After dropping both of their first two games of the season on home ice, the Hershey Bears head into the second weekend of the season still in search of their first win. It’s a rivalry weekend for the Bears as they face both the Lehigh Valley Phantoms and the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.
Hershey travels to the PPL Center in Allentown on Saturday night for their first road game of the season. The Phantoms lost their lone game of the season last weekend, dropping a 3-0 decision to the Providence Bruins. They will host Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Friday evening. Lehigh Valley has good combination of Philadelphia Flyers prospects and quality veterans on their roster. Forwards German Rutsov, Morgan Frost, Joel Farabee, and Mikhail Vorobyev, along with defenseman Philippe Myers provide the Phantoms with a group of high-end young players. Add Greg Carey, Andy Andreoff, Cal O’Reilly, Nicolas Aube-Kubel and T.J. Brennan to that mix and Lehigh Valley has a deep lineup that can hurt the Bears if they make mistakes.
Lehigh Valley also has Alex Lyon in goal. Lyon has often been a brick wall against Hershey and has enjoyed his share of success against the Bears.
After the contest against the Phantoms, Hershey returns home to host the Baby Penguins for the second time this season. The Bears will be looking to avenge their season opening loss. They will need to play a tighter defensive game, as each of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s four goals were the result of a defensive mistake by Hershey. Players took bad angles, forgot to back check and left players uncovered. Eliminate those mistakes and there is a good chance that the Bears can come out on top.
When they take the ice this weekend, Hershey should have two new faces in the lineup. Defenseman Martin Fehervary and forward Travis Boyd have both been re-assigned by the Washington Capitals. Fehervary will slot in on the left side and will likely be paired with Connor Hobbs, as the Alexander Alexeyev-Erik Burgdoerfer and Christian Djoos-Colby Williams pairings have worked well so far.
— NoVa Caps (@NoVa_Caps) October 5, 2019
Fehervary’s arrival likely means that 2016 first round pick Lucas Johansen will remain a healthy scratch. Johansen was scratched in favor of Tobias Geisser Sunday against Providence after he gave up on a play that led to the eventual game-winning goal for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. With Fehervary in town, Johansen could find it hard to crack the lineup.
LuJo beat in the zone. Pens take a 4-2 lead. pic.twitter.com/oy4dE4R5qw
— NoVa Caps (@NoVa_Caps) October 6, 2019
Boyd joins an already crowded front line. It is not clear where exactly he will be placed in the lineup. Boyd is a natural center, but the Bears are deep down the middle. They played center Brian Pinho over the opening weekend, using Mike Sgarbossa, Philippe Maillet, Garrett Pilon and Chris McCarthy as the pivots. Sgarbossa is not going anywhere. McCarthy could make way, but Hershey head coach Spencer Carbery likes him in the fourth line role. Maillet could be bumped over to the wing, but he was the team’s best faceoff guy during the opening weekend. Pilon could also play on the wing or Boyd himself could end up playing there.
Travis Boyd’s addition certainly provides Hershey with some great center depth. Sgarbossa, Boyd, Pilon, Maillet, Pinho, McCarthy & Sutter (inj). Weis in SC, too. Boyd & Pinho have played wing, & I wouldn’t be surprised to Maillet get some time on the wing. #HBH
— Zack Fisch (@zackfisch) October 9, 2019
The question then becomes which winger sits? Joe Snively was a -3 in two games and struggled in his spot on the top line. He could be a victim of Boyd’s arrival. Axel Jonsson-Fjallby or Brian Pinho are also candidates to move out of the lineup.
One area that Boyd’s arrival can help is the power play. The unit was a problem for the Bears in their opening games. On Saturday, Hershey went 1-for-5 with the lone goal coming late with the goalie pulled. Against Providence, the power play cost Hershey the game. They had a one minute and ten second two-man advantage in the second period that they could not score on. Then, the Bears had two late chances on the power play to win the game. The first started late in the third and carried into overtime, but the power play was stagnant. Hershey also got a full two-minute power play in overtime but did not move the puck quickly and failed to score. The Bruins took advantage and scored the game-winner 17 seconds after the power play concluded. Boyd’s skill can hopefully help the Bears become more active with the man-advantage and improve the unit’s productivity.
A productive power play will help Hershey get on the winning track. It is important for the Bears to get their first victory because they want to avoid digging themselves a hole early.
By Eric Lord