It’s Raining Bears in Hersey

(Photo credit: Kyle Mace)

Making the Hershey Bears 7-1 victory over the Pirates even sweeter, fans threw over 10 thousand bears on the ice for charity. Check out our Hershey blog, Sweetest Hockey on Earth, for more of Kyle Mace’s photos and Kathryn’s game recap.

It’s impossible not to click this gigantic link.

All photos by Kyle Mace. Click to enlarge.

We heard from reader Matthew W. that Braden Holtby got a new mask this week. Until today, all we had were blurry, long-distance cell phone pictures, but now we’ve got pics from Kyle Mace (of our sister blog Sweetest Hockey On Earth) taken during warm-ups of the Bears/Senators game.

The front of the mask features a bear on a roller coaster (either a reference to Hersheypark or his turbulent offseason) and the Capitals Weagle logo. The back features the flags of Saskatchewan and Alberta (Holtby’s home); the Japanese symbol meaning “Constant Improvement,” the words “Carpe Diem”, and the Hershey Bears logo.

Below the jump, check out Kyle’s hi-res images of Braden’s sweet new headgear. And thanks to Holtby for unknowingly being such a great model.

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Mark French

Photo credit: Hershey Bears Facebook Page

In early February, when Metallurg Novokuznetsk failed to reach the KHL playoffs, Dmitry Orlov worked out a deal with the team’s management. Instead of being sent down to the MHL to play for Metallurg’s affiliate during their playoff run, Orlov started his professional career in the Capitals’ organization to work towards his goal of becoming an NHL player.

He flew to America, and made his AHL debut with the Bears on February 27th. That night, Dima registered an assist, spent time on the power play, and had a first period so solid that Tim Leone called it “the best first 20 minutes from a 19-year-old D I’ve ever seen in this league.”

Orlov went on to total nine points in the remaining 19 games of the AHL regular season, and he experienced his first ever AHL playoff series, a 4-2 series loss to the Charlotte Checkers.

The six-foot Novokuznetsk native is now back in DC, participating in his first ever NHL Training Camp. I caught up with Hershey Bears Head Coach Mark French — the same man who guided the Bears to an AHL record 60 wins and the team’s eleventh Calder Cup in 2010 — and asked him about Orlov’s rookie season, what he needs to improve to make the NHL, and if Dima has the potential to be a 20-goal scorer in the NHL.

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Braden Holtby

Photo credit: Chris Gordon

When George McPhee swooped in and signed free agent goalie Tomas Vokoun for a couple bucks and Alex Ovechkin’s now useless stockpile of CCM sticks, there was no doubt it was a great move for the Washington Capitals. But that doesn’t mean everyone was happy with it. 21-year-old netminder Braden Holtby, who looked assured of a roster spot just a day before when the team traded away Semyon Varlamov, was once again relegated to a job with the AHL’s Hershey Bears.

We know what Michal Neuvirth, the remaining ‘keeper in the Caps’ trio, thinks about the deal and losing his starting spot. Holtby, however, has been somewhat of a mystery, with head coach Bruce Boudreau admitting during Development Camp even he hasn’t spoken to the Saskatchewan native about the move.

Unbeknownst to us (but not Hockey Ramblings), someone has been able get Holtby’s side of the story. Several weeks ago, The Pipeline Show on Team 1260 Edmonton caught up the young goalie, with Holtby spilling the beans on the crease situation, Nicklas Backstrom’s injuries, why he didn’t think the team’s defensive system was much of a change, and more.

Below, we offer a transcription.

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Videoclip via the Hershey Bears YouTube page

It was a milestone night in Hershey on Saturday. Keith Aucoin registered his 700th career AHL point, Brian Willsie scored his career-high 30th goal of the season and Dmitry Orlov tallied his first career goal at Giant Center. The Bears went on to defeat the Albany Devils 7-4 in front of a sold-out crowd. With the win, Hershey clinched a playoff spot and earned the right to defend their back-to-back Calder Cup Championships.

The most fascinating part of the evening, however, was the line-brawl that was ignited after Brian Willsie scored against the Devils’ fourth line. As the five Bears on the ice went to congratulate each other, Albany tough-guy Chris Murray gave Mathieu Perreault a shove. The feisty, 174 lb. Perreault responded with a flurry of punches and Hershey’s entire line engaged Murray. Pierre-Luc Leblond — yes, the same guy who was suspended earlier in the year for jumping Marcus Johansson — then came to his teammate’s aid, charging towards the pile of Bears as if he were a bowling ball looking for a strike. Mayhem ensued thereafter, as everyone on the ice squared off except for the goalies.

All in all, 34 penalty minutes were doled-out between the two teams, including 14 PIM’s to Leblond and 12 PIM’s to Louis Robitaille. The Bears swept the contentious and brutal season series with Albany, 6-0-0.  Below the jump, Sweetest Hockey On Earth‘s Kyle M. has shared his photos of the brawl.

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A Sheldon Souray Fight in 100 Pictures

The knock-out blow

Mama, said knock you out!

All photos by Kyle M. of Sweetest Hockey On Earth.

In Hershey’s nail-biting 3-2 victory over the Norfolk Admirals Saturday, Sheldon Souray got in his second fight of the season, choosing Lightning defense prospect Vladimir Mihalik as his combatant. Mihalik, who stands in at a towering 6’8”, was still no match for the 6’4” Souray, a veteran of over 50 NHL fights.

SHOE’s Kyle M. has supplied us with the 100 pictures he took of the fight from the Giant Center’s photo-well. His pictures slow down the thirty-second altercation into a work of art, expertly capturing all the essential elements of a good fight: the grappling, the punches, the emotion, and the knock-out blow. Enjoy!

Get over to our babyblog SHOE to watch Ian Oland’s interview with the Hershey Bear’s own Andrew Gordon. Last week, Ian cornered the AHL’s most prolific scorer in the locker room and forced him to answer questions about Sidney Crosby, not making the Capitals roster, Braden Holby’s eccentricities, and punishing AHL schedules.  Gordon, who contributed to RMNB this spring, was a very good sport.

Here’s your pullquote: “My skill-set is equal, or if not, better than [Sidney's].” The kid’s a laugh riot.

How could you not click a link when it’s this big?

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Varly has 21 saves in his first rehab start with the Bears.

All photos by Kyle M. of Sweetest Hockey On Earth

Welcome back, Varly! After a four week layoff, Semyon Varlamov finally got himself back into game-action tonight as the Bears concluded their stretch of three-games-in-three-nights against the Binghamton Senators at Giant Center. How did he do? Kathryn Hedrick of our Hershey blog, Sweetest Hockey On Earth, has your update:

I know you’re all dying to hear how Semyon Varlamov did. When he was sent to Hershey, I’m thinking they were hoping to see him challenged more than he was tonight. He didn’t really have to deal with a lot of shots until the second period when Binghamton had a couple power plays, including a 5-on-3. He let in three goals, two while Hershey was on the penalty kill. He was pretty solid but probably wants at least one of those goals back. It’s understandable since he’s shaking off a lot of rust. He looked great when he stopped a shorthanded breakaway shot during the third period. Overall, he made 21 for 24 saves.

Hershey went on to win the game 8-3. Mathieu Perreault had six assists and Andrew Gordon had a pair of goals. Make sure to view SHOE’s gamer here, which includes video highlights, awesome photos from Kyle, and some other crazy stats. Below the fold, make sure to check out some more photos of Varly in action.

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Semyon Varlamov during practice at Giant Center

All photos by Kyle M. of our Hershey Blog, Sweetest Hockey On Earth

Semyon Varlamov returned to the U.S. on August 1st, a full month and a half before training camp began. Varly’s intention was to get his body in optimal shape for the upcoming season after losing several months to a groin injury last year.  Success would be three-fold: avoid injury, become Washington’s number-one goaltender, and get better acquainted with Caps fans.

Despite tough training work, a commendable effort, and some true blogging prowess, the first two months of the season have been a complete disaster for Semyon (except for maybe that awesome Caps Convention commercialCLICK ON ME!!!).

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shoe-graphic

Up for grabs today.

This photo is up for grabs today.

Our humble little blog, Russian Machine Never Breaks, spent the last year cutting our teeth writing about the Washington Capitals. Through our labors we learned about the team’s secret weapon: the Hershey Bears. This Pennsylvanian cache of dynamic, young talent kept us entertained long after the Caps took their early curtain call at the playoffs. The Hershey Bears marched dutifully to their 11th Calder Cup championship led by guys like Andrew Gordon, a right winger with bright prospects whose only mistake in his young career was to blog with our lowly ilk.

The HBH-ers inspired us, and we decided they deserve more than a measly category on this site. So all of the Russian Machinists got together one night, drank a couple root beers, one thing led to another, and now we have a bouncing baby blog in the family.

Ladies and gentlemen, we are proud to present to you

Sweetest Hockey on Earth

Piloting the new site will be Kathryn Hedrick, intrepid reporter and author of Flashy Glove Save, and Kyle M., photographer with a sports-coverage pedigree. Together they will relay to you the promise and excitement of the Hershey Bears Hockey with the same gusto, pizazz, and thesaurus-ness you find here on RMNB proper.

So join us in bookmarking www.sweetesthockeyonearth.com on your laptop (and iPad), following @SweetestHockey on the Twitters, liking us on the facebook, and plugging this RSS feed into your feed reader. We’ll make it worth your while.

To celebrate SHOE (oh dear, is that really the acronym?), we’re holding a little contest. Among those of you who network up with us and help spread the word on Friday, we’ll select the most enthusiastic to receive some free RMNB merch and the signed photo above. We’ll announce our winners before Hershey’s home opener on Saturday Night.

Go! Bears! Go!