Thursday, October 28, 2010

Bears visit Crunch to kick off 3 in 3

Well it has been an interesting week in regards to call ups and injuries for Hershey. Braden Holtby, Brian Fahey, and Mathieu Perreault are on recall to Washington while Sheldon Souray and Joel Rechlicz are out with injuries.

Rechlicz had his nose broken in a fight while Souray broke his hand in a fight. Hopefully it heals quickly as he broke his right hand last December and then proceeded to miss the remainder of the season due to an infection in that hand. Rechlicz has begun skating on his own again so a return is expected sooner than later. Souray is expected to remain sidelined for a couple of weeks.

Who knows what will happen in Washington. Semyon Varlamov is injured again so Holtby is getting a chance. He is expected to get a start on the Caps current 3 game road trip.

The Caps were having enough problems on defense this week that Lawrence Nycholat was down practicing with the team. He is not under contract with the Caps so it was likely more of a tryout than anything. But that shows that the Caps are struggling with injuries on the blueline right now and might be in need of more bodies soon.

Perreault has played well since his call up with 2 assists in 2 games played so far. (As of this moment he has no points in 2 periods of the game against the Wild). I know the team would love to keep him up there but once Marcus Johansson is healthy it is expected that Perry will return to Hershey.

Dylan Yeo was recalled from South Carolina and Todd Ford remains in Hershey to help the Bears fill out their roster. Expect both to get in some time this weekend. Dany Sabourin will likely start 2 of the 3 games this weekend with Ford getting the other start. And Yeo will likely rotate through the defensive lineup this weekend.

This will be Hershey's second 3 in 3 in as many weeks and many of the guys were feeling some aches and pains after a rough back to back against the Phantoms. The week off was surely welcome to rest before this weekends games.

First up is Syracuse. Last year Hershey went 5-1 against the Crunch but that was a completely different team. Thanks to the AHL going to 30 teams the Crunch are now affiliated with the Anaheim Ducks. Last year the Ducks did not have an official affiliate as they sent players to multiple teams.

And they have surely stocked the Crunch will some young talent. Let's put it in perspective...Syracuse has 25 players listed on their roster. 14 of those players were born in 1988 or later. Hershey also has 25 players on their roster...only 2 of them (Francois Bouchard and Dmitry Kugryshev) were born in 1988 or later.

Of those 14 Crunch players that are 22 or younger, 10 of them are forwards and 4 of them are in the top 6 on the team in scoring. The other 2 in the top 6 are defensemen and 1 of them is younger than 22. The only player over the age of 22 in the top 6 in scoring on the team is D Brett Festerling and he is 24. Festerling is still younger than 19 Bears!

So it is young vs veteran Friday night in Syracuse. Should be a good one!

Hershey Bears
record ~ 4-2-0-1 9 points
standings ~ 3rd in East Division
most recent game ~ 4-2 Win vs Adirondack, 10/24
last 5 games ~ 3-2-0-0
road record ~ 2-2-0-0
goals for ~ 27
goals against ~17
power play ~ 26.3% (4th)
penalty kill ~ 81.1% (19th)

Syracuse Crunch
record ~ 3-3-0-1 7 points
standings ~ 5th in East Division
most recent game ~ 5-4 Loss @ Hamilton, 10/27
last 5 games ~ 3-2-0-0
home record ~ 2-0-0-1
goals for ~ 16
goals against ~ 16
power play ~ 16.7% (14th)
penalty kill ~ 93.9% (2nd)

last time teams met - First of six meetings this season. Hershey went 5-1 against the Crunch last year including 2-1 on the road. Hershey outscored Syracuse 26-12 in those games.

Players to watch:


RW Andrew Gordon (10) - Leads Hershey and is tied for 2nd in the league with 6 goals this season. Also tied for 4th in the league in scoring with 11 points.
C Keith Aucoin (11) - Leads the Bears and the league in scoring with 13 points this season. He has 3 goals and 10 assists.
RW Ashton Rome (26) - 3 goals and an assist in the last 2 games.


RW Kyle Palmieri (26) - 2009 1st round draft pick is leading team in goals with 5 and in points with 6. Had a hat trick Wednesday night against Hamilton.
LW Nicolas Deschamps (16) - Second on the team in points with 5 and goals with 3. Currently on a 4 game point streak with all of his points (3g, 2a) coming in those 4 games.
LW Brandon McMillan (15) - The 3rd rookie on this list he is also second on the team in goals with 3 but unlike Deschamps he has no assists this season.


Monday, October 25, 2010

Solid weekend for Bears

I didn't get to see any of the Friday game in Wilkes-Barre and I only saw a few minutes of the Saturday game in Hershey. But I was in Hershey for the Sunday game and I have to be honest...I thought Hershey played great.

Even though it appeared that they started slowly, giving up 2 goals in the first 10 minutes, I thought they were actually the better team from start to finish. They just didn't get the bounces early and the Phantoms did. They were out-hitting, out-hustling, and simply out-playing the Phantoms damn near all game.

In the end Hershey responded with 4 unanswered goals to beat the Phantoms for the 2nd straight night. I never really felt that the outcome was in doubt either. It just seemed like Hershey was the better team playing better hockey while getting a few unlucky bounces.

So the weekend ended up pretty good as Hershey scored 11, allowed 5 and went 2-1.

But it didn't start out as well as Washington recalled the Bears #2 and #3 centers, Perreault and Beagle, before the game Friday night.

It isn't easy to replace 2 very good centers on any notice let alone short notice. Having no time to work with other combinations is not easy but Hershey still managed 32 shots against Wilkes-Barre. Not sure the quality of those shots but getting 32 isn't bad.

Saturday and Sunday were different games though. Hershey, who had some trouble with Adirondack last year, came out and played as physical as they have all season. Guys like Grant McNeill, Steve Pinizzotto, and Boyd Kane were on top of their game all weekend.

Those games also featured 4 fights and 31 penalties over the two evenings. Sheldon Souray, Trevor Bruess, Ashton Rome, and GMac all threw down against the Phantoms. I saw GMac's bout, very impressive, and I have heard that Souray looked pretty good on Saturday night too.

But playing physical doesn't get the job done by still have to score goals. Rome and Andrew Gordon did that okay as both scored 3 times over the 3 games. They accounted for over half of the Bears 11 goals during their 3 in 3. Other goal scorers were Willsie, Joudrey, Greentree, Pinner, and Kane.

Braden Holtby, who just got recalled to Washington, won both games against the Phantoms while Dany Sabourin, who was on recall Sunday but returned today, picked up the loss against the Pens.

Hopefully Holtby will be back before Hershey plays again on Friday but if not Todd Ford might see some time in net this weekend as the Bears have another 3 in 3 this upcoming weekend.

In the end what started out as a poor weekend with callups and a loss turned into an solid 2-1, 4 point showing. Sure, losing to the Baby Pens for the second time this year was disappointing but if you go 2-1 during every 3 in 3 you will end up in pretty good position come April.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Bears visit Pens....some random thoughts as well

With the season only 4 games old for Hershey there is little to discuss as the Bears head up 81 to Wilkes Barre for tonight's game against the Baby Pens. For the most part the same players to play in the game a couple weeks ago will play tonight.

While Hershey has gone 2-1-0-1 in their first 4 the Pens have gone 4-0 in their opening 4. Tim Wallace is leading the team in goals with 3 while Jeffrey, Vitale and Wagner are tied at 2.

Tonight will kick off Hershey's first 3 in 3 of the season as Adirondack visits Saturday and Sunday.

But since there is little to discuss between the teams this early in the year I have some random thoughts I would like to share...

Sheldon Souray

I think Souray spends the entire 10-11 season in Hershey. I might have touched on this previously but I can't remember. The reason is that no team is going to want his salary for 11-12. The Oilers can place him on re-entry waivers at any point which would allow another NHL team to add him to their roster while only paying half of his 10-11 salary which would be about 2.5ish million. BUT that would still leave that team on the hook for his 2011-12 salary of 5.4 million...and not too many teams want that.

Honestly I think one team that could (and the next point) be willing to add his salary could be the Caps. If he proves he can stay healthy the Capitals could move some players to get him. I can assure you he will come cheaper than most in terms of prospects/picks as the Oilers just want to get rid of him.

Washington Trades

I think Washington will trade some prospects this year, whether at the deadline or before. The development of players like Patrick McNeill and Sean Collins will go a long way in determining that. There is not a lot of NHL ready defensive depth in the organization this year compared to last year when Karl Alzner and John Carlson were in Hershey.

Currently Tyler Sloan is the #7 defenseman in the organization and the drop to #8 is pretty big I think. McNeill, Collins, and Fahey (already called up once) are the top contenders but are any capable of playing in the NHL for extended periods? That is an unknown. I could see a situation where an injury forces Washington to trade for a defenseman to fill in.

As mentioned above that could mean Hershey trades some of their prospects/picks to the Oilers for Souray. How bad would that be...losing Souray and others midseason? Not a good situation if it happens.

Chris Bourque

I wouldn't be surprised to see Bourque back in Hershey this season. 2 reasons...1, he is already unhappy overseas and 2, his rights are still owned by the Caps/Bears which means if he comes back he is likely to end up here first. He left his Russian team already and is playing professionally in Switzerland (he has 2g 1a in 3 games so far).

European players have until December (I think) to return to the US to play. Not saying it will happen but don't be surprised if he shows up in Hershey.


Thursday, October 21, 2010

Links and Photos

Here are some interesting links that I found about the Bears this week and below those you will find some pictures I took and I found from the Calder Cup ring ceremony last weekend...

Hershey Trio Working Toward Return Trip - Corey Masisak, CSN Washington

Jersey Auction Results -

Gustafsson Hangs Up His Skates - Ravings of a Rink Rebel

More on Gustafsson -

Championship Rings - Sweetest Hockey on Earth - I borrowed some of these photos (see below)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Amerks spoil celebration

The video presentation...awesome.

The player introductions...great.

The ring ceremony...amazing.

The banner drop...fantastic.

The game itself...not so much.

After an amazing pregame ceremony celebrating (for the last time) the 2009-10 Calder Cup Championship the Amerks silenced the crowd and left Hershey with a road win...something not many teams can say they have recently.

Hershey started out great. Skating hard, getting to loose pucks, taking the body, and jumped out to a 1-0 league on Brian Willsie's (2nd of year) power play tally 6 minutes in.

But after about 10 minutes Hershey seemed to disappear while Rochester found their legs. Some of that is to be expected. Lots of emotion on the ice before the game, lots of standing around waiting, and lots of guys that weren't a part of it that were stuck watching. All of that has an effect on teams. Hershey came out firing and then tailed off while Rochester, who were stuck in the lock room for an extra 15-20 minutes, came out slow and then turned it on.

For the middle 40 minutes Rochester controlled the play. They were more physical, they were getting to the loose pucks, and they took control on the scoreboard, taking a 3-1 after 2 periods.

Hershey did make it interesting late after Andrew Gordon scored his 3rd of the year on another power play. They pushed hard over the last 10 minutes and on multiple occasions almost got the puck past the Rochester goalie, Jacob Markstrom. Even in the closing seconds they had or two more ticks on the clock and Hershey might have scored.

But they didn't. It's only one game and with all the extracurricular activities taking place before the game I think we can chalk this up to a team just not as focused as their opponent. Nothing to worry about.

Dany Sabourin got his first start of the season after being reassigned by Washington on Friday. Honestly, he looked bad to start the game. Coach French said that he probably didn't have a chance at any of the goals, but I would tend to disagree with that. Sure the Amerks played well but Dany could have gotten some of them.

But remember he hadn't played in a while. He served as the backup to Neuvirth in Washington since the season started on the 8th. And he hadn't played in an actual game since a preseason game on October 3rd when he played about 25 minutes. So while Dany (and French) won't use rust as an excuse I think it is a legitimate argument for his play early on. As the game went on he made some great saves so I think it was just a matter of getting his feet under him and seeing some real game action.

It didn't help that his defense was letting guys crash the net and stand in front of him either. Overall it was a great game for about 20 minutes and a terrible game for the middle 40.

I am pretty confident the real Bears were the ones playing at the beginning and the end of the game.

My Three Stars of the Game:
  1. Michal Repik - a goal and an assist for the Amerks
  2. Joe Callahan - 2 assists, both the primary assists
  3. Andrew Gordon - 1 goal and played hard the whole game

What Went Right:
  • The Power Play - they had 5 chances and scored twice which is pretty good overall. At times they were a little to 'cute' and looking for the extra and/or perfect pass but overall they had consistent good pressure.
  • The Penalty Kill - on 7 opportunities the Amerks managed only 1 goal and that came with 1 second left on Kroll's penalty in the first period. There were some tense moments as Rochester did get set up a couple times but overall, like the power play, a very good performance.
  • The Pre-Game - the celebration was great. Seeing the 79-80 Bears team handing out rings to last years players was pretty cool, even though I wasn't born when that team won. Lots of people around me seemed to really enjoy seeing the players. The announcement that Mitch Lamoureux will be inducted into the Hall of Fame was pretty cool too. And how about that video presentation...great too see the highlights and I thought the scenes of the players getting dressed in the locker room were pretty cool too. Great job on that!
  • Souray's shot - how about that slapshot. He let it rip a couple of times in the 1st and it was quite impressive...a definite weapon that will surely play dividends for the Bears this season.

What Didn't Go So Well:
  • Too Many Penalties - Hershey gave Rochester 7 power plays and took 9 penalties in all. And a lot of those were the of the lazy skating variety, hooking, tripping, and slashing...all signs that Hershey was being outworked. Yes there were some questionable calls by referee Ryan Fraser but I think the only 'bad' call was the Boyd Kane slash at the end of the 2nd. Most of the others were the right call...the problem was that there were calls that should have been made against Rochester that weren't.
  • The Middle 40 Minutes - the overall play, from the goalie to the forwards, was seriously lacking for most of the game. They were sharp early and corrected it late but the middle was bad. Not totally unexpected but bad nonetheless.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Bears welcome Amerks in 10-11 home opener

Tonight the Bears will put the final touches on the 2009-10 season as they receive their championship rings and drop the 11th Calder Cup Championship banner. Festivities kick off at 6:15 so make sure you get to your seat early to see it all. Surely there will be an awesome video on the big board as well.

It should be fun.

But after that we get a special treat as well. Sheldon Souray and Michael Nylander are both expected to suit up for the game tonight. And they are making a ton of money this season!

Just for some perspective (and some fun) I ran some numbers. I looked at all the AHL salaries (according to for the Bears and Americans. Obviously there are some players not included as they are on AHL only deals, players such as Nycholat, Wellar, and Kane. So this is not a perfect calculation but I think there is still some wiggle room for my findings.

Here is the finding (and what I assumed going in):

Both Souray and Nylander will make more this season then all the players on both teams playing tonight.

Souray is scheduled to make 5.4 million and Nylander 4.875 million.

The Bears are scheduled to make about 2.5 million. And that includes Sean Collins, who many don't know is actually on a 1-way contract and will make $675,000 this season, Dany Sabourin who is scheduled to make $250,000, and Keith Aucoin's $300,000. You eliminate those 3 salaries and the numbers are even more impressive.

The Americans are scheduled to make 1.645 million this year. And that includes Clay Wilson's 1-way deal for $500,000.

Rochester + Hershey = 4.1 million!

That is ridiculous. And awesome at the same time. There are some players missing (5 for Rochester and 7 for Hershey) that are on AHL/ECHL deals so there numbers don't appear on the site. Assuming they all make $50k a year they still come up short of Nyles and Souray.

Okay...enough of that. Let's talk hockey now.

The Bears come into this game on an offensive high as they dominated the Binghamton Senators last night 7-1 up in New York.

Rochester is coming in off a losing effort at home last night to Hamilton 5-2.

Rochester was up 2-0 in the first period of that game after 2 power play goals late in the period but Hamilton stormed back with 1 in the last 30 seconds of the first period and 2 goals in each of the 2nd and 3rd periods.

The Americans come in with a record of 1-2 as they lost to Hershey last Sunday and to the Bulldogs last night.

Hershey meanwhile is 2-0-1 with a shootout loss to Wilkes-Barre the only blemish on their record to this point.

Players to Watch tonight:

  • RW Brian Willsie (18) - he scored a goal and added 3 assists last night
  • C Keith Aucoin (11) - he had 2 assists last night and had 2 goals and an assist against Rochester last weekend
  • D Sheldon Souray (7) - assuming the veteran plays again tonight it will be interesting to see his skill set and how it translates to the AHL
  • D Clay Wilson (5) - the defenseman has 3 goals to lead the team right now including one against the Bears last weekend
  • D Mike Kostka (28) - another defenseman leading the team in a category...assists, with 3
  • C Michal Nylander (19) - since the post was partially about him I figured I would include him. He has only 1 goal and is a team worst -4 this year.

Bears dismantle Senators

I have to admit that I didn't see much of the game last night. By the time I got to turn it on it was already 5-1 and from there I watched a few minutes before moving on to other items.

In the end it was a 7-1 final, which coincidentally is the Bears record against Bingo each of the past 2 seasons.

6 different Bears scored goals including 4 who got their first of the year (Bouchard, Perreault, Willsie, and Beagle). Greentree (2), Gordon (2), and Bouchard (2) again finished the scoring for the Bears.

Of particular note is how well the 2nd line played last night. Willsie, Perreault, and Bouchard were in top form last night as they combined for 4 goals and 6 assists.

John Walton made mention last night that if this line can do this on a consistent basis then the Bears offense will be very difficult to stop.

And while that is definitely true I would also say, the offense was pretty tough to stop last year too!

Having 2 scoring lines that are technically #1 lines is a great advantage to have. Which is what Hershey have at this moment. The Willsie, Perry, and Bouch line could be the #1 here in Hershey and would be the #1 line for just about any other team in the league.

Goaltending was good last night too as Holtby allowed just one goal on 36 shots. Which believe it or not was one more shot then Hershey recorded...that's right the Senators lost 7-1 but out shot the Bears 36-35.

It was a very physical game, which is to be expected when one team dominates in this fashion. There were 4 fights and plenty of roughing calls between the two teams. When you finish a period up 3-1 and extend that lead to 6-1 in the 2nd period there is bound to be some aggressive physical play from the losing team.

Hershey gets right back to it tonight in the home opener against Rochester. The banner raising and ring ceremony will take place tonight as well to celebrate the 2009-10 Calder Cup Championship one last time.


Friday, October 15, 2010

Bears visit Senators tonight

After losing the season opener in a shootout, the Bears came from behind to beat the Rochester Americans on Sunday evening. Keith Aucoin scored twice, Brian Fahey got his first as a Bear, and Andrew Gordon added his touch with his first goal and game winning goal of the year.

Now the Bears travel back up I81 for a visit to Binghamton tonight. The Senators also split their first 2 games, both at home, last weekend against Adirondack and Norfolk.

Last season Binghamton was thought to be an improved team that could give the Bears a run for the division. That turned out to be a poor theory as the Senators finished 5th in the East division and missed the playoffs by 5 points.

This year I think Binghamton is again a team that made some changes that I am sure they think will pay off. Gone are Binghamton mainstays Josh Hennessy and Denis Hamel. Hamel had been in Binghamton for much of the last decade but he is no longer.

Another key player who didn't return this year is last seasons leading scorer Martin St. Pierre. He scored 24 goals and added 48 assists last year.

That means 3 of their top 4 scorers from last season are gone. That is a combined 76 goals and 115 assists gone from a team that finished 2nd in the East division with 251 goals in 09-10.

In their place are a lot of younger players plus one name we all remember from 06-07.

Corey Locke joins the Senators this year after spending last season with Hartford. He scored 31 goals and added 54 assists for the Wolfpack last year so he is a decent upgrade over any player they had last year.

Other players the Sens are likely looking to for some scoring help are youngsters Bobby Butler, Colin Greening, and Mike Hoffman.

Butler joins the team after spending 4 years at the University of New Hampshire. In his 4 year career there he totaled 61 goals and 60 assists including 29 and 24 last season. He has stared fast this season as well with 2 goals and an assist in 2 games so far.

Greening also comes in from college hockey, from Cornell specifically, where he scored 55 goals and 63 assists in his four years. That includes last season when he scored 15 and 20. He has played in both games this season but has yet to record a point.

Hoffman comes from the QMJHL. Over the last 2 seasons he has scored 98 goals and added 81 assists in 118 games. Not included in those numbers are his playoff numbers over the last 2 seasons as 40 games he scored 32 goals and 26 assists. Pretty impressive in the playoffs.

Those young guys join Ryan Keller (leading goal scorer in 09-10 with 34), Jim O'Brien (3 goals already this year), and Kaspers Daugavins (had 21 and 25 last season) for the 2010-11 season.

A younger and possibly improved offense joins with a few new faces on defense including Andre Benoit and David Hale who spent last season with Hamilton and the NHL's Tampa Bay respectively. Benoit, like Locke, was on the 06-07 Calder Cup champion Hamilton team.

And in goal Mike Brodeur returns and joins Barry Brust who comes over from Houston to help out.

Overall I think the Sens could be a dangerous team. It is a bit too early to make that conclusion as the young players need to get some games under their belt. I can say this...they won't be worse then they were last year.

Hershey won the season series 7-1 last year including all 4 in Binghamton. And most of those games weren't close as Hershey outscored the Senators 37-19 in those 8 games. Hershey scored 5 or more in 5 of the 8 games and Bingo scored 2 or fewer in 5 games as well.

This year the teams again face off 8 times during the regular season. Hopefully things go similarly to last year.


News and Notes:
  • Patrick Cullity was sent to South Carolina earlier this week in anticipation of Sheldon Souray being in the lineup this weekend.
  • Dany Sabourin was placed on waivers late this week as well and is expected in Hershey today. He may get a start this weekend.
  • There is a new Bears blog out there that you should all check out (in addition to visiting here of course), Sweetest Hockey on Earth is the site and it is owned/operated by the guys at Russian Machine Never Breaks (also known as RMNB). Both great sites, check them out for everything Caps and Bears.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Game 1 in the books

Hershey and Wilkes-Barre put on a pretty good show tonight in the season opener for both teams. While there was some sloppy play it was overall a very well played game by both teams. The intensity level seemed good although there were no fights and few dust ups around the goals.

The Baby Pens picked up a 4-3, shootout win over the Bears to kick off the season. Hershey started it off with a power play goal by Kyle Greentree (1) early in the first. Only two minutes later though the Pens had already taken a 2-1 lead on goals by Chris Collins and Nick Johnson.

Hershey tied it up at 2 before the first period was even half over as Steve Pinizzotto picked up his first of the year.

After 4 goals in the first 1o minutes of play the defenses (and more importantly, the goalies) got their feet under them and started making it difficult on the offenses. Andrew Hutchinson made it 3-2 Pens midway through the 2nd before Keith Aucoin tied it at 3 with his first goal of the year on a another Bears power play.

Overall there were numerous chances for both teams as the official shot count ended up 45-33 in favor of the Pens. I would say the majority of those were weak shots that resulted in slightly inflated numbers at the end of the game.

Both teams created chances and both had some mistakes. It was a very well played game considering it was the first of the year in my opinion. There isn't exactly an extended preseason (or training camp for that matter) in the AHL. That makes it difficult for players to develop familiarity with new teammates and/or line mates.

Hershey was breaking in new forwards on 3 of their lines and new defensemen on at least 2 pairings. Wilkes Barre was breaking in plenty of new pieces as well.

In the end the Bears struggled in the shootout as Holtby looked weak after making a good stop on the first shot as he allowed 3 straight goals to Pens shooters. But it wasn't all his fault as only one Bear, Francois Bouchard, managed to score a shootout goal. And no it wasn't on his spin-o-rama move either. Aucoin, Brian Willsie, and Mathieu Perreault all had a chance but none of them could score.

Overall, not a bad game to start of the season but definitely room for improvement too.

What Went Right:
  • I really like the Bears 3rd line of Andrew Joudrey, Jay Beagle, and Steve Pinizzotto. French should definitely leave this line together for a while to see what they can do. Possibly the most complete line Hershey can bring as all 3 are capable of 15-20 goals a year and all 3 are strong defensive players. High energy, defensive shut down, and scoring...this line covers all the bases.
  • Braden Holtby started a little shaky with a couple weak goals early but ended up having a solid game (until the shootout anyway) as he made 41 saves overall.
  • The new blue liners played well for the Bears. Brian Fahey and Lawrence Nycholat were on the ice a lot and were very good most of the night. Fahey looked strong at both ends of the ice. Good to see considering the guys they have to replace.
  • The power play was excellent. They finished 2 for 4 but the consistent pressure was the most impressive. Once they got it into the zone they seemed to be able to keep it there for the remainder of the try.
What Didn't:
  • Some minor communication errors...mainly due to new players with new lines and limited time to work together. 3 of Hershey's forward lines and 1 defensive pairing feature players that only returned to Hershey this past week. Those type of errors should be corrected after a few games and some more practices together.
  • Obviously it is just one game but the shootout is somewhat bothersome. These don't matter come playoff time and many Hershey teams struggle in them but Holtby looked bad on a couple of those goals. Some of that might be due to good moves by the Pens but I would say a little bit of both.
  • I don't think the 4th line got enough minutes. Ashton Rome, Trevor Bruess, and Dmitry Kugryshev made up the 4th line tonight and I think all 3 offer some significant potential. Kugryshev got some power play time but the other 2 were almost non-existent.

Next up is @Rochester tomorrow evening at 5:05. The Americans are coming in after winning tonight in Toronto 4-2. This will be the first of 4 meetings between the 2 teams this season and the first of 2 in the next 7 days as the Americans visit Giant Center next Saturday for the Hershey home opener.


Hershey heads to Wilkes-Barre to start 10-11 season

And so it begins...the 2010-11 AHL Season kicks off for the Hershey Bears and Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins tonight up I-81.

Both teams are expected to contend in the East division and both are considered contenders for the Calder Cup. Obviously the first game means little in the overall big picture but when you are playing a division opponent, every game matters. The 2 points a team gets tonight could be the difference come April.

So, how different are these teams this year?

Well we have already discussed Hershey. The Bears lost a substantial amount of talent over the summer. Some went to the NHL, some went to Europe and others are stationed elsewhere in the AHL at this point. But the important thing to remember is that they also restocked the talent this year.

Some of the top scorers might be gone but players that have the ability to produce similar numbers have stepped into their places.

But what about the Penguins? Last season they finished 3rd in the East division, a full 36 points behind the Bears. Offensively they only scored 239 goals, 103 behind Hershey. And they allowed 229, 31 more than Hershey. So what did they do to improve their team?


Gone are forwards Mark Letestu (Pittsburgh), Wyatt Smith (Providence), Luca Caputi (Toronto-AHL), Eric Tangradi (Pittsburgh), Konstantin Pushkarev (Russia), Ryan Bayda (Germany), Wade Brookbank (Rockford), and Tyler Spurgeon (Austria).

Not exactly a who's who of offensive forwards. Caputi was 3rd on the team in goals with 23 last season and Letestu was 4th but the remaining 6 only scored 51 goals combined.

In their place this season come some definite offensive weapons:
  • Brett Sterling (Chicago) - 34g 22a | 55 games
  • Chris Collins (Germany) - 23g 23a | 47 games
  • Ryan Craig (Norfolk) - 23g 22a | 73 games
  • Nick Petersen (QMJHL) - 39g 40a | 59 games
In addition they added role players Ryan Schnell, Bryan Lerg, and Geoff Walker to the forward cast. Schnell had 173 PIM in 60 games last season playing in the ECHL so his role is pretty well defined.

Sterling and Craig are the top 2 players coming in. Craig is a former Bear with loads of talent. He spent most of 05-09 playing for Tampa Bay and scoring 30+ goals during that span. Sterling has scored 144 goals in 4 partial AHL seasons and another 14 goals in limited playoff time with Chicago.

Collins played in Germany and produced for his team there having finished 4th on the team in goals. Petersen is obviously a young kid who is looking to make a mark coming out of juniors.

All of these players are going to join with returning leaders, Dustin Jeffrey, Chris Conner, Nick Johnson and Tim Wallace to provide some additional offensive punch this season.

On the blueline only 3 of the 8 defensemen were on the roster last season, Steve Wagner, Brian Strait and Robert Bortuzzo.

Joining them will be:
  • Corey Potter (Hartford)
  • Andrew Hutchinson (Texas)
  • Drew Fata (Providence)
  • Carl Sneep (NCAA - Boston College)
  • Jason DeSantis (Czech)
Obviously we all remember Hutchinson from the Calder Cup finals where he played excellent. Potter was a +17 for a Hartford team that missed the playoffs last season. Sneep is a somewhat offensive defenseman having scored 11 goals and added 17 assists playing for BC last year. Fata is a pest and DeSantis is more than likely there for depth.

All in all it is a different team in Wilkes Barre. One that they surely hope provides a bit more defense and a bit more offense.

It should be a fun rivalry this season and it gets started at 7:05 tonight.


Oh and if you didn't hear already....CONGRATS to Andrew Joudrey for being named team captain this year.

I doubt there is a player on the Bears that outworks Joudrey and to see him get rewarded by being named captain is great. The guy plays with more heart and effort than most players and he shows a real love for the game. It is great to watch him play with energy night in and night out.

Players like him are the ones that make or break a season.

Congrats Andrew and I am sure you will be an excellent captain this season!

Friday, October 8, 2010

My 2010-11 Preview

A couple things happened this week that significantly strengthens what was already a very deep and talented Hershey team.

Andrew Gordon cleared waivers and Sheldon Souray was loaned to Hershey from Edmonton.


I really thought Gordon might get picked up by another team. He isn't making a ton of money, 500k in the NHL, and is a young talented player with substantial upside. But with so many teams tight against the cap and struggling to get their own rosters down to 23 there was no one to take the gamble.

And Gordon wasn't happy about it but who can blame him. Basically he was passed over for a promotion and a significant raise. If he stays in Washington he #1 gets to play in the NHL and #2 would get paid $500,000 for the season. Being in Hershey he makes $90,000 this season. Definitely nothing to sneeze at but if any of us were up for a promotion and a raise of that magnitude we would be pretty upset too.

Souray is a completely different case. He hasn't played in the AHL since a 6 game stint with Albany in 97-98. He has scored 109 NHL goals including 23 two years ago with Edmonton. Unfortunately he has dealt with some injuries recently and has only played in 144 of a possible 246 games the past 3 seasons.

After a falling out in Edmonton the Oilers placed him on waivers but due to his salary, 5.4 million, no other team wanted to take a chance on him.

It is a very similar situation to Michael Nylander who the Caps are paying almost 4.9 million to play in Rochester this season. With the poor relationships with these players neither team wanted to send them to their minor league affiliate and basically just make the situation worse. So both players were loaned to other teams in the AHL in hopes that they can resurrect their careers and get picked up some other time this season.

Souray, like Nylander, will have to clear re-entry waivers to be called up to the NHL (he is the property of Edmonton and CAN NOT be called up by Washington). I believe (and I am not certain of this so if I am wrong someone please correct me) that if Souray is recalled by Edmonton and claimed on re-entry by another team the claiming team would only owe 50% of his 10-11 salary with Edmonton picking up the other half. So the hope of the Oilers (and Caps with Nylander) is that some team might be interested in doing that at some point this year.

The Capitals did this once before with Ben Clymer. They sent him to Hershey and would do a paper recall of him throughout the season in the hopes of someone taking a chance on him and signing him away. That never happened though and Clymer spent the 07-08 season in Hershey before heading to Europe the following season.

Time will tell what happens with Souray but for now he is a Hershey Bear and hopefully he is determined to help the team and show he can still play.

The rest of the team has been known for a while now and looks very strong. You can find an updated roster on the left side of this page.

Last years team was as talented as any team in recent memory. With Giroux, Bourque, Aucoin, Gordon, Wilson, Perreault, Bouchard, Alzner and Carlson you had 2 to 3 full lines that could score at will and a defense that could shut down anyone.

Well many of those players are gone. Alzner and Carlson are in Washington. Giroux is playing in Oklahoma City at the moment. Wilson is still with Columbus. And Bourque is currently traveling around Europe after leaving his KHL team to play in Switzerland this year.

So are the Bears going to be able to compete.

Umm...yeah I think they will be okay.

In place of the above mentioned players you have Kyle Greentree, Brian Willsie, Brian Fahey, Lawrence Nycholat, Souray, and Dmitri Kugryshev joining forces with Bouch, Perry, Coiner, Gordo, Pinner, Kane, Joudrey, McNeill, and Beags to form what is generally considered the favorite to win the Calder Cup again in 2011.

Here is the Hockey News preseason rankings.

Greentree is probably the highlight of the newcomers. He has scored 64 goals over the past 2 seasons and will now get to play with Aucoin, who routinely helps wingers achieve career years.

Willsie, formerly of the Hershey Bears in 02-03, comes back to Hershey after splitting time between the NHL and AHL over the last 8+ years. In fact last year was really the first time he played a full season in the 'A' since the 2000-01 season in Hershey. And he did okay last year for Lake Erie scoring 26 goals and adding 31 assists.

Souray we talked about already. Fahey is a career AHLer to this point who routinely scores double digit goals and can add triple digit PIMs if needed.

Nycholat, another former Bear, returns to Hershey after spending some time in the NHL with Ottawa and Vancouver. He is a great locker room presence who will help Fahey in solidifying the blue line.

There are lots of young guys who will be making appearances this season in Hershey including Patrick Cullity, Trevor Bruess, Jake Hauswirth, and Nikita Kashirsky but the player who I am most excited to see is Dmitri Kugryshev. He has spent the past 2 years playing in the QMJHL where he totaled 171 points (67 goals) in 132 games. He will be getting good opportunities to show what he can do this year.

The biggest questions facing the Bears this year are in goal and on the blue line. And well the blue line should be okay. Between McNeill, Miscovic, Collins, Fahey, Finley, Souray, Nycholat, Wellar and Cullity I think they will be okay. But when you lose 2 NHLers and 2 veteran players like Helmer and Amadio there will be questions.

The goaltending issue is another one entirely. Last years #1 Michal Neuvirth is in the NHL splitting time with 08-09 #1 Semyon Varlamov. Last years #2 Braden Holtby takes over as the #1 and eventually Dany Sabourin will be in Hershey to be the #2.

Honestly that isn't bad. The problem comes when Varly or Neuvy get hurt, which lets face it, will happen. In fact Varly is already hurt which is why Sabourin is still in Hershey.

Behind Sabourin is Todd Ford and Jared DiMichele. Both are solid prospects but if Hershey has to rely on them for an extended period things could get hairy. I am not saying they can't handle the job but they are both unknowns on this level, although Ford has played 20+ games in the AHL through his career.

For more team and league preview articles check out Tim Leone did a few articles for the Bears preview section of the Patriot News, which came out today, that you can find on Definitely worth checking out.

Now lets talk expectations and predictions.

To expect this years team to achieve what last years team accomplished is probably asking a lot. AHL records were set often last year by the Bears and that was likely a once in a lifetime team we got to see.

But this years team can be very good. There is an issue of having too many veterans after the addition of Souray that could result in some lost ice time for players like Nycholat or Kane. Could that disrupt the locker room....maybe.

Will the young players step up and rise to the challenge or buckle under the pressure? Guys like Bruess, Finley, Cullity, Holtby, and Kugryshev are going to be handed some solid minutes and they have to perform.

The team won't use the term '3-peat' as they don't want to think too much about it. I will talk about it today and then probably stash it away until necessary this Spring.

No team has won 3 Calder Cups in a row since the 59-62 Springfield Indians.

Can Hershey do it?

Yeah I think they can but obviously a lot has to fall in to place. Last years East division was not nearly as strong as recent years and it will be better this year. In fact Hershey might not win the division.

Personally I think goaltending is going to be an issue this year. Holtby looked questionable in the playoffs last year and Neuvirth and Varlamov can't stay healthy. Something tells me there will be quite the goaltending shuffle happening in Hershey this season.

And I think it will cost Hershey the division title. Not sure which team beats them out for it but everyone seems to think that Wilkes-Barre will be pretty good again this year. But it doesn't matter as we don't hang Division or Conference Championship banners in Hershey...we only want one thing....

Hershey will raise the Cup again in June...and in October of 2011 we will be watching the 12th Championship banner being raised to the rafters at the GC.

As a disclaimer....I am a believer and an optimist so I will always think they are the favorites to win it all. But I truly do believe that this team could be just as good offensively as last years team and defensively they might be even better. The question comes in goal. As it always does in hockey.

But when you have players like Boyd Kane, who scored 24 goals last season, and Ashton Rome, he added 5 in 26 games, playing on the 4th line you have a definite advantage over 90% of the other teams in the league.

Hershey's depth will again be the difference come May and June.

It is going to be an incredible season and I am hyped for it to get started!!!


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Caps and Bears make cuts

Yesterday we got word of 7 cuts by the Bears and today we get word of 4 cuts from the Capitals.

First the Bears cuts...

These 5 are off to South Carolina:
  • F David de Kostrazza
  • F Anton Gustafsson
  • F Jake Hauswirth
  • G Jared DeMichiel
  • D Dustin Stevenson
In addition to those, F Kaleigh Shrock is headed to Fort Wayne of the IHL. And D Wes O'Neill was released from his tryout contract.

No real surprises there. The biggest might be Gustafsson. Former 1st rounder just isn't quite performing to that level. Stevenson had a good camp with the Caps but he is coming from a tier 2 junior league so a little more work is probably good.

Was hoping to see Hauswirth make a claim on a roster spot as I am curious how he uses his size in the offensive end. But Hershey is deep at center right now so he was expendable.

Now onto the Caps cuts...

Mathieu Perreault and Jay Beagle are on their way to Hershey now and Andrew Gordon and Brian Fahey were placed on waivers.

If you have been reading this blog recently you would know that I didn't think Washington would cut Gordon because he is a risk to get picked up on waivers. I figured he would stay in Washington and get the extra forward spot at least to start the year.

So now he has to wait until noon tomorrow to see where he will end up. It is quite possible that Washington knew a while ago that they were going to send him down but waited until this date for a reason. All NHL teams must get their rosters to 23 now so by waiting until all teams are making tough decisions you might be able to slip Gordon through waivers.

Hopefully it works out. As a Bears fan I selfishly want Gordon in Hershey but at the same time if he gets picked up by a team that is going to give him a legitimate shot than I will be very happy for him and his chance.

As for the other two players....I was right. Perry didn't beat out Marcus Johansson and due to MoJo's willingness to go back to Sweden, Perry wasn't going to start the season in Washington.

Beagle...he is a 4th liner in the NHL (at this time anyway) that could potentially develop into a 3rd liner. But Washington already has 5 guys that can play on the 3rd/4th line so Beagle, who doesn't have to worry about waivers, was a long shot to make the club.

I can assure you though that Beagle and Perreault are likely the top 2 recall candidates going into the season.

Bears hockey is only 4 days away!!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Preseason kicks off tonight

The first of 3 preseason games is tonight at 7:05 in Wilkes Barre against the Baby Pens. The Capitals reassigned Nycholat and Holtby leaving the Caps with 28 players (not counting Patty McNeill). That means there will be at least 5 more players arriving from Washington in the next week.

So far the (camp) roster looks something like this (I apologize if I miss anyone as I am not sure I know all the camp invitees):

  • Braden Holtby
  • Todd Ford
  • Jared DeMichiel
  • Josh Godfrey
  • Johann Kroll
  • Dustin Stevenson
  • Dylan Yeo
  • Patrick Cullity
  • Joe Finley
  • Sean Collins
  • Zach Miskovic
  • Patrick Wellar
  • Wes O’Neill
  • Trevor Bruess
  • Boyd Kane
  • Joel Rechlicz
  • David de Kostrazza
  • Anton Gustafsson
  • Jake Hauswirth
  • Nikita Kashirsky
  • Dmitry Kugryshev
  • Ashton Rome
  • Francois Bouchard
  • Kyle Greentree
  • Grant McNeill
  • Brian Willsie
  • Keith Aucoin
  • Andrew Joudrey
  • Lincoln Schrock
  • Jordan Pietrus
  • Steve Pinizzotto
Players expected in Hershey some time soon that are still in Washington:
  • G Dany Sabourin
  • D Brian Fahey
  • D Patrick McNeill (injured but listed on Caps roster)
  • F Jay Beagle
  • F Mathieu Perreault
  • F Matt Hendricks
and, while long shots, still possibly...
  • F Andrew Gordon
  • F Marcus Johansson

According to Tim Leone the lineup for tonight will look something like this....

G. McNeill - Gustafsson - de Kastrozza
Greentree - Willsie - Kugryshev
Pietrus - Kashirsky - Bruess
Schrock - Hauswirth - Rechlicz

O’Neill - Miskovic
Stevenson - Cullity
Finley (game-day decision)/Yeo (if Finley is scratched) - Godfrey

Goalies: Ford, DeMichiel