The Hershey Bears are the #5 seed and are, truth be told, in solid position there. They are 6 points up on 6th place Bridgeport and 5 points behind 5th place Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Obviously the goal is to be as high as possible in the standings come playoff time, but, like St. John's, barring a Norfolk collapse, the Bears are looking at 4th or 5th.
Unlike their NHL affiliate, the Washington Capitals, the Bears final 12 games will probably not feature any 'must win' games. But when you have Calder Cup aspirations and the #2 team in the conference is visiting for the first time all season...you want to win.
The IceCaps have been a solid team on the road all season. In fact, based on points percentage, they are the BEST team in the AHL on the road. They are 20-5-2-2 on the road on the season. Considering that makes them only 18-13-3-0 on home ice, the Bears two losses there a couple weeks ago look even worse.
But there is some good news. The IceCaps have been struggling of late. In their last 7 road games they are only 3-3-0-1.
And the Bears are playing well at home of late too. Hershey is 5-1-0-0 in their last 6 games, dating back to mid-February.
Tonight's game (and next Saturday's game as the IceCaps return then) is likely to be decided on via special teams. The Bears boast the #1 home power play in the league. The IceCaps counter that with the #3 road penalty kill in the league. On the flip side...the IceCaps have the 3rd best road power play in the league. The Bears home penalty kill ranks 5th overall.
Either one side is going to bend...or this game will be won 5 on 5.
Hershey has been somewhat decimated by injuries both in Washington and Hershey. Keith Aucoin and Braden Holtby remain on recall to the Caps. With injuries, and a conflicting travel schedule, the Bears were forced to sign Matt Tendler to an Amateur Tryout Agreement. Basically it is just so they have a backup in case something happens to Dany Sabourin (knock on wood). He just completed his senior season at Neumann College and is probably not ready for game action in the AHL...just guessing.
Other new players to watch on the Bears (who many of you saw last weekend) are T.J. Syner and Daniel Koger. Both are forwards who made their debuts last weekend.
So who are they...let's start with Syner.
T.J. Syner is very much like a Cory Conacher of the Norfolk Admirals. And Jacob Micflikier of the Bears. He wasn't drafted mainly because of his size. He is listed at 5'9" 173lbs. And apparently he can really skate:
From HockeysFuture.com's college preview earlier this year:
Syner is a really fun player to watch. He's not big (5'9, 173lbs), but he is very fast. He can dart in and out of traffic and is difficult to contain because he utilizes his speed so effectively.
He did make an appearance at the Capitals developmental camp this past summer and then proceeded to score 13 goals and add 24 assists in 36 games during his senior season.
So far with the Bears he has played in 3 games and has an assist. Based on Tim Leone's Tuesday update, he was on the second line with Eakin and Bourque.
Daniel Koger is a rookie hockey player from Hungary. He has played for multiple ECHL and AHL teams this season in attempt to stick somewhere. In the ECHL he has 9 goals and 18 assists in 32 games for Cincinnati and South Carolina. In the AHL he has 0 goals and 2 assists in 15 games with the Bears (2 games, 1 assist), St. John's, Providence, and Milwaukee.
I haven't seen him and a quick google search doesn't bring too many talent evaluations of him. But he is listed at 6'2" 195 lbs so at least he is a full grown player instead of another Hershey miniature.
I am looking forward to seeing both new players and a Bears win tonight!