Spencer Carbery recently completed his third season as the head coach of the Hershey Bears. But only one of those was a full 76-game season.
That means instead of playing 228 games, the Bears played 171. The COVID -19 virus halted play in mid-March 2020 and shortened the 2020-21 AHL campaign to a maximum of 36 contests, of which the Bears played 33, finishing 24-7-2-0. That was good enough to lead not only the AHL North Division, but walso the best winning percentage for the league.
Both recent seasons the Bears were positioned to go deep into the Calder Cup playoffs, but they were denied that experience. So Carbery’s final press conference came quicker than it should have, where he covered several topics that included the goaltenders that all played like they were the number-one guy when, it was their turn between the pipes.
Pheonix Copley (10-4-1), Zach Fucale (9-2-0), Hunter Shepard (3-0-0) and Ilya Samsonov (2-1-1) were a huge reason the Bears had success that ended with a 10-game home winning streak.
“I’d put our goaltending department up against any other NHL department, because they just kept finding quality goaltenders, and this year was just another one when you look at Fucale along with Shepard, and you can’t forget about Samsonov and even Vitek Vanecek, and the list gets longer as you look back over the years,” Carberry said. “We’ve been very fortunate and that hasn’t been lost on me.”
When asked about what he will remember about this bizarre season Carbery replied, “This team found different ways consistently to make the team win, because most of those 20-plus wins were tight ones, but they found various ways late to preserve a win or come from behind in different scenarios.
“A big challenge for me was having the guys in different locker rooms, which is not ideal for mass communication, because I use my facial expressions to make my point and I can see how they respond to that,” Carbery added. “Coaches and players are creatures of habit and this season provided a ton of changes, whether it was a late change of practice or as you’re getting on the bus and find out the game was cancelled. I think it made me a better coach and planner, just because I had to think quickly and make adjustment.”
When questioned about what it was about this team that allowed, or helped him and the other coaches, make these quick decisions, he said, “The culture and character of Matt Moulson is what I can say right now, plus there was an accountability of every player that they wanted to do the right thing whether it was in practice or in a Sunday afternoon game.
“Matt did an excellent job as our captain, dictating the message that we are playing the season, whether there are playoffs or not and want to win and expect to win,” continued Carbery. “It was the leadership of Cameron Schilling, Phil Maille and Mike Sgarbossa, when he was here, that was a big part of our success.”
Closing out the interview, Carbery said he learned a lot from coaching Schilling this year.
“I learned a ton from him, because he has played in many organizations and he was able to relay to me things that he learned from all these different coaches, and how and why they made decisions that gave me a different way to look at situations,” said Carbery.