BY JULIE BEIDLER
Head coach Troy Mann will have some decisions to make, and they are not going to be easy. With the season opener on the horizon, Saturday, October 6 in Lehigh Valley, there are going to be cuts made to the roster this week, several cuts.
With 35 players listed on the roster for their second preseason game, at home against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, and a few more players yet to return from Washington, several members of the team will be departing, some as early as Sunday. What remains to be seen is if any of the players on the ice for their 3-2 OT loss at home will be among them.
In the rematch of Wednesday’s game where the Bears thumped the Penguins 5-1, it was all Wilkes-Barre/Scranton early on as the visitors jumped out to a 2-0 lead, until Dustin Gazley took a perfect feed from John Albert and beat Casey DeSmith to make it a one-goal game.
The Bears eventually got the equalizer from none other than Chris Bourque. With time winding down in the third, the Bears went on the Power Play. Mann decided to make it a 6-on-4 by pulling his netminder. Rookies Connor Hobbs and Lucas Johansen earned assists on the game-tying goal.
But in overtime, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton took advantage of a Hershey miscue with a three-on-none to seal the deal.
What we’ve learned – Connor Hobbs can really lower the boom. The big first-year defenseman leveled Jeff Taylor at the blueline in the first period. He drew an interference penalty on the hit, but it certainly electrified Giant Center.
Who’s hot – Dustin Gazley had a pair of goals and an assist in the first meeting of these two teams in Wilkes-Barre, and he followed that up with a goal Saturday night off a beautiful feed from John Albert.
Quotable – “I was actually talking to Bryan (Helmer),” said Mann. “You don’t ideally want a three-in-three for preseason, but in retrospect now that we played Wednesday, I would have liked to have another game last night quite frankly because there was a number of guys in Wednesday’s game that probably deserved a second game or a second look. Tonight’s game was all about balance, trying to throw some guys in that you want to take another look at, but also getting some guys at least one game before we open up next Saturday.”
The road ahead – The season opens Saturday in Lehigh Valley. The Bears’ home opener is October 14 against Belleville, the new home to the Senators.
Three Takeaways –
Expect another year with three rookie defensemen. Two seasons ago, Hershey made it all the way to the Calder Cup Finals with three rookies on the blueline. This year’s crop is already impressive to say the least.
Two more forwards and one defender should be returning sometime this week to Hershey. Forwards currently still in Washington include Travis Boyd, Tyler Graovac, Anthony Peluso, Devante Smith-Pelly, Chandler Stephenson, Jakub Vrana, and Nathan Walker. Of that bunch, only Boyd and Vrana could be returned without going through waivers. Defensively, Madison Bowey, Christian Djoos, and Aaron Ness are also still in Washington. Djoos is the only one who will require waivers to return to Hershey.
Penalties are costly. Both teams were whistled for a ton of penalties. Mann is not fond of taking unnecessary penalties, so look for that to get cleaned up quickly.