The Hershey Bears season opener with Binghamton on February 5 had to be rescheduled to mid-February, as one of the five games they have been unable to play as of this past Saturday.
Prior to that game, head coach Spencer Carbery talked about how he felt the team has been playing in its first five outings.
“Guys have been off for ten months, we’re playing in empty buildings and we only play three opponents so that makes it difficult to be dialed in every day, and I understand that,” Carbery said. “At the same time, these games are being evaluated and the players want to do well because they want to get to the next level.
“I’d say our focus is just OK.,” continued Carbery. “I don’t like to say that the play has been sloppy at times, but I attribute that to some of the summer habits, but not getting any game environment for the last ten months. I’d just like to see a more focused and determined group.”
‘Carbs’ went on to explain there is nothing happening that is even remotely close to the way things were done in the past.
“We’re making adjustments constantly and as a coaching staff we are learning on the fly with the restrictions we have to follow,” said Carbery. “It’s a lot of zoom meetings and that’s not the same as looking a guy in the eyes when you’re explaining something. We also have the three different locker rooms with seven guys in one room and eight in two other rooms. At the end of the day there is a lot on the line for these players so I want them to do well to get to the NHL or sign a two year deal with another team.”
Another major change is the way the league has scheduled games due to the Covid-19 situation, one that has the Bears playing just three of the teams in the seven-team North Division.
“I’d like to see us play the other three teams (Utica, Rochester, Syracuse) in our division for the players, but I understand because of the travel that can’t happen,” Carbery said. “What we have now for coaches is fine, but it is not ideal for the players at all. When you are constantly seeing the same 18 guys so often and so close together, it gets old and you just want to go to a different building. But for coaches, it’s great, because by Game Three we have it down. The challenge for us is to do something different to change things just a little to thrown the other teams off.”
Based on the four games played, the third-year Bears head coach talked about who he felt has shown progress in that short time frame.
“Guys like Riley Sutter, Brett Leason, Kody Clark and Garrett Pilon are the ones you should be watching for good things to happen,” said Carbery. “Joe Snively had an impressive camp with Washington, which was a unique camp because they had to pick their team right away because of no exhibition games, but he really raised some eyes.
“Lucas Johansen coming back healthy and ready to play some consistent minutes has had a good start,” continued Carbery. “Just getting reps and games where he’s playing on the penalty kill and also the first shift on power plays has been good for him. All things considered I’m happy with our start. I think we have a lot of potential with the group, but there certainly are going to be things for us to work on, but overall I’m happy with what we’ve done so far.”