Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Beag's Manchester Fight

Here is a pretty good video of Jay Beagle's fight against Joe Piskula of Manchester during the game Saturday night.

To anyone that wasn't there or didn't see it the Bears were wearing the red Capitals jersey's as it was Capitals night in Hershey.

The best part and probably the reason there was blood all over was the uppercut that Jay throws at the :15 mark. Check it out.


Sunday, January 25, 2009

The MAG Line Wins Another

The sixth place team in the Atlantic division came into Hershey last night and really gave the Bears all they could handle. Manchester couldn't quite muster enough offense however as they fell 2-1 to the Bears.

Hershey's offense was again the MAG line for the game and luckily it was enough. Giroux added his 36th goal of the season and Keith Aucoin scored his 17th to give the Bears a win heading into the all star break.

The Monarchs put up a good fight though as they outshot the Bears 30-28 in the game and Jonathan Bernier stopped 26 shots to keep them in the game.

In the Bears net Michal Neuvirth started his second game in a row and looked impressive stopping 29 shots on his way to another win. Neuvirth has now played in 6 games with Hershey and is 3-2-0-1.

Overall it was a sloppy game by the Bears that turned very sloppy for the referees at the end of the game as they missed at least 2 calls against the Monarchs and called an icing when the Bears were about to score in the empty net.

Hershey dominated the first 10 minutes and the last 15 but in the middle they yet again allowed the opponent to control the play. Offensively this team has all the pieces but lately it is only one piece that is winning the games.

My Three Stars of the Game:
  1. Alexandre Giroux - a goal and an assist to help the Bears to the win
  2. Keith Aucoin - had the other goal and an assist
  3. Jay Beagle - great hustle all night and his second fight in as many games

Grading the Performance:
  • Offense - C - I thought that this was one of the worst offensive games of the season so far. In the second period they had almost no sustained pressure and really didn't get too many good shots on Bernier for most of the game. The beginning of the game and the third period were dominated by the Bears but the middle part is still a struggle.
  • Defense - B+ - It looked pretty good but keep in mind that this is one of the worst offenses in the league right now. They managed to get many blocks and were in position to clear away some pucks that were just laying in front of the goal.
  • Goaltending - B+ - I think he COULD have stopped the one goal which is the only reason he is getting this grade. He played another great game and is really getting comfortable in net at this level.
  • Power Play - C - Yeah they had a goal but they didn't look that good after that one. They ended with 5 power plays and the pressure on 4 of those was rather poor.
  • Penalty Kill - B - The one goal given up was on a 5 on 3 so it is tough to stop them but it seemed like they could have done a little better. Not bad though as they killed off 4 penalties.
  • Overall - B - Let's face it the Bears should have won this game 5-0 but they seemed to let Manchester back into it. This seems to be the style against teams they dominate for the first 10 minutes of the game...they let the opponent control the play after that. Being the best team in the league means you are going to get everyone else's best game every time...you CAN'T have an off night if you expect to win.


Saturday, January 24, 2009

Monarchs at Bears Preview, 1/24

Hershey Bears
record ~ 31-12-0-3 65 points
standings ~ 1st in East Division
most recent game ~ 4-3 SO Loss vs Wilkes Barre, 1/23
last 5 games ~ 3-0-0-2
home record ~ 16-5-0-2
goals for ~ 181
goals against ~134
power play ~ 18.1% (11th)
penalty kill ~ 80.8% (23rd)

Manchester Monarchs
record ~ 18-21-0-5 41 points
standings ~ 6th in Atlantic Division
most recent game ~ 2-1 Loss @ Philadelphia, 1/23
last 5 games ~ 1-4-0-0
road record ~ 9-13-0-2
goals for ~ 108
goals against ~ 129
power play ~ 15.6% (22nd)
penalty kill ~ 82.8% (17th)

last time teams met - First meeting this season.

Players to watch:


LW Alexandre Giroux (12)- The point streak is at a Bears record 21 games. The AHL record is 39 games so he has a ways to go.
LW Chris Bourque (17) - He took a dumb penalty last night that hurt the team but he did score his second goal in as many games.
C Keith Aucoin (11) - He is obviously overshadowed right now by Giroux but in the month of January he has 5 goals and 12 assists. He still leads the league with 58 points this season.


RW Teddy Purcell (62) - Has only played 5 games with team over last 3 months due to call up with LA Kings. In 25 games with Monarchs he has 9 goals and 11 assists.

LW Matt Moulson (52) - He also spent some time up with the Kings and has only played 19 games with the Monarchs. In those games he has 7 goals and 8 assists including 3 goals and 3 assists in his last 6 games.
RW Trevor Lewis (11) - He leads the team in points and is tied for the team lead in goals and assists. He has 10 goals and 18 assists this season.

News and Notes:
  • The teams split their 2 games last season with each road team winning.
  • They play again later this season in Manchester on March 22.
  • Manchester has not been good on the road since they had a 5 game road winning streak back in November.
  • In 16 road games since that streak they have won 3 of them. 3-13 in their last 16 road games is not good.
  • Overall they have only won 2 of their last 10 games.
  • Against the East division they are 2-7 this season.
  • Hershey has lost 4 of their last 5 home games.
  • Against the Atlantic division the Bears are 6-1 against the Atlantic division.
  • Expect Daren Machesney to start in goal tonight although Michal Neuvirth could possibly start again tonight.

Dominant but no W

The Wilkes Barre/Scranton Penguins have now beaten the Bears 4 out of the 5 times they have played this season after last nights 4-3 shootout win. The Baby Pens are mainly doing their damage to the Bears on the power play this season. Including last night's game where they had 3 goals on the power play.

Let me put it to you this way....the Pens have scored 22 goals against the Bears in 5 games this season. 11 of those goals are on a power play. They have had 31 power plays against the Bears. That means that the Pens are converting on over 35% of their penalties against Hershey. That is not good.

The advantage and bright spot to that is that in the playoffs penalties are called less frequently. Referees tend to put their whistles away for longer stretches than they do during the regular season.

Really this series has been close all season. Each team has won one big with the Bears winning 8-4 on opening night and the Pens winning 6-2 earlier this month. The other three games were decided by 1 goal and last night's game by a shootout.

Last night's game pretty much came down to a questionable decision by Chris Bourque and a questionable call by referee Terry Koharski.* Bourque was called for a 5 minute major penalty for interference with less than a minute to go in the second period. There is no video evidence to show the penalty but Bourque didn't exactly say he didn't do anything so you have to assume that it was a penalty.

But the question is was it worthy of a major penalty? That is a big call and it ended up dooming the Bears as they gave up 2 goals (which tied the game) on the penalty kill.

But you can't blame losses on referees since the Bears still had a chance to win the game by killing the penalties. The Bears still dominated the third period and overtime before falling in the shootout. Those games happen and while the Bears trail the season series against the Pens they are still 8 points ahead of them in the division.

Once you get to the playoffs the regular season doesn't matter all that much. Want proof, here is what Coach Woods had to say after the game,
"It doesn't matter, if we both get into the playoffs, it's going to be a whole new ballgame anyway. It doesn't matter what happens during the regular season. To me, I know we can play with them, I know we can beat them."
That tells you what you need to know on how this team feels about the record during the season. It would obviously be nice to beat them every time they play them but the team understands that the playoffs are a different season and that season matters a whole lot more than this one.

My Three Stars of the Game:
  1. Chris Minard - 2 goals after returning from Pittsburgh for the weekend
  2. John Curry - 33 saves, some of which were very tough
  3. Alexandre Giroux - a goal which set the Hershey Bears record for longest points streak at 21 straight games

Grading the Performance:
  • Offense - B+ - I really thought that this was one of the better games this team played. They got plenty of chances and the Pens honestly looked outclassed for much of the game. Another goal obviously would have been nice but they didn't get enough bounces.
  • Defense - B+ - I will grade the penalty kill in a bit but the defense was solid at even strength. The Pens had some shots but there was never any consistent pressure except when they were on the power play.
  • Goaltending - B+ - He would have gotten an A but their were 3 goals scored on him. Although I thought he did a fabulous job in net and the 3 scored would have been tough for any goalie on any level to stop.
  • Power Play - B - So many chances and they were only able to get 1 goal. They even had chances in overtime but couldn't get by Curry.
  • Penalty Kill - F - Sorry but you have to do better than that. They did good on the 5 minute major with the exception of the final 30 seconds. The first two goals were basically 5 on 3 goals. The first goal was right after the 5 on 3 ended but the player wasn't back in yet. 3 lapses cost them a point at the end of the game.
  • Overall - B - I thought they played a very good game with the exception of 3 mental lapses on the penalty kill where they allowed wide open guys to get good looks. The offense produced and Michal Neuvirth was very good in goal. A good game with an unfortunate outcome.


*If you question the ruling of a 5 minute interference penalty go here and click on page 62 and look at rule 56.4 on the right side of the page. And if you listened to John Walton and you heard him say that the penalty SHOULD have included a game misconduct that is incorrect. If the referee determines the play resulted in an injury than he WOULD be given a game misconduct but Thomas was a little banged up but he returned a short period later.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Pens @ Bears Preview, 1/23

Hershey Bears
record ~ 31-12-0-2 64 points
standings ~ 1st in East Division
most recent game ~ 6-2 Win @ Norfolk, 1/21
last 5 games ~ 3-2-0-0
home record ~ 16-5-0-1
goals for ~ 178
goals against ~130
power play ~ 18.1% (11th)
penalty kill ~ 81.5% (21st)

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins
record ~ 26-15-1-2 55 points
standings ~ 3rd in East Division
most recent game ~ 4-1 Win vs Manchester, 1/21
last 5 games ~ 3-2-0-0
road record ~ 12-10-1-0
goals for ~ 157
goals against ~ 124
power play ~ 16.5% (17th)
penalty kill ~ 84.6% (7th)

last time teams met - Wilkes Barre won 6-2 at home on January 11th.

Players to watch:


LW Alexandre Giroux (12)- The goal streak ended but the points streak continues. He has points in 20 straight. He has scored a goal in 3 of the 4 games against the Pens his season.
LW Chris Bourque (17) - Got his first goal in 12 games last night. He has 2 goals against the Pens this season. Also he has an assist in 13 of his last 16 games.
C Kyle Wilson (18) - With 2 goals last night he is now tied with Oskar Osala for second on the team with 19 goals. He also has 2 goals against the Pens this season.


C Jeff Taffe (22) - The team leader with 47 points. He has a point in 4 straight games with 2 goals and 3 assists in those games.

LW Chris Minard (14) - Leading the team and currently second in the league with 26 goals. Has only played 4 games this month after scoring in all 7 of his games in December (10 goals).
LW Janne Pesonen (25) - Third in points on the Pens he has 9 points in the last 6 games. He has 4 goals and 5 assists in that span.

News and Notes:
  • Wilkes Barre leads the season series 3-1 including winning the only game in Hershey.
  • If you eliminate the first game of the season the Bears have been outscored 15-9 against Wilkes Barre this season.
  • The Bears have lost 3 of their last 4 home games.
  • The Pens are 3-4 in their last 7 road games
  • They have not scored less than 3 goals in their last 7 games (4-2-0-1 in that span)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

No Problems with Norfolk

Going into last nights game in Norfolk the Bears had won all 5 games against the Admirals this season. That included a 3-0 record in Norfolk. Most of those games were close contests though as 3 of the 5 games were decided by 1 goal including an overtime winner in the season's first week.

Well last nights game was not close. Hershey won 6-2 as Norfolk goalie Karri Ramo couldn't figure out how to get in front of the puck. There was a brief scare early in the second when Norfolk scored 2 goals to make the game 3-2. But Hershey took over from there scored once more in the 2nd and twice in the third to put the game away. All in all the Bears managed 34 shots and totaled 6 goals for the 9th time this season.

Kyle Wilson scored two of them (18,19) and Chris Bourque (9), Patty McNeill (2), Keith Aucoin (16), Graham Mink (16) each scored a goal for the Bears. The one name you don't see on that list that you have been getting used to seeing there is Alexandre Giroux. After 15 straight games with a goal he did not manage to get one to continue the record streak. But he did get an assist to extend his points streak to 20 which ties a team record. He will be able to break that record on Friday night at Giant Center.

Daren Machesney played in goal and according to the official scoresheet he faced 47 shots and stopped 45 of them. I am not convinced he actually faced 47 shots but that is what they say so that is what it is.

The team played very well and the game seemed to have less animosity that the previous meeting between the teams. Part of that might have been because Kip Brennan dressed for Hershey and any Admirals player who took liberties with one of Hershey's star players was going to face the wrath of the big man.

The trip home from the game sounded like it was frustrating for the team but I am sure they are happy to be home. They have 2 games this weekend before having almost a week off before playing twice next weekend too.

My Three Stars of the Game:

  1. Kyle Wilson - 2 goals and an assist will get you first star most nights
  2. Dean Arsene - a solid defensive game and 3 assists
  3. Daren Machesney - if you make 45 stops you deserve a mention

Grading the Performance:
  • Offense - A - This unit converted on most of their good opportunities last night. Early in the game they were struggling to keep possession and pressure but they turned that around quickly scoring 3 goals in the final 4 minutes of the period. Some good passing and a lot of patience tells the story for the game.
  • Defense - B- - I saw a unit that was solid but not great last night. Some players had some problems with turnovers including the duo of Sean Collins and Tyler Sloan. If they did allow Norfolk to take 47 shots then they need to get in the lanes better.
  • Goaltending - B - This would usually be an A for a 45 save effort but one of the goals was partially his fault (the defense needs to communicate more) and I don't think his 45 saves were anything to write home about. Still out of position on many stops and got good help from his defense.
  • Power Play - B - The one power play goal was very nice. Watching the game on the computer I could see the play coming together perfectly. It is interesting to see what this team can do with the man advantage when a penalty kill just sits back and watches like Norfolk did most of the night. Now the power play has to figure out what to do against an aggressive PK.
  • Penalty Kill - A - They only had 3 penalties to kill off so they didn't get too much work but they made the most of it. A good effort from the penalty killers and actually I think they had better opportunities to score than the Norfolk power play did.
  • Overall - B+ - A good game against a team that didn't look very good. Norfolk is at the bottom of the division for a reason and they showed it last night. Hershey needs to win these games when they get them and they showed up wanted a W last night.


News and Notes:
  • Karl Alzner and Bryan Helmer have been returned from Washington and will play Friday and Saturday.
  • They might return to Washington next week depending on the health of Tom Poti and Shaone Morrisonn but it is too early to tell that right now.
  • Michal Neuvirth was playing in the ECHL All-Star game last night but is expected back in Hershey for the weekend games as Varlamov is not ready to return yet.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Bears @ Norfolk Preview, 1/21

Hershey Bears
record ~ 30-12-0-2 62 points
standings ~ 1st in East Division
most recent game ~ 3-2 SO Win vs Worcester, 1/18
last 5 games ~ 2-2-0-1
road record ~ 14-7-0-1
goals for ~ 172
goals against ~128
power play ~ 17.5% (12th)
penalty kill ~ 81.3% (23rd)

Norfolk Admirals
record ~ 16-19-2-5 39 points
standings ~ Last in East Division
most recent game ~ 6-5 OT Loss vs Worcester, 1/17
last 5 games ~ 2-1-1-1
home record ~ 10-7-2-2
goals for ~ 131
goals against ~ 154
power play ~ 20.0% (4th)
penalty kill ~ 80.6% (25th)

last time teams met - Hershey won 3-2 in Norfolk on January 7th.

Players to watch:


LW Alexandre Giroux (12)- Obviously on a hot streak with 15 straight games with a goal but he has also scored in 3 of 4 games against Norfolk.
C Andrew Joudrey (23) - One of the best defensive forwards on the team he has 4 goals this season. Half of those goals were against Norfolk.
LW Chris Bourque (17) - Not the goal scorer that he has been in recent years but he is producing assists instead. But he has scored 2 goals against Norfolk this season.


RW Brandon Bochenski (27) - The team leader with 13 goals. In the last 5 games he has 2 goals and 4 assists. He is the only Norfolk player to score more than once against Hershey this season. He has 2 goals and 3 assists in 5 games against Hershey this season.

C Bracken Kearns (11) - Not usually an offensive force except for lately. He has a goal in 4 straight games and a point in 5 straight.
C Chris Gratton (77) - The NHL veteran has 3 goals and 7 assists in 12 games with Norfolk this season. He has points in 7 of his last 8 games.

News and Notes:
  • Daren Machesney is expected to start tonight. Last night he was the backup goalie for the Caps in Ottawa.
  • Simeon Varlamov will be the back up tonight.
  • Josh Godfrey and Michal Neuvirth are back in South Carolina.
  • Hershey leads the season series 5-0 against Norfolk.
  • Norfolk is in the middle of a record 9 game home stand and are 2-1-1-1 so far.
  • They have scored 3 short handed goals in their last 6 games.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Giroux passes Hull

If you read this blog with any consistency you probably wonder why I haven't mentioned Alexandre Giroux's goal scoring streak. I wanted to but I had a reason not to.

Have you ever watched a football game when the announcer says something like "he hasn't thrown an interception in 150 straight passes" and then the next pass gets picked off? Or during a not hitter you see the pitcher sitting by himself on the bench cause no one wants to talk to him? That's how I felt...even though I obviously am not on the bench with the team. I somewhat superstitious and didn't want to jinx Giroux by mentioning it. Which actually the team said they didn't mention it in the locker room either for the same reason.

But after last night's game Giroux has now scored a goal in 15 consecutive games. Which is a NEW AHL Record passing Brett Hull who had 14!! In that stretch he has scored 22 goals. 22 GOALS IN 15 GAMES!! Unbelievable. And to make it better he actually has a points streak that goes to 19 games. The Hershey Bears record for a point streak is 20 so Giroux can tie that record on Wednesday night. In his last 19 games he has 25 goals and 14 assists for 39 points. Which means that he has averaged OVER 2 POINTS PER GAME in the last 19 games. Absolutely remarkable.

The record setting goal was also the game tying goal late in the third period. The Bears trailed 2-0 after the first period and responded with 2 goals in the third period to force overtime before winning in the shootout over the visiting Worcester Sharks.

It was quite a 24 hours for the Sharks. They trailed the Norfolk Admirals 5-1 in the first period before coming back and winning the game in overtime. After the game the real fun began. They hopped on the bus to head to Hershey which shouldn't have been to big a deal. EXCEPT the bus driver apparently was a little tired because after stopping for something to eat at a convenience store the driver got back on the highway traveling in the WRONG direction back to Norfolk FOR AN HOUR!!!

In the end the Sharks did not arrive in Hershey until 7 in the morning to play a game at 5 that evening. While the team came out to play in the first period the Bears took over and controlled the play in the 2nd half of the game. The depth of the Bears proved to be the difference as they were much fresher and hungrier throughout the third period.

My Three Stars of the Game:
  1. Alexander Giroux - record setting night earns him the first star
  2. Michal Neuvirth - a solid regulation but a superior shootout as he stopped all 5 tries
  3. Kyle Wilson - scored on the first try of the shootout to win the game

Grading the Performance:
  • Offense - B - With the exception of the third period this team struggled to sustain and create pressure. In the first 2 periods the Bears mustered 18 shots, in the third period they had 19 shots. Not a single line created much pressure at even strength and shots were at a premium until the Sharks legs gave out in the third. The fact that Hershey can run 4 lines all game is a DISTINCT advantage over every other team in the league.
  • Defense - B - They looked okay for most of the game. Obviously in the third they looked much better cause Worcester couldn't get out of their own zone. For the most part the positioning and play in their own zone was solid. Many blocked shots and plenty of intercepted passes throughout the game.
  • Goaltending - B+ - I think both goals given up would have been tough for any goalie to stop but maybe he could have. The performance in the shootout was very good as he stopped all 5 shots from Worcester.
  • Power Play - C - The 2 goals of the game came on the power play and they didn't get too many chances but they looked horrible in the first 2 periods. Worcester played a very aggressive penalty kill and the Bears didn't know what to do other than pass it around the perimeter. The shooting lanes weren't there either as the Sharks played in a box and blocked all the lanes.
  • Penalty Kill - C - This unit allowed both Sharks goals within 44 seconds of each other in the first period as the Bears were down 2 guys and the Sharks scored on both chances. After that they got better as the Sharks got worse on the power play.
  • Overall - B - A win is a win after another 4 in 5 the Bears got a win. I have said it before...the depth of this team will be a huge advantage as the season rolls along. Even if all the lines aren't scoring it keeps the ones that are fresh and ready to play. While most teams struggle to play 3 lines an entire game the Bears have trouble finding time for all 4 of their lines.


Sunday, January 18, 2009

Sharks @ Bears Preview, 1/18

Hershey Bears
record ~ 29-12-0-2 60 points
standings ~ 1st in East Division
most recent game ~ 4-3 SO Loss vs Philadelphia, 1/17
last 5 games ~ 1-3-0-1
home record ~ 15-5-0-1
goals for ~ 169
goals against ~126
power play ~ 17.2% (14th)
penalty kill ~ 81.7% (22nd)

Worcester Sharks
record ~ 23-18-0-1 47 points
standings ~ 3rd in Atlantic Division
most recent game ~ 5-4 OT Win @ Norfolk, 1/17
last 5 games ~ 4-1-0-0
road record ~ 9-10-0-0
goals for ~ 121
goals against ~ 128
power play ~ 14.9% (24th)
penalty kill ~ 82.2% (18th)

last time teams met - Hershey won 7-2 in Worcester on January 4th.

Players to watch:


LW Alexandre Giroux (12)- In the previous game against the Sharks he had 4 goals and an assist. Currently riding an 18 game point streak.
C Keith Aucoin (11) - He also had a good game a couple weeks ago in Worcester with 2 goals and 2 assists. The league leader in points has 14 in 10 games in 09.
C Jay Beagle (14) - After taking the night off last night expect Beagle back in the lineup and I don't have anything to go off of but I think he is going to score tonight.


RW Ryan Vesce (17) - The team leader with 42 points is on a tear of late. He has points in 10 straight games with 6 goals and 8 assists in that span.
Included in that is a goal against Hershey.
LW Lukus Kasper (22) - Also riding a hot streak as he is on the opposite wing of Worcester's top line with Vesce. He has points in 7 of 8 with 4 goals and 5 assists including a goal and an assist against Hershey.
RW Claude Lemieux (32) - The Stanley Cup veteran is on what can be described as a hot streak for him with 1 goal and 4 assists in his last 8 games.

News and Notes:

  • Michal Neuvirth is expected to get the start in Hershey tonight.
  • Hershey is 5-1 against the Atlantic division so far this season.
  • In those 5 wins they have outscored the opposition 23-8 and the one loss was 7-2.
  • Worcester has won 2 straight on the road (both against Norfolk)
  • Before that they had lost 6 of 7 road games
  • The Sharks are 6-6 against the East Division with 3 of their wins coming against Norfolk

Not Quite Enough

Daren Machesney in my opinion went from goat to hero between the third period and the end of overtime. With Hershey up 3-2 and less than 5 minutes to go the Phantoms got the puck behind the net and Cheese just didn't seem to react to their movement as they came around to the post. He never dropped down to take away the bottom choosing instead to remain upright and Jonathan Matsumoto put the puck in under his feet.

But then in overtime he made 3 incredible saves in one sequence to keep the game tied and give his team a shot. The first shot was deflected right to David Laliberte who took a shot that Cheese had to get with the stick and then the rebound was also deflected away by a sprawling stick hand. The last save of the effort came with the glove hand as Cheese had rolled over and Laliberte tried to stick the puck in around the post but Cheese got it before it went in and Greg Amadio jumped on top of Cheese to keep the puck out.

Two plays that in my opinion were the key plays of the game. If Cheese drops down to his pads on the third period goal I think Hershey wins this game in regulation. BUT if Cheese doesn't make the incredible saves in overtime than Hershey doesn't even get a shot at the shootout.

In the end in didn't matter as Matsumoto scored 2 times in the shootout to win the game for the Phantoms 4-3 in front of a sold out crowd at Giant Center.

Philadelphia goalie Scott Munroe had an incredible goal as he made 49 saves during the game and then another 5 in the shootout. Of the Bears 52 shots I would say 3/4 of them were right into the chest of the goaltender but either way he was in position and ready to stop everything thrown at him.

Alexandre Giroux scored 2 goals (32,33) and Quintin Laing scored his 7th of the season (his 4th against Philly) to complete Hershey's scoring for the game.

I thought it was easily the best performance of the past week even though they lost. Positionally the defense was solid and the forwards generated very good pressure and controlled the play all night. The one thing missing for the offense is a lack of a presence in front of the net. Too often the shots from the point or the circles are just put into the goaltender with no screen in front of him. Guys like Mink, Osala, and Laing have got to get to the front of the net and cause some problems for the goalies.

My Three Stars of the Game
  1. Jonathan Matsumoto - Scored the game tying goal, had an assist, and scored 2 in the shootout
  2. Alexandre Giroux - 2 goals in the first period
  3. Scott Munroe - While I don't think most of the shots were very challenging he still stopped plenty of them

Grading the Performance:
  • Offense - B - Yeah the 52 shots and 3 goals are good but you have to put more quality attempts on net. And you have to get pressure in front of the goaltenders. This is becoming a common thing with this team as they don't want to get their jersey's dirty in front of the net.
  • Defense - B+ - I thought this unit was a strength tonight. Again I saw Tyler Sloan get a little carried away with getting the puck in deep and chasing in the defensive end but even that seemed a little more controlled. They blocked plenty and hit hard and often. A good showing from a group that has been much maligned lately.
  • Goalending - B- - I didn't think Cheese played a great game by any means. He was steadier tonight than in the past but still seemed late to react to some things. The save in overtime was obviously huge while the missed opportunity in the third was even bigger. And in the shootout he got beaten badly 3 times.
  • Power Play - B - Only had 4 chances and scored on 1 of them. Not bad but not great. I really like Perrault on the line with Aucoin and Giroux but maybe not all the time. I think a guy like Mink or Osala might make more sense IF they are willing to do the dirty work in front. If they aren't than leave Perrault out there for his passing ability.
  • Penalty Kill - A - This group was very solid all game. They gave up 1 goal on 6 chances but I think they played everything very well. Positioning was very good and they stayed aggressive. This unit has a problem when the stop being aggressive. That is what happened on the goal...they allowed the Phantoms time to pass the puck around. They need to stay in the faces of the opposing players.
  • Overall - B+ - I thought it was a very good game from a team that hadn't played one since last Friday night. They got a point which is good but they could've gotten 2. The defense stepped up and played very good and the offense had a lot of pressure. Good game Bears.


Saturday, January 17, 2009

Bears vs Phantoms Preview, 1/17

Hershey Bears
record ~ 29-12-0-1 59 points
standings ~ 1st in East Division
most recent game ~ 5-3 Win @ Bridgeport, 1/16
last 5 games ~ 2-3-0-0
home record ~ 15-5-0-0
goals for ~ 166
goals against ~122
power play ~ 17.0% (14th)
penalty kill ~ 81.7% (21th)

Philadelphia Phantoms
record ~ 22-18-1-1 46 points
standings ~ 5th in East Division
most recent game ~ 5-4 Win vs Lowell, 1/16
last 5 games ~ 3-2-0-0
road record ~ 11-13-0-0
goals for ~ 125
goals against ~ 130
power play ~ 20.3% (5th)
penalty kill ~ 80.9% (25th)

last time teams met - Hershey won 9-0 in Hershey on November 29th.

Players to watch:


LW Oskar Osala (36)- Getting back into the scoring conversation with a goal and an assist last night. In 7 games against Philly so far this season he has 6 goals and 2 assists.
LW Quintin Laing (26) - He isn't known for his scoring touch and he only has 6 goals this season. But half of those goals have come against Philly.
RW Andrew Gordon (10) - Has all but disappeared over the last 10 games with only 3 points in that time. Not much better in his previous ten either with only 6 points in those games.


C Jared Ross (18) - He is tied for the team lead with 17 goals and 2nd in points with 37. That includes 4 goals and 2 assists in the last 2 games.

D Danny Syrvet (25) - This former Bear is leading the team in points with 39 including 33 assists. Against Hershey he has 2 goals and 6 assists this season.
LW Boyd Kane (28) - Another former Bear is not an offensive force this season with only 8 goals on the year. BUT 5 of those goals came against Hershey.

News and Notes:
  • Bryan Helmer will remain in Washington through at least today's games.
  • Michal Neuvirth is expected to get the start in Hershey tonight or tomorrow night.
  • Hershey leads the season series against Philly 5-2 and has won 4 straight.
  • Philadelphia has struggled of late on the road winning only 1 of their last 7 road games.
  • Daniel Briere has played the last 2 games for the Phantoms on a conditioning stint but is NOT expected to play in Hershey tonight.
  • As of now Claude Giroux (tied for team lead in goals) remains on recall to the Flyers.
  • I would expect to see Scott Monroe in net for Philly tonight.

That's More Like It

Last night the Bears went up to Bridgeport and ended their 3 game slide by defeating the 2nd place Sound Tigers 5-3. It was an important game for Hershey. One that hopefully sets the tone and direction that the second half of the season takes.

It was a big game for Daren Machesney as well. He faced 39 shots and made 36 saves to get a big win and maybe gain some confidence going into the weekend. Over his last 4 games he hadn't been playing particularly well but that was a good effort.

The rookie line made it back to the scoresheet last night as all 3 members of the line got a goal. Oskar Osala started the night off with his 19th of the season just 2.5 minutes into the game. Mathieu Perrault scored an important goal (his 7th) later in the first as the Tigers had just scored to take a 2-1 lead and the Bears were hanging their heads a little. And Francois Bouchard added his 12th at around the 11 minute mark of the third period that put Hershey up 2.

That line has been playing much better so far in 2009 than they did in December. Early in the season teams had a hard time stopping the Bears because the MAG line and the rookie line were producing every night. Come playoff time that will be very important if Hershey hopes to win the Cup.

The defense redeemed themselves a little bit last night with solid physical play all night. I would say that they didn't play a great game however. Many times there were Tigers standing wide open in front of the net and just missed passes or lucky bounces kept them from scoring. Too many times I saw a defenseman go for the big hit instead of staying in position, especially on the penalty kill. It seems to me that when killing a penalty it is CRITICAL that the defense stay in their positions and control the passing lanes. There were multiple times of defensemen wandering around the zone looking for someone to hit on the penalty kill instead of maintaining their position. That could explain why Bridgeport managed to score 2 power play goals.

The effort and performance were BETTER than the previous 3 games. But it should not be thought of as a return to form because this team has played much better especially at the defensive end. But a win is a win and this was an important one. Now it is time to build on that success and regain the dominance that this team had earlier in the season.

My Three Stars of the Game:
  1. Francois Bouchard - 1 goal and 2 primary assists and he also played the point on the power play
  2. Mathieu Perrault - 1 goal and 1 assist but tremendous hustle all game long in both ends
  3. Alexandre Giroux - 2 goals (30,31) including the game winner

Grading the Performance:
  • Offense - B - The second half of the game was very good and very dominant. The first half looked like a high school team (or the team from last weekend). A lot of cute passes and nifty moves were attempted and not many were completed. But they hung in there are started to play much better late in the second and throughout the third period.
  • Defense - C - I wasn't impressed. Tyler Sloan especially stood out as playing a little out of control. On one power play he was chasing a Sound Tiger around and when the player fell Sloan stood over him and pushed him again. That is fine if you are a little upset about something and trying to make a point but Sloan just forgot about the situation. He needed to be in position to help his fellow penalty killers and he wasn't.
  • Goaltending - B - Cheese was all over the place tonight. Against another team maybe the Bears lose but Bridgeport has been struggling of late and they couldn't find the net. I didn't think Cheese played a great game as he was out of control and out of position often. But he managed to make 36 saves and that is all that was needed tonight.
  • Power Play - A - This unit was dominant all night. They converted on 3 of 7 opportunities. The units looked different and I like the changes. Perrault took Mink's spot on the first unit and Bouchard played the point on the second unit with Osala on the wing. I think they earned the chance to remain on the power play even when Mink is healthy.
  • Penalty Kill - C - Sporadic is how I would rate this unit. One penalty kill they would be dominant and the next you would have vigilantes out there on the ice. Positioning is key to a good power play and too often last night I saw guys skating well out of position. Aggressiveness is good at times but the struggles this team has killing penalties can be chalked up to TOO MUCH aggressive play in the defensive end.
  • Overall - B- - A good important win against a very good Bridgeport team. But I think they got lucky to come out of there with a win. Lawson (Tigers goalie) looked flustered and let in multiple easy goals last night including 2 that went 5 hole including Perraults. If Perrault doesn't score that goal I think this is a totally different game. Hershey had their heads down and looked rejected as soon as Bridgeport went up 2-1. That needs to stop. This team can come back from anything but if you give up early you are done. A good win and something to build upon but they aren't where they need to be yet.


Friday, January 16, 2009

Bears @ Sound Tigers Preview, 1/16

Hershey Bears
record ~ 28-12-0-1 57 points
standings ~ 1st in East Division
most recent game ~ 7-2 Loss vs Albany, 1/12
last 5 games ~ 2-3-0-0
road record ~ 13-7-0-1
goals for ~ 161
goals against ~119
power play ~ 16.2% (17th)
penalty kill ~ 81.9% (20th)

Bridgeport Sound Tigers
record ~ 24-11-2-2 52 points
standings ~ 2nd in East Division
most recent game ~ 4-2 Loss @ Hartford, 1/14
last 5 games ~ 2-3-0-0
home record ~ 13-3-1-1
goals for ~ 126
goals against ~ 105
power play ~ 19.7% (7th)
penalty kill ~ 83.4% (12th)

last time teams met - Hershey won 4-1 in Hershey on November 22nd.

Players to watch:


G Daren Machesney (1)- Supposed to get the start tonight he is 10-5 with 3 shutouts on the season. But in his last 4 games for Hershey he has allowed 16 goals on 78 shots for a save percentage under .800.
D Sami Lepisto (37) - Hasn't been particularly good in recent games and hasn't been producing at all on the offensive end in months. Only has 1 point in his last 15 games which could explain why he is pressing a little more than usual.
C Keith Aucoin (11) - Easily one of the more consistent offensive performers for the Bears of late. In his 8 games so far in 2009 he has 4 goals and 8 assists.

Sound Tigers:

C Ben Walter (9) - He has played in 24 games for Bridgeport this season and has a point in 17 of them. He has a goal in each of his last 2 games and a point in 8 of his last 9.

LW Trevor Smith (23) - Leading the team in goals with 19. In his last 13 games he has scored 12 goals.
RW Mike Iggulden (37) - He has the team lead with 42 points this season. So far in 2009 he has played in 6 games and has a goal and 5 assists.

News and Notes:
  • Jay Beagle returned to the lineup on Wednesday for the first time since November 8th.
  • Darren Reid, Patrick McNeill, and Josh Godfrey were not scheduled to make the trip to Bridgeport.
  • Graham Mink was questionable to make the trip as he is suffering from an illness.
  • Bridgeport has only lost 2 in a row once this season (they lost their last game).
  • They have also won 4 straight at home BUT have lost their last 2 home home games against East division rivals.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


I don't even know what to say after last nights game. That was a horrible performance by a team that has now had 3 in a row. I feel bad for all the people that paid to see that game last night and had to sit through that. Luckily for those who did at least they got a free Hersheypark ticket out of the deal, cause the game was not worth the $20 you paid to get in.

Neither goalie played anywhere close to respectable last night. Simeon Varlamov allowed 4 goals on 15 shots and Daren Machesney allowed 3 goals on 12 shots. Overall that is 7 goals on 27 shots. That shouldn't happen.

The defense should be ashamed of their overall performance. Sure some guys had decent games but really the entire defense was slow and out of place. And you win as a team and you lose as a team.

The forwards shouldn't be much happier. They need to get back and help more on the defensive end. They did get 38 shots which is solid but how many of those shots even challenged the Rats goalie? Not many which shows why they only got 2 goals.

The more amazing part of these stats is that ALL of the Rats goals came at even strength. They had 6 power plays and had NO GOALS with the man advantage. Hershey also had 6 power plays and also got NO GOALS. That is not good enough. The penalty kill did their job but then when the same players were on the ice at even strength they forgot how to play defense.

Since the second period of Saturday night's game the Bears have allowed 17 goals and have only scored 5. That is not going to get it done no matter what league you play in.

This all started with Albany Saturday night as the Bears blew a 2nd intermission lead by allowing 4 unanswered goals in the third period after going up 2. And since then they haven't even shown up.

Something is a miss with the club right now and something needs changed before it gets out of hand. Maybe benching a couple players that have been playing particularly bad would be beneficial and allowing some younger players who want it more to get in the lineup.

But at the same time we have to keep in mind that this is only the middle of the regular season. I would much rather go through this slump now rather than in the playoffs. There is lots of time to right the ship and I am confident that they will do so.

I am not even going to give my three stars or grade the performance after this game. All three stars played for Albany and the team got an F. Need to know anything else?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Rats @ Bears Preview, 1/14

Hershey Bears
record ~ 28-11-0-1 57 points
standings ~ 1st in East Division
most recent game ~ 6-2 Loss @ Wilkes-Barre, 1/11
last 5 games ~ 3-2-0-0
home record ~ 15-4-0-0
goals for ~ 159
goals against ~112
power play ~ 16.7% (17th)
penalty kill ~ 81.4% (20th)

Albany River Rats
record ~ 15-18-3-2 35 points
standings ~ Last in East Division
most recent game ~ 6-4 Win @ Hershey, 1/10
last 5 games ~ 4-1-0-0
road record ~ 6-12-0-1
goals for ~ 96
goals against ~ 117
power play ~ 15.7% (19th)
penalty kill ~ 84.0% (11th)

last time teams met - Albany won 6-4 in Hershey last Saturday night.

Players to watch:


RW Andrew Gordon (11)- Hasn't been scoring much of late with only 3 points in the last 8 games but against Albany he has 3 goals and 2 assists this season.
C Kyle Wilson (18) - One of the more consistent producers outside of the MAG line he has goals in the last 3 games against Albany.
G Simeon Varlamov (31) - Quite possibly his worst game of the season against Wilkes-Barre on Sunday. He needs to show that he can bounce back after a tough outing.


RW Jakub Petruzalek (16) - 2nd on the team with 25 points. In the last 4 games he has 2 goals and 3 assists including a goal and 2 assists last Saturday in Hershey.

LW Michael Ryan (21) - Leading the team in goals with 15. He has 5 of those goals in the last 3 games including a 2 goal night last Saturday in Hershey. Against the Bears this season he has 3 goals and 1 assist.
C Nick Dodge (8) - The rookie has 5 goals and 11 assists this season. He has 4 points in his last 3 games and he has scored a goal in both games IN Hershey this season.

News and Notes:
  • Hershey leads the season series 4-1 including a shootout and overtime victory.
  • The Bears have lost 2 games in a row 3 times this season PRIOR to this past weekend. All 3 times they won the next game.
  • Albany will be skating with only 11 healthy forwards tonight.
  • Albany has won their last 3 games against division opponents.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

What about the next 40?

Yesterday I looked at the first 40 games of the season and gave my midseason awards. This team is obviously talented and are obviously one of the best teams in the league. The fact that they have 28 wins in 40 games is remarkable and puts them on pace for 56 wins this season. That would be impressive and would break the previous record of 51 set in the 06-07 season.

Other records that are potentially breakable this season include the goals record which is currently 53. Alexandre Giroux has 28 which puts him on pace for 56 as well.

The most points for the team in one season. The record is 114 in 06-07. This team is on pace for 114 which would give them the tie.

Technically Keith Aucoin COULD challenge the records for assists and points but it is unlikely. The records stand at 125 points and 89 assists in a season. Currently Aucoin has 37 assists and 51 points. IF Giroux remains in Hershey for the entire second half then MAYBE Coiner would have a shot.

I think this goes without saying but this is a special Bears team. But there are things to watch for in 09 that will determine their success come spring.

1. Establish a number 1 goaltender.

This has been started by the team as Simeon Varlamov has been the main goaltender for the past month or so. Unfortunately he had a very rough start on Sunday which allows questions about his consistency to remain. Daren Machesney was playing very well prior to Saturday night when he also had a very rough go of it.

One of these 2 needs to step up and show consistency and leadership on the back end. If the players out front now they have a reliable goalie back there then they can focus more on the other team and scoring goals.

In the playoffs having a number 1 goaltender is critical. You can't be changing goalie's every game and then changing back when they have a bad game. At least that is my opinion. So hopefully one of the two guys here steps up and takes the position as his own.

2. Washington Capitals health.

Obviously this has been an important topic so far this season. Multiple Bears have seen time with the Caps and some remain on recall or are only a move away from heading to DC. There is nothing that can be done to prevent injuries but this is an important part of the team's success.

The other think to keep in mind is Karl Alzner. Currently he is with the Caps but when Tom Poti returns from injury Alzner is possibly the odd man out and could be back in Hershey. And also keep in mind that Brian Pothier is making progress and could get clearance to play this season. That would completely disrupt the salary cap situation and you could see a trade which could result in a Bear headed to DC permanently.

3. The Health of the Bears.

Certain players on this Bears team are somewhat injury prone like Dean Arsene. Other players are currently out with no timetable for return, Jay Beagle and Grant McNeill. What happens when those players return? Who becomes the scratches and who plays?

And on top of that it has become apparent that Alexandre Giroux is crucial to this teams success. The team can not afford to lose him or probably Keith Aucoin to injury. Without them the defense and goaltending would have to step up and prove their worth and win some games for the team.

4. Roster issues.

This category has to do with the return of McNeill and Beagle and potentially Alzner. If all those players return and the team stays healthy you have the problem of who to play and who to sit. The problem with sitting guys is that you lose certain things. And it can result in locker room turmoil.

Kip Brennan was just brought in to basically take over for McNeill. What happens when McNeill comes back? Is Brennan done for the year? Neither player will probably play much in the playoffs but the stretch run could be critical in this division.

Coach Woods is going to have to make some decisions if all the pieces fall into place. But sitting Beagle or Joudrey seems counter-productive with what this team needs. And sitting a guy like Laing too much is the same deal. But do you sit Gordon? or the rookies? There are no sure things right now but this teams chemistry could be disrupted if guys aren't playing.

5. Players need to step up at end of season and playoffs.

Traditionally in the playoffs teams are able to shut down a top scorer or two. It happens all the time in the NHL and happened for multiple seasons with the Chicago Wolves until last year.

Obviously the MAG line would be the targeted line of an opposing coach. Other players have to become more consistent and more productive. For a while this season the rookie line was scoring every game but they have since cooled off a lot! Chris Bourque and Andrew Gordon have not scored like they have in the past and have not been the most consistent in their careers. Kyle Wilson is the only other consistent scorer on this team and that won't be enough.

I am not saying these guys don't play hard or try every game. BUT the playoffs are a different time and these guys need to figure it out before than. We have seen what can happen when Giroux is either shut down or not there. Many times in those situations this team struggles to get on the board. If that happens in the playoffs it could be an earlier than expected golf season here in Hershey.


All of these things are worth keeping an eye on but the fact remains that this team is good. I think if you ask anyone on the team or within the organization (as well as the fans) that they expect to win it all. Not saying they are over confident or unaware of the challenge but I would hope that they believe they can. Which to most of us then means anything short of a championship would be a disappointment.

Last season was tough. Having to watch the team get beaten down in the first round and have the summer come early. Personally....I don't want to see that again. I am hoping and expecting to be celebrating in Hershey in mid June!


Monday, January 12, 2009

40 Down....40 To Go

I didn't see last nights game in its entirety. When I turned it on it was 2-2 and within a couple minutes it was 4-2 and that is all I saw. So I am not going to critique the team or give a recap on something that I didn't see.

So instead let's take a look back and give out midseason awards:

MVP : Alexandre Giroux

There are multiple players that could be considered for this award including Keith Aucoin and Simeon Varlamov. But I feel like this is a different team with Giroux in the lineup. When he was up in Washington for the better part of a month the Bears struggled to consistently create offense. Since he has been back they have been much better and he is a big reason why.

Best Forward : Keith Aucoin

Aucoin has been producing the most points all season long and Giroux wouldn't have 28 goals if it wasn't for Coiner. The only reason he didn't get MVP is because he was inconsistent without Giroux in the lineup. But he leads the team in points with 51 so he is the best offensive player on the team.

Best Defenseman : Greg Amadio

I really just created this category so that I could include Amadio. He has been the leader of this team and especially the defense all season. He does not hold back and will block a shot with any part of his body including his head.

Best Rookie : Simeon Varlamov

There are obviously lots of choices for this award. Guys like Oskar Osala, Mathieu Perrault, and Francois Bouchard all deserve consideration. But without Varly this team might be fighting for a playoff spot instead of fighting for first.

Best Game : Season Opener, October 8 in Wilkes-Barre

Again there are numerous choices for this including the 2 9-0 games but I think this game set the tone for the season. For the most part this team is the same as it was then when they won 8-4. Struggles still exist on the penalty kill but when healthy the power play is very good. This game set the expectations for the season.

Game we'd like to forget : Jan 11 in Wilkes-Barre

I was originally going to say the game in Hamilton but I think this takes the cake. To go up to Wilkes-Barre after a loss and basically suck for 2 periods is unacceptable. This wasn't a hard fought game that another team outplayed Hershey it was a beat down from a lessor opponent. Hopefully these games change against the Pens soon.

Check back tomorrow as I will have a "what's ahead for 09" post.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Bears @ Pens Preview, 1/11

Hershey Bears
record ~ 28-10-0-1 57 points
standings ~ 1st in East Division
most recent game ~ 6-4 Loss vs Albany, 1/10
last 5 games ~ 4-1-0-0
road record ~ 13-6-0-1
goals for ~ 157
goals against ~106
power play ~ 16.6% (15th)
penalty kill ~ 82.2% (20th)

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins
record ~ 23-13-1-2 49 points
standings ~ 3rd in East Division
most recent game ~ 4-3 SO Loss vs Syracuse, 1/10
last 5 games ~ 2-3-0-0
home record ~ 12-5-0-2
goals for ~ 137
goals against ~ 110
power play ~ 16.1% (16th)
penalty kill ~ 85.6% (5th)

last time teams met - Wilkes-Barre won the last game 4-3 in Wilkes-Barre on November 8th.

Players to watch:


LW Alexandre Giroux (12)- He is the difference maker for this offense. He added 2 more goals last night and now has the AHL scoring lead with 27 goals.
LW Chris Bourque (17) - He isn't scoring as much this season, only 4 goals since the start of November, but defensively his game is sharp. Playing very good on the penalty kill is really showing his worth.
C Kyle Wilson (18) - Other than Giroux he is the hottest goal scoring Bear. He has 3 goals already in 2009 and he has 8 goals in the last 12 games.


C Jeff Taffe (22) - 2nd on the team in goals, tied for first in points, and he leads the team in assists. Season totals - 16 goals, 25 assists, 41 points. Only 1 assist so far in 5 January games comes after a December where he scored 4 goals and 12 assists in 8 games.

C Ryan Stone (23) - On the season he has 8 goals and 17 assists this season. Against Hershey he has 3 goals and 2 assists in 3 games.
RW Jean-Michel Daoust (26) - Has only played 17 games with the Pens this season but he has 5 goals and 7 assists this season.

News and Notes:
  • Chris Minard, the Pens leading goal scorer and second in the league, is currently on recall to the NHL and will not play.
  • The Penguins, who are generally strong at home, have lost 2 straight at home. Both losses were against Syracuse.
  • Simeon Varlamov gets the start again tonight after Machesney went last night. It will be his 6th start in the last 8 games and his 20th overall.
  • This game is a make-up game from the postponement of the December 19th game.
  • These 2 teams are the top 2 scoring teams in the league.
  • This game marks the 40th of the season for Hershey, which is the mid point of the season.

Bears fall at home

For the first time this season the Bears took a lead into the third period and lost. Albany came in after a long night of travel and beat the Bears 6-4 to win their first game of the season against Hershey.

I didn't get to see the game live last night but I watched it this morning on AHL Live. I was expecting to see a Hershey team get outworked and outplayed all night and barely make it a game. But that isn't what I saw. Honestly I thought Hershey played very well but Albany played much better in their own zone.

Hershey couldn't get many shots on net and surely didn't get many passes through because the Rats defense was very good all night. The Bears surely put plenty of pressure on them but they stood up to it and only gave up one bad goal.

At the opposite end of the ice it seemed like Daren Machesney was not ready for this kind of a game. It looked like some of the guys showed up expecting to beat the worst team in the division with relative ease and that wasn't the case.

Alexander Giroux scored 2 goals to give him 27 for the season and he reclaimed the AHL goal scoring lead from Chris Minard with those 2 goals. He also extended his goal scoring streak to 10 games which is the longest in the AHL this season.

Overall not a great game by Hershey but not that bad either. They just ran into a team that wanted it more. Emotionally the win Friday night was surely draining because they wanted that as bad as any.

It is impossible in Hockey, or most other sports for that matter, to get up emotionally for every single game. This Albany game was sandwiched between a very emotional game against Houston and the hated Penguins on Sunday. That shouldn't be an excuse for losing but it does explain it.

My Three Stars of the Game:
  1. Jakub Petruzalek - had a goal and 2 assists
  2. Michael Ryan - Rats leading goal scorer added 2 more last night
  3. Alexandre Giroux - 2 goals and the league goal scoring lead

Grading the Performance:
  • Offense - B - 4 goals would usually warrant an A but they did not do enough. When a defense is blocking so many shots you need to change something up to get them through. But for the most part they let the Rats D dictate what they did.
  • Defense - C - This is probably generous considering the 6 goals (one open net) but I thought without the defense that this game could have been worse. Many times these guys were in position and handled the Rats forwards. Unfortunately just as many times the defense was out of position and gave the Rats forwards easy looks.
  • Goaltending - F - Sorry Cheese but that was a bad performance. I thought the defense left you out to dry on a couple of occasions but there were multiple soft goals in my opinion. It was a long layoff for you so I would give you a pass on this one but you gotta show me something next time you get in.
  • Power Play - C - 5 chances, 1 goal. Decent but not great. This team should be able to do more. Pressure was for the most part non-existent on the power play and Albany seemed to clear the puck with ease all game.
  • Penalty Kill - C - I would give this an F but I think they did OK. Not good but not terrible either. Like I said before....Albany wanted this game more. And it showed on their power play which went 2 for 6 including the game winner.
  • Overall - C - To the Rats this was their most important game of the weekend. To the Bears this was the least important of the weekend. Does that excuse the effort (or lack thereof)? No but it does explain it. Not the worst game they have played this season but it still ended with a L.


Saturday, January 10, 2009

Rats @ Bears Preview, 1/10

Hershey Bears
record ~ 28-9-0-1 57 points
standings ~ 1st in East Division
most recent game ~ 5-1 Win vs Houston, 1/9
last 5 games ~ 4-1-0-0
home record ~ 15-3-0-0
goals for ~ 153
goals against ~100
power play ~ 16.5% (15th)
penalty kill ~ 82.6% (17th)

Albany River Rats
record ~ 14-18-3-2 33 points
standings ~ Last in East Division
most recent game ~ 4-1 Loss @ Worcester, 1/9
last 5 games ~ 3-2-0-0
road record ~ 5-12-0-1
goals for ~ 90
goals against ~ 113
power play ~ 15.1% (24th)
penalty kill ~ 84.1% (9th)

last time teams met - Hershey won 5-3 in Hershey on December 28th. Hershey leads the season series 2-0-1-1. These teams meet again on Wednesday in what will be the final meeting of the season.

Players to watch:


C Andrew Joudrey (23)- After spending many weeks on the checking line with Laing and a rotating right wing he has played on the 2nd line with Gordo and Bourque that past 2 games and has 2 goals. Easily one of the best defensive centers on the roster.
LW Chris Bourque (17) - He wasn't an offensive force last night but personally I think he played better than any other Bear. He forechecked all night and was always in passing lanes.
G Daren Machesney (1) - He hasn't played for Hershey since before Christmas but was playing well at the time. Is he ready to come back? Will he better after the solid performances at the Spengler Cup?


LW Michael Ryan (21) - Leads the team in goals and points with 13 and 25. Has 3 goals and 2 assists in the last 4 games.

LW Mike Angelidis (10) - 2nd leading scorer on team with 10 goals only has 3 goals in his last 15 games.
G Daniel Manzato (31) - Expect Manzato to get the start tonight as Peters played last night. Manzato has better numbers this season with an 8-7 record, 2.66 gaa, and a .915 save percentage.


Redemption for Bears

On December 13th the Hershey Bears traveled to Houston to face the Aeros after a uninspiring effort against San Antonio. What they got that night was a very physical game and a 6-1 beating.

Last night in Hershey the Aeros came to visit after losing in a shootout the night before. What they got was pretty much an old fashioned beat down from a very fired up Bears team.

Hershey won 5-1 with goals from Oskar Osala (18th), Alexandre Giroux (25th), Andrew Gordon (12th), Andrew Joudrey (4th), and Francois Bouchard (11th). For a short time the game was 3-1 but it was never in question.

The physical play started early and picked up late. In the first 10 minutes of the game there were 3 fights and 38 penalty minutes between the two teams. Overall there 5 fights and 96 penalty minutes in the game.

The third period was especially physical for a short time when an Aeros player took a shot in open ice on Keith Aucoin and Graham Mink when absolutely nuts. After grabbing the player and knocking him to the ice Mink went to work on him and just pounded on him for a solid minute while the linesmen tried to pull him off. At the same time Alexandre Giroux and an Aeros player tried to help their respective teammates and were given 10 minute misconduct penalties for interfering in a fight.

Surprisingly Mink was not given more than a fighting major and a couple minor penalties as I thought he might get a misconduct penalty as well. Even more surprising was that the Aeros player also got a penalty for fighting even though I don't think he ever dropped his gloves OR threw a punch.

Either way it was a solid job of sticking up for a teammate by the Minker!

But you know what....it would have been nice to see Kip Brennan on the ice to go at it.

My Three Stars of the Game:
  1. Chris Bourque - he only had an assist but he played great hockey and both ends
  2. Andrew Joudrey - a goal and an assist and an all around very good game
  3. Andrew Gordon - a goal and an assist and he even tried to throw his weight around

Grading the Performance:
  • Offense - A - 5 goals and 30 shots was very impressive. This game was never in doubt and the Bears almost had many other goals. Goalie Barry Brust made some big saves for Houston or the game might have been 10-1.
  • Defense - B - For most of the game it was a very solid game for the D. But for the first half of the second period they came out and watched Houston move the puck around. They had some big hits and really made some nice plays but the first half of the 2nd period made this grade a B.
  • Goaltending - A - Varly played goal and he played it well. If it wasn't for the goaltending at times this game might have been closer. The defense did help him by blocking shots but Varly had to throw himself all around the crease to stop some shots and rebounds though.
  • Power Play - B - Only 3 chances and no goals but there was consistent pressure and many very good chances. But at times they tried to get too cute with passes right through the defense.
  • Penalty Kill - B - Their one goal came on the power play at the end of the 2nd period. But the other 5 chances didn't go anywhere. And Giroux's goal came shorthanded when he made Brust look silly in goal.
  • Overall - B+ - A couple minor problems but for the most part an excellent game for the entire team. They came in wanting to get revenge for the game they played in Houston last month and I think they achieved that goal.


Friday, January 9, 2009

Aeros @ Bears Preview, 1/9

Hershey Bears
record ~ 27-9-0-1 55 points
standings ~ 1st in East Division
most recent game ~ 3-2 Win @ Norfolk, 1/7
last 5 games ~ 4-1-0-0
home record ~ 14-3-0-0
goals for ~ 148
goals against ~99
power play ~ 16.7% (15th)
penalty kill ~ 82.6% (17th)

Houston Aeros
record ~ 17-15-1-7 42 points
standings ~ 5th in West Division
most recent game ~ 4-3 SO Loss @ Bridgeport, 1/7
last 5 games ~ 1-2-0-2
road record ~ 8-9-0-4
goals for ~ 106
goals against ~ 112
power play ~ 17.1% (15th)
penalty kill ~ 86.3% (3rd)

last time teams met - Houston won 6-1 on December 13th in Houston.

Players to watch:


LW Alexandre Giroux (12)- He has at least a goal in 10 of the past 11 games including 8 straight games. During that streak he has a total of 15 goals and 10 assists. And remember he wasn't there for the game against Houston where the Bears lost.
C Kyle Wilson (18) - He was the only Bear to score against Houston in the first matchup and he has 2 goals in the last 3 games.
LW Oskar Osala (36) - He also didn't play against Houston in December. He hasn't been producing much lately with only 6 points in the past 14 games but that could change.


LW Corey Locke (84) - Team leader in assists and points (26 and 40). 4 goals and 5 assists in the last 10 games and he had 1 goal and an assist against the Bears.

RW Jesse Schultz (10) - 2 goals in his last 3 games. He had 1 goal and 2 assists against Hershey.
D Clayton Stoner (7) - Not an offensive force with only 2 assists in the last 9 games but defensively he is very solid. The 7th rated prospect in the Wild organization is the active leader in plus/minus on the Aeros. Has been even or plus in 12 of the last 13 games.

News and Notes:
  • Houston has lost 8 of their last 10 games.
  • They are currently in the 6th game of an 8 game road trip. They are currently 1-4 (2 SO losses) on the trip with 4 straight losses.
  • In their last game they were down 3-0 with 3 minutes to go in the game when Bridgeport took a major penalty and the Aeros scored 3 goals to tie the game before losing in the shootout.
  • Leading scored Krys Kolanos is currently on recall with Minnesota. He scored 2 goals and added an assist against Hershey.
  • The Aeros have only scored more than 3 goals once in the past 11 games and have scored 2 or less in 7 of those.
  • The Bears return home after a 5 game road trip where they won 4 of 5 games.
  • After Sunday's make up game with Wilkes-Barre the Bears will be at the midpoint of their season.
  • 4 Bears (Giroux, Aucoin, Helmer, Bourque) and the coaches (Woods and Frenchy) will be in Worcester for the All Star game on January 26th.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Joudrey Saves Bears

Hershey got off to a fast start in Norfolk last night when Alexandre Giroux scored his 24th goal of the season about 4 minutes into the game. It looked like Hershey might be off to the races in a shootout yet again.

But Norfolk goalie Mike McKenna had other ideas. McKenna made up for the lack of defense from his team to make 26 saves including at least 4 breakaways and 1 penalty shot. If it wasn't for McKenna's solid play this game would have been a blowout.

Instead Norfolk tied the game late in the second period with a Brandon Bochenski (12th) goal and then took the lead 8 minutes into the third as Justin Keller added his 5th of the season.

The Bears answered quickly though as they turned on the offense and dominated the rest of the third period. Kyle Wilson scored his 16th of the season 3 minutes after Keller's and Andrew Joudrey put away the game winning goal, his second game winner against Norfolk this season (and 3rd goal overall), with just over 5 minutes left to play in the game.

Simeon Varlamov came up big in the end of the game and throughout the game as he allowed 2 goals on 37 shots. He gained his 15th win of the season which is good for 4th in the league.

The end of the game proved interesting as the captain of the Admirals, Zenon Konopka, proved that he is anything but respected in his antics. There was a minor scrum near the Bear's net and one fight between Steve Downie of Norfolk and the Bears "Mayor" Dean Arsene.

After all that was sorted out the refs put 2 seconds back on the clock and brought the teams back onto the ice. They were all set for the faceoff when the refs decided nevermind and called the game. An otherwise solid officiating night from Chris Cozzan was somewhat marred by a very confusing set of circumstances to finish the game.

My Three Stars of the Game:
  1. Andrew Joudrey - clutch at the end...scoring needs to come from all places to win
  2. Kyle Wilson - also clutch at the end as he tied up the game when Norfolk seemed in control
  3. Justin Keller - Norfolk forward put his team up with just over half a period to play

Grading the Performance:
  • Offense - B - Not bad. Personally I think they had more than the 29 shots they were given credit for but whatever. They seemed to be a little shocked from the resistance put forth from Norfolk after they scored early. Fortunately a couple guys were able to take advantage of a horrible defensive effort in the third period from the Ads and score.
  • Defense - C+ - Again...they need to lower the opponents shot total. Get in the way and block more shots and take the body more often. Some of the defense seemed to struggle a little bit last night with simple plays. And many times it appeared the guys were standing around watching instead of being in position and ready to go. But they came away with a win.
  • Goaltending - A - The first goal wasn't really Varly's fault. He made the save and then got crashed into while the puck BARELY (I mean by less than an inch) cleared the puck out of the crease. 35 saves is big. Varly is becoming the MVP of this team rather quickly in my opinion.
  • Power Play - A - 2 for 6 is a good night for any team. Both Giroux's and Wilson's goals came with the man advantage. I like what the power play has been doing since Giroux returned. They are working more from down low than the blue line.
  • Penalty Kill - A - They stopped all 4 chances Norfolk got which is good considering Norfolk is a top power play unit.
  • Overall - B - Like the game last Wednesday against Springfield...if they play like that against a good team they will get beaten. There was a lot of watching the play from (especially) the defense. But they won and got passed their turnovers and made the necessary plays.


Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Aucoin and Bourque are All-Stars

Chris Bourque and Keith Aucoin were named to the PlanetUSA All-Star team today.

Chris Bourque will be a starter on the team. They were the only Bears named to the team. Players like Oskar Osala, Graham Mink, and Simeon Varlamov were left off the roster.

I can understand Osala and Mink but how can Varly be left off the roster?

The goalies that made it are Jeff Frazee (Lowell), Daniel Larsson (Grand Rapids), and Cory Schneider (Manitoba). And all three are relatively deserving.

Frazee - 19 gp, 10-6-2 record, 2 shutouts, 2.31 gaa, and .932 save percentage

Larsson - 19 gp, 12-4-1 record, 4 shutouts, 2.30 gaa, and .924 save percentage

Schneider - 12gp, 10-1 record, 1 shutout, 1.47 gaa, and .940 save percentage

All very good numbers although Schneider has only played 12 games in the AHL this season. How is that enough to qualify...and he is the starter!

Varly - 17 gp, 14-3 record, 2 shutouts, 2.13 gaa, and .921 save percentage

I don't understand how he didn't make the team. More wins than any of them. More starts than Schneider. Lower goals against than 2 of them.

Personally.....I think Varly should AT LEAST be on the team if not the starter. And I did vote for him....multiple times.

Bears @ Norfolk Preview, 1/7

Hershey Bears
record ~ 26-9-0-1 53 points
standings ~ 1st in East Division
most recent game ~ 7-2 Win @ Worcester, 1/4
last 5 games ~ 4-1-0-0
road record ~ 12-6-0-1
goals for ~ 145
goals against ~97
power play ~ 16.3% (14th)
penalty kill ~ 82.2% (17th)

Norfolk Admirals
record ~ 14-18-1-4 33 points
standings ~ Last in East Division
most recent game ~ 3-2 Win @ Portland, 1/3
last 5 games ~ 3-2-0-0
home record ~ 8-6-1-1
goals for ~ 114
goals against ~ 137
power play ~ 21% (3rd)
penalty kill ~ 81.1% (23rd)

last time teams met - Hershey won 3-0 in Hershey on December 7. Hershey leads the season series 4-0.

Players to watch:


LW Alexandre Giroux (12)- 5 goals and 4 assists in 2 games since returning from Washington. Now he goes up against the team allowing the most goals in the AHL. Maybe a few more?
LW Chris Bourque (17) - He has an assist in 5 straight games and 6 of 7 games. Against Norfolk this season he has 2 goals and 2 assists.
G Simeon Varlamov (31) - He gets the start against a very dangerous offensive team after 2 straight blow-outs. He needs to be focused and ready to play.


RW Steve Downie (24) - Team leader in points with 28 (20 of those with Norfolk in 15 games). He has 7 g and 21 assists on the season.

RW Grant Potulny (20) - Former Bear has played 15 games with the Admirals and has 12 points in those games.
LW Radek Smolenak (10) - In the last 7 games he has 4 goals and 2 assists. He is currently tied with the team lead in goals with 12.

News and Notes:
  • Norfolk is 8-3 in their last 11 games at home.
  • Norfolk has given up the MOST goals in the league with 137. It is 16 goals more than any other team has given up.
  • Brandon Bochenski (27) was one of their best players early in the season but in the last 11 games he has no goals and only 2 assists.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Giroux and Helmer on Canadian Team

Alexandre Giroux was named to the Canadian All-Star team today. Bryan Helmer was announced a couple weeks ago as captain. Giroux will be a starter for the game.

Also the Bears coaching tandem of Bob Woods and Mark French will serve as the coaches for the Canadian team since the Bears had the best record in the league at this point of the season.

To see the entire Canadian roster click here.

The PlanetUSA team will be announced tomorrow.