Thursday, March 31, 2011

Bears hoping Pens win???

I can't believe I am about to type this but...

just for 1 more game!
Well Done Baby Pens!

Last night the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins beat the Norfolk Admirals 4-3 in Norfolk.  It was a huge outcome for Hershey. 

Norfolk remains 6 points back with only 7 games left including 2 against the Bears this weekend.  If Hershey even gets a split of the 2 games they are in excellent position heading towards the final weekend of play in the AHL regular season.

So thank you Wilkes-Barre and dare I say...

Good Luck Friday Night!! 

Friday night sees the Penguins host the Charlotte Checkers up I-81.  Which is another game Hershey would love to see the Pens win.

That is just weird to even type.  Kind of makes my skin crawl a bit.

But that is the position we Hershey fans (and the team) find ourselves in...rooting for the Pens for a few games to help the Bears get the #2 seed in the East Division and home ice for the first round.

Friday will be the final time this season...and hopefully ever...that Hershey fans and players will have to root for a Baby Pens victory.

How big is the Pens game (and Hershey game) on Friday night?

If both the Pens and Bears win in regulation Hershey would be 5 points in front of Charlotte with 4 games to play for each team and 8 points in front of Norfolk.  And Charlotte and Norfolk play each other Monday night!

Currently Hershey needs a combination of 8 points to keep Charlotte 3rd or worse.  And they need 9 points for Norfolk.  And 6 for Bingo.

Yeah...confusing stuff.  I think those numbers are right.


AND PENS!!!!  (it just feels wrong)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Bears pick up 3 points this weekend

Hershey managed to get 3 points in 3 games this past weekend.  Not exactly what they were hoping for but it is definitely not the worst thing that could have happened either.

Friday night was probably the most disappointing.  Despite taking 34 shots the Bears could only beat Adirondack goaltender 1 time as Hershey lost 2-1 against the 8th place (also known as last) team in the East Division.

That result was even more disappointing when you remember Hershey had just lost to the then 7th place team in the Division, Syracuse.

But Hershey would redeem themselves...kind of.

The now 7th place Albany Devils came to town Saturday night and despite their inability to score goals this season, 2.69 per game (23rd in the league), and Hershey's ability to keep teams off the scoreboard, 2.64 goals allowed per game (8th in the league), the Devils managed to score 4 goals and leave this game in question until midway through the 3rd period.

If you remember, which I am sure everyone who was there does, this game was marred by an ice problem in the Albany crease during the 3rd period.  Multiple attempts to correct the problem (some might call it a "phantom" problem) proved mostly ineffective as Albany goalie Jeff Frazee did not want to finish the game.  To the officials credit they told him too bad and the game resumed. 

You could just tell that he was uncomfortable in the crease throughout the 3rd period.  Once the game got going Hershey showered him with shots and ended up getting the game winning goal with a little under 9 minutes to go before adding an insurance marker and empty netter latter in the game.
Then came Sunday and a showdown with the league leading Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.  This season has not been kind to the Bears in this rivalry as Hershey has beaten the Baby Pens once.  And that game was played in Pittsburgh just before the new year.

As we all know by now the Pens overtime...on a short handed goal. 

It was a very unexpected and unsatisfying way to lose a game.  Hershey had just killed off a penalty of their own and were just starting the power play when Wilkes-Barre scored on an odd man rush.

But let's be honest about one thing...Hershey lost that game prior to overtime.  The Bears registered a whopping 4 shots on goal during the 2nd period.  And many of the shots they did take, in all 4 periods, were under-whelming.  They had little to no traffic in front of Pens goalie John Curry and didn't seem interested in getting in there. 

For much of the game the Bears seemed almost reluctant to shoot.  And that is fine to a point.  You can't just shoot each time you have the puck as many times there aren't open lanes or you don't have the time.  But Hershey seemed to be waiting for the perfect shot instead of getting pucks on net.  Neither of Hershey's goals were because of "perfect shots" and not many goals from here out will be.  The key is to get players to the net and then get pucks on net.  Goalies at this matter how good they are...will leave rebounds from time to time.

So after the weekend Hershey remains entrenched in 2nd place in the East Division.  But they are perilously close to falling to 3rd, 4th or even 5th in the race for the playoffs.  And I am sincerely hoping for a 2nd, 3rd or 5th place finish.  Because I would rather see Hershey play the Atlantic Division champ than the East Division champ considering the recent history.

Below you will see a chart that shows the current standings with games left and possible points.  Should Hershey win their remaining games they would clinch the 2nd spot in the East.  But considering the 2 games against Norfolk and Norfolk's 3 games in hand things could get ugly quick this weekend.

TeamGames LeftCurrent PtsPossible Pts
















Friday, March 25, 2011

Bears getting closer to full health

A few players remain out of the Hershey lineup as of tonight...and that list will not include Keith Aucoin.

The former league MVP is scheduled to return from a suspected concussion tonight in Adirondack as the Bears look to maintain their edge on 3rd place Norfolk. 

Coiner hasn't played since taking a cheap shot to the head on March 5 against Norfolk.  Norfolk captain Chris Durno was suspended 3 games for the shot which happened well behind the play and could not have even been mistaken for game action.

Hershey, much like they were when Gordon was out, has been average since Coiner left the lineup.  The Bears have gone 3-3-1-2 and have scored 22 to the opponents 26 in those 9 games since March 5. 

Not exactly setting the world on fire.

You honestly have to go back to the end of December and first half of January to find a period where Hershey was "dominating" their competition.  From November 26 (the day after Thanksgiving) until February 4 (the game before Gordon got hurt) the Bears went 20-5-1-1 while outscoring their opponents 134-55.  Not too bad. 

Coincidentally that time period also had the Bears playing at (almost) full strength.  Gordon, Aucoin, Fahey, and surely some others played some games in Washington and Lawrence Ncyholat and Sheldon Souray surely missed some games but overall Hershey was healthy during that span.

They are almost healthy again.  Nycholat and Souray are really the only "regulars" still missing from the lineup.  Other players, like Trevor Bruess, David de Kastrozza, and Johan Kroll, are still out but they weren't every night players when they were healthy so their loss is less impactful.

This is not to say that Hershey will return to their dominant play during that period but getting a healthy team (and keeping the goalies in Hershey and healthy) will definitely get them closer to that level.

Getting Coiner back with games to play in the regular season definitely helps because that first round series is going to be a difficult one.  At this point in time the Bears will be facing off against Durno and the Norfolk Admirals to kick off the Calder Cup playoffs.  Whether or not Hershey will have home ice will likely come down to the 2 games in Norfolk next weekend.

There won't be a "rollover" first round opponent this year like the last 2 years.  Norfolk is a very good team and that series could legitimately go 7 games. 

But getting your injured players back in time for a few "warmup" games during the regular season is definitely a plus.  Coiner returns to tonight while Souray could be back in the lineup next weekend sometime.  Nycholat is still probably a little further but he is skating which is definitely a good sign. 

They haven't shown it over the past month plus but this team is as talented as any in the league and will compete for the Cup in the playoffs. 

As long as they are healthy.

Hershey Bears
record ~ 42-23-2-5 | 91 points
standings ~ 2nd in East Division
most recent game ~ 5-2 Loss vs Syracuse, 3/20
last 5 games ~ 2-1-1-1
road record ~ 22-11-1-2
goals for ~ 229
goals against ~ 189
road power play ~ 16.1% (18th)
road penalty kill ~ 82.5% (17th)

Adirondack Phantoms
record ~ 24-35-4-6 | 58 points
standings ~ Last in East Division
most recent game ~ 2-1 Loss @ Norfolk, 3/23
last 5 games ~ 3-2-0-0
home record ~ 13-15-3-3
goals for ~162
goals against ~221
road power play ~13.7% (25th)
home penalty kill ~ 78.9% (27th)

last time teams met - This is the 8th and final meeting between the Bears and Phantoms for 2010-11.  Hershey has gone 6-1-0-0 against the Phantoms.

Players to watch:

C Keith Aucoin (11) - leads the Bears in assists with 48 and remains in 2nd in points despite playing in 25 fewer games than points leader Brian Willsie.  Coiner is expected to return to the lineup tonight.
RW Andrew Gordon (10) - obviously one of Hershey's premier scorers, he made his return from a concussion last weekend and has 1 goal and 2 assists in 3 games so far.  Should be reunited with linemate Aucoin this weekend.
C Mathieu Perreault (24) - he can stick handle in a phone booth but he hasn't been producing as much as his talent dictates.  My argument is that his linemates are dropping the ball but with Aucoin's return this weekend he should gain some more talented scorers as linemates.
LW Eric Wellwood (22) - the #3 prospect in the Flyers organization has 15 goals and 12 assists on the year. 
D Erik Gustafsson (36) - the #4 prospect for the Flyers, he leads the team in assists with 32 and is second in points with 37.
LW Denis Hamel (17) - the veteran is leading the team in goals with 21 and in points with 40.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Bears lose twice at home

That was not a good weekend.  It started out well with a convincing win against Springfield on Friday night and expectations were that the run would continue with players like Andrew Gordon, Steve Pinizzotto, and Braden Holtby returning to the lineup.

Well if you expected a good showing this weekend then you left disappointed.

Saturday night's game I already discussed briefly over here.  Portland is a good team so I wasn't sure what to expect there.  I thought with Holtby the Bears would continue with their recent play and they did for much of the game but still dropped the decision in overtime.

Sunday night I definitely expected more.  Hershey was welcoming the Syracuse Crunch to Hershey.  A team that resides in the bottom of the East Division and a team that Hershey had already beaten 3 times, in 4 games, this season.

What happened?

Let's start with the controversy.  Late in the 2nd period with the Bears on a power play Syracuse forward, Nick Bonino, took a pass, out waited Holtby, and roofed the puck.  The puck (it is believed) bounced off the water bottle and back out of the goal instantly.  Referee Francis Charron immediately signaled goal despite the red light never turning on and the call stood.  He saw the water bottle pop a few inches in the air and called it right away.

My seats are in section 103 so I had a solid look at it.  And I think it was a goal.  Some people would argue that the water bottle was resting on the crossbar and the puck hit the bar and that caused the bottle to jump.  I don't think that is possible.  It would take quite a shot to cause that kind of movement to the bottle through the crossbar and it wasn't that hard a shot.

The other theory, comes straight from Braden Holtby:
My stick hits the net and bounces the water bottle in the air, and the ref thinks the puck hits it.
Maybe that is what happened.  I didn't see it.  Holtby was down and beaten when the shot went off and I don't think he got near it or the bottle.  Maybe I am wrong...I didn't see a replay other than one's shown at the arena.

So I think it was a goal.

And honestly what difference did it make???  Sure, if they don't score there it is a whole different game but the Hershey defense was a joke most of the night anyhow.

Here is my bigger issue with that goal....WHERE WERE THE 5 SKATERS?????

It was a power play, a Crunch player stole the puck and Brian Willsie chased him to the corner.  Good play so far.  1 Bear accounted for.

Then 2 more Bears (Patrick McNeill and I think Kyle Greentree) come into the zone and to the corner....leaving Bonino WIDE FREAKING OPEN in the middle of the ice. 

How does that happen?

And it didn't get better.  Syracuse responded in the 3rd period with goals on defensive letdowns by the Bears. 

In Hershey's defense the offense was good but the Syracuse goalie, Levasseur, was better.  He made some incredible saves early on as Hershey outshot the Crunch 26-11 in the first 2 periods to keep Syracuse in the game. 

Overall for Hershey the offense was good.  Maybe not productive but I thought they made good passes, good shots and challenged Levasseur but he got the best of them.  Add to that the fact that Syracuse blocked a ton of shots and I think any team would have struggled to score.

But the real problem for Hershey was at the defensive end.  Guys standing around, chasing too much, and failing to pick up the open players. 

For a team that has prided itself on defense much of the season it was an ugly performance against one of the worst offenses in the league. 

Hershey has a few more days to work on their problems before a trip to Glens Falls on Friday to face the Phantoms.  Then they return home to Hershey to play Albany and Wilkes-Barre.  Hopefully those home games turn out a little better than the past 2.

And don't think for a second that these games aren't important...Norfolk is only 7 points behind Hershey with 4 games in hand.  In theory if Norfolk were to win all those games they would be 1 point IN FRONT of Hershey. 

So while the odds of making the playoffs are still very good (6 points from clinching) the race for the #2 spot is just heating up.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

They got a's better than nothing, right?

Hershey entered play last night with a record of 29-0-0-3 when leading after 2 periods.  After 2 periods last night Hershey led the Portland Pirates 3-2. 

They are now 29-0-1-3 when leading after 2.  An overtime goal by Mark Parrish ended the game with about 2 minutes to go in the extra frame.

It surely wasn't the outcome that the Bears and the fans were hoping for as Hershey fielded its most complete lineup in a couple of months. 

Braden Holtby returned from Washington early in the day and made 27 saves in the loss.  Andrew Gordon skated on Giant Center ice for the first time since February 5 and picked up his 23rd goal of the season.  Steve Pinizzotto played for the first time since March 2 and he accrued 14 penalty minutes.

But in the end it wasn't enough.  Portland is a good team and when you fail to convert on a 5 on 3 that lasted almost 2 minutes and a 5 minute major then you are probably not going to win the game.

The loss was Hershey's 2nd to Portland in extra time in the last 2 weeks.  On March 8 the Bears lost in a shootout up in Maine. 

Hershey played a solid game but it wasn't enough.  And it surely wasn't their best effort. 

Here is an interesting thought....Holtby has played 4 games with the Bears since February 19.  And he has played 5 games with the Capitals in that span.

In the Hershey games he has allowed 15 goals on 120 shots.  A save percentage of 87.5.

In the Caps games he has allowed 6 goals on 140 shots.  A save percentage of 97.1.

At first thought maybe you would say that he is playing harder with the Caps than he is in Hershey.  Maybe but I doubt it.

The 2nd thought would be maybe the speed of the game is that much different and making the change from fast to middle of the pack is throwing off his timing.  Probably a little but not that much.

Or maybe the defenses in front of him are playing at a different level when he is in the game. 

When a backup goalie has to make a few starts you can usually see a difference in the effort level of a defense.  They are more eager to block shots, they position better, and they flat out play better.  They know that the goalie behind them is maybe not as good as their #1 and they need to do more to get a win.

When the #1 goalie comes back then it would make sense that the absolute is at least a little true.  The defense trusts the goalie more so they will take more chances then usual.  They jump up more or chase to the corner more because they feel confident that the #1 will bail them out if necessary.

Obviously that is hard to statistically prove but one example might be this...we already mentioned that Braden has faced 120 shots in his last 4 games.  Nolan Schaefer has faced only 107 in his last 4. 

Is that just because of the competition?  Or is it because the defense plays better and blocks more shots? 

There really isn't any way to figure that out definitively.  But I think there could be something there.

Hopefully the defense plays better tonight so Hershey can get the win against Syracuse.  The Crunch come to town for the 3rd game of their 3 in 3.  So far they have 2 wins at home during the stretch including a 6-1 win over Charlotte last night.

The Crunch and Bears have played 4 times this season with Hershey winning 3 of them.  They haven't played since New Year's Eve when the Crunch came to Hershey and won 4-2. 

Syracuse isn't what you would call an offense juggernaut.  They rank 28th in the AHL with only 2.44 goals per game.  And they aren't that much better defensively as they give up 3.10 goals per game which is good for 22nd in the league.

Their leading goal scorer, Patrick Maroon, has only 19 goals and they only have 5 active players with double digit goals.

Hershey's has 4 players with more than 20 goals and 7 players with double digit goals.

Should be...I stress SHOULD BE...a win for the Bears tonight.  If Hershey wants the #2 seed in the East Division they better beat the 7th place team on home ice!

Hershey Bears
record ~ 42-22-2-5 | 91 points
standings ~ 2nd in East Division
most recent game ~ 4-3 OT Loss vs Portland, 3/19
last 5 games ~ 3-0-1-1
home record ~ 20-11-1-3
goals for ~ 227
goals against ~ 184
road power play ~ 22.2% (3rd)
home penalty kill ~ 85.1% (10th)

Syracuse Crunch
record ~ 26-35-3-4 | 59 points
standings ~ 7th in East Division
most recent game ~ 6-1 Win vs Charlotte, 3/19
last 5 games ~ 3-2-0-0
road record ~ 11-20-1-2
goals for ~166
goals against ~211
road power play ~16.8% (17th)
home penalty kill ~ 81.0% (21st)

last time teams met - This will be the 5th meeting of the season between the Crunch and Bears.  So far Hershey has gone 3-1-0-0 against Syracuse outscoring the Crunch 14-8.


Saturday, March 19, 2011

Braden headed back to Hershey

Two pieces of news today...

1.  Braden Holtby was reassigned by the Washington Capitals today and will report to Hershey.  No word on whether he will play tonight or not but at the very least I would expect him to be in goal tomorrow evening.

2.  Garrett Mitchell was signed to an entry level contract with the Caps starting next season.  After his regular season finale tonight he will report to Hershey on an amateur tryout contract. 

Mitchell projects for more of a 3rd line player in the NHL but does bring some offensive punch to his game.  He has 18g and 32a in 69 WHL games this season.

Follow this link to read's take on Mitchell.  Definitely sounds promising!

Hershey wins in Springfield, 5-1...welcomes back Gordon

Welcome back Andrew Gordon!  Gordon played in his first game since February 5th last night...21 games he missed total.  

In that span Hershey scored more than 4 goals twice.  Once in the first game he was out (against Manitoba) and once against AHL bottom dwelling Bridgeport.  2 games.

In fact Hershey only scored more than 3 a total of 4 times over that span.  

Gordon's first game back....5 goals for the Bears.

Was it a coincidence...maybe.  Gordon didn't score at all.  Aucoin and Perreault didn't play.  So maybe it was just Hershey's night.

Or maybe just having Gordon in the lineup gives the team more confidence and makes the other team have to play differently.

Time will tell which it is but last night the Bears rolled to a 5-1 win over the Springfield Falcons in their first game of a 3 in 3.  

The goals were picked up by Brian Willsie (27 and 28 on the year), Andrew Kozek (8 and 9, 1st 2 as a Bear), and Kyle Greentree (26).

Gordon picked up one assist as he joined Willsie and Greentree on the top line while Willsie also picked up an assist on the Greentree goal.

Nolan Schaefer made 29 saves as Hershey picked up the win and held their ground in the East Division.

Tonight Hershey returns to Giant Center to take on one of the #2 team in the Atlantic Division...the Portland Pirates.

Last week Hershey visited the Pirates and left Maine with a 3-2 shootout loss.  The Bears will surely be looking for a different outcome tonight.  

Getting a more complete lineup on the ice should surely help.  Gordon wasn't the only player to return to the lineup last night.  Steve Pinizzotto also played for the first time since March 2.  

That was all for player returns last night but more could be on the way.

There is still an outside chance that Keith Aucoin plays this weekend.  I doubt it happens as it doesn't make sense to rush him since it was some sort of head/neck injury.  But they say it could happen.

Mathieu Perreault missed last nights game due to illness so he should (in theory) be back sometime this weekend.

And while there has been no official word (that I have seen anyway) I would think Braden Holtby might return sooner than later.  Semyon Varlamov was healthy enough to serve as the backup to Michal Neuvirth last night.  So if Varly is ready to come back the general thinking would be that Braden would make his return to the Bears.

But again...nothing is certain.  

Until that happens though this team is surely better with Gordon on the ice.  Whether or not he scores he has an influence.

We saw it last night.  It's good to have him back!


Hershey Bears
record ~ 42-22-1-5 90 points
standings ~ 2nd in East Division
most recent game ~ 5-1 Win @ Springfield, 3/18
last 5 games ~ 3-1-0-1
home record ~ 20-11-0-3
goals for ~ 224
goals against ~ 180
road power play ~ 21.7% (5th)
home penalty kill ~ 86.1% (6th)

Portland Pirates
record ~ 41-18-5-2 89 points
standings ~ 2nd in Atlantic Division
most recent game ~ 3-2 Win @ Binghamton, 3/18
last 5 games ~ 4-1-0-0
road record ~ 18-13-1-1
goals for ~238
goals against ~ 191
road power play ~13.6% (26th)
home penalty kill ~ 82.7% (17th)

last time teams met - 2nd and final meeting between the teams during the regular season.  Portland won 3-2 in a shootout on March 8 in Portland.

Players to watch:

RW Andrew Gordon (10) - returned to the lineup last night for the first time since Feb 5.  Had an assist in that game and still sits 3rd on the team in goals (22) and 4th in points (47) despite only playing in 41 games.
LW Andrew Kozek (21) - I wasn't convinced that he would help much offensively when Yingst made the move but so far I have been wrong.  He has 2 goals and 2 assists in 4 games with the Bears so far and you can see the energy he plays with.  Why do I ever doubt Yingst??
C Brian Willsie (18) - Leads the team in goals (28) and 2nd in points (62) and has played in just about every role on the team this season.  Easily the team MVP at this point.  He had 2 more goals and an assist last night.

C Mark Voakes (27) - Has 4 goals and 2 assists in his 6 games with Portland this season.  All those games have come in March including 1 goal against Hershey last week. 
C Luke Adam (39) - Didn't have to face the Pirates leading active scorer last week as he was on recall.  He has 25 goals on the season (7 behind team leader Mark Mancari who is on recall still).  He has 8 goals and 7 assists in his last 8 games.
D Marc-Andre Gragnani (17) - Leads the team in assists with 43, current leader in points with 54 (10 behind Mancari), and he has 11 goals this season.  2 goals and 12 assists in 8 March games so far.


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Gordon and Pinner practice

Generally news about a player practicing or not practicing wouldn't make it up here but this is pretty big.  Andrew Gordon hasn't played a game in about 6 weeks but he practiced today

He is probably Hershey's most dynamic goal scorer.  Sure Kyle Greentree and Brian Willsie are having great years but Gordo is a notch above them in my opinion.

Getting him back with a few weeks left in the regular season will give him the chance to both get back into game shape and redevelop some chemistry with his line mates. 

Unfortunately Keith Aucoin didn't practice so getting the chemistry back might have to wait another week or so.  Coiner is expected to skate tomorrow and could (doubtful) play this Sunday.  I don't see any reason they would rush him back this weekend.  My guess is next Friday at the absolute earliest.  If it was a concussion you would be better off letting him rest for a couple weeks then rush him back and risk another right away.

Steve Pinizzotto also practiced today and is, like Gordon, expected to play sometime this weekend.  Pinner has been out since the beginning of the month.  Not as long as Gordo but still enough time to have an affect.

There is a chance that Gordo and Pinner don't play this weekend but based on what is being said they will definitely play in at least a couple games this weekend.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Bears welcome lighter schedule

That was quite a week the Bears just finished.  7 games over 9 days in 5 different cities.  In total Hershey spent 21 hours and almost 1200 miles just getting to and from each city.  That is a long time to spend on the road.

But they came out of it with 8 of a possible 14 points.  So it wasn't that bad.  They went 3-2-0-2 over the 7 games which is technically a losing record but thanks to the overtime/shootout they come out getting better than 50% of the available points.

Most importantly they remain in 2nd place in the East Division.  They sit 7 points ahead of 3rd place Norfolk and 5points behind first place Wilkes-Barre.

The last game of the trip was definitely a tough one for the team.  It wasn't what I would call a 'boring' game but it wasn't exciting either. 

The Admirals and Bears combined for a total of 10 shots in the first period.  They equaled that number in penalties in the 1st period alone!

It wasn't entirely unexpected though.  I think if you knew the schedule they were finishing up you probably weren't surprised by their effort on Sunday. 

And don't get me wrong...they played well on Sunday.  Not great but good enough to get a point and with the exception of a couple costly defensive letdowns they probably should have won that game.

But they didn't so now they move on.

These are strange times we are entering.  For the last 6 weeks Hershey has played at least 1 weekday game and in 5 of the 6 weeks they played 4 (or more) games.  But for the remainder of the season they play 0 weekday games. 

It is the perfect time for a rest too.  Players are starting to get healthy (more on that below) while others surely need a little break to refuel and heal up. 

Hershey played 29 games over the last 50 days.  Now they will play 11 games over the final 37.  Shouldn't be too bad.

6 of those 11 are at home with 5 on the road.  They play in Hershey twice every weekend except for the 2nd to last weekend of the season when they play twice in Norfolk.

Definitely a favorable schedule moving towards the end of the season.


This is some good stuff here!

Andrew Gordon is hoping to begin practicing this week!  That would be huge heading into the playoffs.

Keith Aucoin is also hoping to begin practicing but that is less certain.

Steve Pinizzotto will possibly be able to play on Friday.

Semyon Varlamov is hoping to return for the Caps soon too.  While that obviously doesn't help the Bears directly it means that Braden Holtby would be returning to Hershey.

Now for the bad news...

Jason Arnott is hurt for the Caps.  While there has been no recall as yet there is a possibility that Mathieu Perreault would be recalled to Washington.  Stay tuned.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Bears looking to complete weekend sweep

Tonight wraps up the toughest travel stretch of the year for the Bears.  After playing 6 games in 5 different cities over the last 8 games the Bears return to Hershey to bring the trip full circle and face off against the team that started this stretch, the Norfolk Admirals.

But plenty happened the last couple of days so let's start there.

French gets win #100 (and 101 the next night)

Coach Mark French became the fastest in AHL history to reach 100 wins in his career.  He did it in only 147 games and has an overall winning percentage of .707.

He is the 10th Hershey coach to reach the milestone and with a win tonight would tie Bruce Boudreau for 9th on the Hershey list with 102 wins.

Congrats Coach French!!

Greentree and Willsie step up

On Friday in my players to watch section I basically said the whole team needed to step up.  But I specifically mentioned Brian Willsie and Kyle Greentree.  The duo had not been scoring of late and it was hurting the Bears as they really are the only true goal-scorers active right now.

On Friday night they both scored and Saturday Greentree added his 24th of the year in overtime to lift Hershey over Adirondack.  

While the two weren't stuck in a long scoring drought it is (was) becoming apparent that when one or both of them fail to score Hershey really struggles to get wins.  When your team is missing 3 players that has scored 15+ goals you are bound to struggle a bit.  Willsie and Greentree, fair or not, are the players that need to pick up the slack and carry the team.

I think they can do it.

Bears comfortably in 2nd place

Hershey has found a cozy little for themselves in the East Division right now.  They remain in 2nd place and are 6 points behind Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and 7 points ahead of 3rd place Charlotte.  

While that can obviously change over the course of 2/3 games it is nice to have a bit of a place at this point in the season.

The Baby Pens have not been playing that well of late, picking up their first shootout loss of the season last night in Abbotsford.  They have only won 4 of their last 8 games which has allowed the Bears to remain within range of them for 1st in the division. 

Charlotte has been even worse.  Since their 5-0 maiming of the Bears back on the 20th of February they have played 9 games and have won only 4.  During those 9 games they have scored only 20 goals (that includes 5 in one game).  Do you think they miss Jerome Samson???

Either way Hershey begins the final stretch (12 games - 7 home, 5 road) in very good position.  They have a cushion to 3rd place and are a full 15 points from missing the playoffs.  Definite wiggle room.


Now onto tonight's game.  The last time they met, last Saturday in Hershey, there was a little bit of controversy. 

To refresh your memory:
  • Odd goal call at the end of the 2nd
  • Cheap shot on Aucoin in the 3rd
  • Questionable officiating for much of the game.
Hershey won the game 3-2 on Mathieu Perreault's goal late in the 3rd period but the loss of Aucoin to what is believed to be a concussion definitely stands as the defining moment of the game.

Norfolk captain Chris Durno was suspended for 3 games for the hit.  Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on which side you are on) he will miss tonight's game as he serves the 3rd and final game of the penalty. 

Obviously Hershey fans and likely some of the players were looking for a little retribution against the Admirals captain.  But that will have to wait.  (Hershey visits Norfolk on April 2 and 3).

Still there was plenty of other activities that will surely be fresh in the minds of the Bears players when they take the ice tonight. 

This game will likely have a distinct playoff feel to it with plenty of physicality. 

The way hockey should be played.

Hershey Bears
record ~ 41-22-1-4 | 87 points
standings ~ 2nd in East Division
most recent game ~ 3-2 OT Win @ Adirondack, 3/12
last 5 games ~ 2-2-0-1
home record ~ 20-11-0-2
goals for ~ 217
goals against ~ 176
home power play ~ 21.9% (4th)
home penalty kill ~ 86.7% (3rd)

Norfolk Admirals
record ~ 33-19-8-5 | 79 points
standings ~ 4th in East Division
most recent game ~ 8-3 Win vs Binghamton, 3/11
last 5 games ~ 3-2-0-0
road record ~ 17-12-3-1
goals for ~218
goals against ~ 175
road power play ~18.8% (10th)
road penalty kill ~ 83.0% (16th)

last time teams met - 6th meeting between the teams this season with Hershey leading the season series 4-1-0-0.  This is Norfolk's final regular season game in Hershey.  The Bears visits Norfolk twice more this season in April.

Players to watch:

C Mathieu Perreault (24) - Not exactly producing at the same rate prior to his Washington call-up but he did score the game winner against the Admirals last Saturday and added another goal and an assist since then.
LW Boyd Kane (12) - You know that Boyd is going to be focused tonight as he will want to make the Admirals pay for the Aucoin hit.  He has only scored 1 goal (and no assists) in his 8 games so hopefully he can help out on the scoreboard tonight.
LW Andrew Kozek (21) - The newest Bear has played 2 games and already has an assists for Hershey.  He will likely get more opportunities than he had in Chicago and hopefully he can capitalize and help Hershey win again.

C Marc-Antoine Pouliot (78) - Leads the team in assists (36) and points (51) while also sitting tied for third in goals with 20.  He has 2 goals and 2 assists in the 3 games since they played Hershey.
LW Johan Harju (90) - The team leader in goals with 21 he also sits second on the team in points with 45.  In the 3 games since Hershey he has 2 goals and 3 assists.
RW Matt Fornataro (39) - One of 10 Admirals with double digit goals (16) he scored against Hershey last time they met and has 5 assists in the 3 games since then.


Friday, March 11, 2011

Bears head to Connecticut to face the Whale

After a day off Hershey begins a traveling weekend tonight in Connecticut.  The Bears have 3 games over the next 3 days in 3 different cities and 3 different states.  They will be busy.

Tonight that kicks off with a matchup against the Connecticut Whale.  Hershey faced the same team back in November (the Sunday before Thanksgiving) when they were still known as the Hartford Wolkpack. 

You know you are in the minor leagues when a team changes its name in the middle of the season.

The Whale has been playing extremely well of late.  They currently sit in 3rd place over in the Atlantic division with 72 points.  They are only 2 points ahead of 4th place Worcester after Hershey gave the Sharks 2 points on Wednesday night.

Connecticut has won 8 of their last 11 games going 8-2-0-1 over that stretch.  Scoring 32 goals in those 8 wins while giving up only 12 in those 8 wins.

So the bad news for Hershey is the Whale has been playing very well of late.

The good news for Hershey is that 7 of those 8 wins came on the road.  And Connecticut is a much better road team than a home team.

On the season the Whale is 13-13-2-2 at home and 19-11-0-4 on the road.

In fact in their last 11 home games they have won only 3 times. 

So Hershey again catches a break.  First it was the recalls on Tuesday...didn't capitalize.  Then it was the injuries on Wednesday...didn't capitalize.  Now it is getting a hot team on the road at home...

Will they capitalize?

Hershey Bears
record ~ 39-22-1-4 83 points
standings ~ 2nd in East Division
most recent game ~ 3-2 Loss @ Worcester, 3/9
last 5 games ~ 1-3-0-1 (lost 4 straight)
road record ~ 19-11-1-2
goals for ~ 212
goals against ~ 173
road power play ~ 16.5% (18th)
home penalty kill ~ 81.4% (19th)

Connecticut Whale
record ~ 32-24-2-6 72 points
standings ~ 3rd in Atlantic Division
most recent game ~ 5-2 Win @ Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, 3/8
last 5 games ~ 4-1-0-0 (won 4 straight)
home record ~ 13-13-2-2
goals for ~177
goals against ~ 175
home power play ~20.2% (9th)
home penalty kill ~ 79.7% (24th)

last time teams met - 2nd and final meeting between the teams during the regular season.  Hershey beat the Wolfpack (as they were known then) 4-3 at Giant Center on November 21.
Players to watch:

Everyone - we all know this team is struggling to score.  Willsie and Greentree haven't produced much and 3 of the top 6 scorers remain sidelined.  Anyone can step up at any would be nice to actually see someone do that sooner than later.

C Kris Newbury (11) - Team leader in assists (36) and points (48).  He has 3 goals and 3 assists in his last 3 games. 
C Chad Kolarik (42) - 2nd on the team in goals (20) and 3rd in points (39).  He has 3 goals and 2 assists in his last 5 games.
LW Brodie Dupont (9) - Tied with Kolarik for 3rd in points with 39 this season.  Also has 13 goals this year.  He has 7 assists in his last 4 games including 4 assists against Worcester last weekend.
RW Dale Weise (23) - Leads the team with .94 points per game.  He has 13 goals and 16 assists in 37 games for the Whale this season.  He has 2 goals and 5 assists in his last 4 games.  That includes 3 assists Tuesday night against the Baby Pens.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Bears get 0 points in Worcester

Well before we get into the bad news let's celebrate a "current" Bear.

Braden Holtby has been playing very well in Washington the last couple of games.  He entered the game Monday night against Tampa Bay in relief of Michal Neuvirth and proceeded to shut down the Lightning through the final 2 periods, overtime and the shootout.

Bruce Boudreau likes to ride the hot hand in goal so Braden got the start last night against league bottom dwelling Edmonton.  While it wasn't the toughest game Braden will play this season he still finished the game making 22 stops and picking up his first career NHL shutout.

Over his last 5 NHL games Braden is 4-0-1 with a .980 save percentage and a 0.58 goals against average.  Currently Braden has a 105 minute shutout streak going and has made 43 saves in that time period.

That's not too bad...for a guy that Hockeys Future said this about on Monday:
He projects to be a potential starter in the NHL, but is probably better slotted as a back-up.

Braden's sample size is still small but considering he is only 21 years old I would say he has a very bright future. 

Getting to see current and/or former Bears getting a shot in the NHL is great.  Getting to see them thrive is awesome. 


Unfortunately Braden wasn't in Worcester last night where the Bears were hoping to get back to their winning ways against the Sharks.

It didn't happen.

Despite again scoring the first goal the Bears lost 3-2. 

The offense has not produced much the past few games.  1 goal Sunday, 2 on Tuesday, and 2 last night.  And none of those came from the main "goal-scorers" that are active right now, Brian Willsie and Kyle Greentree.  Boyd Kane scored the lone goal on Sunday and Mathieu Perreault scored on Tuesday but I don't think either are considered "goal-scorers".

Don't get me wrong, Kane is having another great season with 22 goals.  His best offensive years have always come in Hershey, his 3 seasons with Bears are his only seasons with 20+ goals, and that is not to be taken lightly.  But once the team is healthy you are likely to see Kane drop to the 3rd line and play a less offensive role.

Getting goals on a regular basis from the non scorers is definitely good.  Patrick McNeill scored Tuesday, Dmitry Orlov got his first career goal last night, and Maxime Lacroix added his 4th last night as well. 

But none of the regular scorers helped out on the scoresheet.  That makes it awfully hard for the team to keep up in games.

5 goals in 3 games.  All losses. 

Until the scorers start scoring (or the goalies start producing shutouts) the Bears are going to continue their slide.

And right now they are in danger of sliding to the 3 seed in the East.  Charlotte won last night and is now only 3 points behind the Bears for 2nd.  There isn't a huge difference between the 2nd and 3rd seed as they would still play each other but that one home game difference could loom large.

The Bears are actually closer to falling to 4th in the East (and having to play the Pens in the 1st round) then they are to catching the Penguins for the division lead.

Time to stop looking up at the Pens and start paying attention to the teams below.

Hershey now travels down to Connecticut to face the Whale on Friday evening.  And no I did not forget the 's' there.  They aren't the Whales they are simply the Whale.

But we will have more on that tomorrow.

In the meantime the Bears need to buckle down, change the lines to get some production, and be ready to face quite possibly the hottest team in the league right now.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Bears get a point in Portland and head to Worcester

It wasn't a win but it was a point earned in possibly the hardest place to get one this season.  The injury depleted Bears lost in a shootout to the recall depleted Pirates last night in Portland.

Hershey was (and will remain) without 4 of their top 7 scorers due to injuries.  Keith Aucoin, Andrew Gordon, Steve Pinizzotto, and Lawrence Nycholat.

Portland played without 3 of their top 7 scorers including Mark Mancari who sits at #2 in the AHL in goals scored this season.  Also missing were Luke Adam and Mark Parrish. 

The Bears jumped out to a 1-goal lead in the first period thank to a Matthieu Perreault unassisted goal 5 minutes into the first period.

They held that lead through the first period and through the 2nd period before relinquishing the lead and falling behind on 2 goals in the 3rd period.

Fortunately a 4 on 3 power play with less than 2 minutes to go in the game allowed Hershey to tie the game on a Patrick McNeill goal with 1:32 left to play.

4 on 3 power plays have to be the hardest thing to defend.  If I had enough free time I would look through the Bears games as I would contend they score on at least 50% of those power plays.  The reason?  Because teams don't spend much time preparing for them.  They practice 5 on 4 and they practice 5 on 3 but 4 on 3...there isn't enough time for it.

It really isn't that much different than a 5 on 4 except that defensively it is generally played more like a 5 on 3.  The penalty killers stay in their triangle and protect the net.  This allows the offense to move the puck freely with all the open ice and they generally get the shot they want.

If you see a 4 on 3 power play you can also expect to see a goal or some great saves by a goalie.

Overall it wasn't a bad game for Hershey.  Sure they would have liked to have the win but a point is better than nothing and when that point comes against a team as good at home as Portland you have to be pleased.

It was an odd game though.  Entering the contest Hershey had gone 33-5-1-3 when scoring the first goal and 27-0-0-2 when leading after 2 periods.  They achieved both of those items and still ended with a shootout loss. 

No big deal though.  1 point achieved...8 more available this week.


Next up is a game tonight against the Worcester Sharks.

Worcester is currently the first team out of the playoffs in the Eastern Conference.  They trail Connecticut by 4 points in the Atlantic Division and Binghamton by 5 points in the East Division. 

While they aren't as good as Portland, Hershey might be catching the Sharks at the right time.  Even though I listed McGinn and Cheechoo in my 'Players to Watch' section I have discovered that they have each missed time recently with injuries (at least I think they are injuries).  Cheechoo has missed the last 4 while McGinn has missed the last 3. 

Add to that the fact that Trevelyan has only recorded an assist in those 4 games and you can see why they are struggling of late.

In their last 4 games they have scored a combined 8 goals and have allowed 16.  2 goals scored per game (literally 2 in each of the the last 4 games) while giving up 4 per game.  That is not a recipe for success.  And the Sharks have not had much either.

Hershey needs 2 points tonight.  This is the 2nd game in 2 nights with 3 more coming over the next 4 days so getting 2 against one of the weaker teams of the docket would surely be a step in the right direction.

Hershey Bears
record ~ 39-21-1-4 83 points
standings ~ 2nd in East Division
most recent game ~ 3-2 SO Loss @ Portland, 3/8
last 5 games ~ 2-2-0-1
road record ~ 19-10-1-2
goals for ~ 210
goals against ~ 170
road power play ~ 17.2% (17th)
home penalty kill ~ 81.4% (19th)

Worcester Sharks
record ~ 28-23-4-8 68 points
standings ~ 4th in Atlantic Division
most recent game ~ 7-2 Loss vs Connecticut, 3/6
last 5 games ~ 2-2-1-0
home record ~ 16-10-2-4
goals for ~169
goals against ~ 192
home power play ~18.1% (16th)
home penalty kill ~ 81.0% (23rd)

last time teams met - 2nd and final meeting between the teams during the regular season.  Worcester beat Hershey 3-2 on their visit to Giant Center the night before Thanksgiving.

Players to watch:

C Mathieu Perreault (24) - He is Hershey's top center while Keith Aucoin is out.  He has scored 2 goals in the last 3 games which brings his season total to 10.  Also has 17 assists on the year.
RW Brian Willsie (18) - He scored 2 in Saturday's win but has been held without a point in the 2 losses this week. 
LW Boyd Kane (12) - He has 22 goals on the season and had 9 goals and 8 assists in the first 14 games of February but in his last 5 games he has only 1 goal and 0 assists.
RW Jonathon Cheechoo (14) - Leads the team in goals (18), assists (29) and points (47).  He has 1 goal and 2 assists in his last 3 games but has not played in the Sharks' last 4 games.
LW T.J. Trevelyan (24) - He is third on the team with 14 goals and is tied for 2nd in points with 22.  He has 2 goals and 3 assists in his last 7 games.
LW Jamie McGinn (44) - He has only played in 14 games with Worcester this season but he has 7 goals and 5 assists in those games.  He has 3 goals and an assist in his last 3 games.


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Roster notes while Hershey heads to Portland

The clear day rosters were announced today.  For anyone not sure what that means it is as simple as this...only players listed on the rosters are eligible to play for the duration of the season and in the playoffs.

Now, like everything else in hockey (and the world to be honest) there are loopholes.  I have no idea what they are but Tim Leone says they are related to injuries and recalls.

My guess, maybe someone reading this can confirm or deny my thoughts, would be that players listed as in-house (see the list below) would be eligible to step in and play if a player on the clear day list is recalled to Washington or is out with an injury.

Players would have had to be 'on the roster' last Monday to be included on the lists.  That means that Jay Beagle is not eligible, which was stressed by Walton and Leone last week.

Here is a link to the clear day rosters to see Hershey's and to look at other teams. 

Here are the players shown on the in-house roster that would be able to step in:

G Dany Sabourin
G Todd Ford
D Lawrence Nycholat
D Johann Kroll
D Dylan Yeo
D Phil Oreskovic
LW Joel Rechlicz
C Trevor Bruess
C Andrew Carroll

Here are my thoughts on both lists and the players not mentioned on either...

1.  Players like Orlov (pro tryout contract) or any junior eligible player (Cody Eakin, Stan Galiev) do not have to appear on either list to be eligible to play.  So an extra space can be used for someone else.

2.  Nycholat, Sabourin, Bruess, and the other 'regulars' on the above list means that Yingst and Co. are not convinced they will be back for the regular season and/or the playoffs.  We all know there will be injuries and/or recalls to Washington so some of these guys are likely to play. 

3.  Gordon being shown on the clear day list is not necessarily a sign that he is close to returning.  While that is possible it is also possible that they just didn't want to risk not having him.  If (by some miracle) there are no injuries or recalls then the players shown on the in-house roster would not be eligible to play so Gordon could conceivably be left out of the playoffs. And that would not be good.

Other than that there really weren't any surprises.  I think Schaefer's strong performances this past weekend made the decision to leave Sabourin off the clear day list a lot easier. 

One name on the clear day list that we will have to get to know is Andrew Kozek.  Yesterday the Caps/Bears loaned Josh Godfrey to Chicago/Atlanta in exchange for LW Kozek.  Both players will remain the property of their original teams (Godfrey-Wash, Kozek, Atl) but will play for their new teams for the remainder of the season.

Obviously we will have to wait to pass final judgement on Kozek but more than likely he was brought in for depth more than anything else. 

He has only 7 goals and 5 assists in 57 games this season so he isn't being brought in to provide a lot of offense.  Now some of that could be because of the logjam at forward in Chicago but last year he scored only 12 goals and 11 assists so it wasn't much more. had this to say last June about Kozek:
Kozek has some talent, but his game is very uneven. He has good velocity on his shot, but doesn’t protect the puck well and isn’t fast. Of the three second rounders the Thrashers had in 2005 (including Pavelec and Denny), Kozek is the furthest behind in development. His skating is suspect at the pro level and he doesn't produce scoring opportunities as consistently as his raw skills suggest he should.
We will just wait and see.


Tonight marks the first of 5 games over the next 7 5 different cities. 

The Bears visit Portland tonight for what is a very tough game.  The Pirates are the #2 team in winning percentage, #4 in points, and are the best home team in the league winning 78.3% of their home games.

Needless to say...this will not be an easy task.

First...the good news.  It might be the right time to get them though.  3 of the Pirates top 7 scorers are on recall to Buffalo with the Sabres playing the Pittsburgh Penguins tonight.

Mike Mancari, team leader in goals, assists, and points (2nd in AHL in goals, 3rd in points); Luke Adam, third on the team in goals and points; and Mark Parrish, tied for third on the team in points.  Those players (as of now, 12:20pm) will not be in the lineup tonight for Portland.

Now for the bad news.  Braden Holtby remains in Washington, Steve Pinizzotto didn't make the trip, neither did Keith Aucoin or Andrew Gordon. 

So Hershey is without 4 of their top 7 scorers (Nycholat being the 4th) for tonight's game and likely the weeks games.

But that's okay.  It was enough to beat Norfolk on Saturday night and it will be enough to win tonight! 


Monday, March 7, 2011

Thoughts from the weekend

1-6-0-1....that is Hershey's record against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins after last nights game in Hershey.

28 to 13....that is the combined scores of the games against the Pens.  The Pens have the higher number in case that wasn't clear.  Hershey has failed to score more than 1 goal in each of their last 3 games versus the Pens and have only scored 3 goals twice in 7 meetings.  In turn the Bears have only held the Pens to fewer than 3 goals 1 time this season, Hershey's only win. 

I was not impressed with Hershey's efforts last night.  It was almost like the Bears were afraid to play with the Pens.  They didn't go hard after pucks, they didn't hit, and they were afraid to test goalie Brad Thiessen for much of the night. 

A lot of the problems last night were similar to problems I had Saturday night.  Unfortunately due to the amazing job the officials did on Saturday I neglected to share my thoughts on the Bears performance.  So I will do that now...consider the rest of this post a review of both games this weekend.

Great Job by Coach French

After the "goal" and then the cheap shot on Aucoin Saturday night we all wanted Joel Rechlicz to get some ice time to see him take down an Admiral.  I wanted it as much as anyone.  Hell...I was ready to go down there myself!! 

But French didn't play him.  It was a statement and the right move for his team.  Him not playing Rechlicz again said that the Bears were more concerned with winning the game then getting retribution at that point.  No revenge is as sweet as on the scoreboard!!

Mistake by Coach French

My biggest complaint of French during the playoffs last year is becoming my biggest problem again this year...the line combinations.

Mathieu Perreault is arguably the most talented player on the Hershey roster.  Possibly in the entire AHL.  He is a tremendous playmaker that can stick handle in a phone booth if necessary.  At this level he is as good as it gets.

So when he was returned to the Bears this week we were all excited.  Then for Wednesday's game French put him on a line with Bouchard and Lacroix while moving Joudrey to the 2nd line between (I believe it was) Greentree and Willsie. 

Bouchard and Lacroix?  I think they have a combined 12 goals at this point in the season.  Not exactly an offensive juggernaut.  And yes maybe Bouchard will do better with his buddy Perreault back on his line...but he wasn't exactly lighting it up when Perry was in Hershey for the first 2 months. 

And no offense to captain Joudrey but he isn't exactly producing offensively this year and, unlike Bouchard, isn't expected to. 

We all know how Wednesday night went.

Let's look at Saturday...Joudrey moves back down and with Pinner out the top line looks like this - Greentree, Aucoin, Willsie.  And the 2nd line has Kane, Perry, and Bouch.  A little better.  It resulted in a win.  Once Aucoin went out French moved Perry to the top line and they produced the winning goal. 

Great!  A line that can produce with regularity.  Just in time for the Baby Pens to come to town....

Except the lines on Sunday were...Greentree-Willsie-Rome (ROME??) with Perry centering Kane and Bouch again. 

If I was rating the Bears forwards in terms of production I would rate Ashton Rome near the bottom.  He knows how to do one thing...shoot.  He does it often and he does NOT do it effectively.  He misses the net with regularity and when he does the puck ends up out of the zone.  I am not a fan of his style of play at all. 

WHY...WHY would you not put your best possible line out there????   I know French likes to see 2/3 of his lines remain together to develop consistency and familiarity.  Fine...when the team is healthy.  When you are missing 3 of your top 6 scorers you need to make a change.

He the 3rd period (when the offense actually started producing 5 on 5) he put Perry on the top line with Willsie and Greentree. 

I know that doing that hurts your depth.  Joudrey has to move to 2nd line center, Carroll to 3rd and Rome can play 4th line center. 

At least you would have 1 line that can produce. 

The Capitals organization really needs French and Boudreau to get together for a nice dinner.  Boudreau changes lines every few minutes in a game while French changes lines every few months.  If some of each could rub off on the other both teams would be better!

Joel Rechlicz

This is really another shot at French.  If you are going to dress him...PLAY HIM!!!!!  I understand the situation Saturday night.  Fine...make him sit then.  But on Sunday the boys were dragging and yet I don't think Rechlicz saw a single second during the 3rd period.

I know this team isn't as deep as years past...talent wise that is obvious.  But the benefits to playing 4 full lines IS NOT to get scoring or offensive production from all 4 lines.  It is to make sure your top lines are rested for a strong third period.

Too many of Hershey's top players (Kane and Willsie specifically) are playing in every situation right now.  They play 5 on 5, on the PK and on the PP.  There is NO WAY they can hold up through the entire season playing this many minutes. 

If Joel can't handle the 3rd period then dress someone else.

Physical Play

Where was the hitting last night?  Kane, Souray, Wellar, and Collins seemed willing to take the body.  Everyone seemed like they were scared of the Pens. 

I know Willsie isn't a big physical player but I don't think he touched a Penguin last night unless it was by accident.  And he was in on the forecheck all night long but he would turn and chase instead of hit. 

If you give a team as talented as the Pens enough time they WILL take you apart. are a decent sized guy (6'1" 205lbs)....HIT SOMEONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!   You are a 3rd/4th line like it.

David de Kastrozza...also decent sized (6'3" 200lbs)....HIT SOMEONE!!!!!   If you want to stay in the AHL and make a career you better learn how to hit. you ever want a shot at the NHL???   HIT SOMEONE!!!!!!!!!!!  You did get a good hit on Thiessen in the 2nd period and got up willing to go...but 99% of the time you turn and skate instead of throwing a hit.

It doesn't have to be a bone crushing hit but get in the corner and make them pay for going after the loose puck.  You can't just let them get the puck without a fight and give them the opportunity to scan the ice and be patient.  When the Bears are playing their best they are consistently taking the body and making teams pay for playing the puck.

It is known as "playoff" hockey.

Hershey played it Saturday night.  They did not play it Sunday night.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Bears welcome Pens to Giant Center

Okay...usually I wait to do my recap posts until the next day as I can get different peoples takes (like Tim Leone and SHOE).  It gives me a chance to see any replays, listen to what the players might have said, and to generally calm down about the overall game (in this case the officiating).

Last night I failed to do that.

Just about everyone says it was a goal.  I am still not convinced based on the below replay but it does appear to go in.

Fine.  The referee gets off on that one.  In fact he gets an A+ for actually calling it a goal since no one on the ice seemed to think it was in and the red light didn't come on.

If that had benefited the Bears I would have given him credit so there...he made the right call.

But it still does NOT excuse the missed calls that happened everywhere else.  Leone reports that it was Chris Durno that took the cheap shot to Aucoin.

Norfolk returns next Sunday....Durno ought to watch his back.

The Bears have more pressing things to worry today about though.

The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins visit Giant Center tonight.  They were off last night so with Hershey's victory the Bears are only 6 points back for the division lead.

If Hershey wins tonight they would be 4 back.  But before you get too excited, realize that the Baby Pens will have 2 games in hand on the Bears after tonight's game.  Assuming they win those games then Hershey would still be the equivalent of 8 points back if they win tonight.

But that doesn't mean they shouldn't still win.  The division is not the only thing Hershey is fighting for.  They have been disrespected physically and on the scoreboard by other 3 contenders in the East.  (Sorry Binghamton but I am not convinced yet)

The Baby Pens come in having played only 1 game in the last 7 days.  A 2-1 loss vs Toronto on Friday.  Some would say that they are well rested and ready to go.  But I think the argument can, and should, be made that they are ripe for picking.

When a team gets used to playing every other day or every day on the weekend they develop a routine.  To take them out of the routine can mess with a teams balance.  That is evident by the Pens loss to the Marlies on Friday.  The Pens were 7-1 against the North Division entering that game.

Are the Pens ready to play?  We will have to wait until tonight to find out.

The bigger question for Hershey is...will Keith Aucoin play?  After taking a cheap shot to the head, courtesy of Norfolk captain Durno, Coiner left last night's game and did not return.

Tim Leone reported that Aucoin was still visibly shaken after the game so expectations are that he will not play tonight and his status for the upcoming road trip is definitely in question.

After the commotion last night the Bears should come out angry and ready to play.  They will surely get some retribution on Norfolk and Durno next week but in the meantime they can take out their frustrations on the division leading Pens.

A physical, high energy game is what Hershey needs.  Can they deliver?

Fun with stats:
  • WB/S is #1 in the AHL in winning percentage at .721
  • Hershey is #3 at .651
  • WB/S power play is only #21 on the road
  • Hershey's penalty kill is #5 at home
  • WB/S is #12 in road penalty killing
  • Hershey has the leagues #6 home power play
  • WB/S has a +27 first period goal differential
  • Hershey has a +19
  • WB/S has only a +9 goal differential in the 3rd period
  • Hershey is a +21 in the 3rd
  • WB/S is #1 in goals allowed per game....2.30
  • Hershey is #6 at 2.59
  • WB/S allows only 2.13 goals per game on the road
  • Hershey scores 3.72 at home
  • WB/S is 12-2-0-0 when leading after 1 on the road 
  • Hershey is 15-1-0-2 when leading after 1 at home
  • WB/S is 13-0-0-0 when leading after 2 on the road
  • Hershey is 15-0-0-2 when leading after 2 at home

Hershey Bears
record ~ 39-20-1-3 82 points
standings ~ 2nd in East Division
most recent game ~ 3-2 Win vs Norfolk, 3/5
last 5 games ~ 3-2-0-0
home record ~ 20-10-0-2
goals for ~ 207
goals against ~ 163
home power play ~ 21.7% (6th)
home penalty kill ~ 86.5% (5th)

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins
record ~ 44-17-0-0 88 points
standings ~ 1st in East Division
most recent game ~ 2-1 Loss @ Toronto, 3/4
last 5 games ~ 3-2-0-0
road record ~ 20-9-0-0
goals for ~199
goals against ~ 140
road power play ~15.3% (21st)
road penalty kill ~ 84.3% (12th)

last time teams met - This is the 7th meeting between the teams.  Wilkes-Barre has gone 5-1-0-0 against the Bears this season.  They play 3 more times this season.


Saturday, March 5, 2011

Bears beat Admirals 3-1 (3-2 if you believe the officials)

That might have been one of the craziest hockey games I have seen in quite some time. 

2 referees, 2 linesman and yet they couldn't see what was going on. 

Let's start with the good things that happened...

Nolan Schaefer made a ridiculous save early in the game that kept the score 0-0.  Brian Willsie followed that up with an exceptional shorthanded goal and then added another 12 minutes later to make it 2-0 Hershey after 1.

That is about when the referee's took over the game.  And it wasn't the penalty calls they made that was so bad.  It was all the infractions that weren't called.

Anyone who has read this blog knows that I freely admit when a Hershey player does something wrong.  I try real hard not to see things straight chocolate and white.  If a Bears player commits a penalty I am one of the first to acknowledge it.

And usually in games where there are minimal penalties called I am fine with it.  As long as the referee's are being fair and letting things go on both sides.  Usually those kinds of things are some holds, slashes, trips, and hooks that get let go. 

There were some of those tonight.

But to not see high sticks and elbows and flat cheap shots all game long is embarrassing.  Late in the 2nd period and through much of the 3rd there were elbows flying from the Admirals constantly.  Any time a Bear player got checked into the boards they had to protect themselves from elbows.

Yet in the end I can even see that being missed or overlooked.  Sometimes you don't catch it.  Maybe they didn't have a good view.  The Bears were getting breaks at this point too.  There were a few questionable hits and trips that could have been called but weren't.  So maybe they didn't do THAT bad a job.....

Or did they?

Late in the 2nd (13 seconds to go) Norfolk was pressing and they rang a shot off the crossbar that bounced around the crease eventually being blown dead as Schaefer was trying to get a hold of it.

And then the ref pointed to the goal....wait, WHAT??

How in the hell did is that that a goal???????

If anyone can tell me that the puck went in (other than the ref) then ok, maybe I will believe it. 

Obviously replays at the AHL level are not exactly hollywood.  So getting a definitive look at it is likely impossible. 

But no one in the building...NOT EVEN THE REFEREE...saw that puck go in the net.

You want the replay and watch the Norfolk players. 


And play continued.  When the idiot blew the whistle the puck was covered by the goalie.  If it goes in then call it in when it happens.  But the fact that he didn't call it at that point tells me that he didn't see it either.

The linesman did say something to him so maybe it was his call but even he couldn't have seen it.  And without corroborating evidence there never should have been a goal called.

The goal light didn't come on (that I can remember), no Norfolk players thought it was in, and the referee didn't call it a goal until after the fact.


The amazing part of all of this....we aren't done.

I am not sure when it happened time wise but it was in the 3rd period. 

Keith Aucoin takes a high stick to the face.  Ref's missed it...obviously.  But okay, things happen quick...fine.

So Coiner is skating towards the bench from the offensive end.  The puck is deep in the Hershey end.  A Norfolk player comes from the bench (on a line change) and cheap shots Aucoin.

I will be honest here....I didn't see what happened exactly.  Not sure if it was honestly incidental, a trip, a flat check...all I know is that the puck was about 100 feet away and Aucoin is laying on the ice not moving.

Somebody had to have seen something.  Even out of the corner of their eye.  One of the ref's was still coming up the ice like Coiner was.  How did he not see anything? 

Aucoin left the game and did not return.  Once the Bears release word on what the injury is I will be sure to include it here. 

Those two incidents...the phantom goal and the cheap shot on Aucoin have to be 2 of the craziest things I have seen at a Bears game in quite some time.

The best part of the night...

Even with the ref's obviously favoring Norfolk the Bears came away with a 3-2 victory.


Simple.  They wanted it more.  It has been a while since I have typed those words about a Bears performance!


Bears welcome Norfolk to kick off tough stretch

This was a very strange week for the Bears.  They had 4 full days with no hockey.  They have not had a week like that since the All-Star break.

You can consider this past week the calm before the storm.

Starting tonight Hershey will play 7 games in the next 9 days. 

Even worse....those 7 games will be played in 5 different cities!  3 in Hershey and the remaining 4 on the road.

That is a tough stretch for a team at full strength let alone one that is still watching players drop like flies.  On Wednesday night Steve Pinizzotto and Patrick Wellar both left with injuries.  They are listed as day to day and are not expected to play this weekend.

Lawrence Nycholat was on pace to maybe return this weekend but he had a minor setback late this week and is again not expected to play. 

Braden Holtby is healthy again though...he will be in action sometime this upcoming week in Washington.  Yup, Varlamov is still hurt (anyone surprised?) so Braden was recalled the moment he was healthy.

But Doug Yingst did pull off a magic trick this week as he brought Nolan Schaefer in from Providence without giving up any players in return.  (And he says to expect more moves before Monday's clear day deadline....curious).

Schaefer adds solid depth but is not on the same level as Holtby and Dany Sabourin. 

Healthy players are healthy players and healthy AHL goalies in Hershey have been hard to come by of late so the addition is a welcome one.

Hershey has not been playing well of late against the better teams in the league.  In Hershey's last 12 games they have played 6 against current playoff teams and 6 against teams currently outside of the playoffs.

Overall Hershey is 6-6 in their last 12.

1-5 against the better 6.

5-1 against the low 6.

Not exactly setting the world on fire right now.  But at the same time they are beating the teams they are supposed to beat.  That is definitely a good sign.

Hopefully they can start playing better against tough competition though.  Starting tonight their next 3 games are against teams currently in the playoffs. 

And losing those games would not be good.

The Bears got lucky this week as Charlotte has only played once in the last 7 days and they lost.  So they did not gain any ground.

But Norfolk did.  The Admirals currently sit 5 points behind Hershey in the standings.  They will make 2 trips to Giant Center over the next 9 days, tonight and next Sunday. 

The good news there...Norfolk has not won a game IN HERSHEY since February 14, 2009.  Since that date they are 0-8 at Giant Center.

The Admirals didn't exactly get good news since the Wednesday night game either.  4 of their 6 goals that night were scored by Mattias Ritola and Blair Jones.

Neither player is with Norfolk this weekend as both were recalled to Tampa Bay on Thursday.

Fun with stats:
  • Norfolk wins 79.6% of the time when scoring first
  • Hershey wins 82.9% of the time (2nd in the AHL)
  • Norfolk has scored the first goal 27 times in 61 games (winning 19 times)
  • Hershey has scored the first goal an AHL high 41 times in 62 games (32 wins)
  • Norfolk has a -1 goal differential in the 1st period
  • Hershey has a +17 goal differential in the 1st
  • Norfolk has a +25 goal differential in the 2nd
  • Hershey is only +6 in the 2nd
  • Norfolk is #1 in the AHL with 34.30 shots per game
  • Hershey is #11 with 30.61
  • Norfolk is 17-0-0-2 when leading after the 1st or 2nd period on the road
  • Hershey is 29-1-0-4 when leading after the 1st or 2nd period at home

Hershey Bears
record ~ 38-20-1-3 80 points
standings ~ 2nd in East Division
most recent game ~ 6-1 Loss @ Norfolk, 3/2
last 5 games ~ 3-2-0-0
home record ~ 19-10-0-2
goals for ~ 204
goals against ~ 161
home power play ~ 22.3% (5th)
home penalty kill ~ 86.0% (5th)

Norfolk Admirals
record ~ 31-17-8-5 75 points
standings ~ 4th in East Division
most recent game ~ 1-0 Win @ Albany, 3/4
last 5 games ~ 4-0-0-1
road record ~ 17-10-3-1
goals for ~202
goals against ~ 164
road power play ~19.3% (9th)
road penalty kill ~ 82.2% (16th)

last time teams met - 5th meeting between the teams this season with Hershey leading the season series 3-1-0-0.  Despite the 2 game lead the teams have each scored 8 goals in the season series.

Players to watch:

C Keith Aucoin (11) - Hershey is only 2-8-1-0 when he plays and doesn't record a point.  In his first 34 games of the season he failed to record a point in only 4 games.  In his last 11 games he has failed to score in 7 games.
RW Brian Willsie (18) - The Bears leading goal scorer this season with 23 goals he has failed to score in 9 games and has only 2 assists over that time.
LW Kyle Greentree (37) - He is tied for 2nd on the team with 22 goals but only 2 of those have come in his last 11 games.

C Marc-Antoine Pouliot (78) - Leads the team in points with 51 and is third in goals with 18.  He has 3 goals and 2 assists in his last 5 games.
LW Johan Harju (90)
LW Chris Durno (25) - He has 16 goals and 16 assists on the season.  He has goals in 2 straight games.


Friday, March 4, 2011

Bears add goaltender

Apparently I underestimated Doug Yingst and his abilities to get things done.  Yesterday I said that the Bears were unlikely to add a goaltender unless they were willing to part with a valuable position player.

Today I am proven straight wrong.

Hershey completed a loan agreement for goalie Nolan Schaefer of the Providence Bruins.

The Bears will not be sending a player to Providence.

But I might not have been totally wrong.  I also mentioned something to the effect of...are there any goaltenders that offer more than Todd Ford?

While Nolan Schaefer has many more AHL games (and therefore sample size to consider) he isn't lights out better than the current #1 in Hershey.

Schaefer this season has played in 30 games going 9-16-1 with a 3.11 goals against average and a .897 save percentage.

Ford this season has played in 12 games going 6-4-1 with a 3.04 goals against average and a .884 save percentage.

So, yes, Schaefer is an upgrade but not by that much.  He will still be the #3 goalie once Braden Holtby and Dany Sabourin return to the Bears.  **Braden is still on recall to Washington and the odds are against a return trip for the weekend**

Schaefer is technically a former Bear as well.  He played 3 games for the Chocolate and White back in 2006-07 going 0-3 while allowing 3.70 goals against and stopping only 87.8% of the shots he faced.  Not exactly great.

He followed up his Hershey time with 2 successful years for Houston before playing in Russia last season.

Overall I think it was important to get another goaltender considering the health of the organizations goalies.  The top 4 in the Caps organization have all spent time on the injured list and more than likely will continue to do so.

But I don't think Schaefer is that much of an upgrade over Ford.  Personally I feel like the 3 goaltenders currently in Hershey (Schaefer, Ford, Jared DeMichiel) are very similar in ability and should be considered that way in expectations. 

What I am trying to say is...without Holtby and/or Sabourin this team is still not going deep in the playoffs.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Bears embarrassed by Norfolk Admirals (UPDATED)

That was not the showing I expected to see.  After jumping out to a 1-0 lead on Steve Pinizzotto's 16th of the year the Bears apparently took the rest of the night off.  If I hadn't watched/listened to part of the game I would have wondered if the Bears just left after they scored that goal.

From that point on the Admirals scored 6 unanswered goals to take their first victory of the season against Hershey. 


I just read the review over at Sweetest Hockey on Earth and it was good.  I typically agree with everything they say but not this time.  2 things in particular stood out to me that I would like to argue now:

1.  Injuries
2.  Goaltending

Let's start with the injuries. 

You can NOT use injuries as an excuse and this team shouldn't.  Look at the lineup they put out there last night:

Keith Aucoin, Brian Willsie, Kyle Greentree, Mathieu Perreault, Boyd Kane, Andrew Joudrey, Francois Bouchard, Brian Fahey, Sheldon Souray, Patrick McNeill, and Dmitri Orlov. 

That is as talented a top 4 defense and top 2 lines that you will see in the AHL most nights.  Sure players are missing, Andrew Gordon, Lawrence Nycholat, Braden Holtby, Dany Sabourin, and Pinner and Patrick Wellar left in the 2nd with injuries.

They are all missed nightly.  But that doesn't explain a 6-1 loss.  Or the 5-0 loss a couple weekends ago or the 7-1 loss a week before that.

Every single team in the AHL and NHL is dealing with injuries right now.  The Pittsburgh Penguins are without arguably 2 of the best players in the NHL and they are still fighting hard.  They haven't been great (11-9-4 since Crosby went out) but they have competed hard.

And look at Wilkes-Barre...they have been without some or all of their top 7 scorers and yet they are still winning.  They have gone 8-2 in their last 10 games despite playing some games without all 7 guys.  Currently 3 are still missing from their lineup which is more than is missing from Hershey's. 

Maybe the loss of the goaltenders is tougher.  Ok, I will give you that.  If the Baby Pens lost Curry and Thiessen they would probably be in trouble.  But I also think that when you lose a goalie you tighten up defensively.  You pay closer attention, stay in position, and play a more physical game to slow down your opponent.

I don't see Hershey doing that in most games. 

One thing I will say about injuries is that they allow for a more positive outlook for the future.  Most of us are probably figuring that once Gordon comes back the offense will pick up.  And once Holtby comes back the goaltending with steady.  And once Nycholat comes back the defense should return to form.

I know that's how I feel. 

But that doesn't mean that the players that are there shouldn't be playing their best night in night out.  They aren't.  Some games, like last Saturday night, they play great...physical, energized, and showing effort in all facets.  Yet other games, like last night, they fail to show up. 

You can't do that and expect to compete in any league let alone the AHL.  The players that are healthy need to stop worrying about the guys that aren't there and start putting together consistent games.

Now the goaltending issue.

SHOE's argument was that the Bears should be looking at bringing in a goaltender to help the rest of the season. 

On the surface I would generally agree with that but let's look at it a little deeper.

First of all, Holtby will be healthy again and when he is he is the unquestioned #1 goalie for Hershey.  Can he stay healthy?  Will he get recalled to Washington?  Who knows.  Maybe.  But you can't worry about that in my opinion.

**UPDATE #1 - He is healthy and he was recalled to Washington.**

Second, Sabourin will be back.  I believe the time frame was 2-3 months when he went out in mid-January.  That would mean sometime between now and the middle of April (playoff time) he should be back.  I haven't heard anything otherwise so let's assume that he will be back for the start of the playoffs.

So the question is...does Hershey really need a goalie?

Sure it would be nice to have a steadier backup should Braden go down again before Dany returns. 

But where do you intend to get one?  Do you really believe there is a free agent goalie out there that is going to come in and improve the team that much?  Is there anyone out there that is more talented or more consistent than Todd Ford?

I don't have a definitive answer to that but I would imagine the answer is no.  Any goalie of that caliber likely would have found a team already.

So then you would have to go the loan/trade route. 

So everyone look at the roster on the left of this page.  Pick out an offensive or defensive player that you think Hershey could go without for the remainder of the season that would bring a talented goalie to Hershey in return.

Any names there?

No.  With the injuries and roster upheaval that has happened this season the Bears absolutely need every single player on the roster.  At least the ones that would gain a valuable goalie in return.

**UPDATE #2 - this shows you what I know...Nolan Schaefer rumored to be headed to Hershey.**

There is a chance that a team would loan a goalie to Hershey without anything in return but do you really think that any team in the AHL wants Hershey to get a good goaltender? 

Everyone wants to knock the Bears down...not build them up.

So getting a player via loan/trade is not likely to happen either because the cost is likely something Hershey can't afford to pay.

Now, would I be surprised if Yingst went out and found a goalie.  No.  I think it would be a good, solid move.  But I don't expect it to happen.  I just don't see how Hershey would be able to find a goalie that is better or more consistent than what they already have in town.

Honestly, Ford has been ok. He has gone 6-4-1 with a 3.04 goals against average so far. Sure he has been inconsistent but let's be honest...he was in the ECHL for a reason.

Obviously he isn't going to win the Calder Cup but with Sabourin and Holtby returning (at some point) he won't have to.

This team is good enough to win the Calder Cup.  Maybe they are just conserving energy during the regular season.  There are enough veterans on this team to know that the regular season isn't the most important thing in the hockey season.

Once you get to the playoffs everyone is on equal footing.  Records are eliminated.  Stats are reset. 

The talent and experience on this team will be able to compete with anyone come spring.  But it sure would be nice to see them compete with those same teams now just to put our fears to rest.