Saturday, December 1, 2012

Bears Tame Tigers 11/30/11

By: John Sparenberg

In the previous meeting this season between the Hershey Bears and Bridgeport Sound Tigers in the aftermath of “Superstorm Sandy”, the Sound Tigers offered free admission of their fans to the contest. That night, the home club sprinted by the Bears in front of a sellout crowd of better than 8,000 patrons and pelted goaltender Braden Holtby with 42 shots in a 3-2 win.

Last night at Giant Center, in front of more than 8,000 Bears’ boosters at Giant Center, the Bears responded to a Sound Tigers’ game-tying goal early in the third period by storming back with three straight goals to end the contest and emerged with a 5-2 win.

The Bears, who were outshot 42-21 in the previous encounter, enjoyed a decisive 11-4 shot advantage in the opening period last night, but a goaltender’s best friend, the goal post, saved them from facing a first-period deficit when Blair Riley’s odd-man blast at 16:42 rang off the iron. At the next stoppage of play, the play went to video review with referee Terry Koharski ultimately ruling that the puck did not go in the net.

Holtby, making his 12th start of the season, had his shutout bid ended at 5:50 of the middle frame when his inability to cleanly snare Johan Sundstrom’s shot with his glove resulted in a rebound the Sundstrom subsequently pushed by him to give the visitors a 1-0 lead.

It looked like the teams were going to enter the third period with Bridgeport still boasting their 1-0 lead, but a late goal by Zach Hamill with only 33.1 seconds left knotted the game up at one. The sequence leading up to Hamill’s goal started when his linemates, Jeff Taffe and Jon DiSalvatore, combined on a play. Taffe sent a nifty backhand pass from along the boards to DiSalvatore, who was stationed all alone in the high slot, but DiSalvatore shanked the shot, and the puck ended up behind the net where it was retrieved by a Sound Tiger. The tenacious Taffe hurried the defender’s clearing pass and the puck skidded to DiSalvatore, who backhanded a pass of his own to a wide open Hamill, who hammered it home.

Early in the final frame, the Bears had a full two-man two-minute power play, but managed only a single shot on goal. Luckily, only five seconds after the Sound Tigers’ players were uncaged and before they could rejoin the play, defenseman Tomas Kundratek’s slapshot along the ice eluded Bridgeport netminder Anders Nilsson at 6:01. However, less than a minute later, the Sound Tigers climbed back into the game when Jordan Hill fought off a Kevin Marshall hip check along the boards and then proceeded to the crease area where be beat Holtby to make it a 2-2 game.

Near the midway point of the stanza, the Sound Tigers enjoyed a lengthy two-man advantage of their own, but the Bears’ penalty-killing unit was up to the task and allowed only a couple of harmless shots which Holtby was able to commandeer.

Taffe then started the Bears’ three-goal storm at 14:22, targeting the glove side of Nilsson and hitting a bull’s-eye with a blast from the left wing circle. Patrick McNeill’s power-play goal, launched from nearly the same spot as Taffe’s tally, also struck pay dirt to Nilsson’s suddenly exposed glove side, and DiSalvatore’s empty-net marker gave the Bears their final margin of victory.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Bears Shoot Blanks In Loss to Pens

By: John Sparenberg

Thanksgiving is a traditional time of the year when a host usually serves up a bountiful meal for their visitors, and that is precisely what the Hershey Bears did on Wednesday night at Giant Center. The Bears dished up five tasty second period power plays to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins which led to a pair of power play goals that catapulted the visitors to a 4-0 victory.

Hosting their annual Thanksgiving eve game, fittingly dubbed “Turkey Shoot Night” the Bears not only shot themselves in the foot with their penalty troubles, but on the other end of the barrel, fired a season-low of only 15 shots in the direction of Penguins’ goaltender Jeff Zatkoff, who registered his third shutout of the season.

Zatkoff and his Hershey counterpart Braden Holtby, who was appearing in his 150th professional game, combined to stop all 13 shots they faced in the fast-paced, evenly- played first period, with Holtby making stellar stops on Bobby Farnham on a two-on-one early and then denying Philippe Dupuis’ rebound attempt in the closing minutes. Meanwhile, Zatkoff made his best stop of the frame in the closing minutes by denying Mathieu Beaudoin’s bid from close range.

Early in the middle stanza, the Bears had the ice tilted in their favor as they applied solid pressure on Zatkoff in the opening moments, but that advantage and momentum quickly dissipated when a string of penalties led to a pair of quick power play strikes just over a minute apart by Beau Bennett and Simon Despres.

Bennett’s goal was a billiard shot type that was actually a centering pass apparently intended for Trevor Smith heading down the slot, but instead of finding Smith, the puck caromed off of the skate of Hershey defensemen Steve Oleksy and then behind Holtby at 4:28.

A short time later, with Garrett Stafford sitting in the sin bin for a questionable roughing call that was successfully sold to referee Mark Lemelin by Farnham, the visitors padded their cushion to 2-0 when Despres’ wrist shot from the top of the right faceoff circle eluded Holtby.

The Bears had a glimmer of hope entering the final frame on a power play. However, just over a minute in, Tomas Kundratek’s attempted pass to his defensive partner Garrett Stafford along the blueline was intercepted by Benn Ferriero. Ferriero then proceeded in alone on Holtby on a shorthanded breakaway. Although Holtby was able to get his glove on the shot, it still managed to eventually cross the goal line which gave the Pens a 3-0 lead that crushed the Bears’ hopes of a comeback in the process.


Washington Capitals’ General Manager George McPhee and Caps’ assistant coach Tim Hunter attended the game.

Tonight’s game was the 140th meeting between the clubs. With the loss, the Bears fell to 69-60-11 in the all-time series.

The next meeting in the twelve-game season series between the Keystone State rivals will be on Friday, December 7th, at Mohegan Sun Arena.

The Bears scratches were Patrick McNeill, Matt Pope and Julien Brouillette, all healthy, as well as Ryan Stoa, and Jonathon Kalinski, both injured.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

IceCaps Freeze Bears 2-1

By: John Sparenberg

During his six-year career with the Hershey Bears, defenseman Dean Arsene hoisted the Calder Cup on two occasions, once in 2006 and once in 2009 when the club disposed of the Manitoba Moose in the finals.

On Saturday night, Arsene, known as the “Mayor of Hershey” during his time in Chocolatetown, returned as part of the St. John’s IceCaps, and with the help of Raymond Sawada, a member of that Moose club who assisted on the vistors' game-winning goal, the IceCaps finished up their five-game road swing with a 2-1 win over the Bears at Giant Center.

Outshot in nine of their ten previous outings this season, the Bears jumped out to a 3-0 shot advantage in the opening minute of play when their starting fivesome, comprised of forwards Jeff Taffe, Barry Almeida, and Garrett Mitchell and defenseman Tomas Kundratek and Julien Brouillette, provided early pressure on the IceCaps’ keeper, Mark Dekanich, with Almeida getting the best chance. All of that pressure developed after Arsene, who normally doesn’t take too many chances, looked to take a bit of a gamble by running at Mitchell at the Hershey blueline, springing Taffe and Almeida into the IceCaps’ zone as a result, but as he explained after the game, it wasn’t such a risk after all.

“It wasn’t like I was thinking about running anyone. That’s just our forecheck and the way our defense stands up on the strong side. I was able to read the play, and it’s just the way I play. I wasn’t trying to do anything too much. When you start doing that, you can kind of get burned; that’s just the way our forecheck is,” said Arsene.

Shortly after the visitors survived the early attack, they went on the offensive themselves, evening up the shot totals at three, with Eric O’Dell getting a couple of quality bids against Bears’ netminder, Dany Sabourin; but Sabourin, making his first start since October 28th, was equal to the challenge and kept it a scoreless game entering the second period.

In the second stanza, Sawada had the Icecaps’ first shot on goal, a point-blank bid, but Sabourin superbly swatted away the bid and kept the game scoreless. Sabourin, who had been outstanding until that point by stopping the puck and controlling his rebounds, made a fatal mistake at the 5:19 mark. Initially, he stopped Derek Meech’s shot from the point, but kicked the rebound into the high slot between the circles. Unfortunately for the Bears, O’Dell was there to gather in the puck and while fighting off Brouillette’s backchecking efforts, buried the biscuit over the glove of Sabourin who made a gallant effort to atone for his misplay.

Later in the period, with exactly four minutes left on the clock, the IceCaps’ Derek Whitmore took a pass from behind the net from Jason Jaffray, who also played for the Moose on the 2009 team, apparently beat Sabourin with a sizzling shot and even raised his hands in celebration, but the red light never went on and play continued.

Before the teams headed to the locker room for the second intermission, the Bears knotted the score at one when the tenacious Taffe, following his own dump-in to the rear boards, forced Meech to release the puck quicker than he wanted to. Taffe’s efforts forced the puck onto the stick of Matt Pope, who promptly put a pass onto the stick of Almeida who was left unattended and deposited the puck into the net for his second goal of the year.

“He (Taffe) put some good pressure on me. We had a bit of a lapse there, and that’s the way it goes,” said Meech.

In the final frame, Pope, in forechecking mode in the St. John’s zone, inadvertently high-sticked Carl Klingberg, drawing blood, but not drawing a penalty call from referee David Banfield. The play went on, but when the next whistle stopped play, linesman Tom George conferred with Banfield, and at that point Pope was banished to the penalty box for a double minor penalty for high-sticking.

The Bears penalty killers were excellent at this critical juncture in the game, not allowing a shot until 3:15 had elapsed in Pope’s penalty, and that shot was a harmless shot from the point that was easily stopped by Sabourin. However, exactly 20 seconds later, the Bears allowed the eventual game-wining goal when Meech meandered down from his point position and potted his first goal of the season.

“He was kicking really nice and playing really well all night,” said Meech of Sabourin.

We were getting a bit desperate there; it’s always a little bit frustrating when you’re not scoring on the power play. But it was a good play by Johnny Albert. He came down the wall and made a good pass to me. I just got it by him (Sabourin) on the post. We needed one and we found a way in the end.”

After the game, Arsene offered his thoughts on whether fatigue (the Bears were coming off a tough win on the road in Wilkes/Barre-Scranton the night before) and freshness (the IceCaps had been idle since a matchup in Manchester on Wednesday night) factored into the outcome of Saturday’s contest.

“I think it played into it,” admitted Arsene. “Anytime you have to go to Wilkes--I played up there a ton of games--and it’s a difficult game. We haven’t had a great road trip yet; we were 1-and-3 going into tonight, so we wanted to go out with a bang. I think those factors definitely contributed to it.”


Dekanich missed all of last season with an ankle injury.

With the exception of Sabourin in net, the Bears went the same lineup that they iced in Friday night’s win. The scratches were Ryan Stoa, Ryan Potulny, and Dmitry Orlov (all injured), and Patrick McNeill, Stanislav Galiev, and Jonathon Kalinski (all healthy).

Among the IceCaps’ scratches was Aaron Gagnon, who played against the Bears in the 2010 Calder Cup Finals while a member of the Texas Stars, and tallied the Stars’ first goal in games two and five of that series. Sawada and current Bear, Mathieu Beaudoin, were also members of that Stars squad.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Holtby's Heavenly Return Helps Bears Down Devils

By: John Sparenberg

In the early going of this season, the Hershey Bears have found themselves in the uncustomary position of looking up at the rest of the American Hockey League’s East Division and showed only one win on the winning side of the ledger entering Saturday night’s tilt at Giant Center; However, bolstered by the return of goaltender Braden Holtby and with a solid contribution from defenseman Tomas Kundratek at both ends of the ice, they escaped their meeting with the Albany Devils with a 3-0 victory.

The Bears were on their heels defensively in the opening moments of the contest, but Holtby was on top of his game from the outset and showed no signs of his two weeks of inactivity between the pipes. Holtby made a big save on Adam Henrique, a 16 goal-getter last year with in the NHL with the New Jersey Devils during the visitors’ first power play of the evening.

Late in the first frame, with the clubs still locked in a scoreless duel, Hamill’s backhander at 17:10 gave the Bears a 1-0 lead. Hamill’s goal was his first in the Chocolate and White and was assisted by Kundratek and Ryan Stoa, who fed Hamill in the spot with a pretty backhand dish. Stoa was stymied by Albany netminder Keith Kinkaid a short time later when the Devils keeper kicked out his bid with a quality stop from just atop the crease.

Early in the second stanza, Holtby was stellar, quickly flexing his left pad in razor-like fashion to deny a point-blank chance by Albany’s David “Don’t call me Mark” Wohlberg. Seconds later, Wohlberg, obviously still in full frustration mode, slashed Hamill and then absorbed a couple of stiff jabs in the subsequent scrum that ensued, but when the dust had settled, he was the only player sent to the “sin bin” by referee Darcy Burchell.

“That was a big chance for them and for a goalie; that’s where you’ve got to come up with a save. I thought I played it patiently. I’ll have to look at it on video and find out if I was cheating or not, but it worked out well and I made the save. Luck was on our side tonight,” said Holtby.

Less than thirty seconds into Wohlberg’s sentence, the Bears, feeding off the “Good Vibrations” from Holtby’s big save, padded their one-goal cushion when Jeff Taffe, with a helping hand from Kundratek, sizzled a one-time slapshot by Kinkaid to give the Bears a 2-0 lead. Taffe’s goal went to video review, but Burchell eventually ruled on the Bears’ behalf.

“It was one of those shots where you’ve obviously got to elevate it because the goalie is going to slide over. But at the same time it’s one of those shots where if you get it on net, you’ve got a pretty good chance of scoring. Most of the guys on the team thought it went in, but it was just a matter of going through the review process,” said Taffe.

The Bears then went on to earn the games next three power plays, but did not score on any of them including a lengthy five-on-three advantage, and nearly squandered a shorthanded goal to Albany’s Jacob Josefson, but Holtby, aided largely by Kundratek who raced back to catch Josefson, the Bears avoided the crisis and maintained their two-goal lead in the process.

“Those types of play are always tough. If he gets that last half-step at the end, he can go right around me, but Kundy did a great job of holding him, and I was able to cut down the angle and force him into shooting,” said Holtby.

In the third period, the Bears sputtered again from the opening puck drop, and with Albany enjoying a 5-1 shot advantage through 4:38 of action, the Bears bench brain trust elected to utilize their timeout.

“We seemed to be stalled in our end and had to take a timeout. I think a lot of it started with not winning the draw and possessing the puck. It’s something that we’ve got to get out of the gate a little bit better; fortunately tonight it didn’t hurt, but we’ve got to better in that area,” said Hershey co-coach, Mark French.

Last weekend, the Bears wasted a pair of three-goal leads in their home opener against the Rochester Americans when they fell in a disappointing 8-7 loss; However, Taffe said that game is now a distant memory, although he conceded that the club held onto the memory for a bit after the stinging setback.

“When you lose big leads like that you can think about it for a day or two, but you’ve got to put it out of your head. Last week, we’ve kind of put that out of our minds. It was the first (three-in-three) weekend and obviously, you can’t play run and gun hockey like that, especially after last night getting down early. We just wanted to get a lead tonight. We know we are a different team when we do.”

The timeout strategy worked as the Bears allowed only seven more shots the rest of the way, with most of those coming in the final moments, and Kundratek added an empty-net goal at 17:53 to put the game out of reach for the visitors.


Holtby’s shutout was his 12th as a Bear and fell just short of his shutout best performance (38 saves at Wilkes/Barre Scranton on October 9, 2009).

Holtby was seeing only his second game action of the young season after starting and being injured in the Bears’ season opening loss in Syracuse (28 saves, 4 goals against).

T.J. Syner was recalled prior to the game from the Bears’ ECHL affiliate, the Reading Royals, before the game to take Sjogren’s spot in the lineup, while goaltender Philipp Grubauer was heading the other way on the Pennsylvania turnpike with Holtby’s return.

The Bears and Devils, who will meet a total of four times this season, don’t square off again until a December 29th meeting at Giant Center.

Ryan Potulny and Mattias Sjogren (injured in Friday night’s loss at Connecticut) were the injury scratches for the Bears, while Patrick McNeill (veteran), Julien Brouillette, Jonathon Kalinski, and Matt Clackson were the healthy scratches.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Bears Drop Home Opener 10.20.12

Saturday night was a historical night at Giant Center as the Hershey Bears and Rochester Americans, the American Hockey League’s eldest clubs, faced off to kick off the home portion of the Bears’ 75th season, and it was a historical name from the Bears’ past that turned a joyful beginning into a dismal 8-7 defeat.

Veteran Jeff Taffe gave the Bears a 1-0 lead by converting a nifty backhand pass from Garrett Mitchell at 7:57. Defenseman Cameron Schilling, who scored the game-winning goal on Friday night in Binghamton, picked up the secondary assist on the tally, which was his first professional assist.

“I saw Taffe, and he’s a guy that can finish. I knew if I put it in his wheelhouse, he would capitalize on the chance,” said Mitchell.

After the Amerks tied the game, Mitchell turned from playmaker into goal scorer and gave the Bears a 2-1 lead at 17:24 when he masterfully deflected Garrett Stafford’s salvo from the point past Rochester netminder David Leggio.

“I saw the puck coming through the bodies,” Mitchell explained. “I touched it, but it was pretty wide and I didn’t know it would come back on the net. It took a good bounce off the post, and I guess it found a way to go in.”

Despite the large size disadvantage that Mitchell (5’10” and 188 lbs.) faced against towering former Bear Joe Finley (6’8” and 249 lbs.), he made himself a thorn in the side of Finley for an entire shift in the first period by laying a couple of solid body belts on the blue-liner and credited that with playing a big role in his opening period performance where collected a multi-point effort, something he accomplished only twice last season.

“That’s kind of my role to create space and energy and finish my checks, and that’s what finishing your checks does. It puts you on the right side of the puck and when you do that good things happen.”

Mitchell's battle with Finley continued into the second period when Finley plastered him from behind, earning a minor penalty for boarding in the process. Finley's actions brought an immediate reaction from Patrick Wellar, a super-heavyweight of his own (6’3” and 231 lbs.). Wellar and Finley's fistic encounter saw Finley drop Wellar with a heavy blow and in a bout that started after the Wellar-Finley duel. Matt MacKenzie and Mitchell also dropped the mitts, with Mitchell earning a unanimous decision in that encounter.

Late in the first frame, referee David Banfield whistled Rochester defenseman off the ice on a cross-checking infraction, and the Bears capitalized on the game’s first manpower advantage. The unit, comprised of forwards Jon DiSalvatore, Ryan Stoa, and Taffe, along with rearguards Stafford and Tomas Kundratek, kept the puck in the Amerks zone for the entirety of the advantage. Kundratek ultimately put the puck behind David Leggio at 19:06 to give the Bears a 3-1 lead.

Early in the second, with the Bears already in the midst of their second power play, Brennan was once again banished to the penalty box by Banfield, which gave the home club a five-on-three advantage. They did not squander the opportunity and once again captured lightning in a bottle when DiSalvatore generated the goal that illuminated the red light behind Leggio at 1:56 to give the Bears a three goal cushion at 4-1.

Less than four minutes after the Bears took a 5-2 lead on Ryan Stoa’s power play goal, the Amerks started their comeback on a goal by Luke Adam, and then historical name from the past, Foligno, as in Marcus Foligno, son of former Bears’ coach Mile Foligno, who guided the club in their inaugural game at Giant Center on October 19, 2002 when they also squared of against the Amerks, took center stage.

Foligno, who scored 13 points in 14 games last season with the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres in the show, scored his 4th goal of the season at 13:09, 35 seconds after Adam’s tally, and then finished off the stanza by assisting on Brennan’s power play goal at 17:42.

In the third period with the scored tied at 6, Foligno capped off a four point performance (2+2) when he gave the visitors a lead they would not relinquish by sliding a backhander under the glove of Bears’ netminder Dany Sabourin at 11:07.

Hershey/Rochester Series Notes:

Tonight’s meeting was the 445th between the eldest clubs in the AHL, and with the loss, the Bears now sport a record of 206-186-53 in those outings.

Tonight’s meeting was the 8th time in their history that the Bears have opened their season at home against the Amerks, and the teams are tied at four in those games and also squared away at two in the four battles staged at Giant Center.

While most Bears fans are fully aware that Cail MacLean scored the first goal in the October 19, 2002 contest and thus tallied the first goal in the history of The “GC”, it’s not as commonly known that Eric Bertrand (SHG) struck for the game-winning goal in that contest.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Crunch Clip Bears in Opener

By: John Sparenberg
The Hershey Bears kicked off their historic 75 anniversary season on the road on Saturday night in Syracuse against the Crunch and fell to their hosts, 4-3. 
After falling behind by a pair of goals early in the second period, the Bears tied the game at two later in the frame when Garrett Mitchell (SHG) and Barry Almeida rang up goals against ‘Cuse’s keeper of the crease, Riki Helenius.
However, the home club regained a lead they would never relinquish before the culmination of the stanza when Cory Conacher last year’s AHL Rookie of the Year with the Norfolk Admirals beat Bears netminder Braden Holtby at 18:44 with a turn-around wrist shot that emanated from between the faceoff circles. Conacher, who is also the league’s reigning MVP after his sparkling thirty-nine goal rookie campaign, incurred six of those markers at the expense of the Bears. 
In the final frame, the Crunch extended their lead to 4-2 when Brett Connolly capitalized on a 5-on-3 power play advantage at 5:02.  Just over eight minutes after Connolly’s caper, the Bears’ Jon DiSalvatore responded with his club’s first power play potting of the season. Despite getting another power play only seconds after DiSalvatore dented the twine, the Bears were unable to get the equalizing goal behind Helenius, who collected 23 saves to capture the win.
Hershey scratched defensemen Kevin Marshall, Julien Brouillette, and Patrick Wellar and forwards Zach Hamill, Matt Pope, and Matt Clackson.
The Bears continue their season-opening road swing on Friday night against the Binghamton Senators before opening the home portion of their season on Saturday night against the Rochester Americans at Giant Center and finish up the weekend on Sunday afternoon in the same venue against the

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Stuccio's First Season in Chocolatetown a Sweet Success

By: John Sparenberg

Regardless of how the Hershey Bears fare in their upcoming playoff series against their bitter rivals the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins that begins on Friday night in Wilkes-Barre, their fans will have a lot to look forward to next season. Not only will it be the year to celebrate the 75th anniversary season of the club, but it will also mark the return of Scott Stuccio behind the radio microphone for a second season with a valuable year of experience under his play-by-play broadcasting belt.

Stuccio’s first season at the helm of the Bears’ radio network recently concluded with the culmination of the regular season portion of the schedule last Sunday, and the season was full of turbulent times as well as turbulent waters that delayed his arrival in Hershey.

“I think it went pretty smoothly,” Stuccio remembers. “The hardest part at the beginning was just getting to Hershey in the first place with all of stuff related to the flooding. I was basically forced to go right into training camp and the pre-season without getting much of a chance to prepare, let alone get to have any time to know the area. John (Walton, his predecessor) and I were talking a lot in the beginning of the season and then it kind of trailed off because he’s obviously very busy now and travelling all over creation with the Capitals. If I had needed something from him early on, it was a nice, easy question and lately it’s been kind of hard to get ahold of him. But he was always there and eventually always got back to me which was great.”

Stuccio continued, “The (radio) job itself was actually just getting used to calling the games again because I was not doing play-by-play last year, but I thought I did well. I dealt with a few people that still thought that I got a little excited when the Penguins scored in that first game. It’s not showing excitement for the team in particular; I get excited for other teams when they score really nice goals-it’s hard not too. Over the 76 gamed that have transpired already, I think I proved very well which team I work for, root for, and really get excited for.”

Although he had the opportunity to call 244 goals during the season, Stuccio singled out the first two games and first two goals of the campaign as well as the camaraderie he developed with a few of the players on their way to the NHL as memorable out moments.

“The first goal was Christian Hanson’s and short-handed, and then the second goal also was scored short-handed by Chris Bourque up in Binghamton, which was a very strange way to start a season. Having my first game being on the road where I had to fill an extra half hour because they had a Calder Cup ceremony to do was a challenge. Then the next night, which was also on the road in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and was their home opener, I had to fill even more time in a building that I used to call home. They definitely stood out as being a little nerve-wracking because of the amount of time I had to fill for a brand new network of listeners.”

“Also, the month of March was a memorable one, without Braden Holtby and without a lot of our stars,” Stuccio said. “To watch a great guy like Dany Sabourin take us through a run like he did and lock up a playoff spot, that was really special for me, like any time that I get to call goals and get to know guys like Cody Eakin, Keith Aucoin, Holtby, Sabourin, and Dmitry Orlov. I got to meet those guys and then you get to root them on as they go on to the National Hockey League. Those are all standout moments.”

With St. John’s, Newfoundland, gaining an AHL affiliate again this past season, Stuccio and the Bears were afforded the opportunity to venture to “The Rock”, and while getting to that destination is a travel ordeal, the IceCaps’ rink, the Mile One Centre, as well as the people on the island, made the trip much more bearable.

“St. John’s,” said Stuccio without hesitation when asked what building made the most impression on him this season, good or bad. “The arena is really nice, and the fans are ridiculously passionate about that team in a great way which was really neat to see. The place was sold out all year, and I think they are also sold out for the next three years as well. To see the way the fans have taken to that team that used to be a Toronto Maple Leafs affiliate, and now they are a Winnipeg Jets affiliate, so quickly is amazing. The crew that worked in that building and the entire organization were all awesome; they were really helpful and very friendly and hospitable. I had been to all of others before, but St. John’s was the one spot that I hadn’t been to, and it was certainly something to see.”

Now that he has had a chance to visit the Penguins’ barn, the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza, numerous times this past season as a visitor while calling thr action for the Bears broadcasts, I asked him if he noticed anything this year about the building that he hadn’t noticed before when he worked for the club at the venue.

“Not really. The thing you notice is that it’s obviously a very passionate fan base. I’ve really noticed the rivalry from both sides being on the home broadcasts with Wilkes-Barre and now the home broadcasts for Hershey, it’s all within the fans. I said this when I got here. The fan bases have developed that rivalry and it’s a fun one to watch and be a part of. The professionalism in both organizations from top to bottom is second to none; they are the best in the league. I’ve seen this from the home side too, but from the visitor’s side, I actually have less prep time to get my work done because I have so many people come and say hello and ask how things are in Hershey.”

I asked Stuccio if he thought it was destiny that the Bears and Penguins, the only two AHL clubs that he has worked for in his broadcasting career were meeting in the playoffs, and his answer was well, maybe no, but maybe yes.

“It’s something else,” he chuckled. “I think to a lot of people it’s annoying more than anything. It’s two pre-season games, it’s 12 regular season games, and now a best of five in the playoffs. The funny part about is that they extended the season one week, they shortened it four games, and they realigned the playoff format to go to the top eight in the conference and we’re still going to play them; it’s amazing. As far as it being destiny, I think it would be if the Bears won,” he laughed, “because that would really make it a wonderful move for me. Not to say that it hasn’t been already, but that would be the icing on the cake and would mean we are that much closer to winning a championship.”

Looking ahead to next year, although there is still hopefully plenty more hockey for the Bears to play this season, Stuccio is very optimistic that his sophomore season will be bigger and better than his rookie one from a professional standpoint. Although he technically has not put his name on the dotted line to return, it’s a foregone conclusion that he will be back, considering his solid work this season filling some mighty big shoes.

“Things will get better. I had to get used to it (broadcasting) again. I had to learn the area, learn the fans, learn the Bears, and learn the history. I know some of the things that John did I wasn’t able to do--the post-game Saturday show, some of the visits I didn’t get to do, as well as the video interviews of the players because I didn’t get a chance to setup due to the fact that I didn’t have my own gear. I used this season to get reacquainted and now that I’ve gotten through this one and next year being our 75th, there will be some neat things to come.”

“I don’t have a contract, at least that I know of unless Doug (Yingst, the Bears’ President and GM) has a hidden one in his mind. I didn’t sign anything when I came here; it’s basically mine to run with and it’s mine to excel at and make people happy.”

I bet that hearing Stuccio belt out a call that “the Hershey Bears have won their 12th Calder Cup Championship” at the end of this year’s playoffs would make a lot of Central Pennsylvania residents happy, as well as a very excitable transplanted one.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Syracuse Slides by Bears in Shootout 4.7.12

The game of hockey can be a confusing one. You can think too much and get yourself into trouble, or you can not think and simply react where there’s a good possibility of the same fate occurring. Keeping it simple and doing a little of both, however, can sometimes help you come out of a situation relatively unscathed.

On Saturday night at Giant Center with Daren Machesney, a former Bear tending the twine for the Chocolate and White since April 12, 2009, the club simplified their game and gained a point in the standings by keeping the Syracuse Crunch’s shot total to a modest level, but ultimately fell in a shootout, 3-2.

“I was excited, not nervous,” said Machesney. “I’ve been through enough as a pro so that, I don’t want to say you get numb to it, but I enjoy these situations. As I get older, I appreciate everything that goes on now and just playing the game and getting a start. Obviously getting a chance to play in front of Hershey’s fans again was great. You just enjoy those types of things more when you get older. With the things that have gone on in my career, I didn’t know if I’d ever be back here. I would have really liked to get a win tonight, and it looks like I need to work on my shootouts, but that’s the way it goes sometimes.”

Less than thirty seconds after the opening faceoff, Machesney faced a stern early test when Syracuse’s Mark Bell came in a alone on a breakaway, but fortunately for him, Bell misfired on his bid.

“'Stop it!’ I told myself,” said Machesney of his thoughts during that early attempt. “Don’t let him score because that’s not going to be a good start. If you think too much in this game you can get into trouble. I was just worried about making the save. I really didn’t have to make too many stops. They took care of the rest.”

Fortunately for Machesney, the Bears settled down a little after that early hiccup and got the game’s first goal when Chris Bourque, one of only two players in the Bears lineup who were in the lineup in his last start for the Bears, netted a goal at 5:12 by using a unique “slide and swing” maneuver to notch his 27th goal of the season. Bourque’s “banking of the biscuit” occurred exactly one minute after Kyle Greentree had his bid for the first goal of the game denied by Syracuse goaltender Igor Bobkov.

The Crunch tied the game up shortly after the Bourque when defenseman Kyle Cumiskey took advantage of a defensive zone turnover by Patrick Wellar and launched a shot in the direction of Machesney from his point position. Machesney appeared to have a clear line of sight on the attempt, but the puck appeared to carom off the stick of Mike Carman, with Cumiskey getting credit for an unassisted goal at 6:57.

Machesney made a quality save late in the period with the Crunch on a power play by short-circuiting Luca Caputi’s salvo from close range and kept the game deadlocked at one after twenty minutes.

Midway through the second period, the visitors took a 2-1 lead when Kyle Palmieri beat Machesney high to glove side at 9:09 on an odd-man rush. The sequence started with John Mitchell intercepting Cameron Schilling’s clearing attempt in the neutral zone and then proceeding into Bears’ territory on the rush with Palmieri, although it appeared that a Syracuse attacker who was already in the zone before the rush had cleared it, but the goal stood.

The Bears bounced back to tie the game before the end of the middle frame when Patrick McNeill roofed a shot behind a sprawling Bobkov at 17:07 with the Bears enjoying a power play created by a Syracuse bench penalty for having too many men on the ice.

“We were buzzing and moving around and creating a lot of seams,” said McNeill. “We had a couple chances to bury one earlier, but didn’t. I just snuck in back side, and I got a great pass from Greentree. I had a lot of net to work with, and I just had to fire it home.”

After a scoreless third period, the overtime session failed to settle the issue of which team was going to get the extra point, and the game went into the shootout. During the shootout festivities, Boyd Kane was the only Bear who solved Bobkov, but three of the four Crunch contestants beat Machesney which gave the visitors the win.

McNeill, who has played in front of Machesney wearing the Bears’ colors before tonight, said the Bears didn’t really adjust their defensive scheme to accommodate the veteran Machesney’s return to Giant Center.

“You come into every game pretty much the same,” said McNeill, who, along with his teammates, kept the Crunch to only 21 shots on goal in regulation. “We knew he’s got experience at this level and he’s done well at this level, so we knew we had a solid goaltender behind us. He played well, and we defended well and didn’t give up a ton of shots, but when we gave up the chances, he stuck in there and played well.”

Notes- The Bears signed goaltender Scott Greenham to a PTO before the game to backup Machesney. Greenham played his college hockey at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks where Kyle Greentree also played (2004-05-thru-2006-07)

Hershey scratched D.J. King, Jacob Micflikier, Christian Hanson, Graham Mink, Billy Ryan, Zach Miskovic, and Julien Brouillette. Brouillette was inactive for only the second time this season (game three of the season on October 14th at Norfolk).

Sean Collins was the only other player in the Bears’ lineup tonight who was in the lineup during Machesney’s last game with the club on April 12, 2009.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Pens Power by Bears 4.6.12

Going into Friday night’s matchup between the Hershey Bears and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins at Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza, a lot of the talk about the game was that it was going to be a “statement game” for the clubs who are likely to meet in the Calder Cup Playoffs.

But due to the plethora of power plays doled out by the referees, it was hard to tell if a statement was made. However Hershey goaltender Dany Sabourin, who will likely be recalled to the Washington Capitals after the game, made a big statement for future NHL work with his performance in net, but he and his mates eventually fell to defeat despite his outstanding effort, 3-2.

Sabourin was spectacular in the first frame and foiled twelve of the thirteen shots he faced, including four quality stops with the Pens playing shorthanded, but a Geoff Walker backhanded power play deflection goal gave the home club a 1-0 lead at 19:08.

Early in the second period, after a shift that featured a series of turnovers in the Bears defensive zone, Bran DeFazio was allowed to walk out from the goal line and backhanded a shortside shot behind Sabourin at 7:42. DeFazio’s goal would be the only goal allowed in the contest on which you could remotely fault Sabourin.

Immediately after the DeFazio goal, Bears’ head coach Mark French elected to use his timeout in an effort to settle down his troops. After their impromptu meeting, the boys from Hershey promptly went into battle mode and responded with a goal by Kyle Greentree at 10:20.

In the seconds leading up to the marker, Greentree and his linemates, Boyd Kane and Mike Carman, had a strong shift, controlling and cycling the puck along the boards in the WBS zone with each member of the unit touching the puck. Eventually, the biscuit made its way to the point where defenseman Patrick McNeill launched a slapshot that Greentree redirected from high in the slot to get the Bears on the board at 10:20.

“We did a good job getting some chances (on that shift),” said Greentree. “Patty got a good shot off, and I got a stick on it.”

Forty-one seconds later, with the Bears on a power play, Greentree was goal-getting again when he took advantage of a turnover by Pens’ netminder Brad Thiessen to tie the game at two at 11:01. Early in the advantage, a Bears player lofted the puck high into air in the direction of the crease from along the boards where WBS goaltender Brad Thiessen tried to steer it out of harm’s way; unfortunately for Thiessen, he cleared it right onto the stick of Greentree who promptly deposited it into his net.

“It was just a dump-in that came off his right pad, and I was just fortunate to be in the right place at the right time,” said Greentree.

The Bears had a couple of short 5-on-3 manpower advantages late in the middle session, but the Pens held them at bay which resulted in a tied game entering the third period.

Midway through the third period, the Pens had a 5-on-3 of their own for 1:38 due to a Kevin Marshall cross-checking penalty, but thanks to some strong penalty killing, particularly from Andrew Carroll, the Bears weathered the storm and allowed only one shot on goal during the sequence.

Another undisciplined penalty by Marshall later in the third period gave the home club a conventional 5-on-4 power play. Just under a minute into Marhall’s sentence, Ben Street sliced in front of Sabourin and tickled the twine to give the Pens the eventual game-winning goal at 13:58.

Nick Petersen’s empty-net power-play goal at 19:44, with Sabourin on the bench for an extra attacker and Chris Bourque in the penalty box, finished out the game’s scoring.

In the end, the Bears proved that they could play toe-to-toe with the Pens in the Pens’ barn, but after the game, Greentree was unsure if that was a positive that could be taken from the loss.

"I guess if you look at it that way, we played some good hockey here and there tonight. It was 2-2 going into the third, and then something that we didn’t want happened. But this time of year, we want to make sure that regardless of who we have in the lineup we’re getting the job done. They’ve got injuries and we do too, so we can’t make excuses, and we’ve just got to worry about what’s going on in our own dressing room.”

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Ice Caps Melt Chocolate and White 3.31.12

The Hershey Bears’ seven-game winning streak melted away on Saturday night at Giant Center when they fell to the St. John’s IceCaps, 3-2.

Mike Carman, obviously enjoying his time on the top line, gave the Bears a 1-0 lead at 12:36 of the first period when he deflected a point shot by Sean Collins past Chris Carrozzi, St. John’s netminder, who was making his first AHL start of the season.

Patrice Cormier, whose clearing attempt was intercepted by Collins, which led to the Bears’ goal, made amends less than four minutes after his miscue when he buzzed a rising wrister by the catching glove of Bears’ netminder Dany Sabourin. Cormier’s caper, his 16th of the season, was notched while his club was shorthanded.

Arturs Kulda’s second period goal gave the IceCaps a 2-1 lead, and Cormier added his second goal of the game in the third period to give the visitors a 3-1 lead.

In the last minute of play in the third period, with Sabourin on the bench in favor of an extra attacker, Ryan Potulny extended his goal-scoring streak to five games with his 28th goal of the season, but the Bears could not get the equalizer and fell to defeat in regulation for the first time since a 6-1 setback to IceCaps in St. John’s on March 9th.


Saturday was the 84th birthday of hockey legend Gordie Howe, whose son Mark, a scout for the Detroit Red Wings, attended tonight’s game.

Sabourin, who was making his 9th straight start in net for the Bears, yielded his first third period goal in seven outings when he allowed Cormier’s second goal of the game.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Bears Clip Checkers 03.24.12

The last time the Charlotte Checkers visited Giant Center during last year’s Calder Cup playoffs, an overtime goal by Nicolas Blanchard crushed the Bears’ playoff hopes and sent them to the golf course for the summer. However, on Saturday night at the same venue, Tomas Kundratek’s bone crunching hit on Blanchard in the third period knocked him from the game and propelled the Bears to a 2-1 win, their 5th straight victory.

Up until the time the Kundratek hit was registered at exactly the six minute mark of the third period, the Bears had created little in the way of offense against the Checkers and goaltender Mike Murphy, but trailed only by a goal largely in part by goaltender Dany Sabourin, who was making his 6th straight start between the pipes for the Bears. However, the situation changed less than two minutes later when Chris Bourque intercepted a clearing pass at the Charlotte blueline and found Cody Eakin who managed to beat Murphy from close range to tie the game at a goal each.

“I tried to go down low to Kaner and the guy got his stick on it,” said Bourque. “I don’t know if he was trying to ice it, but I just gloved it down and snapped a high pass to Eakin and he was behind the D and all alone.”

Twenty-one seconds after Eakin earned his 12th goal of the season, Sabourin, on his side, repelled Riley Nash’s attempt to give his club back their lead and kept the game tied at a goal apiece.

“The shot was coming on my blocker side and I was trying to deflect it in the corner, but it hit the inside of my blocker instead and bounced right back to his stick. The puck was bouncing and he really couldn’t get a good shot. I put my glove in front of it. I’m just glad I stopped it,” said Sabourin.

A boarding penalty to Charlotte’s Sean Dolan at 13:58 sentt the Bears’ potent power play unit, which had been denied in their three previous chances by the visitors, on the ice for another try, only this time with the game in the balance. Murphy and company managed to keep the Bears at bay for the first forty-seven seconds of the advantage despite some pressure. But then during a stoppage in play, Bears’ head coach Mark French made a tactical decision and called for a timeout instead of waiting until the end of the game. The move paid dividends when the man his teammates call “Potsy”, Ryan Potulny, potted his 25th goal of the season.

“I thought that one unit had generated some good offensive chances early in the power play. I thought it was a good time to utilize it to try to keep those guys out for two minutes. We had changed a little bit of the strategy of what we had wanted to do in the power play in the zone, and we just wanted to talk as a group and get a quick breather so those guys could play the full two minutes,” explained French.

Despite the fact that the Bears played the last 1:34 of the game shorthanded due to a Zach Miskovic penalty and the fact that the Checkers had pulled Murphy for an extra attacker, Sabourin and his supporting cast weathered the storm to give the club their 36th win of the season.

Sabourin, who stopped 30 shots to notch his 16th win of the season and has backstopped the Bears to wins in his last five starts, acknowledged that he is playing very well, but refused to shoulder all of the success himself.

“It’s a streak as a team because guys are blocking shots and diving to keep the puck out,” Sabourin said,” “They hung in there tonight, so every win we get is because of the team.”

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Bears Bounce by Albany in Shoot Out 3.17.12

Though Saturday night’s game between the Hershey Bears and Albany Devils was played on the St. Patrick’s Day holiday, it was a game more fitting of another holiday-Halloween.

The contest consisted of a seemingly endless series of pucks clanging off the goalpost, combined with some bizarre bounces which led to a peculiar and almost surreal type of atmosphere; but in the end it was the Bears, backstopped by goaltender Dany Sabourin who prevailed with a 3-2 shootout win.

Sabourin, who is now undefeated in his last four starts (3-0-0-1), made his third straight start for the first time this season.

“He’s been good,” said Bears’ coach Mark French regarding his decision to start Sabourin instead of Holtby. “If you look back at the Springfield game, he let in one goal, and then you go St. John’s and he was very good in the shootout loss, and then you come back to last night where I thought he was really strong. Tonight, we opened it up in the third period to really try and push, and we gave up some glorious opportunities the other way and he made some game-saving saves. The one in overtime on (Peter) Harrold on the back door was a great save.”

Defenseman Tomas Kundratek was the offensive hero for the Bears in regulation, scoring a pair of goals, both by benefit of fortuitous bounces. Kundratek, who totaled four points (1g, 3a) against the Phantoms on Friday night, has scored as many points in the two games this weekend (6) as he did in his previous 24 matches.

Sabourin, who credits his recent success to the extra work he does in non-game scenarios, told me he wasn’t originally supposed to get the start, but was given the nod because of Holtby’s impending recall to the Washington Capitals. He made two sparkling stops within a span of 32 seconds early in the third period: one a sliding save on a backhand bid by Tim Sestito followed by a glittering glove save on Joe Whitney.

“I think practice tells you how you are, and I’ve been feeling good in practice the last few weeks and working hard in them, and it’s showing in games,” said Sabourin.

In the shootout, Cody Eakin used his patented move to give the Bears a 1-0 lead in the second round, and then Boyd Kane followed up Eakin’s effort by craftily sliding a puck by Kinkaid that beat him five-hole.

“I don’t know. I can’t remember,” said Eakin about whether his move is an original or a modified version of someone else’s move. “I was doing it in junior a lot and I just come down and fake a slapshot, and that usually freezes the goalie, and I slide it one way and back through the five-hole. It’s just one of things that you end up doing and it’s been working for me, but the last little while it hasn’t, and I kind of shied away from it, but tonight it worked. Hopefully I can continue to get that rhythm back.”


Kinkaid, who beat the Bears in a shootout earlier this season at Giant Center, played his college hockey at Union College in New York state, the same institution that former Bears netminder Kris Mayotte (2008-2009) tended the twine for.

Eakin’s shootout goal broke a 0-for-18 drought for the Bears in the shootout.

The Bears improved to 2-1 in their three games contested on St. Patrick’s Day since their move to Giant Center.

The Bears scratched Hershey scratched Andrew Carroll, Jacob Micflikier, Christian Hanson, and Graham Mink (all injured), in addition to Zach Miskovic and Joel Rechlicz (both healthy).

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Bears Slash Phantoms 3.16.12

Former Hershey Bears’ goaltender, Jason Bacashihua, who was in goal for the Adirondack Phantoms on Friday night at Giant Center, always sports a caricature of the ‘Friday the 13th’ movies iconic Jason Voorhees. However, it was the Bears who unleashed an offensive monster of their own against Bacashihua and the Phantoms and slashed their way to an impressive 6-3 victory.

The Bears’ attack began early in the first period when Tomas Kundratek converted a rebound of T.J. Syner’s backhand shot to give the home team a 1-0 lead at 2:50. Syner was signed by the Bears this week after recently finishing up his college career at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, and picked the assist during his first shift he was suited up as a Bear.

“I was pretty nervous, and there were a lot of emotions going through me,” said Syner after the game. “I just tried to create some opportunity. I dumped it in and Mitchell got on it real quick and made a great play up front and I got a stick on it. The goalie made a great save, then Kundratek put home the rebound.”

Kundratek’s goal was the only one of the stanza for either team, but the Bears nearly had a second one in the eighth minute when Garrett Mitchell, after taking a peek during his pursuit of the puck while short-handed, found Cody Eakin cruising down the slot. Unfortunately, Eakin’s bid was rejected by Bacashihua.

“I saw Cody coming, and I just tried to get it to him so he could do his thing and score a goal. It didn’t work out that time, but I just try to make the plays," said Mitchell.

Early in the second period, the Phantoms, fueled by a Matt Ford goal and assist, took their first and only lead of the game, but a short-handed goal by Mitchell turned the tide back in the Bears’ favor. Mitchell, on a 2-on-1 with veteran Chris Bourque, made the high-percentage play and put the puck on the net, and he was rewarded for his effort with his 6th goal of the season.

“The puck was spinning like a top, and I couldn’t get it to sit. The ice was getting chewed up pretty good, so I just did my best to try to get it to lay flat. It ended up taking a funny bounce and rolled over Bacashihua’s shoulder.”

Both his goal and his peek-pass to Eakin were plays Mitchell probably wouldn’t have made earlier in the year when he was still trying to find his niche in the team and while he was struggling offensively.

“Hockey’s a funny game, and I know any of the guys in here will tell you when you get a little bit of confidence and you feel that you can make that play, it does go a long way. Even if it’s psychological, it seems a lot more than it really is,” said Mitchell.

The Bears added three more goals in the second period, all assisted by Kundratek, to register the first time they’ve scored more than two goals in a period since January 14th when they struck four times against Binghamton in the third period en route to a 6-4 win.


Hershey scratched Andrew Carroll, Jacob Micflikier, Christian Hanson, and Graham Mink (all injured), in addition to Zach Miskovic and newcomer Daniel Koger (both healthy).

The last time that the Bears scored more than two goals in a period on home ice was on January 7th, against the Phantoms when they scored three times in the third period to break up a 2-2 tie.

Dany Sabourin, who collected the win on Friday night by making 31 saves, recorded his first regulation win at Giant Center since he beat the Phantoms on January 7th when he stopped 28 of 30 shots.

Bacashihua was making his first start against the Bears since leaving the club after the 2009-2010 season.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Bears Cruise by B-Sens 3.3.12

The Hershey Bears “MPG” line comprised of Graham Mink, Kyle Greentree, and Ryan Potulny have a lot of AHL miles on them, with the trio possessing a combined 1,178 games of AHL experience among them. On Saturday night at Giant Center, the well-traveled trio was offensively efficient like a well-oiled hybrid, with each member of the group collecting a goal in the Bears’ 3-0 win.

The Bears got off to a decisive early 10-0 shot advantage, but had nothing to show for it until Kyle Greentree’s slapshot from high in the slot gave them a 1-0 lead at 12:44.

“Minker (Mink) did a good job of getting it to Potsy (Potulny), and Potsy cradled the line and drew three guys to him and then made a nice play back to me. Then I saw Minker in front of the net, and I just wanted to make sure I got it on net,” said Greentree.

The goal was the fifth of the season for Greentree, who has had a rough season which began with an injury earlier in the campaign that sidelined him for a long period, but he has found the back of the net in two of the last three outings.

“Coming off an injury like that, it took me a little bit to get everything back,” Greentree said. “I feel good now, and it’s not like I wasn’t getting chances. I was just in a bit of a rut. I knew it was going to come, and it’s nice to see my hard work finally paying off.”

Potulny, who captured the Calder Cup last season in Binghamton with the Senators gave the Bears a 2-0 lead at 14:50 by grinding out his 21st goal of the season, going hard to the net and then pushing in a rebound of a Mink shot by B-Sens netminder, Mike McKenna.

In the second period, the Bears lost some of their momentum from the first period by taking a couple of penalties, but Mink salvaged the frame by netting his 16th goal of the season with 44.4 seconds left in the stanza.

“It was a great play by Cody (Eakin) to step up in the neutral zone after the guy misplayed it,” said Mink. “Then we went in on 2-on-1, and Cody pulled the goalie and the defender over to him and slid it to me. I tried to put it five-hole. He got a piece of it, but it trickled in. He (goalie) wasn’t too happy about it, but it trickled in.”

Mink’s marker was his first at Giant Center since December 28th against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins when he struck on the power play 10:44 into the first period in an eventual 6-5 shootout loss.

“I try to score every night. I was just glad to score and get enough for us to win,” Mink said.

Going into the third period, the only question that remained was whether Bears’ backstopper Braden Holtby and his mates could keep the Senators off the board, and that question was answered in the affirmative when he stopped all six salvos the visitors sent his way and earned his 20th win and third shutout of the season.


The Bears scratched D.J. King and Zach Miskovic (both healthy) in addition to injured forwards Jacob Micflikier and Christian Hanson. Micflikier was the team’s leading scorer this season against the B-Sens coming into tonight’s game, registering eight points (2g, 6a) in five outings.

Potulny’s goal was the Bears’ first tally struck when the club held a lead in eight outings. Prior to Potulny’s putaway the last time that the Bears lit the lamp with the lead was when he tickled the twine late in the third period of the Bears 5-1 win over the baby Pens on February 12th.

John Walton, the Bears former radio announcer who left for the same position with the Washington Capitals this season, attended the game.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Bears Manage by Monarchs 2.18.12

The Hershey Bears rebounded positively from a pummeling in Providence the night before and powered by the Manchester Monarchs on Saturday night at Verizon Wireless Arena, 2-1, on the strength of a pair of power play goals from Ryan Potulny.

Braden Holtby, who earned the third star of the game award, picked up the win between the pipes for the Bears and stopped the last 33 shots he faced after allowing a goal 1:08 into the game. Holtby’s victory was his 61st as a Bear and occurred in his 101st appearance wearing the Chocolate and White.

With the win, the Bears improved to 29-15-4-4 on the season and 16-7-2-1 on the road.

Notes-Potulny’s first goal of the game at 3:16 of the second period, the Bears’ first goal since his third period strike against the WBS Penguins last Sunday at Giant Center, was the clubs first goal in 88:23 of action.

Potulny’s multi-goal game was his 8th of the season and marked the 20th game this season that the Bears have struck for at least two power play goals in a contest.

Last season the Bears scored 66 goals on 365 chances. Potulny’s second power play goal tonight was their 66th in 238 chances this current season, or 127 less opportunities.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Bruins Beat Down Bears 2.17.12

Braden Holtby’s 100th career appearance in net for the Hershey Bears was a surprising and somber one for him as he relieved starting goaltender Dany Sabourin in the second period, and then allowed three goals himself as the Bears’ New England weekend got off to a rocky start when they were shut out by the Providence Bruins in Providence, 6-0.

Sabourin, the former Bruin, was solid in the opening stanza and stopped all twelve shots he faced, but early in the middle frame, allowed a soft goal off the stick of Jamie Tardif at 3:02 that started a rapid downhill spiral for him and his club.

Defenseman Kevan Miller’s goal than emanated from outside the blueline gave the Bruins a 2-0 lead at 5:58 and then a wraparound goal from Tardif spelled the end of the night for Sabourin at 14:48. Sabourin, who finished the game with 21 saves on 24 shots faced, has now required relief in three of his 21 starts this season, including twice in his last five starts.

Holtby stopped both shots he faced in finishing out the second stanza, but allowed three goals (two power play strikes) in the third period as the Bears suffered their most lopsided loss of the season.

Notes-The Bears played without captain Boyd Kane (suspension), co-league-leading scorer Keith Aucoin (recall), and enforcer Joel Rechlicz (suspension), as well as defenseman Zach Miskovic.

Prior to tonight’s disastrous second period, the Bears had outscored their opponents on the road in the second period this season, 25-12.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Bears Pummel Pens 2.12.12

It was another milestone night at Giant Center on Sunday when a night after Worcester head coach Roy Sommer celebrated his 500th career win, Hershey goaltender Braden Holtby stopped 34-of-35 salvos fired at him by the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins to backstop his club to a 5-1 win. Holtby, in attaining his club’s 28th win of the season, also registered his 60th career win in the Chocolate and White.

After a rather lackluster 13:59 of first period play, things took a drastic change for the better for the Bears a second later when Ryan Potulny redirected Chris Bourque’s centering pass over the right shoulder of WBS netminder Brad Thiessen for his 16th goal of the season at 14:00. Bourque picked up the primary assist on the Potulny put-away and Patrick Wellar, who kept the play alive at the blueline with an impressive interception of an attempted clear by the visitors, picked up the secondary helper.

The Bears kept their foot on the accelerator and added a power play goal from Jacob Micflikier at 15:39 with assists from Bourque and Patrick McNeill to take a 2-0 lead into the first intermission.

In their previous two outings this weekend, the Bears scored a first period power play goal, but then went without another in the subsequent two periods in each affair; however, only 2:01 into the middle frame, they erased the possibility of that same scenario occurring in a third straight game when Micflikier added a power play strike at 2:01 and gave his club a 3-0 lead to enter the third period.

Entering the final frame with the three-goal cushion, it’s likely that the Bears’ coaching staff reminded their charges that they held that same lead nine days earlier in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton only to see the baby Pens emerge with a 4-3 victory. However, rookie forward Garrett Mitchell, who had also scored the first goal of the game in the February 3rd meeting, netted his fifth goal of season and third in his last games 2:30 into the third to make it a 4-0 Hershey lead. Mitchell’s marker was aided by his fourth line mates, Andrew Carroll and D.J. King.

In the last six games, which have incidentally coincided with Keith Aucoin’s recall to the Capitals, the fourth line unit, with Carroll and Mitchell as the constants and with King and Joel Rechlicz taking turn as the third wheel, has seen their ice time increase during that period, and the unit has responded by playing their best hockey of the season.

The baby Pens avoided being shut out by the Bears for the second time this season with a little less than nine minutes remaining in the game, but Potulny put his team ahead again by four goals shortly thereafter.


Today’s meeting was the 11th of the 12 game season series with the Baby Pens with one more matchup scheduled between the clubs on April 6th in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

The Bears, who entered the game tied for second in the AHL with a couple of other clubs for most penalties killed this season (244), allowed only one power play in the game.

The Bears have scored the first goal of the game in 32 games this season, the most in the league.

Holtby’s last regulation win at Giant Center was on December 11th versus Norfolk when he stopped 22-of-25 shots in a 6-3 triumph.

Tonight’s game marked the 50th of the season for the Bears, who find themselves with 64 points in the standings. Last season, the Bears reached the 50-game plateau with 68 points and found themselves with 70 points at the same juncture in the 2009-10 season.

Sharks Snack on Bears 2.11.12

Depending upon which club you were cheering for, Saturday night’s encounter between the Worcester Sharks and Hershey Bears at Giant Center was either a memorable one or one that you’d prefer to quickly forget.

If you were the Sharks, it was a wonderful memory, as their 3-2 shootout win gave their coach Roy Sommer his 500th AHL win as an AHL bench boss. But if you were the Bears, it was one you’d likely wish to put in the back of your memory and move on from since they squandered a one-goal lead in the final two minutes of regulation time by taking an untimely penalty, which ultimately led to a game-tying power play goal.

The Sharks struck for the first goal of the game at 17:09 of the first period when Jack Combs corralled a rebound and then deposited his 10th goal of the season behind Hershey netminder Dany Sabourin. Combs’ caper was struck with the Sharks enjoying a five minute power play that was prompted by a major penalty for boarding assessed to Bears captain Boyd Kane, who also received a fighting major and a game misconduct for his devious deed.

However, the Bears battled back to tie the game before the first intermission when Chris Bourque’s wrist shot from the point on the Bears’ first power play of the night sizzled past Worcester netminder Tyson Sexsmith at 18:52. Bourque’s goal was his 23rd of the season and his first extra-man strike in 15 games.

Bourque’s goal, which tied the score at one, was last goal scored for nearly forty minutes of action until Cody Eakin gave the Bears a 2-1 lead at 17:59 of the third period when he poked a rebound by Sexsmith.

However, less than a minute after Eakin’s goal, Bears’ forward Mike Carman took a tripping penalty in the Worcester defensive zone which sent the Sharks on a power play. At that point, Sommer elected to bring Sexsmith to the bench in favor of an extra attacker which gave his club a 6-on-4 manpower advantage, and they quickly capitalized on the opportunity and took only seven seconds of time off the scoreboard clock to tie the game at two when Tim Kennedy captured his fourth goal of the year at 18:44.

After neither team was able to win the game during the remainder of regulation or the overtime session, the game went into the shootout session. In the shootout, both Sabourin and Sexsmith were rock solid through the first six rounds and stopped every salvo they saw. But in the seventh round, Worcester’s Brodie Reid found a wrinkle in Sabourin’s armor, and then Sexsmith promptly snuffed out Patrick McNeill’s attempt to extend the festivities which gave the Sharks the win.

Notes- Sommer began his professional head coaching career in the 1991-92 season with the Roanoke Valley Rebels of the ECHL where he coached former Bear Frank Bialowas.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Bears Seize A Close Win in Syracuse

The Hershey Bears finally put in a full sixty minute effort on Friday night in Syracuse against the Syracuse Crunch, and the result was a 2-1 win, giving winning goaltender Braden Holtby, who stopped 25-of-26 Syracuse salvos, his 59th career win as a Bear.

Holtby, facing veteran NHL netminder Antero Niittymaki in the ‘Cuse crease, yielded the first goal of the game to Rick Schofield at 13:10 of the opening period to give the Crunch their only lead of the game. Schofield’s strike was assisted by Luca Caputi and former Bear Andrew Gordon, who was facing his former club for the first time in his AHL career.

Later in the frame the Bears scored their first power play goal in four games when Cody Eakin’s cannon from the left wing eluded Niittymaki and found the back of the net to tie the game at 1-1. Eakin’s goal was assisted by Patrick McNeill and Holtby.

There would only be one more goal in final two frames and that was struck by Hershey rookie forward Garrett Mitchell at 17:19 of the second period. Mitchell’s marker was assisted by defenseman Tomas Kundratek, the Bears’ swift skating defenseman who intercepted a pass in the neutral zone, and then took advantage of a bad Syracuse line change to lead an odd man rush into the Crunch zone that culminated with Mitchell’s goal.

Notes- Gordon, who averaged 23 goals per seasons in four campaigns with the Bears, has now failed to register a goal in 11 games since being assigned to the Crunch from the Anaheim Ducks. Gordon’s last goal in the AHL was scored against the Crunch at Giant Center last April 10, when he notched the Bears’ only goal in a 4-1 setback.

Holtby’s helper was his second of the season, tying him with his goaltending partner Dany Sabourin in that category.

Hershey’s 2-1 win, was their 27th of the season, but first by a score of 2-1.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Bears Beached by the Whale 2.4.12

The Hershey Bears, who were iced on the road by the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins on Friday night when they squandered a three-goal third period lead in a game, were harpooned by the Connecticut Whale on Saturday night on home ice, 4-1, in a game in which they never led.

The Whale, who snapped an 11-game winless streak on Friday night, struck for the first goal of the game at 16:00 of the opening frame when Tommy Grant tucked a shot inside the left post behind Hershey netminder Dany Sabourin. Sabourin had been stellar up until the time of Grant’s goal and registered seven saves, including a pair of sparkling stops on Mats Zuccarello during the Bears’ first penalty kill of the night earlier in the stanza.

But the Bears managed to tie the game before the end of the first period when Cody Eakin earned his 8th marker of the season by deflecting a point shot from Tomas Kundratek, a former member of the Whale, by goaltender Chad Johnson.

Just past the midway point of the middle frame, the Whale blew the game wide open when AHL veterans Kris Newbury (power play) and Andre Deveaux solved Sabourin within a span of 1:22 which gave the visitors a 3-1 lead entering the third period.

The Bears had a chance to cut into Connecticut’s cushion when they had 1:18 of carryover power play to start the third period; but the power play unit failed to capitalize, and Grant added his second goal of the contest with just over six minutes left in the game to give the visitors the final margin of victory.

Notes-The Bears scratched forwards D.J. King and Matt Pope and defensemen Patrick Wellar and Phil Oreskovic (all healthy).

Hershey’s Joel Rechlicz, who was put on waivers on Friday by the Washington Capitals after a two-game recall, was in the lineup after clearing waivers.

Hershey’s Mike Carman and Kevin Marshall, both obtained in separate trades earlier this week, made their Giant Center debuts wearing the Chocolate and White.

Marshall, who suffered a facial injury in the second period when he was struck by the puck while breaking up and odd-man rush, left a puddle of blood on the ice and did not return for the rest of the game.

Among the Connecticut scratches were NHL veterans Wade Redden and Sean Avery who possess 1,574 games of NHL experience combined.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Monarchs Crown Bears 1.21.12

The Manchester Monarchs proved to be a royal pain for the Hershey Bears on Saturday night at Giant Center before a sellout crowd of better than 10,000 patrons and twice overcame one-goal deficits to escape with a narrow 5-4 victory.

Keith Aucoin, the AHL’s leading point producer gave the Bears their first lead of the night at 3:26 of the opening period, but that early bulge lasted a mere ten seconds before Justin Azevedo slid a backhander under Hershey netminder Dany Sabourin at 3:36.

The Monarchs took their first lead of the game 1:05 into the middle frame when Linden Vey’s goal off of a faceoff win against Aucoin ricocheted off Bears’ defenseman Dany Richmond and beyond Sabourin.

The Bears tied the game and quickly took the lead later in the stanza when Jacob Micflikier and then captain Boyd Kane converted for goals with a span of twenty-four seconds, but again the Monarchs responded quickly and tied the game when Jordan Nolan, son of former NHL coach Ted Nolan, tied the game at 9:13 just forty-six seconds after Kane’s caper.

With the teams entering the final frame of regulation time knotted at three, the Monarchs quickly took a 4-3 lead when Cam Paddock, with an assist from Nolan, padded his goal-scoring stats by netting his second goal of the season. However, the battling Bears once again tied the game at four when Micflikier struck on the power play at 14:23. Micflikier’s goal, his 18th of the season, marked the first time that he had scored more than a single goal in any game.

Just over a minute after Micflikier’s marker, the Bears had a chance to possibly put the game away when they were presented with another power play opportunity, but the Monarchs managed to survive that scenario and clinched the victory on a goal by Marc-Andre Cliche at 17:56.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Bears Shoot Down Phantoms 1.7.12

Who knows what the cause was of the Chocolate and White sharpshooters firing wide of the target with great regularity early in the Hershey Bears’ rematch with the Adirondack Phantoms on Saturday night at Giant Center.

Perhaps it was a case of “Outdoor Classic hangover” from the previous night. Maybe it was simply a case of bad marksmanship, but whatever the reason, they eventually started hitting the bull’s-eye and attained a 5-2 win in a game that turned ugly late in the contest.

In an eerie twist, the Phantoms’ first goal of the game found the inside of the Bears’ net in the same manner as their opening strike in Fridays’ game- off a Hershey defenseman. But unlike Friday’s goal that went in off of Zach Miskovic, tonight’s tally bounced off of Miskovic’s partner Danny Richmond at 8:13.

Late in the first frame, with the Bears still scoreless on the evening, it looked like the visitors would enter the first intermission with no less than a one-goal lead when Ryan Potulny was sent to the penalty box for slashing at 18:49 by referee Ryan Hersey. However, Hershey’s terrific New England native twosome of Keith Aucoin and Chris Bourque combined for a shorthanded goal at 19:27.

The sequence started innocently enough with the Phantoms controlling the puck in the neutral zone, but then Aucoin separated a Phantom from the puck right in front of the official scorers’ table and then dished off a short pass to Bourque who took flight into their defensive zone. Bourque then proceeded to the inside of the left wing faceoff circle before buzzing a shot between the wickets of netminder Michael Leighton.

Early in the second period, the Bears took a 2-1 lead when Boyd Kane craftily deflected a Patrick McNeill point shot by Leighton at 2:29, but their lead lasted less than two minutes thanks to some brilliant work from Tyler Brown and Jason Akeson.

Brown and Akeson, after gaining entry into the Hershey zone, combined to execute a football-like crisscross pass maneuver that seemed to temporarily paralyze the home club, resulting in Brown receiving a pretty no-look pass from Akeson which he promptly put into the Hershey net at 3:57.

Seventy-two ticks of the scoreboard clock into the third period, Cullen Eddy tripped up Jacob Micflikier just inside the Phantoms’ blueline, which put the Bears’ league-leading power play unit into action, and fittingly it was Micflikier who found the back of net only six seconds into the manpower advantage to give the Bears a lead that they would not relinquish. Micflikier’s marker, his 13th of the season, broke a three-game goalless drought for the 5’8” native of Winnipeg, Manitoba, who earlier in the game confronted 6’5” Phantoms’ forward Tom Sestito after he took a run at one of his Hershey teammates.

After the Micflikier goal, defensemen Julien Brouillette and Patrick McNeill dented the armor of Leighton within a two minute span to give the Bears their eventual 5-2 margin of victory.

However, like many of the 172 previous meetings between the clubs, this one was not going to end quietly. With 3:30 left in the game a bevy of bouts broke out on the ice, with some even on the bench. Featured among the mayhem was an encounter between Hershey enforcer Joel Rechlicz and Sestito, who was on the Adirondack bench at the time of the altercation. Sestito, who minutes earlier had turned down a chance to dance with Rechlicz after being slammed into the boards by the bruising winger, was willing to engage him on this occasion from the sanctuary of the bench.

When all the dust had settled from the fracas, referee Hersey had handed out 108 penalty minutes and game misconducts to Rechlicz and Sestito, as well as Richmond and Eddy.

Notes- Bourque’s goal was his 20th of the season and marked the fifth time in his career he has reached the 20-goal plateau.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Outdoor Classic: Bears vs. Phantoms 1.6.12

Friday night’s game between the Adirondack Phantoms and Hershey Bears at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia was billed as an “Outdoor Classic”. While it may not have had the artistic beauty of a classic contest, it certainly was full of drama as the Phantoms fought back from a late third period deficit to steal a 4-3 overtime win over the Bears before an announced crowd of 45,653.

In falling to their former bitter rivals, the Bears wasted a fine outing from Braden Holtby who entered the game on a four-game winning streak. Holtby, who finished with 40 saves, was stellar throughout the contest, particularly in the second period when he stopped all 17 shots he faced.

The Bears wasted little time in jumping out to an early lead 1-0 lead when Chris Bourque converted the rebound of Keith Aucoin’s shot into his 19th goal of the season only 28 seconds into the contest. Bourque’s goal was his 125th as a Bear.
Mike Testwuide tied the game up at 12:03 by banking a shot off of the body of Zach Miskovic which gave Holtby no chance of stopping the redirection. Miskovic, who was a healthy scratch in the previous seven games, was appearing in his 13th game of the season.

The second period was scoreless until the final two minutes when Kyle Greentree, a former Phantom who scored 26 goals in his two seasons with the club, gave the Bears a 2-1 lead at 18:37. Greentree gathered in the rebound of a Cody Eakin shot and slithered a rebound shot past prone Phantoms’ netminder Michael Leighton to pick up his third goal of the season.

The Bears carried their one-goal cushion into the third period, and it held up until the 7:03 mark when Luke Pither potted his second goal of the season. Pither, after an icing call to the Bears, outdueled Bears centerman Christian Hanson on the ensuing faceoff. After the faceoff win, the Phantoms, persistent in their pursuit to tie the game, kept the puck in the Bears’ zone with Pither finishing off the sequence himself.

With the game on the line in the third period, Hershey’s usually lethal power play which is ranked first in the league entering the contest, had a chance to shine and did just that when Graham Mink, the league’s leader in power play strikes, finished off a beautiful three way sequence involving fellow forwards Bourque and Aucoin by blasting a shot past Leighton at 12:53.

However, the feisty Phantoms tied the game with 20.8 seconds left in regulation when Ben Holmstrom tallied his 10th goal of the season with Leighton on the bench in favor of an extra attacker.

The Phantoms needed less than a minute of the overtime to send the Bears to their fourth overtime setback of the season when Shane Harper fought off Bourque’s back checking effort and backhanded the biscuit by Holtby at 58 seconds.


With their multi-point efforts, Aucoin and Bourque each increased their totals in that category to 16 and 13 respectively.

The Bears roster featured just two players who were in their lineup in the last regular season AHL game played in Philadelphia on April 10, 2009: Chris Bourque and Patrick McNeill. Current Bears’ captain Boyd Kane also skated in that game, but he was captaining the Phantoms in that encounter.

Phantoms’ head coach Joe Paterson is a former Bear who played for the club in the 1984-85 and 1985-86 seasons.

Hershey scratched Matt Pope, Joel Rechlicz, D.J. King and Danny Richmond (veteran).

The Bears’ record this season for fastest goal from the start of the game is 18 seconds, set by Bourque on November 23rd against the Providence Bruins at Giant Center.

Bears’ defenseman Patrick Wellar left the playing surface at 14:44 of the first period favoring his left leg and did not return to the game.