So how do you greive the loss of a season that was supposed to be so much more than it was? If you're like me, you occupy yourself with something else. Something somewhat similar, yet not the exact same. Something that fills the void, but doesn't have the sting of regret associated with it. Something that medicates, without overwheming or replacing your original love.
So what am I getting at? Here's a hint- there's still a team competing for a Championship, and you're connected to it. You're almost as familiar with the teams' current players, such as John Carlson, Karl Alzner, Mathieu Perreault, Jay Beagle, Michal Neuvirth and Keith Aucoin, as you are players past (Mike Green, Jeff Schultz, Brooks Laich, Semyon Varlamov, Eric Fehr, Tomas Fleishmann, Boyd Gordon, Quintin Laing, Dave Steckel, Tyler Sloan, and coaches Bruce Boudreau and Bob Woods.)
That's right- The Hershey Bears.
And they're on fire. What better way to help move on from the mourning the Caps' season than immersing yourself into "Bears Nation?" and cheering Washington's AHL affiliateon as they vie for their 11th Calder Cup?
As I mentioned before, you're probably already quite familiar with the names above. Those guys have come to DC and played well in the Red White & Blue, so what about the ones you may not be so familiar with? The guys who may never see time in a Caps Sweater- but Bears fans have come to love? If you're going to start following the farm team closely as they compete for the Calder Cup, here are some guys you should make yourself somewhat familiar with. They've had quite an impact on the Chocolate and White this season, and have been an integral part of the post-season success the Bears have enjoyed thus far.
Remember Patrick? He was drafted the same year as Sasha Semin, but he hasn't been with the organization this whole time. After bouncing around and showing up on different minor league rosters, Wellar seems to have found a home in Hershey. You may recall his call-up story to Hershey from Reading in December of 2008 (because not everyone that is called up is told to go sit at a rest stop along a highway and wait for a bus to pull over and pick him up).
Wellar has become a necessity on the Bears' blue line this year. He's also stepped into the role of enforcer (sharing the duties with Greg Amadio), taking care of the dirty work when needed (which happens to be a lot - since the AHL seems to think that one referee is sufficient enough for a hockey game). In the regular season, Wellar appeared in 47 games, scored 1 goal, and tallied 11 assists. He was a +23 on the season and was 2nd on the team in Penalty Minutes with 136.
In the playoffs so far Wellar has appeared in all 8 games, has 4 assists, and is 0 in the +/- column. He also has 10 Penalty Minutes. Look for Wellar to continue his physical style of play along the boards (perfect for his 6’3”, 210 pound frame), clear the crease for his goaltenders, and clean up the messes with the pests on other teams.
#26 - Ashton Rome – RW
Rome joined the Bears towards the end of the regular season after being added from the Idaho Steelhounds. Rome played 10 regular season games for the Bears, scoring 3 goals and 2 assists for 5 points. He finished the regular season a +6 and tallied 13 penalty minutes.
Rome has been an integral part of the Bears’ playoff push to this point, playing in all 8 games and registering 2 goals. Like Wellar, he’s a 0 in the +/- column, but his impact has been huge. So huge, that the 6’1” 205 pound Nesbitt, MB native shattered a pane of glass in Game 4 of the Birdgeport/Hershey series when putting a hit on former bear Mark Wotton.
#23 - Andrew Joudrey - C
Each year at the final home game, the Bears hand out regular season awards. My favorite award is always the “Unsung Hero” award, which goes to the player who did all the small things right, worked his tail off, and didn’t get half the credit they deserved. This year’s unsung hero was 5’11”, 185 pound Center, Andrew Joudrey. He’s best known in Hershey for his prowess on the Penalty Kill – and even scored 3 shorthanded goals in the regular season. In fact, in his 78 regular season games played, Joudrey had 15 goals and 19 assists for 33 points. He also finished the regular season a +33 with only 11 penalty minutes the entire season.
Joudrey has played all 8 post season games for the Bears, tallying 1 goal and 2 assists with a +2 rating. Continuing his incredibly disciplined style of play, he only has 2 penalty minutes. He continues to play a huge role on the Bears’ penalty kill – a PK that has allowed just 7 power play goals on 42 chances for a 83% success rate.
So, if it’s not too soon, and you’re still hungry for hockey – the Bears look to close out their series with the River Rats tonight at the Times Union Center in Albany. The Bears are up in the series 3 to 0, but two of those games have been decided in OT. John Walton has the call of the game on Sportsjuice.com (for free) with the pregame airing at 6:40 for a 7pm puck drop. If you’d rather watch, you can do so (but it will cost you) on AHLlive.com.