The Hershey Bears have hit the mid-season part of their 2019-20 schedule having 22 wins in the 38 games played, which has put them in a second-place position behind Atlantic Division leader Hartford.
Spencer Carberry, now halfway through his second season as the Hershey head coach, talked about how he looked at the way the team had performed thus far.
“I think it has been positive for the most part,” he said. “The win-loss record is something we use as a measuring stick in the development of our players to see if they are they getting better and where their game is at halfway through their first year or if they’re in year two and are now 1½ years into their pro career. The same goes for the veteran guys and where they are.
“As for the wins-losses, we’ve gone on a nice run after we corrected some stumbling out of the gate with some inconsistency early in the year, and then corrected a lot of that stuff where we went on a run and found a lot of ways to win games,” continued Carberry. “In the beginning we might have done some things in the odd game or second game where it was the opposite and we found ways to lose games.”
When questioned about specific player’s performances, Carberry replied, “We’ve seen some players step up and grow into difference makers. I look at guys like Brian Pinho, Garrett Pilon and Beck Malenstyn who played in his first NHL game. Mike Sgarbossa is off to another good start and got a call to Washington before he was injured. Some of our young defensemen like Martin Fehervary and Bobby Nardella, who stepped right into our lineup after an injury, have taken positive steps are the things I look at when grading how we have been thus far.”
Talking about the forwards in more detail, “Carbs” said, “I think Pilon and Pinho stick out but as far as Matt Moulson and Sgarbossa, we know what they are going to do and going to bring. Pinho has played the majority of the year in a down-in-the-lineup role, in a limited role, but now he has had a lot more opportunities and has taken advantage of them, which means he’s been doing a really good job offensively, which is what he has wanted to do this year.”
A Hershey strong point from the start has been the fact that the Bears are fortunate to have two of the best goaltenders in the AHL in Vitek Vanecek and Pheonix Copley, according to the coach.
“Our goalies are fantastic, and I probably don’t say that enough,” said Carberry. “We have that luxury, whether it is Pheonix or Vitek, both guys are very experienced and continue to get better as their pro careers have moved along and we know we can go to them every single night.
“It is a credit to both guys that they know what they have to do to get back, and stay, in the NHL,” added Carberry. “They are pros who are very competitive, with great character who want to get better and ask me what they can do to get to the next level and what they can do here to help the team win games.”
In addition to his two goalies, Carberry said that same thought process is there for others like Christian Djoos, Travis Boyd, Sgarbossa and Pilon, along others who want to improve and get to the NHL.
“Another thing we have that some people might overlook is having Parker Milner in South Carolina who has filled in and did a good job when either of our goalies went to Washington,” Carberry pointed out.
Like most coaches, Carberry admitted he does breakdown the season in a particular way, but unlike some who use a five or ten game approach, his is slightly different.
“I was never a believer in a segment, regardless of the number 6, 7 or 8 games ending in the middle of a weekend,” said Carberry. “I like segments to end on weekends so guys can focus and reset after a couple days of practice and talk about the previous segment.”
Another big item that figures in the lineup, besides call-ups, is the inevitable injuries that keep guys sidelined, often for extended periods of time.
“Sometimes people will give me a hard time asking if I’m worried about when this guy or that guy will be ready to come back and all I can say honestly is those things never cross my mind,” Carberry admitted. “There is no way you can focus and think a player back to a healthy condition. They are back when they are back. To play the ‘what if game’ is a waste of time. I wait for the medical people to tell me when it is time for them to play.
“Some years are worse than others and there is nothing you can do to control it,” Carberry added. “All I can do is use the 20 guys available that night and how do I best prepare them to have success and work with to be sure they are ready to fill in wherever they are needed. Sometimes a move makes a guy better at a different position and that makes it a plus.”