[Ed. Note: Rock the Brock will be a reoccuring post from Brock Kerchner, co-host of the Old Barn Hockey Show on 1460 The Ticket in Harrisburg, PA featuring a weekly chat on all things Hershey Bears.]
Bear Bye- Wednesday night the Baby Pens came to Hershey and silenced the cheers at the Giant Center. After a decent first period by the Bears, the Pens converted on 2 power play chances and took control of the game. They would add 2 more goals for the 4-0 win and Bears Fans were not happy. George McPhee was in attendance and many comments were tossed his way (in the Bears’ executive Suite) during the game with Co-Coach Oates as the subject matter. McPhee did not return to his seat for the third period. After the game it was announced that the Capitals Co-Coaching experiment in Hershey was over. This was apparently in the works from earlier in the week. Many Bears fans voiced their support of Mark French and Troy Mann taking back control of the bench. Friday the Bears bused to Adirondack for a tilt. The Bears looked good in the game but fell 2-1. The forward lines were in flux for the entire game. It seems the coaching staff was trying to see who fit together best or shake things up a little. On Sunday the Bears returned home to face the Toronto Marlies. The first 2 periods of the game were the best 2 periods played at Giant Center yet this year. The shots were not plentiful but they counted. The Bears lost energy in the third and the Marlies applied plenty of pressure. Holtby saved 40 shots in the 4-2 win. Forward line and lineup changes were very evident in Sunday’s game. This could be something to build upon moving forward. The responsibility now fully rides on the shoulders of Mark French and Troy Mann to turn this team around. The Bears head to the Scope in Norfolk to distance themselves from the basement of the East Division on Wednesday Night. They will return home Friday night to face Bridgeport and then Saturday against Norfolk in the annual Teddy Bear Toss game. If you have never had 11,000 stuffed bears rain down on you from above, it is something to behold! [Update – the Bears did take the W against Norfolk on Wednesday night]
P-Mac is Back!- Patrick McNeill returned to the lineup on Sunday for his 3rd game this season. The Hershey veteran blueliner since 2007 was suiting up for his 1st game since October 20th and not due to injury. Unreal. Coincidentally, Adam Oates had left Hershey recently. P-Mac stepped up and delivered an assist and +2 rating for the game. Apparently McNeill and Oates just didn’t see eye to eye as his 41 points last year and tenure in Hershey couldn’t by him a spot under Oates’s rule in Chocolatetown. Bears fans will be expecting more of the same McNeill as they have seen in the past from the 2-time Calder Cup Champion. [Update – In the Bears’ win against Norfolk Wednesday night, P-Mac scored a goal and was the game’s #1 star]
Ryan Potulny (Photo Courtesy of Carl Minieri)
Ryan Potulny- Ryan Potulny’s return to the lineup will certainly help the Bears on the offensive side of the ice. His 33 goals and 32 assists in 61 games last year was no accident. Ryan is a solid consistent player who always ends up being in the right spot. He also shows great balance in passing or shooting, which can be tough for a goalie to read. Ryan’s veteran leadership was surely missed as well with many younger forwards joining the team this year. He is someone to watch and to learn from by example for sure. I would expect him to be in the top 3 for scoring in the team by the end of the year.
Bears' Practice Facilites- Hershey doesn’t have the dedicated practice facility that most NHL teams enjoy; they have 3 different places they frequent. Practice facility number one is the Giant Center itself. This is most preferred as obviously everything is there for them at their home building. If Giant Center is booked or unavailable the team will look to the Old Barn. Historic Hersheypark Arena is still in use with ice down. The former home of the Bears opened in 1936 and is still a grand building to visit. A place to step into for sure if you make it to Chocolatetown. The Bears third practice rink is an outside covered rink at the Milton Hershey School in Hershey. The ice is good but locker rooms are on the small side for a full AHL team. The ice surface is a little smaller then the Giant Center but it is a great way for the Bears to get ready for the Winter Classic. The Bears really have a triforce of facilities to skate in: an AHL state of the art coliseum, a historic treasured relic, and an outdoor link to childhood beginnings.
Hybrid Icing- November 19th was the extension date for the new hybrid icing rule that was temporarily installed in the AHL rulebook at the beginning of this year. It has had a tall learning curve on both sides of the call. Officials, especially linesmen, have had to learn to quickly make the judgment call. Without a quick call the players could end up susceptible to injury due to the chase. The players have also had to learn what they need to do to have the call waved off or given a shot to reach the puck. I feel by the end of the season officials and players in the AHL will be fairly adjusted to the new rule, but it is still a judgment call and there will be “too close to call” situations. I am still not sure if it will truly cut down on player injuries, but time will tell. Curious to see if it makes it to the NHL or if it is dismissed.