Well the Bears are back in Winnipeg for the first time since June. And what a wonderful time it was then. Hershey clinched the Calder Cup the last time they were there.
The stakes aren't as high tonight and tomorrow, as the Bears play 2 there this weekend, but all the games are still important. Hershey enters tonight's contest with a 10 game winning streak. The franchise record is 11, set last season, and the team can tie and break that in Manitoba.
This is not the same team Hershey saw last June. Of the 10 leading scorers for the Moose in the 2009 season and playoffs only 3 players are in the top 1o again this season, Mike Keane, Guillaume Desbians, and Michael Grabner. Even beyond the top scorers the team is much different.
On this years team you have players with NHL experience such as Mathieu Schneider, who was just assigned to Manitoba, and Matt Pettinger, a longtime Cap. As well as some former Bears including Daren Machesney, Lawrence Nycholat, and Tom Maxwell.
While they aren't the same team they are still good. Currently sitting in 3rd in the North division they are 7 points out of 1st and are on a 4 game winning streak. They aren't as dangerous in the offensive end as they are tied for 3rd lowest in the league in goals scored. Defensively they are solid but not quite as good as last year.
Even still with the long road trip the games will be difficult this weekend. If the Bears can manage to win both games they will return to Hershey with a new franchise record winning streak.
There is no reason to think the Bears won't be ready to show that they are still the class of the league by beating the team they went through for the Cup last Spring.
record ~ 27-8-0-2 56 points
standings ~ 1st in East Division
most recent game ~ 4-1 Win vs Adirondack, 1/3
last 5 games ~ 5-0-0-0
road record ~ 12-5-0-0
goals for ~ 144
goals against ~81
power play ~ 18.8% (6th)
penalty kill ~ 91.0% (1st)
record ~ 21-14-4-0 46 points
standings ~ 3rd in North Division
most recent game ~ 5-4 SO Win vs Texas, 1/2
last 5 games ~ 4-1-0-0
home record ~ 14-6-2-0
goals for ~ 94
goals against ~ 102
power play ~ 12.1% (27th)
penalty kill ~ 82.8% (15th)
last time teams met - Bears clinched their 10th Calder Cup in June of 2009. This is the first of 4 meetings this season. Manitoba visits Hershey at the end of the month.
Players to watch:
C Keith Aucoin (11)- The league leader in goals with 19 he also has a 5 game point streak. Has been on fire all season. 5 goals and 6 assists in his last 5 games.
LW Oskar Osala (36) - He has been a little less consistent this season with his points coming in little streaks. Has 4 goals and 3 assists in his last 6 games.
G Braden Holtby (1) - Absolutely ridiculous this season. He hasn't lost in regulation since October 11th or at all since November 21. Overall he is 9-1-1 with a 1.45 goals against average and a .949 save percentage. Phenomenal numbers.
RW Sergei Shirokov (52) - The rookie leads the team in goals (12) and points (26). Scored a goal and 2 assists in their last game but only had 2 assists in his previous 5 games.
LW Michael Grabner (40) - Has only played in 9 games for the Moose this season as he has spent some time in the NHL but he has 7 goals and 3 assists in his 9 games.
LW Matt Pettinger (18) - Former Capital spent parts of 5 seasons with Washington. He has 6 goals and 6 assists in 20 games with the Moose this season.
LET'S GO BEARS!!!