The 2023-24 Hershey Bears season kicked off with the excitement of a Calder Cup championship banner raising and ring ceremony on October 15. The Bears followed the ceremony with a lackluster effort in a 3-0 loss to the Belleville Senators in the home opener.
The chocolate and white rebounded and rolled off four-straight victories, three on the road. After a mistake-filled defeat at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Hershey responded to prevail in the last two games of the month to finish October with a 6-2 record. The Bears sit in first place of the American Hockey League’s (AHL) Atlantic Division with 12 points, two more than second place Hartford.
Penalties have been an issue at times for Hershey. They have been shorthanded 38 times in eight games, the second most in the AHL. The penalty kill has been good overall, giving up five goals against. Three of those goals came in the team’s two losses. The Bears have killed off 86.8% of the power plays they’ve faced, good for eighth in the league.
The Hershey power play has been a weapon. The unit ranks third in the AHL with a 29.6% conversion rate. Gone is the five forward power play that struggled last season, as each unit now deploys a defenseman on the point. Ethen Frank leads the way with four power play goals.
Offensively, the Bears are led by Mike Sgarbossa and Joe Snively. Both players have posted three goals and six assists for a team best nine points. Frank has scored a team high five goals and is tied for third in scoring with eight points. Newcomer Alex Limoges has dished out a team-leading seven assists and is the player tied with Snively with eight points. Pierrick Dube added seven points and Mike Vecchione six. Overall, 20 different players have recorded at least a point.
On the other end of the ice, the chocolate and white have surrendered 19 goals in eight games. Five of those came in a 5-1 loss at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. The Bears have used three different goalies due to illness and recalls. Each of Clay Stevenson, Mitchell Gibson and Hunter Shepard have earned victories in net.
Nic Aube-Kubel (RW) – 27 – Drafted 2014 (Second Round, 48th overall)
An unexpected addition to the Bears’ roster, Aube-Kubel has brought pace and a physical presence to the lineup. He started the season on the second line, but has since moved down to the fourth line. The native of Sorel, Quebec has meshed well with Riley Sutter in the checking line role. Aube-Kubel has helped Hershey on the penalty kill. His lone point of the season came in the third period against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on October 29 when he set up Bogdan Trineyev’s goal.
Monthly Score: 3.0
Pierrick Dube (RW) – 22 – Undrafted
The Frenchman has recorded a point in five of Hershey’s six wins. Skating most of the season with Hendrix Lapierre and Ivan Miroshnichenko, Dube completes the dynamic third line. The winger is fast and his skating may be his biggest asset. The Lyon, France native is not just a speedster. He is a skilled player. Dube earned the secondary assist on the first Hershey goal of the season against Cleveland on October 15 and then scored his first goal as a Bear on the power play in the second period. His next two points were helpers on Miroshnichenko goals. Dube posted his second multi-point game of the campaign on October 28 against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. He one-timed a feed from Joe Snively past Cal Peterson for a power play goal with 1:32 remaining in the first period. The goal would hold up as the game winner as the Bears prevailed 4-0. Dube then put home a rebound after Miroshnichenko was stopped after driving to the net in the third. He registered an assist on Sunday to run his monthly point total to seven. Dube is fourth on the team in scoring.
Monthly Score: 4.0
Ethen Frank (RW) – 25 – Undrafted
Hershey’s leading goal scorer last season once again tops the team in goals. Frank found the back of the net five times in the season’s opening month. The Nebraska-Omaha alum opened his campaign with a three-point night in game two against Cleveland on October 15. He snapped a shot past the pad of Pavel Cajan for the second Bear goal in the first period. Later in the frame, Frank set up Mike Vecchione’s marker that gave the chocolate and white a 3-1 advantage. The Papillion, Nebraska native would add a secondary assist on Mike Sgarbossa’s third period goal. He assisted on Sgarbossa’s game winner in Providence the following Friday and then scored a pair of goals against the Bruins on Saturday to run his point streak to three games. Frank would go on a three-game scoreless drought, before snapping out of it in October’s final game on Sunday October 29. Frank one-timed a shot over the blocker of Garrett Sparks to give the Bears the lead 1:11 into the first. He then converted a wrist shot from the high slot for a power play goal less than two minutes later. The Western Michigan product is second in the AHL in power play goals with four and his eight points are the third most on the Bears.
Monthly Score: 4.2
Ryan Hofer (C/LW) – 21 – Drafted 2022 (Sixth Round, 181st overall)
The rookie center has not been able to crack the lineup on a consistent basis. Hofer suited up for three of Hershey’s eight games and he played wing during his debut appearance. He picked up his lone point of the season on October 28 in a home game versus Lehigh Valley. Hofer earned the secondary assist on Pierrick Dube’s third period tally. The Headingly, Manitoba native needs to find a rhythm as a professional, but needs more playing time to find that rhythm.
Monthly Score: 2.3
Hendrix Lapierre (C) – 21 – Drafted 2020 (First Round, 20th overall)
The second year pivot remained in the third line center role he occupied last season. This time around his wingers have been Pierrick Dube and Ivan Miroshnichenko and the trio has been effective. Lapierre has posted three assists. Two of those assists were the primary helpers on Miroshnichenko’s goals. The native of Gatineau, Quebec has been given more responsibility defensively this season as he has been deployed on the penalty kill. Lapierre was recalled to Washington and played for the Capitals against San Jose on October 29. With Nicklas Backstrom announcing he is taking a leave of absence to deal with a lingering injury, Lapierre may have an opportunity to stick in the NHL for the foreseeable future.
Monthly Score: 3.0
Alex Limoges (LW/RW) – 26 – Undrafted
The Penn State alum has enjoyed his return to the Keystone State thus far. Limoges has dished out seven helpers in eight games. That total ties him for fifth in the AHL in assists. The former Junior Capital began the season on the fourth line, but has since been moved up to the second line. Through his first games, Limoges was a minus one with one assist to his stat sheet. He had a breakout game in Providence on October 21. The former Nittany Lion set up Jimmy Huntington’s go ahead goal with 20 seconds left in the first period. He then whipped a feed to Ethen Frank that Frank converted for a power play goal in the third. Limoges registered his three primary assists of the game on Huntington’s late third period tally. He netted his first goal as a Bear on October 22 in Bridgeport. Limoges one-timed a pass from Joe Snively over the blocker of Jakub Skarek. Limoges recorded his second three assist game of the month versus Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on October 29. He had two secondary assists in the first period and also picked up a primary apple in the third. Over his last five games of October, Limoges was a plus seven and was a plus player in every game.
Monthly Score: 4.3
Ivan Miroshnichenko (LW) – 19 – Drafted 2022 (First Round, 20th overall)
The Russian rookie has adapted to the North American well thus far. Miroshnichenko has a quick release on his shot. This is really apparent on the power play when the winger is stationed in the left circle. He has the ability to get his shot off before the defense can get in the shooting lane. Miroshnichenko does need to improve his accuracy. He misses the net quite a bit and a has converted just two of his 19 shots on goal. Still, the winger has looked comfortable in his new surroundings. He has played mostly with Pierrick Dube and Hendrix Lapierre on the third line and the trio have had good chemistry. The line brings a lot of speed to the game. Miroshnichenko amassed two goals and three assists in October. He recorded his first AHL point on Hershey’s first goal of the season against Cleveland on October 15 when he had the primary helper on Hardy Haman Aktell’s goal. Miroshnichenko potted his first AHL goal on the road in Providence on October 20. He one-timed a rebound off a Dube shot past Brandon Bussi in the second period. The second goal came two days later when he opened the scoring in Bridgeport. Miroshnichenko recorded his first multi-point game with a pair of helpers against Lehigh Valley on October 28. He got another professional first out of the way on Sunday versus Wilkes-Barre/Scranton when he engaged Taylor Fedun in his first fight.
Monthly Score: 3.8
Henrik Rybinski (C) – 22 – Drafted 2019 (Fifth Round, 136 overall – Florida)
The second year pro skated in three games in October and was a healthy scratch for five. Rybinski is another player affected by the large number of forwards on the Hershey roster. He failed to register a point in his three appearances, but did contribute on the penalty kill. Rybinski has potential, but will struggle to make an impact without consistent ice time.
Monthly Score: 2.3
Mike Sgarbossa (C) – 31 – Undrafted
After missing most of the Calder Cup playoffs with an injury, Sgarbossa returned to the ice on opening night. His turnover resulted in the first Belleville goal in the home opener. However, the Campbellville, Ontario native has picked up his game and scoring since. The longest tenured Hershey Bear is tied for the team scoring lead with nine points. Sgarbossa has netted two game winning goals, the most on the team. Both of those goals came during the second weekend of the season. The first was in Providence on October 20 when an Ethen Frank pass hit his skate and went into the net. Two days later, Sgarbossa potted the overtime winner in Bridgeport when his fluttering shot beat Jakub Skarek. He leads the chocolate and white with four power play assists and is tied for second in assists with six.
Monthly Score: 4.0
Joe Snively (LW) – 27 – Undrafted
The Herndon, Virginia native was Hershey’s top scorer in the Calder Cup playoffs last season and the winger has continued his offensive production. Snively ended October on a five-game point streak after posting a single assist in the first three games of the season. The Yale University alum has three goals and five assists in the span and is tied for team scoring lead with five points. He has back-to-back multi-point games. On October 28 versus Lehigh Valley, Snively recorded the primary helper of Pierrick Dube’s opening goal in the first period and added a secondary assist on Logan Day’s empty netter. In his next game against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, the Virginian registered three points. He lifted a feed from Jimmy Huntington over the blocker of Garrett Sparks to give the Bears a 3-0 advantage in the second period. Snively then potted a power play goal later in the frame to put the chocolate and white up 4-1. He also picked up an assist on Huntington’s third period marker. Snively is tied for second on the team in assists with six is tied for the best plus/minus rating with a plus six.
Monthly Score: 4.3
Riley Sutter (C) – 24 – Drafted 2018 (Third Round, 93rd overall)
Sutter did not tally a point in October, but continues to contribute in other ways. The pivot remains Hershey’s best and most consistent faceoff man. The Calgary, Alberta native is also the team’s most reliable penalty killing forward. He is the first forward over the boards when the Bears are shorthanded. If the team is down two men, Sutter is the lone forward on the ice. He is consistently in the right position defensively and breaks up attacks. Sutter also brings a physical element to the game. He is the fourth line center and he embraces everything the role entails.
Monthly Score: 3.0
Alexander Suzdalev (LW) – 19 – Drafted 2022 (Third Round, 70th overall)
The highly hyped youngster has not seen the ice in Hershey and has been a healthy scratch in all eight games this season. Suzdalev is caught in a numbers game as the Bears have an abundance of forwards. He is 19 years old and needs to play. That is not likely to happen in a talent laden Hershey team. Sending him back to juniors may be the best path for all involved.
Monthly Score: Incomplete
Bogdan Trineyev (LW) – 21 – Drafted 2020 (Fourth Round, 117th overall)
Trineyev has began his first full season in North American a bit slowly. To be fair, he has been placed in a role that really does not fit his skill set. Trineyev has been playing on the fourth line alongside Riley Sutter to get him into the lineup with Hershey’s deep forward corps. He has not been a liability in his spot, but he has not looked comfortable playing basically in a checking line role. Trineyev has struggled to get into a flow offensively. He did record his first AHL goal in October’s final game against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on the 29th. The Russian broke down the middle, took a pass from Nic Aube-Kubel and snapped a shot over the glove of Joel Blomqvist. The marker was Trineyev’s lone point of the month.
Monthly Score: 2.5
Vincent Iorio (RD) – 20 – Drafted 2020 (Second Round, 55th overall)
After a strong training camp with Washington, Iorio has gotten off to a slow start. He is without a point through six games. The second year defenseman missed the last two games of the month with an illness. Iorio fanned on a clearing attempt in the third period against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on October 25 and then stumbled trying to retrieve the puck. The mistake led directly to Marc Johnstone goal that put the Baby Penguins up 4-1. Much is expected of the Coquitlam, British Columbia native this season and he will need to handle those expectations. The talent is there, Iorio just needs to get his game going.
Monthly Score: 2.7
Nicky Leivermann (LD) – 25 – Drafted 2017 (Seventh Round, 187th overall – Colorado)
The Avalanche draft pick chose not to sign in Colorado and instead signed an AHL contract with the Bears. Leivermann has skated in two games for the chocolate and white. The Eden Prairie, Minnesota native is similar in stature to former Bear Bobby Nardella. Both Leivermann and Nardella are Notre Dame graduates. He is a good skater, but is still adjusting to the pro game. In his debut on October 21, the rookie defenseman tried to backhand a pass up the center of the ice, but the puck hit the side of the goal. The turnover caused the Bears to get hemmed in the defensive zone and Providence capitalized with a goal that tied the game at three in the third period. Leivermann will improve as he gets more ice time. The problem is he may not get it in Hershey. Sending him to South Carolina to play more may benefit Leivermann in the long run.
Monthly Score: 2.0
Dylan McIlrath (RD) – 31 – Drafted 2010 (First Round, 10th overall – New York Rangers)
The Hershey captain continues to bring the physicality for the chocolate and white. This was evident on the play where McIlrath recorded his only point of the season. With the Bears trailing 1-0 in the second period at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on October 25, McIlrath stepped up and drilled Jagger Joshua with a huge hit that caused Joshua to turn the puck over. Garrett Roe then fed Joe Snively for the tying goal. The Winnipeg, Manitoba native is not in the lineup for his offense. He anchors the top defensive pairing and is a key cog on the penalty kill. McIlrath is one of the first defensemen over the boards when the Bears are shorthanded, assuming he is not the one in the penalty box. He leads the team with 19 penalty minutes.
Monthly Score: 3.5
Chase Priskie (RD) – 27 – Drafted 2016 (Sixth Round, 177th overall)
The one-time Washington draft pick finally made his debut in the organization on opening night after electing not to sign with the Capitals after finishing his collegiate career at Quinnipiac. Priskie is quarterbacking the first power play unit. He has four assists thus far, two of which have come on the power play. The Pembrook Pines, Florida native has already nearly matched his assist total from last season when he had five helpers in 42 games for the Rochester Americans. Priskie has one multi-point game to his credit, a two-assist night in Providence on October 21.
Monthly Score: 3.3
Mitchell Gibson (G) – 24 – Drafted 2018 (Fourth Round, 124th overall)
The Phoenixville, Pennsylvania native got the call in net once in October. Gibson did not face a lot of action in the first two periods in Bridgeport on October 22, seeing only seven shots. The Islanders scored a power play goal in the second period. The Harvard product was under siege in the third period. He turned aside 12 of the 13 shots he saw and held his team in the game during a frame in which the Bears were outplayed. Gibson stopped three more shots in overtime and earned his first professional win when Mike Sgarbossa netted the game winner. He finished with 23 saves. With Hunter Shepard back from Washington, the netminder has been reassigned to South Carolina.
Monthly Score: 3.3
Hunter Shepard (G) – 27 – Undrafted
The season did not begin as Shepard hoped. He missed the first two games of the season with an illness. The Minnesota-Duluth alum returned to action at Providence on October 20. It did not begin well as the Bruins scored on their first shot on goal. The Coleraine, Minnesota native settled in and stopped 14 of the last 15 shots he faced en route to a 3-2 victory. Shepard was back in net against Providence the next day. He surrendered four goals, but was significantly busier than he was the game before and saw 26 shots in the second and third periods. The reigning Calder Cup playoff Most Valuable Player saved 23 of those shots. The Bruins scored three times in the third and two of those tallies came off of rebounds. Shepard kicked out a big rebound into the slot that Fabian Lysell put home for the second Providence goal. The third Providence goal also came after Shepard left a rebound from a Georgi Merkulov shot. He denied two attempts in the shootout to help the Bears win 5-4. With a pair of games under his belt, the Minnesotan was recalled to Washington and made his NHL debut against the New Jersey Devils on October 25. He made 18 saves in a 6-4 Washington win. Shepard was strong in the first and third periods, but gave up four goals in a second period where the Capitals fell apart. He returned to Hershey and played against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on October 29. Shepard was his old self in this contest. The two-time national champion at Minnesota Duluth was much sharper than his previous two starts. His rebound control was better. Shepard turned aside 24 of the 25 shots he faced in a 6-1 Hershey triumph. The lone goal he gave up came after he made two saves. In three appearances, Shepard is 3-0 and has a 2.27 goals-against average and a .909 save percentage.
Monthly Score: 3.0
Clay Stevenson (G) – 24 – Undrafted
The beginning of the 2023-24 season proved to be a bit of a whirlwind for Stevenson. It began with the Dartmouth College product serving as Charlie Lindgren’s backup for the Washington Capitals in their season opener on October 14. He quickly returned to Hershey to start the first two games for the Bears. Then, Stevenson went back up to the Capitals after Lindgren was injured. He spent a week in that role before swapping places with Hunter Shepard. Stevenson started four games for Hershey in the season’s first month. The native of Drayton Valley, Alberta gave up two goals while making 17 saves in a 3-0 loss to Belleville in the season opener on October 14. He bounced back to earn his first win of the season the next day against Cleveland. His next start came 10 days later in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and it was Stevenson’s worst outing of the campaign. He surrendered five goals on 25 shots. While the netminder was not to blame for all of the goals in a poor effort team wide, Stevenson did struggle holding on to pucks and left rebounds out in prime scoring areas. To his credit, the Albertan responded with his best game of the season in his next start versus Lehigh Valley on October 28. With the Bears up 1-0 late in the first, Stevenson came across the crease and denied a wide open Ronnie Attard’s attempt with his glove to keep his team in the lead. The Phantoms bombarded Stevenson over the last two frames, firing 29 shots on goal. The netminder stood tall and stopped everything sent his way to record his first AHL shutout. Thus far, Stevenson has a record of 2-2 with a .907 save percentage and a goals-against average of 2.25.
Monthly Score: 3.3
By Eric Lord