It has not been a great weekend for Hershey hockey fans. The Bears failed to see victory through on opening night against the Syracuse Crunch, and repeated this unfortunate sequence of events Sunday evening in their game against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, taking a 2-1 loss. All is not lost, however, as names that are slowly becoming familiar to those in Hershey are continuing to impress.
Losing the first two games of the season by a combined two goals is certainly not an ideal kick-off for any team, especially in a place that has eleven Calder Cup Championship banners hanging in the rafters. While these two losses had fans unhappily departing the Giant Center, there are, in fact, several reasons for those fans to be excited for the season ahead.
Team Chemistry Still Growing
This is a new group that is just beginning to gel together in tangible ways. 15 out of the 27 players on the Hershey Bears’ current roster did not play for Hershey last season. That is a turnover rate of over 50 percent. Team chemistry does not develop overnight, and with such a large group of new players, including ten players that are making their AHL debuts this season, it may take several games and practices to get a real flow going on the forward and defensive lines. Add into that the fact that rookie goaltender Ilya Samsonov played exceptionally well in his first AHL start on Saturday night, stopping 28 of 31 shots, and there is a lot of room for improvement for this iteration of the Hershey Bears.
Carbery’s Track Record
New head coach Spencer Carbery has a history of success on his resume, as he helped lead the ECHL’s South Carolina Stingrays to a Kelly Cup championship in 2009 as a player, and led the Stingrays to five consecutive playoff berths in his five seasons as head coach, including two first-place finishes. While he was arguably in charge of an already-successful group in North Charleston, Carbery’s ability to keep this group in a constant win-mode over the course of a five-year stretch that saw the Stingrays go 207-115-19 as a whole deserves credit. Carbery’s coaching style will likely bring this success to the Bears, given some time.
Mix of Vets and Young Talent
Veteran leadership and youthful talent are both key parts of Hershey’s new plan for success going forward, and it is already appearing to pay dividends. While the lion’s share of assists in the first two games have gone to Hershey regulars Riley Barber and Colby Williams, rookie Shane Gersich picked up an assist on Sunday night on an absolutely beautiful stretch pass to Micheal Sgarbossa, who in turn scored his second goal in as many games from said pass. Gersich played a short run of three games with the Washington Capitals in their Stanley Cup-winning season earlier this year, registering a lone assist against the New Jersey Devils. Sgarbossa, on the other hand, is a seasoned AHL veteran who scored 40 points with the Manitoba Moose last season. Expect to see more from these talented rookies and veterans alike, including fan-favorite Axel Jonsson-Fjallby.
There are many more reasons to slow down the panic train (it is only game two of the season, after all) that I cannot go over in this write-up. These Hershey Bears have already shown glimmers of hope and brilliance that will hopefully result in a much better showing as winter approaches than the Bears showed in the season’s first two games. The Hershey Bears will continue their season on Friday, October 12th, away from home to play the Grand Rapids Griffins at 7 p.m. EST.
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