|03-02-2005, 06:17 PM||#1|
lets go partner
Join Date: Oct 2004
Bearing It All
by Nichole Kantz
The 2004-2005 Hershey Bears had their fair share of ups and downs during the first half of the season. They have gone through several streaks, not to mention the ones in the skunk-styled hairdo that Bears forward David Masse sports proudly. During the first three months of the season, Hershey has suffered through losing streaks of three and four games.
Falling short of a Christmas miracle, December saw team morale boosted and for the first time in a long time, the game "clicked." With a glimmer of hope for the Bears midway through the season for Hershey, the second half of the season looks bright. Fan support is still strong in central PA; on average, the Bears draw a crowd of 7,000 diehard fans per game despite the rough times experienced in the first twenty home games. Currently, Hershey is in fifth place in the East with 50 points, behind strong Calder Cup contenders Philadelphia, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Binghamton, and Norfolk. The race in their division is tight; only a few points separate the top from the bottom. Hershey looks to duel with Norfolk for the final playoff spot during the second half of the season. As of now, Hershey is projected for 42 wins and staying alive for a playoff berth. To avoid missing the playoffs for a second straight season, the Bears must perform at the level of play and intensity exhibited during late December and early January. The remaining forty games are against the top trio of Philadelphia, Binghamton, and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. A tough spot for the chocolate and white, but the possibility of making up ground on Norfolk exists.
The Bears roster is filled with NHL veterans and champions from both the NHL and AHL. Notably, there is Eric Perrin, who was a member of the 2003-2004 Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning and left wing Mathieu Darche, who was a member of the AHL Milwaukee Admirals 2003-2004 Calder Cup championship team. Andre Savage is also a Calder Cup Champion. Additionally, Hershey utilizes the expertise of left wing Dennis Bonvie, the AHL's all-time penalty minute leader who has ten years of NHL experience with Edmonton, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Boston, Ottawa, and Colorado. Defenseman Jamie Rivers career does not run as deep as Bonvie, but his leadership comes from playing for St. Louis, New York Islanders, Ottawa, Boston, Florida, and Detroit. Early in the season, Hershey acquired Carl Corazzini from the Providence Bruins in exchange for veteran defenseman Darrell Scoville. Corazzini adds to the offense a burst of energy and strength on the breakaway. Corazzini can easily add two or three goals and assists by games end.
Colorado's prospective goaltender, Peter Budaj, earns a lot of the credit for the recent seven game winning streak. Budaj, a 2001 first round draft pick for the Colorado Avalanche started the streak with a 6-0 victory over the Norfolk Admirals. He has great flexibility but his reaction time is slow and occasionally lets in a soft goal. The streak ended against the Norfolk Admirals on the ides of January and he had a 2.64 G.A.A. and a 92% save percentage. During a post-game questioning session, Hershey Bears coach Paul Fixter said, "It's a tremendously huge loss. You win seven in a row, you lose one, and then hopefully you win another seven in a row." Hershey walks away from the streak knowing it currently was the longest active streak in the AHL.
To best describe how the Bears played the first half of the season, Fixter stated after the devastating streak ending loss, "When you get outworked, you scramble. You do stupid things; laziness cost us the game." Hershey's power play weakness is the inability to fire on net. Ranked 13th in the league (15.9%), the power play specialty team too often waits until late in the power play to charge the net, not capitalizing on the man advantage. On the other hand, the penalty kill ranks 16th at 83% in the AHL.
world cup of hockey
Marek Svatos, Hershey Bears
world cup of hockey
Rookie defenseman Johnny Boychuk suffers from rookie jitters and is still developing, but with experience, he has the potential to become a John-Michael Liles in Colorado's organization. Boychuk delivers a solid game topped by a solid shot clocked at over 90 mph. The emergence of Jeff Finger and Dean Arsene led to the departure of Mikko Viitanen and Tomas Slovak. Finger and Arsene play a vital part in making the defensive role click. Nothing but "nit and grit" is what the pair delivers through hard hits and enforcement, landing Finger and Arsene in the box.
Top prospect and former Colorado Avalanche forward, Marek Svatos, returns to Hershey this season after missing the 2003-2004 season due to a shoulder injury that kept him sidelined for the majority of the season. Svatos returned to the line-up in post-season play for the Avalanche. Svatos' return to the Bears was well anticipated; his last stint in Hershey was as a rookie during the 2002-2003 season. This season the young Avs prospect is paired on the top line and the most effective scoring line of Darche-Perrin-Svatos. Svatos ranks third in team scoring, earning 21 points tied with team Captain Brett Clark. Svatos' game is hurt since returning from the injury. He has the speed and ability along with great coordination and puck-handling skills to be a top scorer, but is paralyzed with the fear of being checked or checking for that matter. A surprise to the Bears was the November call-up of Reading Royal left wing David Masse. Masse spent a few games in Hershey last season, but this year in 24 games played, his rugged play gives him the potential to earn honors as Hershey's "Rookie of the Year."
There is much disappointment in the Colorado organization as well. Right wing Cody McCormick was to be a driving force with the Bears this season. McCormick, a second year pro, has spent this season sidelined with a wrist injury and his return to the line-up is questionable. Sidelined with McCormick were Martin Hlinka and Agris Saviels who both returned to the line-up in mid January. The arrival of Hlinka led to the departure of Greg Barber to the Quad City of the UHL. Agris Saviels, a third year defenseman, needs to step up to the plate if he wants to continue on with the club. Plagued with injury and a sinking plus/minus rating of -5, the double A level may be just what the doctor ordered.
world cup of hockey
Dennis Bonvie, Hershey Bears
world cup of hockey
The Hershey/Philadelphia match-up was postponed because of a winter storm that paralyzed the east coast. The game is the first postponement in Hershey since March 14, 1993, when the Bears and the Utica Devils game was snowed out. Hershey's last postponement in any venue came December 30, 1997, when a game was cancelled between the Bears and Syracuse Crunch at Onondaga County War Memorial.
Holding down a tough spot is the penalty king, Dennis Bonvie, who is used to being the center of fan attention. The right winger generally booed by opposition's supporters, earned points with Norfolk fans and Hershey fans when the Admirals visited Giant Center on January 15, 2005. During warm-ups, Bonvie noticed two Hershey fans wearing turbans as an insult to Norfolk captain Ajay Baines, of East Indian descent, and asked them to remove them, and the fans complied. "It's something we don't approve of" Bonvie said. "I just kind of made word of it and told them to stop and moved on and warmed up for the game. I just think that's the way I've been brought up." Baines is a center and veteran captain for the Norfolk Admirals. He has diabetes and is known for his charitable work with agencies in Virginia for the disease.