The locker room filed out quickly with Hershey Bears players as they exited following their sixth straight game without a regulation win. You could feel the somber tone as the Bears’ playoff aspirations begin to come into question. Mike Haviland’s ejection in the second period of Hershey’s most recent loss, a 6-3 defeat to Charlotte, showed the piling frustration not only the players possess, but the coaches have as well.
The Bears are filled with AHL veterans who know how to turn struggles around. The potential reunion of Hershey’s formidable top line of Nicolas Deschamps, Ryan Stoa and Brandon Segal also could become a driving force to rekindling the Bears’ winning ways of February. A road trip to Norfolk is where the journey will start for the Chocolate and White over the course of their last 19 games, entering Friday night two points outside the 2013-14 Calder Cup playoffs.
Hershey will potentially have additional resources to make that playoff push. The Washington Capitals acquired second year pro forward Chris Brown in the Martin Erat trade, which sent Bears’ forward John Mitchell to the Phoenix Coyotes organization.
Brown, 23, joins the Capitals with 11 games of NHL experience and some size to their already big group of forwards. He’s 6’2” and has produced in the American Hockey League, after three years at the University of Michigan. The Texas native produced 29 goals and 28 assists in his first pro season for the Phoenix Coyotes and has followed that up with a strong performance in his sophomore campaign. His 35 points this season would rank him third in scoring for the Hershey Bears.
He was selected by the Phoenix Coyotes in the second round (36th overall) during the 2009 NHL entry draft and could slot in the Bears’ lineup as top six forward when he plays in Hershey. Brown was recalled by the Capitals Thursday morning in advance on Washington’s road matchup against the Boston Bruines.
Mike Haviland hinted toward roster changes after Hershey’s most recent defeat and line combinations will almost definitely be altered except for their top one, if forward Ryan Stoa is indeed sent back to Hershey after his appearance for the Washington Capitals in Philadelphia last night. Stoa is eligible for the Calder Cup playoffs because his recall came after the NHL trade deadline.
The Bears also received goaltender Philipp Grubauer who served as the Capitals emergency goaltender last night in Washington’s 6-4 loss to the Flyers, after Michal Neuvirth was dealt in a package for Buffalo Sabres net minder Jaroslav Halak late Wednesday afternoon.
One part of their game at the Bears must get better at is defensive play in their own end. They’ve surrendered four goals or more over five times in their last six games, giving up 28 total goals over that duration. Their offense has dried up as well, scoring only five goals over their last three games.
Hershey’s power play has regressed too, falling to 23rd in the league at a 15.7% clip. The Bears also gave up three power play goals in their loss Sunday to Charlotte, dropping their penalty kill to 83.1%, 14th in the AHL.
March 7th and 8th at Norfolk
Norfolk will bring a big time challenge for the Bears this weekend, with goaltender John Gibson and an elite defense and penalty kill manning the currently fifth seeded Admirals. Their young group of forwards have speed that will give Norfolk an edge in the transition game, something the Bears must avoid. Hershey gave up numerous odd-man rushes in their two game set against Charlotte at the Giant Center this past weekend.
- Power Play: 16.6% (14th)
- Penalty Kill: 86.8% (3rd)
- Goals per Game: 2.65 (21st)
- Goals Against per Game: 2.49 (2nd)
- Goalies: John Gibson (17-12-4, 2.29 goals against average, .922 SV %) and Brad Thiessen (3-2-2, 2.07 goals against average and .940 SV %)
- Offensive Leaders: Andre Petersson (40 points), Emerson Etem (37), Rickard Rakell (37) and Devante Smith-Pelly (35)
- Defenseman Patrick Wellar talks about playing in his 600th career pro game [Lebanon Daily News]
- Forward Garrett Mitchell got quite a scary when his name was thrown in trade rumors [Patriot News]
- Norfolk forward Norm Ezekiel makes an impact for the Admirals although undersized [The Hockey Writers]