I have heard that they are not expected to resign him.

Freddie Cassivi, Eric Fehr, and Grant Potulny have all but definitely played their final games in Hershey uniforms. Fehr, if he is resigned, will surely be a Capital and Cassivi is probably going to Europe as the Caps are expected to assign at least one young goaltender to Hershey to join Machesney.

The most likely roster in my opinion:

In goal would be Daren Machesney and Michael Neuvirth.

On defense would be Josh Godfrey, Sami Lepisto, Patrick McNeill, Karl Alzner, Danny Syrvet, Jonathan Paiement, and Josef Boumedienne. Grant McNeill may take the place of someone due to his toughness. Sasha Pokuluk will probably return to South Carolina until he gets more consistent but could make the team. Things that could change the lineup are Alzner making the Caps and other prospects finishing careers elsewhere. Some possible prospects are Joe Finley (North Dakota Univ.), Keith Seabrook (Calgary Hitmen of WHL), and Andrew Thomas (Univ. of Denver). Finley will be a senior next season and may go back to school. Seabrook was Alzner’s teammate the past couple years and Thomas is a current senior. If any of those three become Bears than Syvret, Paiement, and/or Boumedienne will not be resigned.

Everyone would like to see Dean Arsene come back but due to his injuries that is very unlikely. Everyone in Hershey would love to see him back and if he is healthy he is worth bringing back. But ONLY if he is healthy. Sorry Deano.

At forward would be Chris Bourque, Kyle Wilson, Alexandre Giroux, Jay Beagle, Ben Clymer, Andrew Gordon, Francois Bouchard, Mathieu Perrault, Andrew Joudrey, Steve Pinozzotto, Maxime Lacroix, and Quintin Laing. That is assuming that Laing returns to Hershey and Lacroix is signed. It also is assuming none of the others make the Capitals. Rumors have Bourque and Gordon getting a long look at camp. If all of those players return than that leaves no space for anyone else. If there are openings due to players making the Caps than expect to see Travis Morin in Hershey, and possibly Jason Morgan resigned.

I wouldn’t expect to see anyone else resigned. The only one I would think would be possible would be Louis Robitaille due to his toughness but I think Ryan Flinn is the better fit anyway due to Louis’s random behavior away from the ice and his numerous dumb penalties on it.

So there you have it. Because of how many prospects are ready to make the jump you can expect to see many of this season’s veterans moving on to other teams next season. The only guys I see getting resigned would be Morgan, Boomer, Deano (if healthy), Paiement, Flinn, or McNeill. And those are iffy at best.

It will be an interesting off-season. I will post anything that happens. I will continue to check sources and sites for news. You will know as soon as I know anything. Enjoy the summer, unfortunately it is longer this year, and get ready for a long run next season.


Friday, April 25, 2008

And So it Ends....

That's it for the Hershey Bears. I really believed that they could pull off the impossible and win all 4 but they didn't quite have enough.

Hershey got the first goal and then started playing from behind. Entering the third the Bears were down 3-2 before Eric Fehr scored about 30 seconds in to the period to make it 3-3.

Penalties and a poor penalty kill doomed the Bears in the entire series but especially in the third period. The Baby Pens scored 2 straight power play goals to take a 5-3 lead. They added one more with 5 minutes to go to make it 6-3. And then to add insult to injury Dennis Bonvie scored with less than 30 seconds to go to make it a 7-3 final.

I am too bummed to write much more right now. I will have a season recap sometime soon. I didn't get to as many games as I wanted to this season but plan to have season tickets next year.

Thanks for a Good Season Bears!! It was up and down but you can't win them all and you can't make it to the Finals every year, no matter how much we want to.

More to come in a couple days...............

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Do it Again!

The Hershey Bears stayed alive last night in their first round series against the hated Baby Penguins. Trailing 3-0 in the series means that every game is win or go home for the summer for the Bears.

Last night in Hershey they did just that. They WON!! In overtime 3-2. Alexander Giroux scored 2 goals, including the game winner, to beat the Pens in Hershey.

Freddie Cassivi played his best game of the year last night. He stopped 32 of 34 shots last night to pick up the win.

The Bears actually took the lead with only minutes remaining in the third period. But with the goalie pulled the Pens tied the game with 19 seconds left to force overtime.

Apparently the Bears did not like that. Giroux responded by scoring the game winner only 20 seconds into overtime to send the series back to Wilkes-Barre for a game 5.

Game 5 is Friday night in Wilkes-Barre at 7:05.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Bears in Trouble!

The Bears went to Wilkes Barre this past weekend hoping to at least split the weekend games against the Penguins. Unfortunately they could not achieve that goal.

Instead the Bears got run right out of the building both nights. Combined the Bears lost 11-3 over the weekend. The three goals Hershey mustered were all scored by Andrew Gordon.

Freddie Cassivi played in game 2 after playing superbly in game 1. But he gave up 6 goals in game 2 so Daren Machesney got the start in game 3. He only lasted 12 shots as the Pens scored 3 goals on those shots and Coach Woods pulled Cheese for Freddie. Freddie would allow 2 more goals in the game but seemed to play better.

There has been no offensive push from the Bears through 3 games. They have only scored 4 goals in the series, 3 from Gordon and 1 from Chris Bourque. That is not enough if you expect to win in the playoffs.

Only 2 teams in AHL history, the 1960 Rochester Amerks and the 1989 Adirondack Red Wings (over the Bears) , can the Bears make it 3?

They will begin their quest for history tonight in Hershey. Game time is 7:00.

Josef Boumedienne and Jason Morgan will be game day decisions due to injuries.

Freddie Cassivi will get the start in goal in what could be his last game in the AHL.

Eric Fehr is eligible to return to the Bears. But I would not expect him back tonight. Maybe this weekend.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Bears downed 2-1 in OT

Freddie Cassivi and the rest of the Hershey Bears played well last night but it wasn't quite enough. The Bears had plenty of chances but couldn't quite get the break they needed.

The game was somewhat slow paced with neither team really getting anything going until the third period. The Penguins scored first with a goal by Connor James just 17 seconds into the third period. Chris Bourque scored later in the third to send the game into overtime.

In overtime Pens forward Chris Minard took advantage of a defensive letdown and poor communication between Sami Lepisto and Bourque to score the winning goal. Bourque and Lepisto collided behind the Hershey net and then the puck was sent up the boards where the Pens picked it up and put it in.

A good game from both teams. Not an extremely physical game, nor a great offensive game. Hershey should be happy with the defense as they limited the shots on Cassivi. After the past couple weekends where the Bear goalies were facing 40+ shots, this game was a solid outing. If the Bears can hold the Pens to 2 goals than they will win the series.

Mathieu Perrault played in his first ever pro hockey game. He was impressive in his debut. He started on the fourth line but eventually moved to the third line and played the whole way through the game.

Game 2 is set for Saturday night in Wilkes-Barre. Game time is 7:05. It isn't a long trip, everyone should consider driving up.

Monday, April 14, 2008

A W to End the Season

It took some work but the Bears managed to win their final game of the regular season last night. Despite being outshot 43 to 23 including 16-2 in the 2nd period the Bears won in overtime 6-5. Neither team seemed to thrilled to be there. The play was sloppy from the start for Bingo and in the 2nd and 3rd for Hershey. The Bears came out strong and finished weak but got the win.

Those 2 shots in the second period were goals by Louis Robitaille and Ryan Flinn. Other goal scorers for the Bears were Kyle Wilson (30th of the year), Alexandre Giroux (33rd), Andrew Joudrey scored the game winner (11), and Francois Bouchard scored his first career AHL goal in the first period.

Freddie Cassivi got the win in goal last night. At times he was brilliant and at others he was soft. On a couple of the goals it looked like Freddie was just practicing out there.

Next up for the Bears is the playoffs. Wednesday in Hershey they face the Wilkes Barre/Scranton Penguins.

Coach Woods has not named a starting goalie for game 1 yet. Best guess would say Freddie though. He has given him the bulk of the work down the stretch. Almost every weekend Freddie got 2 starts and Cheese got 1.

Just one prospect note. The other week Mathieu Perrault was signed by the Caps to a entry level contract. His season ended last night as his team lost in game 6 of the quarter-finals in the QMJHL playoffs. Expect to see him in Hershey soon to be part of the Black Aces practice squad and possibly even see some time depending on injuries.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Get Set for Wilkes-Barre!

The Hershey Bears have made the playoffs, officially. The Bears defeated the Philadelphia Phantoms last night 5-2 to clinch the 4th seed in the East Division. Bridgeport also lost so the Bears would have made it no matter what.

After spotting the Phantoms 2 goals in the first half of the 1st period the Bears erupted for 5 unanswered goals to finish the game. Andrew Gordon scored his 15th and 16th goals of the season in the 1st period to tie the game at 2 after one period of play. Jason Morgan added his 19th and Ryan Flinn added his 2nd in the 2nd period to give the Bears a 4-2 lead after two periods. Jay Beagle added his 19th of the year about 7 minutes into the 3rd period to put the final touches on the scoring in the game.

Unfortunately that was not the end of the action. A couple of minutes later Daren Machesney may have said something to or done something to Jesse Boulerice of the Phantoms and Boulerice went after Machesney and knocked him down. Before long all the Bears on the ice as well as one from the bench were in the corner fighting all the Phantoms, including goalies.

Grant McNeill is the Bear that left the bench to join the fight. He took care of Jesse Boulerice though as Boulerice left with his left arm seemingly hurt.

I do have to say that Tristan Grant was a little bit nicer as he could have really pounded away at Shawn Collymore but let up rather quickly. Grant is an experienced fighter where Collymore isn't and was just defending the goaltender.

If you want to see the video here is the link,, unfortunately the only video we have so far is with the Phantoms announcers.

McNeill will get suspended for leaving the bench. Probably 5 or 6 games from what I have been reading. Flinn may also get suspended because of an apparent stick swinging incident that happened earlier. There is no video of the incident but he fought with a Phantom right afterwords. He also threw a water bottle at Boulerice as he left the ice.

The McNeill suspension will have the larger impact but I don't have a problem with what he did. Boulerice has a history of this sort of stuff. Earlier this year he cross checked Vancouver Canuck Ryan Kesler in the head. Someone that could handle him had to get in there and with Flinn in the box and Louis not dressed, that someone did! Dean Arsene was in the broadcast booth with John Walton last night and he said we will take the suspension and that he thinks McNeill did the right thing.

Back to the game now, Machesney played great in goal. He gave up the 2 in the first period and then stopped everything else. He ended up with 38 saves on 40 shots. There has been much discussion on pennlive's bears forum about Cheese vs Freddie and who should start. My opinion has been and will continue to be that Cheese deserves the chance. But right now I say go with the hot hand. I know Freddie played great on Friday but then he sat and watched last night so he is going into the game cold. Start Cheese tonight, if he wins start him again Wednesday night and go with who is winning. When Cheese loses than go with Freddie. After a couple games the number 1 goaltender should be clear and then you stick with that one! But Coach Woods, you can't keep switching goalies after every game. These guys both run hot and cold, you put them in for one and then you take them out for the next one. Let them get some rhythm.

Playoff Schedule: an odd 1-2-1-1-1-1 format!

Game 1 - at Giant Center, Wednesday April 16th at 7:00
Game 2 - in WB, Saturday April 19th at 7:05
Game 3 - in WB, Sunday April 20th at 5:05
Game 4 - at Giant Center, Wednesday April 23rd at 7:00
Game 5 - in WB, Friday April 25th at 7:05 (if necessary)
Game 6 - at Giant Center, Saturday April 26th at 7:00 (if necessary)
Game 7 - in WB, Sunday April 27th at 7:05 (if necessary)

Tickets for games 1 and 4 are on sale now at Giant Center box office. There is one person I know of going to Wilkes Barre for game 3 and he is sitting in section 120 and wants company.

Tonight the Bears get Binghamton in a relatively meaningless game. The goal for tonight should be to get out of Hershey with no injuries.


Saturday, April 12, 2008

Bears win in Philly!!

The Bears pulled out a 4-2 win in Philly last night on the shoulders of Chris Bourque and Freddie Cassivi. The game didn't start so well for Hershey when a shot deflected in off the body of a Phantom player and got by Freddie.

Chris Bourque scored his 27th of the season about 3 minutes later to tie the game at 1-1 after one period. The only goal in the second was scored by Phantoms forward Ryan Potulny. Going into the third the Bears were down 2-1 and had not looked good most of the game. The Bears only had 5 shots on goal in the second period and listening on the radio they sounded like they were having trouble keeping anything in the zone.

And then a 5-3 power play changed the momentum in the Bears favor early in the third period. Bourque scored his 2nd of the game and 28th of the year on that power play attempt 3 minutes into the period. Kyle Wilson scored his 29th of the year about 3 minutes later to give the Bears a lead they would not lose. Alexandre added his 32nd on an empty netter to seal the deal.

Freddie had a solid game making 31 saves including one on a Kyle Greentree breakaway.

Andrew Joudrey returned to the lineup after missing about 2 weeks of action. Sami Lepisto and Tyler Sloan returned from Washington in time to play. But Sami left in the first with a groin injury and is listed as day to day. No word on if he will play tonight or not.

Bourque is on a serious roll right now. In his last 6 games he has scored 8 goals and assisted on 6 others. Wilson is also hot right now. In the same 6 games he has 4 goals and 5 assists. Andrew Gordon is the other player on that line and he has been playing sharp as well with 4 points in those games.

With the win the Bears eliminated the Binghamton Senators from playoff contention. Bridgeport however remains in contention as they picked up a win over Lowell last night. But all the Bears need is one point and they are in the playoffs. One point in 2 games, Lets Get It!!

It was a good day for the Caps/Bears organizations as both teams beat their Philadelphia rivals as the Caps won game 1 5-4. Mike Green had 2 goals and David Steckel scored 1 for the Caps.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Bears need 3!

Bridgeport defeated Wilkes Barre last night in OT to get to 82 points and only 4 behind the Bears for 4th in the division.

The Bears magic number is 3. With 3 points they will clinch a playoff berth. It doesn't matter how they get those points. If the Sound Tigers lose a game than the Bears only need 1 point. Bridgeport needs to win all 3 of their games this weekend and get help from Hershey. Bridgeport has games against Lowell and then a home and home with Hartford to close out the season.

To close out Binghamton the Bears only need 1 point. If Bingo even loses in OT than the Bears lock them out of the postseason. And Bingo comes to town Sunday for the season finale.

This Bears fan is hoping that the last game of the season is meaningless and that the Bears are already in. Two wins against Philly this Friday/Saturday would be GREAT!!

Sami Lepisto and Tyler Sloan have been in Washington this week practicing with the Caps. Sloan is just up there for practice and will be in Philly for Friday. Sami is probably coming back for that game as well. They were up due to injuries to Shaone Morrison and Jeff Schultz but both of them are expected to return for game 1 Friday night.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Not quite enough

After playing two important games on Friday and Saturday the Bears came out strong against Wilkes-Barre on Sunday night. And then their tired legs caught up to them. Hershey skated into the 1st intermission with a 2-0 lead on goals by Andrew Gordon and Kyle Wilson. Gordon scored his 14th of the season after coming out of the penalty box and grabbing the puck and deking goalie David Brown out of his pads. Wilson added 28th after Chris Bourque hustled into the offensive zone and laid a huge hit on a Penguin and passed the puck right out front for Wilson to put it in the net.

From there on it was almost all Wilkes-Barre. After the first period they outscored the Bears 4-1 including overtime. And they outshot Hershey by a total of 31-9 after the 1st period. The Penguins appeared a little tired in the third just like Hershey but they were able to hang on and get the win in OT.

The Bears third goal was scored by Sami Lepisto in the 2nd period, his 4th. Freddie Cassivi had a solid night in goal stopping 36 of 40 shots.

With the point the Bears are 5 up on Binghamton and 6 up on Bridgeport. Their magic number is 3. The Bears only need to get 3 points to clinch a playoff spot. If Bridgeport loses to Wilkes-Barre on Wednesday than the Bears would only need 1 point in their three weekend games to clinch the 4th spot in the division. If Bridgeport wins Wednesday than the Bears would need 3 points still. They actually only need 1 point to lock out Binghamton.

Sami Lepisto was recalled to Washington today. He is up due to injuries to Jeff Schultz and Shaone Morrison. Morrison is hoping to be back on Friday so we could be seeing Sami back in Hershey before he plays in Washington.

Sunday, April 6, 2008


You couldn't quite get it done this time could you Mr. Tambellini? The Bears came away with a 6-3 victory over the Bridgeport Sound Tigers in Hershey last night. Jeff Tambellini scored twice for the Tigers but they couldn't beat the Bears in this one.

Alexander Giroux scored goals number 30 and 31 on the season in the first period as the Bears and Tigers traded goals and skated to a 2-2 tie after one. The only goal in the second period was scored by the Tigers and they took a 3-2 lead into the third. And then the Bears came to play. Jason Morgan scored his first of the game early in the third on a weak little shot that slipped past Tigers goaltender Joey MacDonald and found the net. Morgan scored his second about 6:30 into the period to put the Bears up for good.

Chris Bourque added and empty netter, his 26th of the year, and Morgan completed his hat trick (giving him 18 goals on the season) in the last minute on another empty netter.

Daren Machesney made 25 saves on 28 shots to earn the victory for Hershey. With Binghamton off last night the Bears are now up 4 points on the Senators and 5 points on the Tigers with 4 games left in the season. The Tigers have one extra game which they play on Wednesday night.

On the injury front, the Capitals may need a defensemen when the playoffs start as Jeff Schultz went down last night and did not return. No word yet on how long he will be out. But expect a callup of either Sami Lepisto or Josef Boumedienne. The Bears don't want to lose a D-man but at least they are mostly healthy back there now. Tyler Sloan, Jamie Hunt and Chris McAlister all returned from injury this weekend. So losing one guy to the NHL still leaves plenty of talent in Hershey.

Speaking of call ups though. Watch out tonight for #22 (I think that number) Francois Bouchard. He will be making his AHL debut tonight against the Wilkes-Barre Penguins. He has scored 319 points over the last 3 seasons in the QMJHL. He could be a real force for the Bears next season and hopefully he can help with a little offense yet this year. He is the younger brother of Minnesota Wild forward Pierre-Marc Bouchard.

Also a Congratulations to Bruce Boudreau and the Washington Capitals on their Southeast Division title. The Caps were 6-14-1 when Gabby took over behind the bench and have since gone 37-17-7 to surprise the league. They are heading into the playoffs as hot as any team in the league and could make some noise. There are lots of former Bears up there so everyone root hard for the Caps this playoff year!!

Friday, April 4, 2008

Jeff Tambellini, I despise you!

I don't know if I have told anyone else this but I despise Jeff Tambellini. He has scored a hat trick tonight with the third goal coming in overtime to win the game for the Sound Tigers.

I would say I hate him but I don't know him and hate is such a strong word. So I will go with despise. He is a Bear killer and on this night a Phantoms killer.

Bridgeport wins 6-5 in overtime. They are 3 points back of Hershey and they still have a game in hand on Hershey.

Tomorrow night's game in Hershey might be the biggest of the season to this point.

Bears Can't Get it Done

The Bears couldn't quite get it done in Binghamton tonight losing in a shootout 3-2. Really the Bears had no business even still being in the game. I listened to John Walton's broadcast on the radio and it seemed as though there was a lot more action in the Bears defensive end than anywhere else on the ice. The stat sheet shows that as well. The Senators outshot the Bears 42-29 and controlled the play.

Freddie Cassivi kept the Bears in the game making 40 saves and Kyle Wilson and Chris Bourque scored their 27th and 25th goals of the season respectively. But it wasn't enough.

I don't know if it is the players, as there are a lot of ECHL guys on the roster right now, or Coach Woods philosophy but the Bears do not seem to sustain much in the offensive zone. There doesn't seem to be as much cycling or possession as there was in the last couple of seasons. Like I said there are a bunch of guys that have only been on the Bears for a couple of weeks and some of the top players of years past are gone. But one does have to wonder.

I personally think it has more to do with the players. There isn't as much talent on this team as even last years and a lot of those players are out injured right now. The young guys are doing good but aren't quite enough. Hopefully the defense and veterans can get the Bears a couple wins and get into the playoffs.

It would also help if we could get a couple of the junior players down here to give some minutes. The two players that lead the QMJHL in scoring the past 3 seasons are both Capitals prospects and one of them is done with his season. We could use the scoring now. I know they have to learn how to play on this level but the offensive punch is much needed it seems.

Next up for the Bears is a game tomorrow night in Hershey against the fighting Jeff Tambellini's. That's right the Bridgeport Sound Tigers come to town and they are surely bringing the Bear killer himself. Tonight Bridgeport is at home against Philly and are winning 5-4 with 3:44 to go.

Assuming Bridgeport wins the Bears will enter tomorrow with a 2 point lead on Binghamton and a 3 point lead on Bridgeport. Still leading but getting closer.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Got Some Help!

The Bears got some help last night in their push to the playoffs. Both Binghamton and Bridgeport lost last night.

Binghamton lost 4-1 in Syracuse. Binghamton now has only 5 games remaining and remains 3 points behind the Bears. They host Hershey on Friday and then come to Hershey for the season finale on April 13th.

Bridgeport lost 5-1 in Manchester. Bridgeport has 7 games remaining but is still 4 points back and comes to Hershey this Saturday for a huge game.

The Bears still control their destiny and need a solid weekend. 4 points would be good but 6 would be great. If the Bears could get 6 points this weekend they would be in excellent shape to make the playoffs.

Shaone Morrison was injured in Tuesday night's Capitals game and could miss some time. There is a chance Sami Lepisto could get called up but it seems as though the Caps are going to go with Steve Eminger rather than hurt the Bears roster.