Photo: Caroline O’Connor/Hershey Bears/Great Save Productions
Brian Pinho entered his second professional season with an uncertain role. He was coming off of a less than stellar rookie season with the Hershey Bears and was in a position where he had to earn his playing time. Pinho did just that. He has raised his game to another level this season, and has developed into an offensive weapon. The North Andover, Massachusetts native has played his way into a key role with the Bears.
Pinho’s rookie season left little inkling that he would turn into an offensive threat. He potted four goals and added eight assists for 12 points in 73 games. He went long stretches without posting any points and really was not an offensive factor at all.
Pinho was more of a role player, contributing more on the penalty kill than on the offensive end. The Providence College product scored one goal and had one assists in eight Calder Cup playoff games. But the one goal was an important one. The tally was an overtime game-winner in the fifth and deciding game at Bridgeport that sent Hershey into the second round.
#CapsProspect Brian Pinho scores the series winner. pic.twitter.com/I2ux51LxIJ
— NoVa Caps (@NoVa_Caps) April 28, 2019
Combining his regular season and playoff totals, Pinho amassed 14 points in 81 games during his rookie campaign.
During the offseason, the Bears re-signed Mike Sgarbossa and added center Philippe Maillet in free agency to be the team’s top two centers. Fellow second year center Garrett Pilon had a better rookie year and was also ahead of Pinho on the center depth chart heading into this season. These factors seemingly left Pinho in a battle with Chris McCarthy for the fourth line center role. The Providence grad had other ideas and let his play do the talking.
Pinho opened the season by netting a goal, a game-winner at Laval, and dishing out four assists in October. The five points were nearly half of his regular season total from last season.
Brian Pinho with his first of the season, give the Bears their first lead of the game. Bears lead 3-2 with 14;00 left in regulation. pic.twitter.com/58shTz3vya
— NoVa Caps (@NoVa_Caps) October 20, 2019
November started out well for Pinho by recording an assist at Springfield on November 1 and then potting another game winner against Providence on November 2. Then, Pinho went cold. He went nine games without a point as his struggles mirrored the team’s.
#CapsProspect Brian Pinho with his second goal of the season. pic.twitter.com/E6MUq1cqem
— NoVa Caps (@NoVa_Caps) November 3, 2019
A goal against Providence on the night before Thanksgiving would be a springboard for a strong December for Pinho. He tallied three goals and added four assists for seven points in the month. A key to his success was a switch to the right wing on a line with Maillet and Matt Moulson. The trio has been a force for the Bears. Moulson had seven goals in December and Maillet contributed six points in the month.
Pinho and his linemates have continued their production in January. Pinho has put up six goals and three assists thus far in January and Maillet has 11 points and Moulson seven in the month. That is 27 points in 11 January games for the trio. That production is a major reason for Hershey’s rise to the top of the Atlantic Division.
#CapsProspect Brian Pinho scores his third goal of the weekend to give the Bears an early 1-0 lead. He has 9g, 10 in 36 games. pic.twitter.com/SXPd58tkAz
— NoVa Caps (@NoVa_Caps) January 5, 2020
Defensively, Pinho remains one of the team’s top defensive forwards and is one of Hershey’s top penalty killers. He is a big reason that unit is third in the American Hockey League with a kill percentage of 87%. Now, he has an offensive game to match his defensive smarts.
Pinho’s season point total stands at 24 points, double his production from his rookie season. The total is tied with Pilon for third most on the team.
The emergence of Pinho offensively has provided the Bears with needed scoring depth and puts them in a better position to make a run in the Calder Cup playoffs.
By Eric Lord