Friday, December 31, 2010

Hershey headed home with a win

Hershey finally beat the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins last night. I didn't get to see the game live but Keith Aucoin's goal with about 30 seconds to play in the 2nd period proved to be enough as Hershey won 1-0.

It was Hershey's first 1-0 victory since the 09 Calder Cup playoffs against the Philadelphia Phantoms.

Braden Holtby got the victory, his 9th this season and 3rd shutout, with a 25 save effort over the East division leading Pens.

Now Hershey has to come down from that emotional high and be ready to play against the Syracuse Crunch tonight in Hershey. And it is a 5:00 start too which makes it harder.

The Bears have won 4 straight and have only allowed 2 goals in their last 3 games. Looking back a little further and you see that Hershey has only allowed 10 goals in their last 6 games. Pretty good for a team that was sitting at about .500 a few weeks ago.

Hershey is now only 3 points out of 2nd in the East division although they still trail the Pens by 9 points.

Tonight Syracuse comes to Hershey for a New Years Eve showdown. The Crunch sit in 7th place with 26 points and have lost 3 in a row and 6 of their last 8.

But they have an advantage. Hershey just finished playing a huge rival in a special setting. And the Bears have to make the trip back to Hershey and be ready to play an evening game in front of their home fans.

There are enough veterans on the team to believe that Hershey will come out ready to play but it is a tough thing to ask of them. The Crunch did not play last night and getting up for playing the 2 time defending champs is tough.

And don't think that Syracuse can't win just because they are struggling this season. One of those 2 wins over the past 8 games was against the Baby Pens.

Hershey Bears
record ~ 20-12-0-1 39 points
standings ~ 4th in East Division
most recent game ~ 1-0 Win @ Wilkes-Barre, 12/30
last 5 games ~ 4-1-0-0
home record ~ 10-7-0-0
goals for ~ 115
goals against ~ 81
power play ~ 20.5% (6th)
penalty kill ~ 83.4% (12th)

Syracuse Crunch
record ~ 11-18-1-3 26 points
standings ~ 7th in East Division
most recent game ~ 5-0 Loss @ Wilkes-Barre, 12/29
last 5 games ~ 2-3-0-0
road record ~ 5-11-0-1
goals for ~ 77
goals against ~ 113
power play ~ 16.3% (21st)
penalty kill ~ 80.1% (24th)

last time teams met - This is the 4th meeting between the clubs this season but the first in Hershey. Hershey is 3-0-0-0 against the Crunch this season and has outscored them 12-4 in the 3 games. Most recently Hershey won 5-1 on November 26.

Players to watch:


RW Andrew Gordon (10) - The team leader in goals (16) and points (31) has 3 goals and 3 assists against Syracuse this season.
C Keith Aucoin (11) - Scored the only goal last night which gives him 4 goals in his last 3 games. He has also moved up to 4th on Hershey's scoring list with 25 points.
G Dany Sabourin (35) - Has started all 3 games against Syracuse this season and has made a combined 86 saves in the meetings.


LW Josh Green (12) - 4th on the team in points with 14 points but he has had an impressive December with points in 8 of his 12 games this month.
RW Dan Sexton (23) - Has only played in 11 games for the Crunch this season but he has 6 goals and 5 assists in those games including 4 goals and 2 assists in his last 6 games.
C Trevor Smith (18) - Team leader in assists (13) and points (20). Has 5 goals and 3 assists in 12 December games.


Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Bears head to Pittsburgh with weapons in tow

The Hershey Bears and the Baby Pens will help kick off Winter Classic weekend tonight with a game at the Consol Energy Center in downtown Pittsburgh.

Thanks to a couple reassignments, Hershey is heading to Pittsburgh with reinforcements from Washington! Andrew Gordon and Keith Aucoin were reassigned from the Caps and will be on the ice tonight. Gordon played in all 7 games he was recalled for and scored his first NHL goal of his career last week. Coiner played a little over 11 minutes in his only game this past Tuesday night.

Both players will likely get another chance with the big club this spring as up to this point the Caps can't seem to stay healthy.

That leaves 2 Bears in Washington, Jay Beagle and Mathieu Perreault. And both are impressing in Washington. Perry has been a shot of energy to the offense since he was recalled and Beags is impressing as well. He is getting time as the 3rd center as well as 4th line minutes and the team likes what they see so far:

"There's a guy that's making a great bid to stay here," Boudreau said. "It's his
fourth year pro and his work ethic is second to none. You keep saying: 'OK, is
it going to slow down? Is it because of initial stuff, like is the adrenaline
going to wear down? But it doesn't and he keeps going."

So it looks like at least another few games without a 'full' roster in Hershey.

But thanks to the reassignments that did happen the Bears will be playing with their leading goal scorer and point producer for the first time since December 10th. I am sure Gordo is disappointed to be back in Hershey but he will surely put on a good face and play hard, like he always does.

Also back in the lineup is Coiner who only missed one game on recall. Both players will help bolster an offense that has recently started to pick up again despite the depleted roster.

Any help is a good thing when you are playing the Baby Pens this season. So far in 4 meetings the Pens are 4-0 against Hershey with one of those wins coming in a shootout. The games have been close though with only 1 game being decided by more than 1 goal.

The Baby Pens have been playing a little more average of late as they have lost 3 of their last 7 games. But overall they are still the team to beat in the AHL with a record of 25-7-0-0 and 50 points.

Hershey Bears
record ~ 19-12-0-1 39 points
standings ~ 4th in East Division
most recent game ~ 6-1 Win vs Binghamton, 12/28
last 5 games ~ 3-2-0-0
road record ~ 9-5-0-1
goals for ~ 114
goals against ~ 81
power play ~ 20.3% (8th)
penalty kill ~ 83.0% (17th)

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins
record ~ 25-7-0-0 50 points
standings ~ 1st in East Division
most recent game ~ 5-0 Win vs Syracuse, 12/29
last 5 games ~ 4-1-0-0
home record ~ 14-4-0-0
goals for ~ 107
goals against ~ 75
power play ~ 18.1% (13th)
penalty kill ~ 83.6% (12th)

last time teams met - This is the 5th of the teams 10 meetings this season. Last time out resulted in a 4-3 win for the Pens on November 20th.

Players to watch:


RW Andrew Gordon (10) - The team leader in goals (16) and points (31) makes his return after a 7 game stint with the Capitals.
C Keith Aucoin (11) - Missed Tuesday's game due to recall but returns along with Gordon for tonight's important matchup against the Pens. He has 3 goals and 2 assists in his last 2 games.
LW Kyle Greentree (37) - Second on the team in goals (13) and points (29) he has been impressive in recent night with 3 goals and 2 assists in his last 3 games.


C Dustin Jeffrey (21) - Leads the team in goals (14) and points (29). Having a solid December with 5 goals and 4 assists in 8 games this month.
RW Nick Johnson (28) - Second on the team in points (21) and third in goals (10). He scored a hat trick last night and has 6 goals and 3 assists in his last 7 games.
F Eric Tangradi (25) - He is 2nd on the team in goals with 13 and has been on an absolute tear in December with 9 goals in 11 games this month.


Bears handle Senators again

The Binghamton Senators are surely tired of the Bears by now. 5 games this year and Hershey is 4-1 with the 4 wins coming by an average of 5 goals. Hershey has outscored Bingo 27-9 in the 5 games. That's not close.

Last night was no different as Hershey jumped out to a 3-1 lead after 1 period and extended that to 6-1 after 2 periods. Kyle Greentree scored 2 while Brian Willsie, Dmitri Kugryshev, Nikita Kashirsky, Sean Collins, and Zach Miscovic picked up the other goals for the Bears.

Dany Sabourin got his 2nd straight victory at Giant Center on a night when he was not challenged too much. The Bears defense managed to block a ton of shots and passes all night long. Every time you felt that the Sens had something going Hershey came up with a defensive play to take possession back.

Only a couple times did Dany really have to make some saves and on those chances he was up to the challenge.

Even the fights (there were 4) were won by Hershey. Joel Rechlicz fought 3 times, earning himself a game misconduct, and at the very least came out with a 2-0-1 record. I would award him the first one over Lessard, a draw against Bass in the 2nd, and another win over Spencer in the third.

All three fights were worth the price of admission I thought. The last one with Spencer was probably the best as both players landed multiple punches in the minutes long fight. You could see it from both guys, by the end of that bout they were both ready for the showers and a long nap.

Considering the Bears were without 5 of their top 10 scorers (Lawrence Nycholat missed the game with an injury as well) you could make the argument that the Bears played their best game of the season. All 4 lines contributed offensively and minus one power play goal allowed the Bears dominated the game.

Speaking of that power play you think its a coincidence that Hershey's first power play goal allowed in a few games came while captain Andrew Joudrey was in the penalty box? I don't think so. I am sure he was kicking himself for taking the penalty but not having him out there was definitely a factor.

But if all you give up is 1 power play goal every few games and you can score 6 in one game you are going to win a lot of games.

One more point (rant) about last nights game. Francois Bouchard. I think Bouch is possibly the most frustrating player to watch. You can see the talent he has each and every game but he can't seem to put it all together with any consistency. I have never met him and don't know the first thing about him so maybe I am way off base but it seems like he just isn't as focused as some of the other players. He has as much natural talent as ANY PLAYER ON THE TEAM but he doesn't seem to apply himself at all times.

I think Bouch could be a scoring champ in this league and a regular contributor on an NHL team. Maybe I am wrong but that's how I feel. He just has to WANT it more than he seems to.

His 2 assists last night were his first points in 7 games. And the pass to set up Greentree's second goal (Hershey's 3rd) was as good a pass as you will ever see at a hockey game. The talent is there it's just a matter of getting the most out of it on a night to night basis.

Next up is a road trip to Pittsburgh to face the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins tomorrow. And no I didn't get the location wrong. Tomorrow nights game is part of the Winter Classic 'event' at Console Energy Center in Pittsburgh. More on that tomorrow.


My Three Stars of the Game:
  1. Kyle Greentree - 2 goals when Hershey needed him most
  2. Francois Bouchard - amazing pass on Greentree's 2nd goal
  3. Dany Sabourin - was there when the defense needed him

Grading the Performance:
  • Offense - A - How can it be anything less. 6 goals and plenty of other opportunities on the night. Mike Brodeur was not ready for that kind of action.
  • Defense - A - Great job on positioning and keeping the sticks in the passing and shooting lanes. And some offensive help as well with goals by Collins and Miscovic.
  • Goaltending - B+ - He was there when needed but a couple of those were lucky bounces. He seems to overplay the action to one side or the other constantly. I can think of 3 separate instances last night when he got lucky with his saves.
  • Power Play - B - Had some trouble getting set up it seemed. That is too be expected though when you have an entire power play unit out of the lineup.
  • Penalty Kill - B+ - Very good with the exception of one time which was discussed earlier. With Jay Beagle, Steve Pinizzotto, Boyd Kane, and Joudrey the Bears have arguably the best penalty killing forwards possible. All 4 are exceptional and the defense is rock solid too. This unit will continue to get better as players return and remain healthy.
  • Overall - A - Great effort. A full 60 minutes despite being up 5 goals entering the 3rd period. I was personally very impressed with the hustle and effort that the Bears were playing with in the closing minutes. Maxime Lacroix was skating full speed with under 5 minutes to go to try and negate an icing. That kind of effort when you are up 5 goals and the game is essentially over is what will help this team as the season moves forward.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Bears take on Sens minus another top forward

Sunday nights game against Norfolk went well. The result of the team effort was a 3-1 win over the 2nd place Admirals. Keith Aucoin, Zach Miscovic, and Steve Pinizzotto scored the goals for Hershey while Braden Holtby stopped 31 of 32 shots as Hershey won their 18th game of the year.

Hershey played a great game Sunday. Big props to both Boyd Kane and Pinizzotto for continuously taking the body against the Admirals and laying some big hits that definitely affected the play of some Norfolk skaters.

And big props to the captain, Andrew Joudrey. He is the only Bear to have played in all 31 games this season and he was instrumental in killing off a double minor assessed to Brian Willsie midway through the 2nd period. In the third period he was given the task of taking critical faceoffs in both the offensive and defensive zones and he routinely won them.

That was Hershey's first of 8 against Norfolk (game 2 is Sunday evening) and Hershey set the tone for the season series in Sunday's game. Big hits, big goals, and a controlled game plan that showed why Hershey can't be counted out of the divisional race.


The rest of the week is just unusual. Games on Tuesday and Thursday and no game on Saturday?!? Different, that's for sure.

Tonight Hershey welcomes the Binghamton Senators to Hershey for the 3rd time this season. It will be the 5th meeting between the teams this 2010-11 season with Hershey winning 3 and losing 1.

Hershey has ultimately dominated the Senators this year having scored 21 goals and giving up only 8 in the 4 games to date. That includes 4-0 and 8-3 wins at Giant Center.

But those games all featured something that tonight won't....Hershey's top 3 centers.

Mathieu Perreault and Jay Beagle were already on recall to Washington and this morning word came that Keith Aucoin was being recalled for tonight's Caps game vs Montreal. Ironically it is likely an injury to Perry (broken nose) that makes Coiner's presence in Washington a must for tonight.

So the Bears will again be dealing with a rag-tag lineup without 3 of their top 6 scorers (and 4 of the top 10). No telling when any of those players will be returning to Hershey but I would be shocked if Perry and Marcus Johansson (also nursing an injury) don't play in Saturday's Winter Classic. And with no games between tonight and Saturday I would imagine at least Aucoin will return in time for Thursday's trip to Pittsburgh.

Brian Willsie will likely become the #1 center with Joudrey and Trevor Bruess getting much bigger roles tonight. Joudrey and Willsie are in line for some huge minutes tonight as both will have to take on larger 5 on 5 roles, more power play time, and increased penalty killing time as well.

As far as the offense goes, luckily Kyle Greentree is not out of the lineup as he was a couple weeks ago when Hershey was dealing with a similar roster situation. He will be needed tonight to produce some offense if Hershey hopes to pull out the W.

I doubt Hershey will recall anyone from South Carolina unless there is an injury to a forward that we don't know about at this time. Grant McNeill and/or Joel Rechlicz will likely get a chance to play tonight to fill out the roster.

Binghamton comes in tonight having won 4 of their last 5. They bring with them 5 players with 10+ goals. Corey Locke leads the team in points with 40 (good for 2nd in the league too), rookie Bobby Butler leads the team in goals with 17 (also good for 2nd in the league), and Jim O'Brien, Erik Condra, and rookie Colin Greening all have had terrific months.

Only Butler has struggled of late as his scoring has definitely slowed down. He has only 3 goals in his last 12 games. But the other 4 have been producing. Since the beginning of December those 4 have combined for 16 goals and 22 assists in 9 games. And one of those games was the 4-0 shutout at the hands of the Bears.

Definitely an improving team visiting Hershey tonight.


A little more on tonight's game:

Hershey Bears
record ~ 18-12-0-1 37 points
standings ~ 4th in East Division
most recent game ~ 3-1 Win vs Norfolk, 12/26
last 5 games ~ 2-3-0-0
home record ~ 9-7-0-0
goals for ~ 108
goals against ~ 80
power play ~ 20.4% (7th)
penalty kill ~ 83.2% (13th)

Binghamton Senators
record ~ 15-13-2-2 35 points
standings ~ 5th in East Division
most recent game ~ 7-1 Win vs Adirondack, 12/26
last 5 games ~ 4-1-0-0
road record ~ 6-7-0-1
goals for ~ 105
goals against ~ 91
power play ~ 21.4% (4th)
penalty kill ~ 81.8% (20th)

last time teams met - This is the 5th of 8 meetings between the teams this season. Hershey won 4-0 at home on December 4th.

Players to watch:


RW Kyle Greentree (37) - He is currently #2 in goals and points amongst active skaters with 11 and 24 respectively. He has 3 goals against the Senators this season.
F Brian Willsie (11) - Likely playing center tonight he has 3 goals and 5 assists in 3 games versus the Senators this season. He is Hershey's active leader in goals (12) and points (26).
C Andrew Joudrey (23) - Already a top penalty killer he is likely to see an increased role tonight as he earns power play and top line play while 5 on 5. He 5 goals and 3 assists on the season.


RW Erik Condra (11) - 2nd on the team in points with 30 and tied for 3rd in goals with 11. He has 4 goals and 7 assists in 9 December games to date.
LW Colin Greening (15) - The rookie has 10 goals and 11 assists on the season and has scored in 4 straight games (5 goals during that time). He has 6 goals and 1 assist in December.
C Corey Locke (84) - The team leader in points (40) and tied for 3rd in goals with 11. Averaging 1.33 points per game. Keeping up with that average in December with 4 goals and 9 assists in 9 games.


Friday, December 24, 2010

Bears play Norfolk for 1st time Sunday night

Hershey has played 30 of their 80 games already and this will be the first game against the Norfolk Admirals this season. The Bears have played every other team in the division at least twice and yet the 2nd place Admirals and 4th place Bears have yet to faceoff in 2010-11.

But that changes this Sunday as the Admirals visit Giant Center the day after Christmas. I would imagine that will be a rough trip as they will likely travel to Hershey that morning.

The Admirals are a different team this season. Last year Norfolk finished the season with 84 points and missed the playoffs. They went 39-35-3-3 and scored the second fewest goals in the division, 208.

This season they are 18-6-5-1 through 30 games. They have scored a league high 121 goals, 12 more than the next closes team. Norfolk also leads the league in goal differential as they have scored 35 more goals then they have allowed.

They are deep and balanced. 19 different current players (21 if you count all the players this season) have scored goals this season and 9 of their top 10 scorers have 8+ goals.

Many players were brought in from other teams over the offseason or through trades this season to help. 8 of the 13 forwards on the roster currently were not on the team last season. And 5 of the 9 defenseman weren't playing for Norfolk last season either.

It will be good to finally get a look at the best offensive team in the AHL.


Hershey will still be without the 3 forwards (Beagle, Perreault, and Gordon) who are on recall to Washington. And that could last a little while longer yet as Matt Bradley and Boyd Gordon are both out for the foreseeable future.

Andrew Gordon got his first career NHL goal on Tuesday night and thanked Marcus Johansson for the assist by giving the rookie pivot a kiss on the cheek after the two got to the bench. Jay Beagle scored the game winner in that game and John Carlson added an insurance tally later in the contest. With Neuvirth in goal the game definitely had a Bears feel to it.

All three forwards have been getting ice time and have been producing in their own ways. I think Perry has earned himself a longer look and likely won't be back anytime soon. Gordon and Beags have both looked good as well but once Bradley/Gordon get healthy I would imagine they will be reassigned. But that might not be for a while.

The lineup Hershey went with last Sunday against the Checkers will likely be kept intact this Sunday against Norfolk. All 4 lines produced in some fashion and the defense remains solid.


Sunday's game vs Norfolk starts a tough stretch for the Bears. They have 5 games (4 at home) over the 8 days following Christmas. First up is Norfolk in Hershey, then Tuesday, Bingo comes to town, Thursday sees a trip to Pittsburgh to take on the Baby Pens at the Console Energy Center, followed by a visit from Syracuse on Friday (New Years Eve) that starts at 5pm, and then Norfolk comes back to Hershey on Sunday the 2nd to wrap everything up.

A long week with lots of games. Everyone will likely get some playing time during this stretch.


A little more on Sunday's game vs Norfolk:

Hershey Bears
record ~ 17-12-0-1 35 points
standings ~ 4th in East Division
most recent game ~ 6-3 Win vs Charlotte, 12/19
last 5 games ~ 2-3-0-0
home record ~ 8-7-0-0
goals for ~ 105
goals against ~ 79
power play ~ 20.3% (7th)
penalty kill ~ 82.7% (16th)

Norfolk Admirals
record ~ 18-6-5-1 42 points
standings ~ 2nd in East Division
most recent game ~ 5-1 Win vs Albany, 12/18
last 5 games ~ 3-0-2-0
road record ~ 13-4-2-0
goals for ~ 121
goals against ~ 86
power play ~ 17.8% (14th)
penalty kill ~ 84.8% (7th)

last time teams met - This is the 1st meeting of the season between the East Division rivals. 7 more meetings remain.

Players to watch:


RW Kyle Greentree (37) - The winger made his return to the lineup last Sunday and scored once and added another assist. He is 3rd on the team with 26 points and 11 goals.
C Keith Aucoin (11) - Missed a month and isn't at 100% as of yet. But even with that he has 2 goals and 2 assists in his 3 games back. Leads the team with a 1.57 points per game average.
G Braden Holtby (1) - Can't imagine that he doesn't get this start and then at least 2 more over the next week. Going up against the league's #1 offense should be a good challenge. On the season he is 7-3-1 with a 2.06 gaa and .926 save percentage.


C James Wright (16) - Tied for 3rd on the team with 9 goals and tied for 1st in points (with 5 other players) with 24. Has 3 goals and 4 assists in his last 3 games.
C Blair Jones (9) - Just like Wright he has 9 goals and 24 points on the season. That includes 4 goals and 7 assists in his last 9 games.
RW Matt Fortunato (39) - The active team leader in goals (10) and 2nd on the team in points with 23. Has 5 goals and 3 assists in his last 8 games.


Monday, December 20, 2010

Bears play complete 6-3

That was a much better performance last night. From the opening faceoff through to the final horn that was as good a game as Hershey has played in some time.

Dany Sabourin made 36 saves, Kyle Greentree returned to the lineup and produced, and all the lines produced in some fashion.

Before we get too far into the game though let me say this...

Of all the games for Braden Holtby to be on the bench! If Holtby had been in the game I think their was a 50/50 chance he would have been in Pogge's face the moment he knocked Trevor Bruess to the ice.

You just know that Holtby wants to fight and that would have been as good a chance as any.

For those of you who didn't see the game I am talking about when the Charlotte goalie, Justin Pogge, completely lost his mind after a goal. He might have been brushed by Trevor Bruess but he was easily 2 feet out in front of his crease which means goaltender interference is a moot point unless it is blatant.

Brian Fahey scored on the play and Pogge lost it. He stormed towards referee Mark Lemelin and knocked Bruess to the ice to get to the ref. After being called for unsportsmanlike conduct he proceeded to flip the goal over, continued to argue, and broke his stick against the glass before leaving the ice.

It was something to see.

Anyways, on to the more important topics from the game.

Keith Aucoin played again tonight and he did look better than he did on Saturday. He even admitted as much after the game...

“I still don’t feel that great out there,” said Aucoin, who last scored a goal
on Oct. 31. “I felt a little better than the first two games, obviously. I still
don’t have the full strength in my leg. The conditioning is not quite there

I will acknowledge that he did look better than Saturday. But he still looked out of place at times. He wasn't near the liability last night that he was Saturday and I think it showed on the scoresheet as he finished with 2 goals and 1 assist on the night.

While Coiner continued to improve, Greentree returned to the lineup. And it was a big help. With him back you just got the feeling that the Bears had more confidence. They skated harder, hit more, and overall just played better.

When you are missing so many top players it surely has to have an affect on the psyche of the remaining players. Maybe getting a top scorer back helped that a bit. Greentree scored once and also picked up an assist in his first game back.

Beyond those two forwards you have to give a ton of credit to the 4th line. Nikita Kashirsky, Bruess, and Maxime Lacroix played a spectacular game. They didn't score any goals and only Bruess picked up an assist but they were consistently in the offensive zone with the puck, cycling and getting chances.

And the coaches noticed too. That line got a lot of ice team, even late in the game. I don't have those numbers but I would say they were on the ice more than the 3rd line for sure and maybe even more than Coiner's line. All their shifts were high energy, puck possession shifts that really set the tone and controlled the play.

It probably benefited Coiner (and Greentree for that matter) that another line was available to shoulder a good amount of the load. With that line getting more minutes it allowed the "less than 100%" players to get more rest between shifts.

A complete game from all four forward lines.

Let's also give a thumbs up to Dany Sabourin. I will be honest...I was worried and surprised when I saw that he was playing last night. I wondered why, after Holtby's really good game Saturday, Coach French would choose to play a guy who hadn't won a game in Hershey all season. Sabs was 0-4 with 12 goals allowed before last night.

He played great in my opinion. Sure there were some goals but I think they were all due to really good plays/shots by the Checkers. That was as good as I have seen him play all season and it couldn't have come at a better time.

Now the Bears get a full 6 days to rest and heal up before a tough 5 in 8 stretch to finish 2010 and start 2011. Next up is the Norfolk Admirals next Sunday.

**UPDATE - from the Capitals Insider blog - The Capitals' roster is frozen until after the holidays, a team spokesman confirmed, and there will be no moves until after Dec. 27. The freeze means call-ups Mathieu Perreault, Andrew Gordon and Jay Beagle won't be sent back to Hershey until after that date. **

My 3 Stars of the Game:
  1. Kyle Greentree - a goal and an assist in his first game back
  2. Bears 4th Line - Kashirsky/Bruess/Lacroix all played very good games and helped Hershey control the tempo and pick up the W
  3. Keith Aucoin - 2 goals and an assist but he is still laboring out there at times

Grading the Performance:

  • Offense - A - 6 goals on 30 shots is awfully impressive in any situation but considering that Hershey had only scored 7 goals in their last 4 it was even better. Strong performance from each of the lines had the Checkers chasing the puck in their own zone most of the night.
  • Defense - B+ - Another impressive performance from the blue line. Some missteps and let downs led to some good opportunities for the Checkers. 39 shots is a lot to allow but many were from the perimeter and were easy stops for Sabourin.
  • Goaltending - B - Dany played a great game but he still had some problems finding the puck at times. And if you are going to allow 3 goals you aren't going to get an A. He got the win and made 36 saves so it was still impressive.
  • Power Play - B - Hershey scored on 2 of their 5 chances but I never got the feeling that the power play was in full control of the play. The first and last goals were power play goals.
  • Penalty Kill - A - I think the Hershey penalty killers had more offensive chances as the Checkers power play units. Very impressive night from everyone.
  • Overall - B - Definitely a step up from where they were on Friday and Saturday but this team is obviously not there yet. They managed to beat a Charlotte team that was playing in a different city for the 3rd straight night on a night when their starting goaltender lost his cool. Definitely a good win but there is still plenty of room for improvement.


Sunday, December 19, 2010

Hershey finishes tough 3 in 3 against Checkers

Well a tough weekend comes to an end tonight. And there is some good news. The Bears don't play again until next Sunday so there is plenty of time for rest and healing. With any luck the Bears will get some of their players back healthy this upcoming week.

The previous two nights say Hershey take a couple league bottom dwellers. And it wasn't pretty...for Hershey. A 3-1 loss in Adirondack followed by a 2-1 loss at home to Providence has everyone frustrated.

And now the Charlotte Checkers visit Hershey for the 2nd time this season. Overall it is the 6th meeting between the teams this season, 4 in Charlotte with 1 in Hershey. Hershey has won 2 while Charlotte has won 3 of the meetings. Not dominant but definitely the better team in most cases.

As of this writing there has been no word on any players getting healthy or any players returning from Washington so the same lineup that you saw Friday and Saturday will likely be there tonight.

And let's be honest....that hasn't been a good thing.

Hopefully things turn around tonight.

Charlotte is finishing up a tough travel weekend as they started in Providence on Friday night before heading to Binghamton last night and now to Hershey. But they did win both those games so we can't read too much into that.

It will be interesting to see how Hershey comes out tonight. Last night I thought the energy was there but there appeared to be no familiarity or cohesiveness to the team. A lot of that has to do with lack of playing time between the guys but in the end it is a game they have all been playing for a long time.

Enough of the cross ice passes. Enough of the cute drop passes they always try when they enter the zone.

It's time to get the pucks in deep and work for the puck in the corners. And then crash the net. Make the goalie uncomfortable. Run into him, get in his crease, in his face.

Make something happen instead of waiting for it to happen.

A little more on the game tonight....

Hershey Bears
record ~ 16-12-0-1 33 points
standings ~ 4th in East Division
most recent game ~ 2-1 Loss vs Providence, 12/18
last 5 games ~ 2-3-0-0
home record ~ 7-7-0-0
goals for ~ 99
goals against ~ 76
power play ~ 19.6% (10th)
penalty kill ~ 82.0% (17th)

Charlotte Checkers
record ~ 17-9-1-3 33 points
standings ~ 3rd in East Division
most recent game ~ 4-2 Win @ Binghamton, 12/18
last 5 games ~ 4-0-0-1
road record ~ 9-4-1-0
goals for ~ 106
goals against ~ 87
power play ~ 22.4% (3rd)
penalty kill ~ 88.3% (1st)

last time teams met - This is the 6th meeting of the season but only the 2nd in Hershey. Charlotte won 5-2 in Hershey on November 28. Overall Hershey trails the season series 2-3.

Players to watch:


RW Francois Bouchard (22) - Is he ever going to put it all together? You can see the talent when he gets the puck but he seems to always try to do too much. He only has 4 goals and 4 assists this season. He has to do is a good time to start.
LW Maxime Lacroix (20) - Since getting recalled from SC a few weeks ago he has been one of Hershey's best players in the hustle category. Never takes a shift off.
LW Nikita Kashirsky (17) - He has been a goal scorer on other levels and had 6 in 19 games for the Stingrays this season. Now he needs a shot in Hershey. What better time than the present?


C Jonathan Matsumoto (10) - The former Phantom is averaging a point a game this season for Charlotte including 2 goals last night. Overall he has 7 goals and 11 assists in 18 games.
RW Jerome Sampson (17) - 4th in the league in points and first on the team with 32. Tied for 2nd in the league in goals with 16. And he has 4 goals and 4 assists in 6 December games.
C Zac Dalpe (19) - Tied for 3rd on the team in goals with 12 and 6th on the team with 20 points. 3 goals and 3 assists in his last 5 games including a goal and 2 assists last Sunday vs Hershey.


Saturday, December 18, 2010

Hershey drops another

For the second straight night the Bears managed to score only 1 goal. And for the 2nd straight night the Bears lost to a last place team. Last night it was Adirondack, tonight it was Providence.

Tomorrow Hershey welcomes the Charlotte Checkers to town...they are a second place team. If the Bears can't score on the worst teams, will they score on a good team?

There are so many thing to discuss from tonight's game. Good things and bad things. Let's start with the good....

Braden Holtby

I know the first goal he let in was soft. It was bad. He knows it too. But the rest of the night he was on his game. He was in position for every shot and made damn near every save he could make.

He is kind of a mix between Varly and Neuvy. He is very sound positionally like Neuvy but he is also very athletic like Varly. Now he just needs to work on the consistency part and he could be a very good goaltender going forward.

The Defense

Tonight was pretty much the defense Hershey expected to have night in night out this past summer. Nycholat, Fahey, Wellar, McNeill, Miscovic, and Collins. That was going to be the top 6 before Souray entered the fray.

This was the first that they had all been in the lineup together. And I thought they played very well overall. A few sloppy handles at the blue line, a few missed assignments, but overall I thought a very good game. Lots of physicality, lots of blocked shots, and lots of broken up passes.

They were responsible for the 2nd goal but only that one. Not a bad game at all. I think if this group (and Souray) were to remain healthy (and in Hershey) they will be just fine.

That's it for the good. Definitely something to build on but Hershey didn't look good outside of those 2 items.

So what didn't go right....


Were the coaches watching the same game as me? Were they paying attention to how the players on the ice were performing?

I understand wanting Keith Aucoin on the ice. I really do. You are missing 4 of your top 6/7 forwards to recall and/or injury so you really think you need him on the ice. But he is not ready. Unless he re-aggravated the knee injury in the first period I would say that Coiner is skating at about 60%. And that might be generous.

But I can see dressing him and playing him OCCASIONALLY. The power play...fine, let him set up and pass. 5 on 5...from time to time but not every shift. But the penalty kill?? HE COULDN'T SKATE! He coasted into the defensive zone regularly and even the offensive zone from time to time.

I think it's great that he is toughing it out for the team but you can't honestly look me in the eye and tell me that Trevor Bruess wouldn't have been better in most of those situations.

I acknowledge that Coiner is a better offensive player than 50% of the Bears team even when he is at only 50% but hockey is not exclusively played in the offensive zone. And right now, tonight, he is/was a hindrance at the other end.

As I said...dress him, play him in certain situations but please don't play him on the penalty kill. It didn't burn the team tonight but it sure didn't help.

The Lines

I understand that there are lots of players missing. 3 of the top 4 scorers are injured and/or on recall. 4 of the top 8. And if you count Aucoin it's 5 of 8.

But you can't keep changing the lines up. Now is the time to pick some lines and stick with them so the guys can adjust to who they are playing with.

Of the 12 forwards that dressed tonight only 5 were on this team full time at this time last year. Hell, only 8 of them were getting regular minutes 2 weeks ago!

So, needless to say, most of these guys haven't played alongside one another in a game or practice. What they need is to play together for a bit. Even just 2 straight games. Something so they can get some cohesiveness.

This week they practiced with unusual lines due to the call ups and injuries. Yet they abandoned them after last nights game to go to something different.

Obviously things aren't going to click right away. But you can't just dismantle everything after one bad game. Now there was a second bad are we going to see new lines Sunday evening? Probably. I think you have to since Coiner just can not play tomorrow. There is no way.

So here I make some suggestions...

Lacroix - Willsie - Kugryshev
Pinner - Joudrey - Kashirsky
Bouchard - Bruess - Kane
GMac - Rome - Reclicz

Lacroix and Kashirsky should get a chance. Both were scoring in South Carolina and both play with energy. Kugryshev was a scorer before so give him the chance. Kane played great tonight but I think he would help to get more out of Bouch. And Rome took some faceoffs tonight so let him play center on the occasional 4th line.

You would have good hustle on each line and a better balance and use of talent.

There, those are my thoughts on this weekend. last thing...

the diving call on Aucoin was spot on. Maybe it was the injury, maybe he was tired. Either way he went down VERY EASILY and the correct call was made. I watched Coiner lean into the other guy and as soon as the player moved his elbow he went down.

Just thought I would share my thoughts as most of the arena didn't agree with the call.

Hershey welcomes Bruins to town

Well the weekend didn't start out the way anyone hoped it would. Dropping a game to the Phantoms definitely leaves a bad taste in your mouth. They now have 5 wins on the season and while they are definitely a better team than that record it is still tough to stomach.

So the Bears need to move on and be ready for tonight's game. After losing to the East division bottom dweller the Bears now welcome the Atlantic divisions worst team to town.

While the Bruins are in last place they don't seem to be as bad as other last place teams. In fact if they were in the East division they would actually be in 6th, 8 points behind Hershey.

In fact, Providence is actually a much better road team than home team. At home they are only 3-11-1-1 while on the road they are actually 8-2-1-0. Their .773 road winning percentage makes them the 2nd best road team in the league, trailing only the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.

Unfortunately, Hershey isn't as dominant a home team as they were last season. After 13 games they are 7-6 and those 7 wins have come against teams with a combined winning percentage of .399. 3 of those wins were over the Phantoms.

To make matters worse the road wins by the Bruins have come against good teams. 7 of their 8 wins were against teams that are .500 or better. And the 1 win over a team under .500 was against Albany who sits at .429.

But the numbers aren't all bad. Surprisingly the Bruins are still terrible at penalty killing on the road. They kill off only 73.1% of penalties on the road, good for 29th in the league. And Hershey scores on 22.9% of their power plays at home, good for 5th in the league.

So with any luck that will help Hershey tonight as they try to get back on track before the new year.

I am guessing here but I suspect we will see Braden Holtby in goal tonight for Hershey. And considering the injuries along the blue line right now I would expect to see some recalls from South Carolina. Haven't seen anything reported yet but I would imagine that Yohann Kroll and either Joe Finley or Josh Godfrey will be recalled to help the Hershey blue line.

With Souray and Yeo going down last night and Weller and Oreskovic already hurt the Bears have only 5 healthy defenseman and I don't think they were looking to play Patty McNeill in all 3 games this weekend.

We will surely see what happens. Looking forward to a good game tonight at the GC.

A little more on the game tonight....

Hershey Bears
record ~ 16-11-0-1 33 points
standings ~ 4th in East Division
most recent game ~ 3-1 Loss @ Adirondack, 12/17
last 5 games ~ 3-2-0-0
home record ~ 7-6-0-0
goals for ~ 98
goals against ~ 74
power play ~ 20.0% (8th)
penalty kill ~ 81.4% (21st)

Providence Bruins
record ~ 11-13-2-1 25 points
standings ~ Last in Atlantic Division
most recent game ~ 6-2 Loss vs Charlotte, 12/17
last 5 games ~ 2-3-0-0
home record ~ 8-2-1-0
goals for ~ 67
goals against ~ 93
power play ~ 12.7% (27th)
penalty kill ~ 78.7% (26th)

last time teams met - This is the first of 2 meetings between the teams this season. Hershey visits Providence in February.

Players to watch:


C Keith Aucoin (11) - Got an assist in his first game back in the lineup. Not sure if he will play again tonight but with all the injuries and call ups I would say it is probable that you will see him.
F Brian Willsie (18) - Scored Hershey's loan goal last night and will need to help out again tonight if the Bears are going to get the W.
C Andrew Joudrey (23) - The captain and defensive star is being asked to contribute more in the offensive end with all the recalls. Getting time on the 2nd line and on the power play. He has 4 goals already this season...adding to that number is critical for Hershey.


C Jamie Arniel (12) - Leading the team in goals with 11 and points with 19. Hasn't produced much in December with only 2 goals and 1 assist in 7 games this month.
C Joe Colborne (22) - The rookie is second on the team in goals with 7 and 2nd in points with 16. He is rated as the #2 prospect in the Bruins organization behind Tyler Seguin.
D Yury Alexandrov (4) - The defenseman in the #4 prospect for Boston and comes in tied for 6th on the team with 10 points (4 g, 6 a).


Friday, December 17, 2010

Hershey drops game to Phantoms

Well that is not exactly the way you want to start off a 3 in 3 weekend. Despite the return to action of both Patrick McNeill and Keith Aucoin, the Bears couldn't get enough offensive support to pick up the W.

Dany Sabourin gave up 3 goals while Brian Willsie scored Hershey's loan goal, his 11th of the season, as Hershey lost 3-1.

The win was just the Phantoms fifth of the season which makes the loss that much harder to take. And Hershey didn't just lose in the standings either. Already missing Patrick Wellar and Phil Oreskovic due to injuries, the Bears lost Sheldon Souray and Dylan Yeo during the game.

Add that to Mathieu Perreault, Jay Beagle, and Andrew Gordon on recall to Hershey and you have a pretty good line not currently active.

Luckily Hershey dressed 7 defenseman to keep the pressure off McNeill a bit which allowed for a relatively normal defensive rotation. But it wasn't enough.

Hershey's depth is being tested here of late and that will continue through this weekend. After Sunday's game the Bears get a full 6 days with no game action which will hopefully help them get healthy.

Expect some call ups overnight. If Yeo and/or Souray can't go the Bears would be short 1 or 2 defenseman and that includes Patty McNeill, who I doubt they were looking to play more than 1 or 2 games this weekend.

Offensively there isn't much more the team can do right now. When 3 of your top 8 scorers are on recall to the NHL and another of the 8 is just coming back after missing a month, you are probably going to have some problems.

Shifting lines, lack of familiarity, young guys getting a chance...all of comes into play this weekend. Heck, Steve Pinizzotto and Andrew Joudrey were playing on the top 2 lines and on the power play units tonight. While I am sure both players have the ability to play in those positions and contribute, how much practice have they had in those positions this season?

Coiner just came back...and he got to play with Pinner and Bouch. How many times over the past couple years have those players practiced together? Probably not much.

And nothing against Joudrey but he is used to playing a very defensive, high energy, grind it out kind of game. Turning on the offensive switch is not as easy as it sounds. Given the time to practice with certain players and in certain roles I am certain the Captain can fill any role asked of him...but with only a few days to practice it has to be tough.

Hopefully a return home will help the Bears. Providence visits Saturday with Charlotte coming to town on Sunday. With any luck the injuries currently being dealt with will heal and/or players will return from Washington.


Thursday, December 16, 2010

Hershey visits Phantoms

Hershey will visit the Adirondack Phantoms tonight in the first of 3 games in 3 nights that includes home games Saturday and Sunday night.

The Bears have been dealing with roster turmoil this week. Andrew Gordon and Jay Beagle were recalled to Washington while Brian Fahey returned to Hershey. Kyle Greentree and Phil Oreskovic are both still out with injuries. In addition to that Patrick McNeill and Keith Aucoin are both slated to make their returns this weekend and are on trip to New York.

It will be McNeill's first game of the season after offseason surgery. He figures to be one of the top 4 d-men for the remainder of the season.

Aucoin will play for the first time since taking a shot off the knee back on November 7 in Charlotte. Amazingly enough he is still 6th on the team in points even though he has only played in 11 games while others have played in 25 or more.

No word on if/when any of the players currently on recall to Washington, including Mathieu Perreault, will be back in Hershey. The Caps are dealing with multiple injuries, some illness, and a 7 game losing streak. I would imagine that one or both of Gordon and Beagle will be back sometime this weekend but nothing is a guarantee.

But most of us already know about what is going on with about the Phantoms?

Well, to answer that easily...nothing.

The Phantoms are, by far, the worst team in the AHL as far as record goes. They have played 29 games this season and they have 4 wins. No, that is not a mistype. Seriously, they only have 4 wins. They also have 2 overtime losses which gives them 10 points on the season.

10 points! In 29 games. They are 4-23-2-0 on the season and have been outscored by 52 goals on the season. They have scored the fewest goals in the league, 62, and have given up the most, 114. If you have one or the other it is bad enough but if you are the worst in both categories then you are in trouble.

1 of those wins came last Friday night in Syracuse. Prior to that the Phantoms hadn't won in a month, losing 10 straight between victories.

To put it in perspective...the Phantoms are 15 points behind the next team! They would have to more than double their current point total just to equal the next worst team.

A little more on the game tonight....

Hershey Bears
record ~ 16-10-0-1 33 points
standings ~ 4th in East Division
most recent game ~ 5-3 Loss @ Charlotte, 12/5
last 5 games ~ 4-1-0-0
road record ~ 9-4-0-1
goals for ~ 97
goals against ~ 71
power play ~ 20.0% (6th)
penalty kill ~ 81.5% (20th)

Adirondack Phantoms
record ~ 4-23-1-0 10 points
standings ~ Last in East Division
most recent game ~ 6-4 Loss vs Connecticut, 12/15
last 5 games ~ 1-4-0-0
home record ~ 2-9-1-0
goals for ~ 62
goals against ~ 114
power play ~ 16.4% (21st)
penalty kill ~ 80.1% (23rd)

last time teams met - This is the 4th meeting of the season between the teams. Hershey has won all 3 by a combined 13-3.

Players to watch:


C Keith Aucoin (11) - Assuming he plays he is going to be counted on to carry a large load that will include power play work and on the top line. He is still 6th on team with 18 points in only 11 games.
F Brian Willsie (18) - Playing all 3 forward spots at times this season he is second on the team in goals with 10 and points with 25.
RW Francois Bouchard (22) - Gets a shot on the top line tonight alongside Aucoin. He has only 4 goals and 4 assists this season and needs to start producing to help the shorthanded Bears.


D Erik Gustafsson (36) - The defenseman leads the team in assists, 20, and points, 24. He is the only Phantom with double digit assists this year.
LW Denis Hamel (17) - Joined the team at the beginning of November and has collected 8 goals and 7 assists in 18 games. Leads the team in goals. Has 2 goals and 6 assists in last 6 games.
D Danny Syvret (25) - The former Bear came over from Syracuse in a trade earlier this season. On the year he has 18 games played, 5 goals and 7 assists. All the goals and 3 of the assists have come during his 10 games with the Phantoms.


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

News, Updates, Thoughts...

This post is kind of just going to be thrown together here.

Some Housekeeping...

Due to some computer issues this year I have been unable to watch the away games which is why you haven't seen as many game reviews here this year. That should be getting resolved this week so hopefully I will have more updates/preview/reviews going into the new calendar year.

Last week...

Hershey managed to win 2 of 3 despite missing Mathieu Perreault, Andrew Gordon, Kyle Greentree, Keith Aucoin, and Brian Fahey in some of the games. Not too bad considering.

Greentree and Aucoin were out with injuries while the other 3 were on recall to Washington. Gordon is back in Hershey already so that is good. No telling when Perry and Fahey could return. Another player could be recalled as Washington is dealing with multiple injuries and illnesses currently.

Pens struggle...

The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins have dropped 2 straight decisions for the first time this season. Both losses came at the hands of their closest competition in the East division, the Norfolk Admirals.

The Pens still lead the AHL in overall points with 42 and are 3 points in front of Norfolk in the East division.

The Ads have won 10 of their last 13 games and lead the league in goals. They have 15 more goals then the next closest team.

AHL All Star Game News....

First let's say this...Alexandre Giroux will be returning to Hershey this season. As the captain of the Western Conference squad for the All Star game. It will be a great chance for the former Bear to enjoy a warm reception in the building where he set or helped set many records.

Another former Bear, Mark Wotton, will captain the Eastern Conference.

So I think we should keep the reunion idea going. Head over to the page for voting and cast some votes for former Bears Dean Arsene and Graham Mink. Both players currently play in the Western Conference so go vote for your favorite Bears on the East side and Arsene/Mink on the West side.

Upcoming this week...

Hershey has a 3 in 3 this weekend as they visit the lowly Adirondack Phantoms on Friday before welcoming Providence and Charlotte on Saturday and Sunday.

I hope to have my personal computer back up and running by Thursday so hopefully you will see game previews and recaps here all weekend.


Monday, December 6, 2010

Perreault to Caps; Bears win 2 with balanced scoring

Let's start with the news of the day. Mathieu Perreault was recalled by the Washington Capitals today. He will replace an unknown player in the lineup.

At this time it has not been announced which player will be placed on IR with an injury but one will be soon.

This is not good news in my opinion. With the departure of Tomas Fleischmann last week we knew that a call up could happen at any time. All it would take is a minor injury and someone from Hershey (likely Gordon, Beagle, or Perry) would be called up to Washington.

The reason this particular call up is bad news is that Washington is auditioning for an everyday 2nd line center. Marcus Johansson has been filling the role of late and while he has played well there is some thought that he might not be ready for the role full time.

For a team that is expected to compete for a Stanley Cup a 2nd line center is going to be a vital piece of the puzzle. So expect different players to get extended looks.

Including Perreault. I am a big Perreault fan and think this could be the beginning of the end of his days in Hershey. His offensive skill is undeniable and his defensive game is improving. The Caps aren't looking for a defensive center though. MoJo, Steckel, Gordon, and Laich can all fill that role. And Beagle would be the main call up for that position.

No, the Caps are looking for an offensive minded center that can help keep the scoring balanced on the team. I think Perry has as good a shot as anyone in the organization right now.

This wouldn't be such a big loss if Aucoin was healthy but he isn't. As of right now the Bears center situation looks like Willsie, Beagle, Joudrey, and Bruess. Not saying those players can't get the job done but they aren't as nearly the pivots that Aucoin or Perry are.

Hopefully Coiner returns to the lineup soon and good luck to Perry in Washington. As a Bears fan I hope to see him back in Hershey soon.

Bruce Boudreau won't commit to how long Perry will be in Washington, saying that he is there for one game as of now, but he is going to be given a chance to win the 2nd line center job and I think he can.

Now let's discuss this past weekend's games....

On Friday there was an article in the paper about Hershey's desire to balance the scoring out over the four lines. Willsie was being moved to the 2nd line to allow Bouchard to move up and play with Perry and Gordon on the 1st line.

The thought is to spread out the scorers and hopefully some of the touch would rub off on other players.

So far it has worked.

7 goals this weekend. None from Gordon, Perry, or Willsie. The only goal scored by the top line was by Bouchard on Satruday night.

The goals were scored by Kugryshev, Pinner, Lacroix, Rome, Bouchard, and 2 from Beagle. That spans all 4 lines. That is the definition of scoring balance and depth.

It is good to see Kugryshev get in on the scoring again. He had some success at the offensive end in juniors scoring 63 goals over 2 seasons in the QMJHL. Getting him involved offensively and giving him ample time on the top lines and power plays will only pay dividends for the Bears this spring.

The Bears looking for more scoring is kind of a joke though considering that even with all the pieces from last year missing and Aucoin missing the last 10+ games they are still #2 in the AHL in scoring with 89 goals. Only Norfolk has more with 99.

But you can never have too much depth. When the playoffs come and top lines start seeing top defensive pairings and start having trouble scoring with consistency it will be good to know that your 3rd and 4th line players can score if called upon.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Caps trade Flash

The Washington Capitals today traded Tomas Fleischmann to Colorado for defenseman Scott Hannon.

While this move does not actually impact the Hershey Bears directly it does affect them indirectly.

First let's consider the good news of the situation...this gives the Caps another defenseman, 8 total. That means call ups of Brian Fahey will be much less common. While that definitely isn't what Fahey was looking for it does help the Hershey Bears as a team.

Now let's consider the bad news of the situation...Flash was one of the players keeping guys like Gordon, Perreault, and Beagle in Hershey. Washington still has 13 forwards so while a call up is not going to happen immediately it does make forward call ups much more likely going forward. One or two injuries to forwards in Washington will result in fewer players in Hershey.

Surely the players I mentioned above (Gordon, Perry, Beags) are happy about this. They were kind of stuck until now as the Caps had 2 extra forwards so call ups were rare. But this will surely make call ups more likely as we move forward.

The likelihood of a Bear forward getting a long term recall is still unlikely (barring a bad injury) it is much more likely that Hershey will be without players for a few games here or there.

So while the trade is actually good news for the short term as Fahey will no longer be getting called up regularly it will hurt down the road IF Caps forwards start getting hurt.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Welcome Back Braden

It was good to see Braden Holtby back in goal for the Bears last night. He played a fantastic game and recorded his first shutout of the season as Hershey beat the Adirondack Phantoms 4-0.

I think Dany Sabourin is a solid goaltender but the difference in rebound control between the goalies is substantial. On Wednesday night every shot seemed to create a scoring opportunity for Worcester while last night I can only remember one or two rebounds that did that.

Although it does help when you are playing the Phantoms. They are embarrassingly bad this year. They have played 22 games and have won only 3. They sit in last place in the league with only 8 points on the season. They average about 2 goals a game and allow about 4 a game. And they already changed coaches this year!

Outside of the goaltending I would say that the closed door team meeting that was called after Wednesday night's game had an effect. In the 2 games since the Bears have scored 9 and allowed only 1.

Again though, let's keep in mind who the opposition was for those 2 games. We already talked about Adirondack but Syracuse isn't much better. They reside in 2nd to last in the league with 16 points in 20 games. Definitely more competitive but still lacking in overall talent.

The communication definitely seemed better. They seemed to play with more cohesiveness. And they appeared to be playing better as a team instead of the lone wolf style they showed on Wednesday night.

There still needs to be more hitting but that will likely come as the playoffs get closer and games start to matter more.

This team has the talent to be a force in the league. What they need most is some continuity. Injuries and call ups are taking their toll on the teams overall development. It is hard to learn the tendencies of your new players when everyone isn't on the ice at the same time.

Keith Aucoin's injury hurts as he was developing a nice rhythm with Willsie before getting hurt. Now Perry is doing that but when Coiner comes back they will likely go back to their previous lines.

And the blue line is having those problems too. Souray, Collins, Kroll, and Fahey have all missed time due to injury or recall and Patty McNeill has yet to play a game this season. Knowing what your defensive partner is going to do is critical when the opposition is bearing down on the rush. And the only way to develop that knowledge is to play together constantly.

As the season rolls along this team will likely come together and become a legitimate contender. Right now though they are still finding their way. Some games are good like last night while others are a struggle like Wednesday.

Tonight the Charlotte Checkers make their first visit to Giant Center this season. They currently reside in 3rd place in the East division, two points ahead of Hershey. The Checkers started out the season slowly but have really picked it up in November. So far in November they are 9-2-0-2. They have lost only twice in regulation this month including once to Hershey.

The Checkers played in Worcester last night and Norfolk on Wednesday night. A busy travel weekend for them concludes with tonight's game in Hershey. Coming from Worcester overnight for a 5pm start in Hershey is not an easy travel day.

The Bears can make it a clean 3 in 3 sweep with a win tonight. After his performance last night I would expect to see Braden Holtby get the start again tonight.

A little more on the game tonight....

Hershey Bears
record ~ 12-8-0-1 25 points
standings ~ 4th in East Division
most recent game ~ 4-0 Win vs Adirondack, 11/27
last 5 games ~ 3-2-0-0
home record ~ 6-5-0-0
goals for ~ 80
goals against ~ 56
power play ~ 22.7% (3rd)
penalty kill ~ 82.8% (15th)

Charlotte Checkers
record ~ 12-8-1-2 27 points
standings ~ 3rd in East Division
most recent game ~ 4-2 Win @ Worcester, 11/27
last 5 games ~ 4-1-0-0
road record ~ 6-4-1-0
goals for ~ 73
goals against ~ 70
power play ~ 20.2% (6th)
penalty kill ~ 88.5% (3rd)

last time teams met - This is the 3rd meeting of the season but the first in Hershey. The teams split the 2 games in Charlotte earlier this month.

Players to watch:


RW Andrew Gordon (10) - Leads the league in goals with 15 and in points with 29. Has 8 goals in his last 8 games including 3 in his last 2. Also has 6 assists in that 8 game span.
C Mathieu Perreault (24) - Centering the top line in place of Keith Aucoin the diminutive pivot is 5th in the league in assists with 16 (tied with Nycholat). Also adding some goals with 4 in his last 4 games.
G Braden Holtby (1) - Probably the biggest key to Hershey's season he returned after a month in Washington to shut out the Phantoms last night. 6 games this year, 5-0-1 record with a ridiculous 1.65 goals against and a .944 save percentage.


C Zach Boychuk (11) - Leads the team in assists with 15 and is currently in the midst of a 5 game point streak. He has 2 goals and 6 assists in those 5 games.
RW Jerome Samson (17) - Leads the team in goals, 12, and points, 24. Has recorded a goal and 6 assists over the last 4 games including 3 assists last night.
C Zac Dalpe (19) - The rookie is tied for 2nd on the team with 9 goals but leads the team with an average of 1.08 points per game. 3 goals and 2 assists in last 3 games.


Thursday, November 25, 2010

Bears drop another game

Before I get into the team and their problems last night I want to say how awesome it was to see the reaction and reception for the soldiers that were welcomed home last night. If you weren't there it was something special. Not only did they get a standing ovation from the crowd but even the players on the ice were saluting them by hitting their sticks on the boards and the ice. And this wasn't before the game or between periods but during a timeout in play.

Sometimes we get a little caught up in the sport and the outcomes and forget that it is, quite simply, just a game. Whether a team wins or loses it really doesn't matter in the grander scheme of things. Watching the players acknowledge that last night was amazing.

As someone who has relatives and friends serving our amazing country (as many of us do) it was definitely something I will always remember.

Now onto the game....

Not exactly the way Hershey wanted to kick off the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Worcester came into Hershey and played well enough to get a 3-2 win against a sluggish Bears team.

I have some thoughts on wait ails this team but first I want to say is still early. There are many new pieces and due to call-ups and injuries they have had limited time to play together. I still contend that this team is very talented at the offensive end and can score with anyone.

But goaltending and defense are 2 different issues altogether.

Dany Sabourin and the Defense

First let me say this...Dany is having a hard time controlling rebounds this year. Last night was horrible as he kept directing rebounds right out to the circles and the center of the ice. You just can't do that and expect to win many games.

BUT I don't blame Dany (entirely) for the goals last night. The first goal was a poorly controlled rebound that dropped at the stick of a Shark. My problem here is that whichever defenseman was following him through the zone didn't tie him up. Not sure which defenseman it was but Miscovic and Nycholat were on the ice.

A very similar play happened at the other end but the Sharks defenseman tied Perreault and kept him from making a play.

The 2nd goal was quite simply a horrible play by Souray and Miscovic. The puck was in the neutral zone and yet they still got caught flat footed by the play and Wingels skated in all alone on Sabourin.

And the 3rd CAN NOT allow a guy to take a one timer from the faceoff circle. Especially at even strength. That is simply unacceptable. If I remember correctly Andrew Joudrey's guy is the one that scored and Joudrey did make an attempt to block the shot but it was already too late.

Sure, Dany could have made some more saves but he did keep Hershey in the game too. I thought he played OK. Unfortunately I don't think he is capable of winning games by himself and that is what Hershey is asking him to do right now. The defense isn't showing up with any consistency.


It doesn't appear that anyone on this team is communicating with each other. And that might have something to do with the constant line changing due to injuries and call-ups but it should be a simple and easy thing to correct.

It appeared to me that right now there are 5 guys on the ice playing as individuals instead of as a a team. Clever passes where no one is there, one on one moves when they are unnecessary, and (most importantly) NO ONE GOING TO THE NET!

This is always a problem for teams but this Hershey team is really struggling. There were numerous rebounds left by the Worcester goalie last night but there were no Bears around to take advantage. They were all standing on the outside near the boards.

This team has some big guys too. Greentree, Rome, Pinner, GMac, Rechlicz, and Beagle can all get down low and stir up some chances. But most of them don't want to do that.

Last night there were 2 players that seemed to be okay getting their nose dirty...Beagle and Perreault. And Perry is the smallest player on the ice many games but he was in there going after rebounds and trying to make something happen.

No one else.

Line Makeup

With all the injuries and call ups it has been hard to get any lines any continuity but the lines they are running right now are too scattered and inconsistent.

There is no telling when Aucoin will be back so let's make some changes now.

Kyle Greentree is a scorer in the Giroux mold. Not as good a shot and not as quick a skater (never thought I would say that) but a similar player. Why is he on a line with 2 muckers (Beagle and Rome)?

Put Greentree with Perreault and Gordon and move Willsie down to play with Beagle. Willsie is a great player but he is more of the grinder/mucker type than a scorer. Putting Greentree on the top line with open Gordon up for him to perform.

High energy, grinder lines are what this team needs. Maxime Lacroix and Trevor Bruess are playing great right now and that is what they are doing. I actually think Rome should move to this line with Kugryshev moving to the Beagle/Willsie line.

What all these lines need is balance. A scorer, a grinder and a playmaker. Hershey has some of each but not like last years team.

Putting Greentree with a terrific playmaker like Perreault and allowing Gordon to get to the net and score the 'ugly' goals will definitely help that line.

Beagle has a little playmaker in him but will also get in the corners and muck it up. Putting him with Kugryshev and Willsie will result in hustle goals.

Rome, Lacroix, and Bruess aren't going to score a lot but they will control the puck with the cycle and get a few chances while frustrating the opposition. They will draw penalties and do the dirty work down low.

The last line of Pinner, Kane, and Joudrey is much like the Bruess line. I think Pinner could offer more in the way of offense but I don't see the energy on this line as I do the Bruess line. They don't seem interested in cycling and possessing the puck. Which is what they are all built to do.

With some continuity and communication all of these lines could cause problems for any opposition.

Power Play

One more thing and this is for French.

Why the hell is Souray not on the #1 power play unit? I don't care if you have to put Willsie on the wing or the bench if you don't Souray as your only defenseman but he should absolutely be out there firing away.

Put Willsie, Perry and Gordon out as forwards with Nycholat and Souray on the blue line. I guarantee that goals will be scored.

Then the 2nd line could be Beagle, Greentree and Kurgryshev with Collins/Fahey and Miscovic on the point.

TWO solid lines that can score and produce some consistent pressure.

That's it for today. Hopefully Friday and the weekend go better than the last 4 have gone. Getting 40+ shots a game is good IF they are quality chances which most of Hershey's 40+ weren't last night.

Everyone have a safe and Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Bears win 1 of 3

Not a great weekend for the Hershey Bears. They managed to record 44 shots in Friday's game at Binghamton but the Senators goalie, Barry Brust, stopped 42 of them and the Sens offense scored 4 times against Hershey goalie, Dany Sabourin, to pick up their first win over the Bears this season.

Saturday night saw a 4-3 loss at home at the hands of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. That makes it 4 straight losses against the Pens to start the season. 3 of the 4 games have been goal affairs. On bright spot in the loss was the Hershey power play which converted on all 3 of their chances.

Then came Sunday against the soon to be defunct Hartford Wolfpack. (Seriously in one week they will no longer exist...they will be the Connecticut Whale)

A strong but scattered first period led to a 0-0 tie after the 1st. The Bears took control with 4 second period goals and they took a 4-1 lead into the 3rd period. And then they tried to blow it late by allowing 2 goals midway through the 3rd period.

You could definitely see some tired legs out there. Andrew Gordon was one player that definitely looked like he could use a few days rest. He looked sluggish and just a little off his game all night.

In the end Hershey got 2 points out of a weekend in which they were not playing at full strength. But, surprisingly, they are healthier after the weekend then they were going into it. Brian Willsie and Sheldon Souray both played in games this weekend. Keith Aucoin, Francois Bouchard, and Steve Pinizzotto remain sidelined.

Semyon Varlamov played in 2 games and appears to have regained his mobility but I am not sure he is ready for the NHL. He didn't look great in any of the 3 games he has appeared in. But Braden Holtby didn't look good in his start Friday night for Washington.

I would expect to see Braden return to Hershey for the weekend games but who knows. Varly doesn't look ready to significantly contribute but I am not sure playing in the AHL will get him ready for the NHL anyhow.

**UPDATE - shortly after posting this I read on Capitals Insider that Holtby is expected to make another start for the Caps this week. So it would appear that Varly will still be in Hershey for at least the Wednesday night game and possibly longer.**

**UPDATE #2 - Varly was recalled to Washington as Neuvirth suffered a minor lower body injury in practice. Holtby started last night and Varly was the backup. No word on when/if one of the two will be reassigned to Hershey. They say Neuvy can probably play Wednesday so hopefully one of the 2 is back soon.**

Next up for Hershey...a 4 in 5! Not exactly what they need right now but all you can do is play the games that are scheduled.

3 of the 4 games are in Hershey starting with Worcester on Wednesday night.


Friday, November 19, 2010

Bears depleted as tough stretch begins

It is not a great time for Hershey to be facing all the injury issues they are having. Starting tonight Hershey plays 7 games over the next 10 days. They get Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday off. That's it.

Hershey's injury list looks like a pretty damn good power play unit...

Brian Willsie
Keith Aucoin
Francois Bouchard
Steve Pinizzotto
Sheldon Souray

That's a solid group of players to be missing.

Some good news though...Joel Rechlicz is cleared to return to the lineup. Probably not going to help much on the offensive end but healthy bodies are going to be important over the next 10 days.

Keeping with the healthy bodies theory, Nikita Kashirsky was recalled by the Bears as well. He will surely get into some games this weekend.

The goaltending situation is in better shape. Semyon Varlamov remains in Hershey as he tries to get back into game shape. He is expected to play in 2 games this weekend and then could be recalled to Washington.

As soon as he is recalled, Braden Holtby will surely be reassigned to the Bears. Braden is expected to make his 3rd start for the Caps this weekend but hasn't played much since being called up.

Dany Sabourin will also get a start this weekend.

Tonight Hershey visits Binghamton. And all who were in Hershey on Sunday evening recall what the Bears can do to the Senators. In 2 games this season Hershey has a 15-4 edge in goals and obviously a 2-0 record.

Sunday's game was somewhat lacking in the suspense area as Hershey scored their first goal 70 seconds into the game and finished the 1st period with a 6-0 lead. Included in that 1st period were 4 fights including 3 that came within about 30 seconds of each other. GMac (twice), Wellar, and Oreskovic all threw down with the Senators.

When you go up 6-0 in the first period it is kind of hard to critique the rest of the game as Hershey took their foot off the gas and the defense let up a bit as well. Varly also had the opportunity to relax a bit in net. Not saying any player wasn't trying but I think most players in most sports, on any level, would struggle to keep giving 110% effort when they are up 6 scores. (Just ask Mike Vick and the Eagles)

I have a funny feeling tonight's game is going to go differently against the Senators. They have been embarrassed twice against the Bears and are going to come out with something to prove.


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Bears playing well this weekend

2 down 1 to go for this 3 in 3 weekend. Personally I think the team has played very well this weekend. Obviously the 3-0 win in Syracuse last night shows that. But the 3-2 loss on Friday doesn't.

You know that feeling when you are trying to say something and you just can't figure out the word you are looking for. Or when you are watching a movie or tv show and an actor comes on and you know you have seen them before but you can't quite remember it. The answer is just at the tip of your tongue....

That's how the Bears played on Friday night. The plays were there, partially made. And then something would go wrong. Either an errant pass, an unlucky bounce, or just a good play from Toronto.

Things just didn't work out for 2.5 periods. You could feel the change though. Just before they scored I felt like bounces had started going their way, the Toronto goalie had started to give up some rebounds, and Hershey was making the passes.

Then the first goal...then the second goal.

And then...ouch. A play that goes fine 99 out of 100 times didn't work out. The bounce went Toronto's way. Sabourin played the puck behind the Hershey net but feeling pressure from behind he rushed the pass and it went directly to a Marlie who put it in the net before Sabs could get back in position.

But don't blame Dany for the loss. If anything you can celebrate him for keeping Hershey in the game. The first 2 goals would have been scored on damn near any goalie in hockey. Great plays by the Marlies and poor defensive positioning led to both.

Sabs kept Hershey in the game with 2 other great 1 on 1 saves in the 2nd and 3rd periods. Without those saves it would have 4-0 before Hershey got on the board.

If you want to blame someone for the loss...blame the defense. They didn't play with any consistency that game.

Or blame the centers...they were dominated in the faceoff circle for much of that game. Whether in the offensive or defensive zone it seemed that the Marlies won all the big faceoffs. Hershey has a 5 on 3 power play...can't win a draw to keep the puck in the zone. Hershey has a big draw when on the penalty kill...the Marlies win and keep possession.

In my opinion Hershey didn't play great on Friday but they did outplay the Marlies. Those games will even themselves out over the course of the season as Hershey will get all the bounces in some games.

The fact that Hershey overcame the tough luck and miscues to tie the game up with a legitimate chance to win says how good this team is.

They rebounded nicely on Saturday night as they out shot the Crunch 40 to 24 and outscored them 3-0. Sabourin made all the saves to pick up Hershey's first shutout of the season. Willsie and Gordon continued their good play picking up their 7th and 8th on the season respectively. And Ashton Rome scored his 4th after being a healthy scratch on Friday.

Tonight Hershey is back home at Giant Center serving host to the Binghamton Senators. In one game against Bingo this year, October 15th in Bingo, Hershey won 7-1 as 6 different Bears scored in that game.

Semyon Varlamov is expected to get the start for Hershey as he prepares to return to the Washington lineup. Varly hasn't played in Hershey since last February 28th in another conditioning assignment. And he hasn't played at all since October 21 when he got the start and the loss in a 4-1 loss in Boston. He has only appeared in 2 games for the Caps this year so rust could be an issue tonight.

Binghamton comes to town at the tail end of a 4 in 5 weekend. They beat Wilkes-Barre on Friday on the road before losing last night to Toronto at home. They haven't scored fewer than 3 goals in their last 5 games but have dropped 2 of those games.

Rookie Bobby Butler is leading the league in goals this season as he has 12 goals in 15 games. 7 of those have come in the last 5 games. And Corey Locke leads the league with 22 points this season as well.

Bingo currently resides in 5th place in the East division, one point behind the Bears. They are 3-2-0-1 on the road this year and 7-6-1-1 overall. Their power play on the road is 24th in the league while their penalty kill is #2 on the road. To compare, Hershey has the 10th best power play at home and the 16th ranked penalty kill at home.

Should be a good one at the GC tonight.


Sunday, November 7, 2010

MoJo joins Hershey in Charlotte

With the Capitals playing so well at this moment, winners of 3 straight, and all the forwards seemingly healthy (quick...knock on wood) the Caps sent rookie pivot Marcus Johansson to Hershey yesterday. He is expected to play tonight as Hershey goes up against the Charlotte Checkers for the first time.

MoJo had one goal in 6 games with the Caps while playing on the 3rd line alongside Jason Chimera and Eric Fehr.

The adjustment from the Swedish Elite League to a more aggressive North American style has been slower than the organization was looking for. He has played well defensively but has been largely ineffective in the offensive end.

Watching him skate you can see the amazing natural skill that he possesses, very fluid and definitely fast. He obviously has tremendous upside.

But the Caps are looking to win this year and with the team getting off to a slow start they don't have time to wait for a rookie to get up to speed. So while his reassignment to Hershey might be for just a short while, don't be surprised if he doesn't hang out with the Bears for the foreseeable future.

All of that will depend on what injuries Washington will have to deal with. I would say that until someone gets hurt all of the 'call-ups' will remain in Hershey. The organization would rather see Johansson play in Hershey then sit on the bench in Washington.

In other roster news, Dmitry Kugryshev and Johann Kroll were assigned to South Carolina for the weekend. Due to the longer trip the Bears were traveling with a smaller team and instead of leaving the two in Washington they sent them to help the Stingrays in their 3 in 3 this weekend.

Both are expected back in Hershey after the 2 game trip to Charlotte.

Now onto tonight's game.

Let's talk about the Charlotte Checkers. They are the new/old affiliate of the Carolina Hurricanes. Last season they were the Albany River Rats in the AHL. But the Charlotte Checkers were an ECHL team last year too. So it is kind of a new/old affiliate.

Either way most of the players on the roster were Albany River Rats last year...minus one big name...Justin Peters. Their top goalie from last year is now in the NHL backing up Cam Ward in Carolina. That has apparently hurt this team a little bit. Last year they challenged Hershey for much of the year and finished 2nd in the East division. This year, with many of the same players, they are in 5th place after 14 games with only 5 wins.

But you have to expect that at some point the big players will get the team together. 9 of the top 10 scorers from last year are still there including former Bear Oskar Osala. Joining him are Stefan Chaput, Zach Boychuk, Jacob Micflikier, Chris Terry, Drayson Bowman, Nick Dodge, Jerome Samson, and Bryan Rodney.

Add to that mix a few college players, Zac Dalpe (played 9 AHL games last year and scored 6 goals in them) and Riley Nash. As well as some guys who made the move from juniors to the A, Matt Kennedy, Jared Staal (yes another Staal brother), and Michal Jordan.

And a few veterans joined the team as well. C Jonathan Matsumoto comes over from Adirondack where he scored 30 goals and added 32 assists last season. (Matsumoto is currently playing in the NHL) D Ethan Graham joins the team after spending 09-10 with Texas, Norfolk, Milwaukee, and the ECHL version of the Checkers. Also coming over is D Bobby Sanguinetti who served on Hartford's blueline the past 2 years.

Expect this team to gel and find their legs going forward. Lots of talent and scoring depth returns from last year and plenty of new faces, young and old, team up with them.

So far this season they have struggled to keep the puck out of their own net more so than scoring it themselves. They have allowed the 3rd most goals against, 41, in the AHL so far. Justin Pogge and Mike Murphy have each played 7 games and neither has much to show for it.

This will be the Checkers 3rd game in as many nights (actually this is an afternoon tilt with a 3:00 start time) and then a 4th in 5 nights as the Bears and Checkers play again on Tuesday.

Those kind of schedules will be a common thing for the Checkers as teams have to travel further than usual to play them. That usually means a couple games back to back instead of traveling all that way just to play one game. Something they will likely adjust to as the season moves along.

Helping them get their legs this afternoon will be a Hershey team that hasn't played since last Sunday. That's a substantial amount of time between games for a team so it will be interesting to see how the Bears come out today.

Hershey Bears
record ~ 6-3-0-1 13 points
standings ~ 3rd in East Division
most recent game ~ 7-3 Win vs Manchester, 10/31
last 5 games ~ 4-1-0-0
road record ~ 3-1-0-1
goals for ~ 40
goals against ~29
power play ~ 19.6% (9th)
penalty kill ~ 79.7% (21st)

Charlotte Checkers
record ~ 5-6-1-2 13 points
standings ~ 5th in East Division
most recent game ~ 3-1 Win @ Norfolk, 11/6
last 5 games ~ 3-0-0-2
home record ~ 1-2-0-2
goals for ~ 38
goals against ~ 41
power play ~ 17.3% (15th)
penalty kill ~ 87.5% (7th)

last time teams met - First of 8 meetings this season. Hershey went 6-2 against the Rats last season including 2-2 in Albany. Hershey outscored Albany 41-21 over the course of the season and none of the games were really close as only 2 of the 8 games were with 2 goals and neither were 1 goal games.

Players to watch:


C Marcus Johansson (17) - Making his Hershey debut today. Hasn't played in a while and was more of a defensive center when he did play. How will Hershey use him today?
RW Andrew Gordon (10) - Leads the Bears in goals with 7, and is 2nd on the team in points with 15.
RW Brian Willsie (18) - Promoted to the top line for the Manchester game, he has 5 goals and 6 assists on the season.


C Zach Boychuk (11) - Leading the team in points with 13 and second on the team in goals with 6 through 14 games.
RW Jerome Samson (17) - Last years top scorer is leading the team again in goals with 7 and is 2nd on the team in points with 11.
LW Oscar Osala (32) - Finished 2nd on Rats with 24 goals last season (16 of those were in Hershey), he has 2 goals and 6 assists to start this season.