Friday, October 30, 2009

Brutal stretch for Bears

Beginning tonight the Bears are embarking on one of the most demanding trips they have to take. Sure this weekend they play at home, Saturday against Albany, but the crazy part of that is tonight they are in Hartford to play the Wolfpack.

The trip to Hartford from Hershey is 5 hours and over 280 miles. It wouldn't be so bad if the rest of their New England road trip started immediately after but it doesn't. Instead the team will head back the same 5+ hours and 280+ miles to Hershey to play Albany on Saturday.

Then they get 3 days off before heading back up to New England for games next Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

Between today and Monday, November 9 the Bears will travel over 1600 miles and will spend an amazing 28+ hours in a bus driving.

That is one hell of a 10 days. The shortest trip is from Portland to Manchester....still almost 2 hours long.

Good Luck Boys.

At least they will have Alexandre Giroux back. He was returned to Hershey the other day as Tomas Fleischmann returned to Washington. Having Giroux back is huge but getting Keith Aucoin back would be better to be honest.

In the games Coiner has played for Hershey this season the Bears almost 4 goals per game and were 3-1. Since he went up to Washington the Bears have scored only 3 goals per game and more importantly are only 2-3. And not exactly against stellar competition either.

Giroux is important too though. He is still second on the team in points and goals even though he has missed the last 3 games...of which the Bears are only 1-2.

I am not certain we will see Coiner back in Hershey this season though. It is going to depend on what happens with Michal Nylander who is currently playing for Grand Rapids in order to show him off to potential buyers. If Nylander returns to Washington and does not get traded or loaned then Coiner will be back (barring another injury) but if he gets traded or moved Coiner would probably remain in Washington on a permanent basis.

Time will tell....until then though....


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Goalie Trouble??

Out of all the possible problems facing the Bears this season I didn't think one of them would be their starting goalie. But I think it is.

Michal Neuvirth had an amazing postseason last year on his way to playoff MVP. Then he followed that up with an impressive camp where he almost beat out Semyon Varlamov for the backup role in Washington until he got hurt.

And then he got sent to Hershey.

In Hershey....Neuvy is struggling. Sure the defense hasn't been stellar and have given up plenty of easy chances to the opposition. But guess what...the same defense has been playing in front of Braden Holtby and Jason Bacashihua as well and they are still playing well.

It looks like Neuvy is one of two things...upset about being in Hershey and not playing to the best of his abilities OR he is overconfident and getting beat because of it.

I think it is the second option. I think Neuvy came down to Hershey after a great camp against NHL players and a great postseason and thought it was going to be easy. He is a young kid who played his first pro hockey last season. So those thoughts are to be somewhat expected. But now he has to realize that it isn't easy and he needs to bring his A game every single time out on the ice.

Hopefully we will see that happen sooner or later. I am sure the organization is hoping to see it as he is expected to backup Varly in Washington next season.

If he doesn't figure it out soon I would expect to see a lot more of Bacashihua for a while.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Bears get back in win column

While it shouldn't have been as difficult as it was the Bears managed to beat the Portland Pirates last night 3-2. Jason Bacashihua picked up his 2nd win of the season as he made 21 saves while Francois Bouchard (3rd), Andrew Gordon (6th), and Steve Pinizzotto (2nd) scored for Hershey.

But offensively it should have been easier. Portland has given up the most goals in the league this season and is dead last in penalty killing. Yet Hershey couldn't get the puck in the net. And it wasn't that they weren't shooting enough or running into a hot goaltender...nope it was accuracy. In a game of 3-bar the Bears won with no competition. They hit (by my count) at least 4 posts and not one of those misses bounced in.

I would say this is a step in the right direction though. For the past few games I watched guys miss the net entirely even when it was wide open. So to see them hit so many posts means to me that they are getting closer to actually scoring goals again.

So the offense is on the right track (kinda) but what about the defense?

Not quite as close. I hate to call him out as he has already turned into the scapegoat amongst fans (much like Sloan last year) but Patrick McNeill struggled last night at both ends of the rink. I thought he made some good plays too but goal #1 for the Pirates is honestly squarely on the shoulders of Patty. He didn't get back in time and his guy got the goal.

But the entire defense struggled yet again. I thought with Bryan Helmer sitting that you might see an improved unit but it wasn't too be. John Carlson struggled last night as well. And he looked tired. I know it was a 3 in 3 but he better get used to them as they happen regularly at this level.

The thing Carlson does that evens out his play is his offensive game. He jumps up on the rush and puts pressure on the opposing defense and he is good at it. But he needs to be careful at times and pick his spots a little more. Thankfully he plays with Karl Alzner who would rather sit back and play in his own end and doesn't get caught up ice too often. Which allows Carlson to roam a little more.

Overall I just thought the defense got caught flat footed time and time again. Everyone did it. They were just a step behind the Pirates on every play in the first 2 periods. And then in the 3rd period the team dominated play and eventually got the game winner (on a short handed shot) from Pinner.

My Three Stars of the Game:
  1. Steve Pinizzotto - game winner while short handed and overall a good game
  2. Kyle Wilson - one assist and a game high 8 shots...played between Gordo and Flash and looked good
  3. Francois Bouchard - the 'Soph' line was great throughout the night and he had the lone goal

Grading the Performance:
  • Offense | B | Honestly I think a B might be a bit high but they did get 35 shots and 3 goals. Still missing chances and just getting by without their top offensive threats. Last night it seemed like they were trying to make too many of the 'pretty' passes instead of putting the puck on net and getting traffic in front.
  • Defense | C | A couple decent plays but overall sloppy and slow I thought. Carlson looked tired, Alzner almost got caught a couple times but managed to work out of it, Miscovic and McNeill struggled positionally, Ammo almost took himself out of multiple plays going for the hit, and Collins actually didn't play terribly but I am sure he struggled somewhere. NEEDS MORE CONSISTENCY.
  • Goaltending | B+ | Cash made multiple big games and really on the two goals his defense let him out to dry a bit. I will say this....looked better than Neuvy.
  • Power Play | C+ | Some pressure and some decent shots but too much looking for the extra pass and not enough getting the puck at the net.
  • Penalty Kill | B+ | Got saved a couple times by Cash but they played well as they killed off all 5 chances.
  • Overall | B | One thing I noticed last night....Portland communicates better than Hershey. There was MINIMAL conversation and communicating happening in the first 2 periods. Then in the third you started hearing more from the Bears and they started playing better. It was almost like when things were rough they didn't talk but when things were going good they communicated fine. It needs to be consistent and more communication is needed when your struggling.


Saturday, October 24, 2009

Bears vs Sens yet again

For the 3rd straight Saturday night the Bears and Binghamton Senators will meet on the ice. Hershey has managed to win the previous two and will be looking to make up for last nights poor game against the Pens.

Both of the previous games against Bingo have been played in Bingo. Two weeks ago the Bears won 8-1 and then last Saturday night they won in overtime 3-2. Tonight will be the first meeting of the teams in Hershey this season.

Entering the season the Senators were expected to challenge for the division title but so far that team hasn't appeared. They currently sit in 7th (also known as last) in the East division and have lost six straight.

They have only held teams to fewer than 3 goals once this season, which they won. They have allowed 4 goals in each of their last 2 games, at Rochester on Wednesday and last night at Syracuse.

If Bingo has many hopes of winning the division they need to fix whatever ails them.

Hershey Bears
record ~ 4-3-0-0 8 points
standings ~ 4th in East Division
most recent game ~ 6-4 Loss @ Wilkes-Barre, 10/23
last 5 games ~ 2-3-0-0
home record ~ 1-1-0-0
goals for ~ 23
goals against ~14
power play ~ 17.1% (17th)
penalty kill ~ 87.5% (8th)

Binghamton Senators
record ~ 2-4-2-0 6 points
standings ~ 7th in East Division
most recent game ~ 4-3 Loss @ Syracuse, 10/23
last 5 games ~ 0-3-2-0
road record ~ 0-2-1-0
goals for ~ 24
goals against ~ 33
power play ~ 8.3% (28th)
penalty kill ~ 76.7% (23rd)

last time teams met - Hershey won 3-2 in overtime last Saturday against the Sens.

Players to watch:


RW Francois Bouchard (22)- Was last night the turning point with 2 goals or will he fall back into the shadows tonight? As talented as any player on the Hershey roster but consistency is not in his game right now.
C Kyle Wilson (18) - With Aucoin and Giroux still in Washington (or New York for today) this is his chance to stand out from everyone else. A very talented goal scoring center he needs to step up.
RW Darren Reid (19) - When will he get his chance on a top line? When he gets the chances he produces (3 goals this season).


C Martin St. Pierre (39) - A premier offensive player in the AHL leads the team with 1o points (4 goals, 6 assists).
RW Ryan Keller (28) - Leading the team in goals (5) and in plus/minus (+5).
C Cody Bass (16) - Hopefully he gets to play tonight as he is a ridiculous -11 after only 8 games. That is 5 worse than any other Senator.


Friday, October 23, 2009

Bears can't quite complete the comeback

The Hershey offense couldn't quite make up for the defensive and goaltending lapses tonight against the Baby Pens. After giving up only 8 goals in their first 6 games they gave up 6 goals tonight and could only muster 4 goals scored.

Everyone lining up on the blue line for the Bears tonight EXCEPT Karl Alzner struggled mightily and yes that includes wonder kid John Carlson. Of particular concern was Bryan Helmer who was out of position for more than one of the Wilkes Barre goals tonight. He was paired up with rookie Zach Miscovic so maybe it was a case of him trying to cover too much for the rook but either way he struggled to stay in position.

But he wasn't the only one as each of the Bears defenders struggled at times. And the goaltending was shaky at best in my opinion. The first goal by Ryan Bayda absolutely should have been stopped and honestly it just didn't look like Neuvirth was focused for much of the night. Honestly it seems as though Neuvirth is still suffering from a bit of send-down-itis after not making the Caps out of camp.

The best goaltender I have seen for the Bears this season was hands down Braden Holtby. He seemed to want it more than Neuvy has so far. Not sure what it is but Neuvy seems a bit over confident maybe.

The offense managed to give the team a chance with a few fluky goals in the 3rd. Francois Bouchard scored his first 2 goals of the season to lead Hershey while Darren Reid (3rd) and Andrew Gordon (5th) added the other 2.

It was an exciting game between the I-81 rivals but I thought the Pens absolutely outplayed Hershey tonight. If it wasn't for a couple fluke goals Hershey would have lost this game 5-2 or worse.

Missed chances, poor positioning, and inconsistent goaltending doomed the team from the opening faceoff.

My Three Stars of the Game:
  1. Luca Caputi - 2 goals and an assist
  2. Ryan Bayda - 1 goal and an assist but was overall responsible for eventual game winner as he screened Neuvy completely
  3. Francois Bouchard - tried to keep Hershey in with 2 goals

Grading the Performance:
  • Offense | B | They finished with 33 shots and 4 goals and it wasn't enough. It looked more like last years Bears team instead of the team we saw for the first 6 games this year. They had lots of chances and open looks but missed the net repeatedly. Carlson, Matheiu Perreault, and Oskar Osala all missed open nets at one point or another. You can't miss great chances like that and expect to win.
  • Defense | D | Not sure what happened tonight but the defense absolutely fell apart. Helmer in particular was terrible in my opinion. He was out of position on a couple goals and on the game winner by Lovejoy he didn't move Bayda from the front of the net. Didn't even touch him. But Helmer wasn't the only one. Miscovic, Greg Amadio, and Carlson all struggled in their own end tonight.
  • Goaltending | C | Neuvirth made some absolutely remarkable saves and then let in some real bad goals. The first goal by Bayda was probably the worst to me as it was just a wrist shot with minimum traffic in front that just beat him high glove side. The defense is partly responsible for the goal totals but not a great outing for Neuvy.
  • Power Play | B- | 5 chances yielded no goals tonight. The unit ran hot and cold tonight. Sometimes they set up and got tons of pressure and other times they chased the Penguins in the defensive zone.
  • Penalty Kill | D | This had to have been last seasons units out there tonight. Sloppy play, too much chasing, not enough taking the body down low. They only had 2 chances but they looked terrible on both.
  • Overall | C | Probably the worst outing so far this year. They managed to get some goals but they couldn't stop anything. They hustled tonight and never gave up but it isn't always enough. Positioning and knowing where the opponents are is probably the most important part of hockey and tonight the Hershey defense lost touch with those parts of their game.


Bears head north to play Penguins

I haven't been around as much as I have wanted to be this season but I haven't missed any games and have been paying very close attention to the team even though I haven't been posting here as much. One reason for the lack of posting is that I am writing at 2 other sites for the Bears/Caps now too. Come check out my page on the Hershey Bears. Both sites generally have original content from me a few times each week.

Now on to this weekends games.

Tonight the Bears return to the ice in Wilkes Barre against the Penguins. Unfortunately it looks like the Bears will be going into this game without top center Keith Aucoin and leading scorer Alexandre Giroux as both players are currently up in the NHL with the Capitals. Both guys played last night and congratulations to Giroux on getting a goal and to Aucoin for assisting on that goal.

Here is an interesting stat for you this year...after their 6 games the Bears have allowed the fewest goals in the league with only 8 allowed. In no game has the opposition scored more than 2 goals. Considering that last years team allowed the 8th most goals in the league and the highest among playoff teams this start is all the more impressive. In the first 6 games of 08-09 the Bears gave up 20 goals. That's some serious improvement.

It also speaks to this teams struggles offensively that they have actually lost two of those games and needed overtime to win another one. In the entire 08-09 season the Bears lost exactly 2 games when they held the opponent to 2 goals or less. So they have already managed to lose as many of those games as all of last season. It basically comes down to the offense...they just aren't scoring as much. It isn't a problem right now but it could develop into one.

Tonight is the 2nd of 12 meetings between the I-81 rivals this year. We covered previously how different the Baby Pens look this season and it is showing in their stats too. They are 4th in the division with a 3-2 record but have only scored 15 goals in their 5 games.

So 2 teams that dominated offensively last season are having trouble scoring early this season. One reason for this might be the scattered scheduling. When you have a week off between games it is hard to really get and stay in a rhythm. But it doesn't get too much better for the Bears going forward. They only have 3 mid-week games in 2009.

Which means they better figure out a way to stay on top of their game throughout the week. Hopefully we will see the secondary scoring pick up the slack tonight in Wilkes Barre.

Hershey Bears
record ~ 4-2-0-0 8 points
standings ~ 2nd in East Division
most recent game ~ 3-2 OT Win @ Binghamton, 10/17
last 5 games ~ 3-2-0-0
road record ~ 3-1-0-0
goals for ~ 19
goals against ~8
power play ~ 20.0% (12th)
penalty kill ~ 90.9% (5th)

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins
record ~ 3-2-0-0 6 points
standings ~ 4th in East Division
most recent game ~ 4-3 SO Win vs Syracuse, 10/17
last 5 games ~ 3-2-0-0
home record ~ 2-2-0-0
goals for ~ 15
goals against ~ 13
power play ~ 24.0% (5th)
penalty kill ~ 87.0% (8th)

last time teams met - Hershey won 3-0 at the Pens two weeks ago (10/9).

Players to watch:


RW Andrew Gordon (10)- With Giroux up in Washington the Bears second leading scorer needs to step it up and get a goal or two.
D John Carlson (4) - If neither guy returns from Washington before tonight then Carlson will be the second leading point producer for the Bears tonight. He has a goal and 4 assists this season and has been solid in his own end.
C Jay Beagle (21) - He was centering the top line at practice this past week when Coiner got the call so all guesses are he will center the top line although without Giroux who is the left wing on that line anyhow?


RW Chris Conner (23) - Pens newcomer is leading the team with 6 points (2g, 4a) through 5 games.
C Dustin Jeffrey (21) - Not scoring goals yet this season but assists are just as good and he has 5 of them.
LW Ryan Bayda (37) - Another of the newcomers is leading the team with 3 goals in only 4 games this season.


Sunday, October 18, 2009

Bears win 3-2 in OT

The Bears got back on track in Binghamton last night with a 3-2 victory in overtime over the Sens. In a game where the Bears took a team record 27 shots in a period (2nd) they struggled to beat Andy Chiodo one week after lighting him up for 6 goals in 2 periods. Chiodo continually went down early and flailed around on the ice to make stops. The Bears definitely did a better job getting pucks on net with a total of 44 shots but they still missed opportunities.

Scoring is beginning to become a question for the Bears. Prior to the signing of Alexandre Giroux there was a lot of question on where the goals would come from. Once he was signed it was just expected that he would provide the difference. But he is unlikely to hit 60 goals again during the regular season (although after 2 more goals last night he has 4 already). At this point it looks like losing Graham Mink and his 32 goals and Chris Bourque and his 21 goals is going to be difficult to replace.

Hershey didn't really bring in any proven scorers to replace those 53 goals. They just decided to continue to develop from within and give other players increased minutes. Guys like Andrew Gordon, Steve Pinizzotto, Kyle Wilson, and Oskar Osala need to pick up the slack.

Not having Keith Aucoin for the past couple of games surely hurts the offense and he is likely to return at some point this week BUT if the Caps can ever trade Nylander he might be called up to Washington on a permanent basis.

One thing for sure is that the defense is better then last years unit. With both Karl Alzner and John Carlson on the blueline along with improved players such as Patrick McNeill and Sean Collins this is going to be a tough team to score against this season. And most of the defensemen can contribute offensively as well.

Okay...the offense has struggled a bit the past 3 games but the game before that they scored 8 goals so it is obviously a little early to sound any alarms but it is something to keep an eye on. I think this team will benefit from more frequent line changes this season as opposed to how things went last year. In 08-09 Coach Woods kept the top 2 lines together all season barring injury which worked out. But with Mink gone there is no true #1 right wing and with Bourque gone there is no true #2 left wing. So rotating guys through the lines will work better then it would have last season.

Any way you look at it the Bears are 4-2 with all 4 wins coming in the East division. Not to shabby to start the season.

My Three Stars of the Game:
  1. Alexandre Giroux - 2 goals to lead the team and win the game
  2. Trevor Bruess - no points and only 2 shots but created chances consistently
  3. Andy Chiodo - made plenty of big saves among his 41

Grading the Performance:
  • Offense | B+ | Definitely did much better getting shots but still they missed plenty of opportunities. Chiodo wanted to go down early if there were bodies near him but plenty of Hershey shots came without traffic in front. Could have been better but not bad.
  • Defense | B | The stat line says 36 shots against but it didn't seem like that many. Carlson scored his first regular season goal and Alzner is an absolute stalwart on the blue line. Miscovic looked like the rookie he is at times last season. And Ammo sounded pretty good on the radio!
  • Goaltending | B | Neuvirth has looked a little lackadaisical in net the past 2 nights. Honestly I think Holtby looked MUCH more impressive in his starts than Neuvy. After missing a few weeks with an injury he is probably just working at getting into a rhythm.
  • Power Play | B | 1 for 4 for the night with Carlson picking up the goal. Lots of pressure, good shots, nice job positionally. BUT they should have scored more.
  • Penalty Kill | B | Killed off 3 of 4 which is okay. Seem to be chasing a little more than anyone would like to see them chase. Staying in their box is the key to any PK unit and Hershey needs to do this better.
  • Overall | B | Good game, not great. Too many shots against, too many wasted shots for. Better than Friday night though for sure.


Saturday, October 17, 2009

Bears Drop 2nd Straight

After opening up with 3 straight wins over divisional foes the Bears have dropped 2 straight by the score of 2-1. Last Sunday night Manchester came into Hershey and just flat out played the Bears. In that game it seemed as though the Bears were overlooking the Monarchs and weren't ready to play while the Monarchs were looking forward to the game.

Last night was a different story though. Visiting Glens Falls, New York for the first time to play the Phantoms, Hershey actually out played Adirondack. But they couldn't get the goals. According to the score sheet Hershey out shot the Phantoms 27-15 and that is probably pretty accurate in describing the play. Although I am not convinced Hershey actually got 27 shots on goal.

Defensively it was as good a game as the guys have played this season. Only allowing 15 shots is impressive against any team and few of those 15 shots were quality attempts. Offensively it was a different story though. Too much passing and excellent defense by the Phantoms managed to keep the Bears from getting more than their 1 goal.

With center Keith Aucoin getting playing time in Washington with the injury to Boyd Gordon, Mathieu Perreault joined the top line and played well. Every time the Bears got pressure though they seemed to want to make the extra pass instead of just shooting. Most of those 27 shots were just little tap ins from right in front.

But I will give credit where it is due. The Phantoms defense forced many of those passes and broke up many of them too. And goaltender Johan Backlund played very well making a few big saves and keeping his team in the game.

It was one of those games where Hershey was obviously the better team and played like it but couldn't get the bounces. These games happen during a season, the key does the team come out the next time? Well we get to find out about Hershey immediately as they play in Binghamton tonight.

Expect to see a much more determined group on both sides as Hershey wants to get back in the win column and the Senators will want to respond to the 8-1 beating Hershey put on them last weekend.

My Three Stars of the Game:
  1. Johan Backlund - 26 saves, none spectacular but more than enough
  2. Phantoms Defense - constant pressure kept Hershey away from their goalie
  3. Jay Beagle - I thought he was the best Bear on the ice last night

Grading the Performance:
  • Offense | B- | Not a terrible performance. Consistent pressure, some nice passing, great hustle. But too many passes and not enough shooting doomed this team last night. The Phantoms defense didn't help either as they pressured the Bears forwards all night long.
  • Defense | A | I know the Phantoms scored 2 but they only got 15 shots and honestly I can't remember them getting much pressure at all. The 2nd goal was the fault of Darren Reid. He went for a big hit (and made it) but in the process he left his man skate right down and score behind him.
  • Goaltending | B | Michal Neuvirth made his season debut and he surely didn't look bad but he didn't get enough work to really get in a rhythm either.
  • Power Play | B- | Not bad. Much like the offense overall...consistent pressure, good possession, hustle. But too many passes and not enough shots.
  • Penalty Kill | D | To be honest I missed the Phantoms first goal as I was away from the computer for a minute and thanks to an extremely old building with no replay board I was unable to see it but the PK unit only had 1 chance and they dropped the ball.
  • Overall | B- | As I said above...Hershey was the better team last night but they couldn't get enough of the bounces.


Sunday, October 11, 2009

Bears host Monarchs at 7 tonight

After 3 straight games against division opponents to kick off the 09-10 season the Bears get a division break tonight as they host the Manchester Monarchs. Manchester missed the playoffs last season by 5 points and is looking to rebound. They lost their top 3 scorers from last season but have added a few players that could help them get to the postseason.

Manchester has yet to play a home game this season and has one more road game after tonight before they do. They have spent the past 2 nights in Norfolk as they split those games, winning Friday night and getting shut out last night.

Manchester is not what you would call on offensive juggernaut as they only have 8 goals in 3 games and have not converted on any of their 10 power play opportunities. But defensively they are stout. They have given up 6 goals in 3 games and only 1 of those are on the power play as they are 6th in the league as they kill 94.1% off the power plays.

Hershey comes into this game with confidence after handling two of their main challengers this season on the road. Friday the Bears took down the rival Penguins 3-1 and then last night they destroyed a team many consider to be much improved, Binghamton, 8-1 in New York.

Hopefully Hershey can come out firing and not have too much of a letdown after a couple of big wins. Both these teams are playing their 3rd in 3 nights but for Manchester this is the one they probably had circled of the 3 while the Bears were mainly focused on the first 2.

If Hershey wins they will start 4-0 for the 3rd time in 4 years...both the previous times resulted in trips to the Calder Cup Finals......just saying.

Hershey Bears
record ~ 3-0-0-0 6 points
standings ~ 1st in East Division
most recent game ~ 8-1 Win @ Binghamton, 10/10
last 5 games ~ 3-0-0-0
home record ~ 1-0-0-0
goals for ~ 14
goals against ~2
power play ~ 33.0% (2nd)
penalty kill ~ 100.0% (1st)

Manchester Monarchs
record ~ 2-1-0-0 4 points
standings ~ 3rd in Atlantic Division
most recent game ~ 2-0 Loss @ Norfolk, 10/10
last 5 games ~ 2-1-0-0
road record ~ 2-1-0-0
goals for ~ 8
goals against ~ 6
power play ~ 0.0% (28th)
penalty kill ~ 94.1% (6th)

last time teams met - First meeting this season, Hershey won both games last season.

Players to watch:


RW Andrew Gordon (10)- Team leader in goals and points (4 and 7) had a goal and 2 assists last night. All 4 goals have come on the power play.
LW Oskar Osala (36) - The big Fin has been somewhat quiet on the score sheet so far this season with no points in 3 games but his physical game seems to be better as he has been crashing the net and taking the body with regularity.
D Greg Amadio (32) - With both of Hershey's main fighters out with injuries to this point Ammo has stepped up and defended his teammates. Has also added 2 assists and a +3 rating.


C Andrei Loktionov (18) - Rookie is leading the team in goals with 3 in 3 games. Last season in the OHL he totaled 24 goals and 42 assists.
C Oscar Moller (10) - Spent most of last season with the LA Kings he returns to Manchester to start the season and has 1 goal and 2 assists so far.
RW Scott Parse (23) - One of the top returning scorers from last season he has started off this year with 5 assists in 3 games.


Bears dismantle Sens 8-1

Well coming off a game Friday night where the Bears were probably fortunate to get 2 points they sure responded well enough. Nothing went right for the Binghamton Senators after they scored the opening goal less then 3 minutes into the game. And even that wasn't anything to get too excited about as it wasn't a clean goal. The puck went off Patty McNeill's skate and past Hershey goalie Jason Bacashihua who was making his Hershey debut.

Apparently the Bears are not fond of trailing in any game. That was the first time this season that Hershey had trailed and it only lasted for 3 minutes when Alexandre Giroux scored his first goal of the game and season. He would add his second, the eventual game winner, with less then 30 seconds to go in the 1st period.

That goal was apparently devastating for the Sens and inspiring for the Bears as Hershey scored 4 goals in the second. They would add 2 more in the third on Sens #1 goaltender Mike Brodeur (he replaced starter Andy Chiodo after the 2nd).

Kyle Wilson scored his first 2 goals of the season while Darren Reid (2nd), Andrew Joudrey (1st), Steve Pinizzotto (1st), and Andrew Gordon (4th) scored the remaining goals for Hershey. Overall the Bears finished with 41 shots to Bingo's 33.

So far this season Hershey has defeated 3 East division opponents by a combined score of 14-2! And they have killed off all 14 power plays they have faced. AND they have scored on 5 of their 15 power plays for a 33% success rate.

Not a bad way to start off the season.

My Three Stars of the Game:
  1. Alexandre Giroux - first 2 goals of the season got Hershey focused last night
  2. Andrew Gordon - 1 goal and 2 assists
  3. Jason Bacashihua - the scoresheet shows 32 saves but I am not convinced it was that many

Grading the Performance:
  • Offense | A | 8 goals on 41 shots is pretty darn good. They controlled the puck for the first 40 minutes and would have controlled it for another 20 but they really called off the dogs and let Bingo have a chance. Crisp passing and great shooting. Bingo goalie was severely overmatched and it was obvious.
  • Defense | A | This entire unit deserves accolades for last night and the season to date. Holding a Bingo team that had scored 11 goals in their previous 2 games to only 1 goal and 15 shots through 2 periods is pretty impressive.
  • Goaltending | A | So far it has been an impressive display in net for the Bears this season. One goal allowed last night and it was deflected in off a Bear.
  • Power Play | B | They converted 2 of 5 chances but did struggle to keep consistent pressure for much of the game. Overall a good job but room for improvement.
  • Penalty Kill | A | What a difference a year makes. Last years penalty kill unit struggled mightily from game 1....this year dominant!
  • Overall | A | Honestly it felt like the Bears were skating against a high school team out there last night. I am trying to remember something Bingo did that impressed me and I can't remember a single thing. If it wasn't for the scoresheet I am not sure you could convince me that Hershey actually played another team last night. They were THAT dominant.


Friday, October 9, 2009

Holtby makes up for Bears sloppiness

That looked like what it was, an early season game coming off a long stretch of no games. If it wasn't for Braden Holtby in net the Penguins surely would have won the game tonight. He made 38 saves, many of them with quick reflexes and fluid movements.

Pass after pass between Bears defensemen went wrong. If they kept any sort of stats based on how many passes miss there intended target I think this game would have set records for low success rates. Neither team could complete many passes.

While the game was definitely entertaining I didn't find it well played but considering it was the 2nd game of the season after a week off between games it was to be expected.

John Walton and Tim Leone made mention of the difficult decision facing Hershey now. Holtby has won 2 games and has given up a total of 1 goal. Do you send him to South Carolina when Neuvirth gets healthy? Or do you send Bacashihua? I wouldn't want to make that call. The argument for still sending Holtby is that he will be the #1 guy for the Stingrays and will only be the part timer in Hershey. So if you want him to get work....

Hershey managed to make the most of their opportunities while the Pens missed on many of theirs. Darren Reid, Boyd Kane, and Keith Aucoin had the goals for the Bears none of which came with the man advantage though. One game after going 3 for 6 on the power play the Hershey unit stalled and missed on all 4 of their chances.

During the course of the season teams play in many different types of games, from shootouts to defensive battles to penalty filled to games against (and with) hot goalies. The more ways a team can win the better off they will be at the end of the season. In this game Hershey got the hot goalie playing behind them and managed to convert a few chances into goals to get the win.

My Three Stars of the Game:
  1. Braden Holtby - obviously the best player on the ice. Won the game for the Bears in my opinion.
  2. John Curry - honestly he played very well. Defense hung him out to dry on 2nd goal and 3rd was bounced in off of him.
  3. Darren Reid - game winning goal gets him 3rd star

Grading the Performance:
  • Offense | B- | Honestly it wasn't good. They missed plenty of other opportunities throughout the game. And some players, Giroux, need to shoot the puck more. He passed up a chance to make a pass that wasn't there. Passing and positioning seemed to be the points of weakness. Guys were just kind of gliding around the zone and not getting set up at all.
  • Defense | C | Positioning was poor, passing was horrendous, but the hustle was good. I would say that every member of the defense screwed up at some point tonight. They managed to escape with the win but allowing 38 shots to any team in regulation is not good. Plenty of missed opportunities for the Pens.
  • Goaltending | A | Holtby was the best player on the ice tonight...hands down. He made save after save, many difficult to win this game. Does he end up in SC...who knows...I don't want to make that call.
  • Power Play | B | They didn't score (0-4) but they set up each time and got plenty of shots at Curry. They did miss some chances but overall I think they played well but they didn't get any bounces tonight.
  • Penalty Kill | B | They obviously shut out the Pens (0-5) but there were some lapses in positioning and awareness that almost led to some goals. Surprised to see Perreault killing penalties.
  • Overall | B | Not a great game by any stretch but tonight it was enough. Struggled in every facet of the game except goaltending. But there will always be games like that. No team can play perfect hockey for 80+ games a season. If you can win the ones where you struggle...that is a good sign.


Bears at Pens for first of 12 this season

After almost a full week off in what at this point feels like the last preseason game the Bears get back to game action against the rival Penguins in Wilkes-Barre.

This is the first of 12 games between the I-81 rivals and while the animosity will always be there this isn't the same Penguins team from last season. The roster is completely different this season. Of the 37 players that played in a regular season game in 08-09 only 11 players remain and that includes 2 goalies.

Look at this....

Top 5 Scorers............all gone
Top 10 Scorers..........3 remain
Top 20 Scorers..........6 remain (2 of which are defensemen)

That is some serious roster turnover. Now that does not mean there isn't talent filling in the roster. (to see the roster click here)

  • RW - Konstantin Pushkarev - totaled 40 points in 49 games for the Iowa Stars in 07-08 and spent last season in the KHL.
  • LW - Casey Pierro-Zabotel - rookie who totaled 115 points (36 goals) in 72 games in the WHL last season.
  • C - Wyatt Smith - played most of last season with San Antonio and scored 16 goals in 53 games.
  • RW - Chris Conner - spent half the season last year with the Dallas Stars totaling 13 points in 38 games. In the AHL with Peoria he scored 16 goals in 30 games.
  • F - Eric Tangradi - another rookie who was an offensive force for 3 straight years in the OHL. Totaled 88 points in 55 regular season games last season and added 21 in 16 games in the playoffs.
  • LW - Ryan Bayda - Spent the entire season last year with the Carolina Hurricanes.
  • F - Joey Haddad - yet another rookie who was offensive minded in juniors playing the QMJHL. Totaled 76 goals in the last 2 seasons.

The defense is similar with names like D'Aversa, Engelland, and Caffaro returning while they add Nate Guenin from the Phantoms and Chris Lee from Bridgeport. And the goalies remain the same, Adam Berkhoel and John Curry.

You can see the changes that have been made. This is NOT the same team from last season. The forwards returning are easy to count, 6 of them. Luca Caputi, Dustin Jeffrey, Nick Johnson, Joe Vitale and Aaron Boogaard were all rookies last year who will get more time this season. Tim Wallace is the one veteran returning from last season.

Either way you look at it this is not the same team. The animosity probably won't be there early although Wade Brookbank and Jesse Boulerice are also on the team and could make it interesting for guys like Branden Sugden and (eventually) Grant McNeill. Any way you look at it though, after 12 games these teams will hate each other.

This Penguins team looks similar to the 07-08 Bears...young and relying on a couple veterans. I would expect to see the same kind of season for them too.

Hershey Bears
record ~ 1-0-0-0 2 points
standings ~ 2nd in East Division
most recent game ~ 3-1 Win vs Norfolk, 10/3
last 5 games ~ 1-0-0-0
road record ~ 0-0-0-0
goals for ~ 3
goals against ~1
power play ~ 50.0% (1st)
penalty kill ~ 100.0% (1st)

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins
record ~ 1-0-0-0 2 points
standings ~ 3rd in East Division
most recent game ~ 4-2 Win vs Syracuse, 10/3
last 5 games ~ 1-0-0-0
home record ~ 1-0-0-0
goals for ~ 4
goals against ~ 2
power play ~ 20.0% (12th)
penalty kill ~ 85.7% (10th)

last time teams met - Hershey won in 7 games in the East Division Finals last Spring.

Players to watch:


RW Steve Pinizzotto (13)- With the Penguins physical players a guy like Pinner could play a huge role. Make sure he keeps his cool and plays his game and he should draw a few penalties.
G Michael Neuvirth (30) - Assuming he gets the start tonight it will be interesting to see how he plays. He was having a great camp with the Caps before a hip injury ended his run.
RW Andrew Gordon (10) - Scored 3 goals last Saturday night to help the team get the opening night victory. Is he ready to become a premier goal scorer? Let's hope so.


LW Luca Caputi (19) - The top returning scorer, he had 45 points and 18 goals, needs to take the next step after his rookie season.
D Dustin Jeffrey (21) - Another rookie who played a lot for the Pens last season he added 11 goals and 26 assists in 63 games.
RW Chris Conner (23) - Takes over Ryan Stone's old number and he can score. In his limited time in the AHL last season he had 16 goals in 30 games.


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

What a weird week. It almost feels as though the season wasn't supposed to start. Typically the Bears have at least 2 games a week once the season starts but this week they don't play again until Friday night. Which thankfully is only 2 days away but still.

Not much news out of Hershey this week...

Boyd Kane is back in Hershey after getting ice time in all 3 Capitals games so far this season. Tyler Sloan is actually expected to take Kane's place in the Caps lineup on Thursday as the fourth line forward.

After opening the season at home the Bears now have 5 of their next 6 games on the road. No real bad road trips in there as the furthest they travel over the next 3 weeks is to Glen Falls, NY to face the Phantoms.

A home game against Manchester is sandwiched in there this Sunday after 2 road games up 81 (Wilkes Barre and Bingo).

The other weird thing about the schedule is getting used to this no Wednesday games business. I know there will be some later in the season but not having any in the first month is kind of odd feeling. Last year it seems as though there were a bunch of games right away and this year it seems barren looking at the schedule.

Oh well....just waiting for Friday. Should have the usual previews and recaps up here all weekend.


Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Power Play Strikes Again

Apparently Graham Mink won't be missed too much on the power play! Andrew Gordon started off the season scoring 3 times last night, all with the man advantage.

Last seasons goal scoring machine, Alexandre Giroux, added 3 assists as the Bears kicked off the 09-10 season with a 3-1 win over the Norfolk Admirals.

Braden Holtby made his first career AHL start and made 23 saves to get the win.

Hershey outshot Norfolk in each period and for the game with 32 shots to Norfolk's 24. Again the depth of the Bears out did their opposition as they routinely skated with 4 lines which keeps the top lines humming all game long.

The night started as a celebration of the 08-09 Calder Cup winning team and turned quickly to the anticipation of what the 09-10 season holds. This Bears team is probably as deep or deeper than last seasons Cup winning team. Just on defense alone the talent is much deeper with Karl Alzner and John Carlson both starting the season in Hershey and with players such as Sean Collins and Patty McNeill making huge strides over the summer.

At forward the depth is younger and inexperienced but there is substantial upside. Last year's first round pick Anton Gustafsson did not play last night but as of now is still with the team. He has said he will return to Sweden to play before he goes to play in the ECHL due to the talent discrepancy between the Swedish Elite League and the ECHL. His biggest problem has been adjusting to the different game style here in the States where guys are much more aggressive. You have to wonder if the Caps/Bears want him to stay and play even limited minutes in Hershey (at least for a while) so he can get used to the style and adapt.

Either way there are other players in the system that provide great depth. Boyd Kane skated with the Capitals for their first 2 games of the season but is expected to return to Hershey next week when Eric Fehr returns from injury. Michael Dubuc scored 35 goals in South Carolina last season and is a great option if Hershey needs some goals. Jake Hauswirth is a big kid (6'5") that likes to create havoc in front of the crease. And big Joe Finley is another option although it is being reported that he will play defense in South Carolina which obviously slows his growth as a left wing.

Overall this team is going to be good this season and last night showed the talent they have. 3 for 6 on the man advantage and they killed off all 4 power plays they faced. The goalie was very good and he might be in South Carolina next week.

A great way to start the season!


***editor's note--the grading and 3 stars posts will resume next week. due to prior engagements I was unable to watch the entire game and therefore can not speak to how the team played.**

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Are You Ready??

Hockey season gets underway TONIGHT!! Caps are on TV if you get Versus!

Bears begin their title defense on Saturday night!!


I found all of these videos on YouTube...thanks to everyone who posted one of them!!