HERSHEY, PA – The legendary 11-time American Hockey League champions are kicking off their 80th season in Chocolatetown. The Bears are partners in crime with the National Hockey League’s Washington Capitals and ECHL South Carolina Stingrays.
Head Coach: Troy Mann – Entering the fourth year as Hershey’s Head coach. Overall record of 132-65-31.
Captain: Garrett Mitchell third season as team captain.
Last Season: 43-22-8-3 for 97 points, third in Atlantic Division. Lost in Atlantic Division Finals to Providence Bruins.
Last season was very much a battle for the boys of Chocolatetown. Early injuries to Christian Djoos and Riley Barber coupled with a struggling defense and goaltending pushed the Bears to the playoff bubble. Not until February when the Capitals acquired Tom Gilbert and Pheonix Copley, did the Bears make a real push. Djoos, Travis Boyd, and Copley led the Bears into the playoffs where they ultimately fell to a physically larger Bruins team in the Division final in seven games.
- Measuring Up to the Competition – Lack of size and physicality doomed the Bears last season. Additions of 6’7” Mathias Bau, 6’4” Hampus Gustafsson, 6’3” Anthony Peluso and the physical play of rookie Connor Hobbs should be helpful in that department
- Youthful Blueline – The current roster (as of 10/4/17) has only one defenseman, Hubert Labrie, over the age of 22. It is likely that 27-year-old Aaron Ness will likely be sent down at some point. Still, a very young defensive unit to develop.
- Washington’s Revolving Door – Don’t expect to see everybody stay put this season. Washington will take weeks into the season to evaluate prospects. Lots of up and down between Washington and Hershey is coming, more than any of the previous years past.
- Looking Good for 80 – The Bears are celebrating their 80th anniversary this season, highlighted by the AHL Outdoor Classic at Hershey Park Stadium in January
- Defending the Den – Bears were second best at home in the conference at 24-8-5-1 in the regular season but were just 1-5 at home in the playoffs
- Playoff Prowess? New Bears forward Wayne Simpson set an ECHL record for playoff points in 2015 with the South Carolina Stingrays with 38 points in 27 games as the Rays made the Kelly Cup Finals
- Special Teams – The Bears have been in the top ten in the eastern conference in power play and penalty killing effectiveness two out of the three seasons with Troy Mann behind the bench. Narrowly missing three-for-three with the PK unit finishing 11th in the conference in 2015-16.
- Pheonix Copley – Re-signed with Washington through 2019
- Travis Boyd – Last year’s leading point scorer returns to Hershey on a one-year, two-way NHL deal.
- Jonas Seigenthaler – The Swiss defenseman looks to play in his first full season in North America
Blocked and Reported
- Paul Carey – Signed with the New York Rangers, likely to play with Hartford Wolf Pack
- Stanislav Galiev – Signed in KHL
- Christian Thomas – Signed with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins
- Tom Gilbert – Signed in the DEL (Germany)
D may be young but watch out they can hit. Nets are in good hands and will carry them far. Some new and some old up front. Lookout for Bau!