The Hershey Bears 2019 training camp opened Monday with 30 players (three goaltenders, 10 defenseman, 17 forwards) taking to the ice in preparation for three pre-season games starting Friday at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Saturday the same two teams will faceoff at Giant Center in Hershey, then the Bears travel to Lehigh Valley Monday.
Only ten players who skated with Hershey last season were part of the opening day roster that will see numerous changes over the next week. A dozen players signed to AHL contracts, including forward Matt Moulson who brings nearly 1,000 games of professional experience to the club, including 650 games in the NHL, were part of the initial practice.
Also on an AHL contract is a familiar face in defenseman Erik Burgdoerfer, who returns to Hershey from Belleville, after skating with the club from 2014-16, and helping the Bears reach the 2016 Calder Cup Finals.
One of the forwards who was invited to the camp is Dillan Fox, a 2012 Lower Dauphin High School graduate who had 16 goals in just 37 games for the Maine Mariners of the ECHL last season.
Scott Allen, who spent the last three seasons as an assistant at the NHL level, will serve in that capacity for head coach Spencer Carberry, who returns after leading the Bears to a playoff spot, despite a terrible early season start.
“Maybe the best way to describe last season is to compare it to a roller coaster ride in Hersheypark,” Carberry, said with a laugh following the practice. “We were certainly on the down swing early, but I always believed as a coach that I knew, despite whatever was happening on the ice as far as wins and losses, it changed nothing throughout the year, as far as my focus was, and that’s how I approached each day. That did not change in January or February, from what it was in October.”
“Not that I wasn’t worried,” continued Carberry, “I just believe if you do the right things, guys buy in and you get some luck, eventually good things will happen, and that’s emblematic of what happened last year.”
The interesting thing is that Carberry and former Hershey coach Troy Mann had similar types of seasons and were in the running for the Louis A.R. Pieri Memorial Award as the AHL’s outstanding coach, but Mike Vellucci of the Calder Cup-winning Charlotte Checkers received the most votes.
Going back to kind of critique last season, Carberry said, “Early on we were giving up way too much that put our goaltenders in difficult spots and at times we needed a little bit more from them. Vitek (Vanecek) was pretty solid early and Ilya Samsonov needed more time. We cleaned up one part of it, and they started to elevate their games, and you saw what happened from that point.”
As to who the two net-minders will be this year, the coach said at this point, it is really too early to know. but admitted regardless of the duo, the Bears will be in good shape, saying, “Right now it is a very transient position. For me it is whoever is here is here!”
Then he added, “This organization has a lot of depth at the goaltender position and that’s a good thing to have. The scouts have really been doing a good job when you look back over the years and the goalies that have played in Hershey. and then had success at the NHL level.”
Hershey opens its 82nd season in the American Hockey League with a pair of home games on Saturday, Oct. 5 against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton at 7 p.m., and with Providence coming in Sunday at 5 p.m.