One look at the dismantling of the Chicago Blackhawks and it becomes apparent that the life blood of any hockey organization is its youth. If you can bring in young players that provide value at reasonable prices you have the ability to succeed in the long term. In the case of the Hershey Bears, it allows the Caps to fill their team with players who know how to win and execute Bruce Boudreau’s system.
The challenge then becomes not only which players to promote, but which players should be dangled in a trade and which you can simply cut bait with. The underlying question in all of this is simply: Does the front office feel a certain prospect can make it in the NHL?
If you’ve ever played a competitive sport at any high-level, you know the importance of momentum. It’s something that cannot be accurately measured by statistics, but its presence will never show up on any box-score. Watching game two of the Calder Cup Finals between the Hershey Bears and the Texas Stars tonight, it was obvious who had momentum in the final ten minutes of the game: The Hershey Bears. Despite the Chocolate and White never leading during regulation, Andrew Gordon’s electrifying put-back off a Patrick Wellar shot from the right point rallied the troops and tied the game 3-3 with 9:16 to go. And after Stars’ Defenseman Matt Stephenson went off for a four-minute double minor for high-sticking towards the tail end of a Bears Powerplay, it seemed like fate was on the Bears side.
It was not to be. The Bears could not score during the ensuing 31 seconds of their 5 on 3 advantage and fretted away the first 1:16 of their 5 on 4. Then, after a whistle, Boyd Kane lost his temper during a scrum and speared a Texas player. The back linesman saw it, notified the head official, and Kane was sent off for four minutes, negating the rest of the Bears Powerplay. Hello, 4-on-4 hockey. Goodbye, momentum.
The hockey gods must be playing a cruel trick on us. Why? Because for the first time in the postseason and the second time in 39 games this year, the Hershey Bears lost in front of their home fans at Giant Center. (And no, we weren’t there to curse them!)
Yet before you hit the panic button and start considering doomsday scenarios, we must acknowledge that this was the first time the Bears had played a game in 11 days. During that period, celebrities Gary Coleman and Dennis Hopper died, May turned to June, BP ruined the entire Gulf of Mexico three times over, Team Russia was humbled in another International Tournament and Bret Michaels nearly died from a brain hemorrhage, recovered and then won Celebrity Apprentice. So rust obviously could have been a factor tonight. It’s hard to have your mojo going after that long of a layoff.
The first 30 minutes of tonight’s Calder Cup Finals exhibition played out much to that effect as both teams treated the first half of the game like a chess match. Both clubs tried desperately not make the game’s first, crucial mistake. However despite being outshot 12-2 after one period of play, the Bears were the ones to score the game’s first goal in the second period. The ever-darty and creative Mathieu Perreault found Francois Bouchard wide open in front of the Stars’ net and the Sherbrooke, Quebec native buried it past Texas Goaltender Matt Climie. Yet, Texas was unfazed. Tonight was the 11th straight game they had given up the game’s first goal and during that span they are 7-4.
5 minutes after Bouchard dented the twine, Stars’ center Greg Rallo responded by beating Michal Neuvirth glove side with a sick wrist shot from the top of the circles. Then in the third, Scott McCulloch backhanded home what turned out to be the eventual game winning goal on a semi-breakaway. As Bears’ Radio Announcer John Walton so eloquently put it, the Bears turned it on too little, too late tonight. Hershey falls 2-1. To the bullets!!
This past weekend was awesome. Why? Because it was chock full of Hockey at every hour of the day. Sure there was “Super Sunday” with the Russians destroying the Czechs, USA humbling the Green Snubbers from the North, and the Swedes shutting out the Fins in Olympic action. But there also was a double dip of AHL Hockey with the Hershey Bears playing both on Saturday and Sunday. Well since we here at RMNB can’t be everywhere – though Fedor certainly tried as he watched illegal Russian Video Streams of the Bears Games during breaks in the Olympics – we asked our Hershey Correspondent Kyle M to summarize the events of this weekend via pictures, words & yes, his own video. Video which includes reaction from players and Coach Mark French after Hershey set the AHL Record for Consecutive Home Victories. Awesome. If you hate reading like me, here’s all you need to know: HERSHEY RULZ!
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