The season-long rivalry between the Phantoms and the former Flyers affiliate in Hershey begins in the 2015/2016 season tonight Chocolate Town. der Eishockeyzuschauer filed this report previewing today’s game in Hershey. The Bears will come to Allentown on Friday.
The 11-time Calder Cup champion Hershey Bears have been struggling to get themselves untracked in earnest to start this new 2015/16 AHL season but took a big step in that direction with a come-from-behind triumph over the visiting St. John’s IceCaps on Saturday night.Hershey certainly have had their share of challenges to cope with; to begin with, the Bears had to play their first four games on the road and, overall, five of their first seven AHL contests this fall have come away from the Giant Center on Hersheypark Drive in central PA. Two-way center Chandler Stephenson (5’11” 200 lbs), the sturdy 21-year-old who was the 3rd round pick of the Washington Capitals at the 2012 NHL Draft, was recalled after skating in the season opener and has not returned to Chocolate Town. Just this past week, hot prospect Jakub Vrana, the talented 19-year-old Czech import who was the 1st round pick (# 13 overall) of the Washington Capitals at the 2014 NHL Draft, injured his hand in practice and is sidelined indefinitely..Vrana, who had five assists in just three AHL games for the Hershey Bears last spring after concluding the European season with Swedish club HC Linkoping (44 ga, 12 go, 24 pts, 12 pen, + 3 def), was tied for the scoring leadership in Chocolate Town (6 ga, 2 go, 6 pts, 2 pen, + 1 def) going into this weekend; it was the teenaged Vrana who had three assists during the Bears’ decisive 5-1 victory over the Lehigh Valley Phantoms in the last game of the 2014/15 AHL season for Hershey..Primarily, it has been the lack of consistent goal-scoring that has caused the most problems for Hershey thus far. After finding the back of the net five times in the opener against rookie German goaltender Niklas Treutle and the Springfield Falcons, the Bears managed to score a combined total of just 11 goals on its next six outings (a woeful average of less than two per game). Rookie right wing Riley Barber (6’0″ 198 lbs), the 21-year-old from Miami University of Ohio who was teammates with Lehigh Valley defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere on the United States team which won the gold medal at the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championships, scored two goals on his AHL debut and another in Hershey’s third game of the season but has now failed to get his name on the scoresheet for the last five games in a row..Saturday night versus St. John’s, the Bears were bolstered by the return of defensive forward Zach Sill, the 27-year-old center who spent all of last season skating in 63 NHL games (1 go, 4 pts, 84 pen, – 5 def) for the Toronto Maple Leafs and Pittsburgh Penguins. Sill was not in uniform for Hershey on Friday night after traveling back home to attend a family member’s funeral in Ontario. Significantly, it was the Bears’ third line, a classic checking unit featuring team captain Garrett Mitchell (who sparked his team to a rally by scoring Hershey’s first goal), that was the most effective trio against visiting St. John’s :.Paul Carey ……. Travis Boyd …….. Chris BourqueSean Collins ….. Carter Camper …. Riley BarberLiam O’Brien ….. Zach Sill ………… Garrett MitchellDustin Gazley … Nathan Walker … Caleb Herbert.Fittingly, skating in his 400th career AHL game on behalf of the historically successful Hershey Bears franchise, it was veteran winger Chris Bourque, the small but skillful 29-year-old from Boston University, who set up the game-winning goal for linemate Paul Carey (a Boston College product) and notched his 400th career AHL point in the process … it is also Bourque who now leads the Bears in scoring (8 ga, 2 go, 7 pts) this season.,(NHL Hall of Fame defenseman Ray Bourque was reportedly at the Giant Center on Saturday night to see his son play and will also be in attendance for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms game on Sunday).As for the defensive side of things, it is hard to say that the Hershey Bears have been bad, especially considering the number of road games. Hershey have conceded two goals or less in five of their first eight games. The pairings for Saturday night’s game against St. John’s were as follows :.Madison Bowey … Aaron NessConnor Carrick …. Christian DjoosRyan Stanton …… Eric Burgdoerfer.Rookie blueliner Madison Bowey (7 ga, 1 go, 3 pts, 4 pen, + 2), the promising 20-year-old who was the 2nd round pick of the Washington Capitals at the 2013 NHL Draft and won a gold medal with Canada at the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championships last winter, had a three-game point scoring streak snapped on Saturday night.,Swedish rookie defenseman Christian Djoos (6’0″ 162 lbs), the slender 20-year-old import who was the 7th round pick of the Washington Capitals at the 2012 NHL Draft, was inserted into the line-up for only the third time this season against St. John’s on Saturday night; Djoos, who was teammates with Lehigh Valley Phantoms defenseman Robert Hagg on Sweden’s teams which won silver medals at the annual IIHF World Junior Championships in both 2014 and 2015, does have a hard shot and collected his first assist of this new season at the expense of the IceCaps..Given the fact that second-year head coach Troy Mann has been rotating his two experienced goaltenders religiously, it is certain that the Hershey Bears will use Dan Ellis (4 ga, 2.97 avg, .885 svpct) between the pipes opposite the Lehigh Valley Phantoms on Sunday. The 35-year-old veteran has 212 NHL games in his career but has never before faced the Phantoms after spending most of last season in the AHL’s Western Conference with the San Antonio Rampage (37 ga, 2.71 avg, .904 svpct). Perhaps visiting Lehigh Valley can give this goaltender a proper greeting.