HERSHEY, Pa. –
February 5 @ Binghamton, 7:00 PM EST
February 6 vs Lehigh Valley, 4:00 PM EST
February 11 @ Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, 5:00 PM EST
February 14 vs Lehigh Valley, 1:00 PM EST
February 20 vs Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, 1:00 PM EST
February 24 @ Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, 5:00 PM EST
February 26 @ Binghamton, 7:00 PM EST
February 27 vs Binghamton, 4:00 PM EST
March 3 @ Lehigh Valley, 7:05 PM EST
Head Coach: Spencer Carbery, third season as head coach, 80-43-7-8 over 138 regular-season games.
Captain: Matt Moulson (first year, previously alternate captain)
Last Season: 37-18-3-4, 81 points (Second, Atlantic Division)
2019-20 Season Summary: The Bears built a solid group and were in the midst of their best season yet under head coach Spencer Carbery, and were competing for the top spot in the Atlantic Division at the time the season shut down. Had the Bears won the division, it would have been their first title since the 2015-16 season where the club made the Calder Cup Finals. After losing several key players in free agency, off-season pickups like Phil Maillet and Moulson as well as key performances from Brian Pinho and Garrett Pilon kept the team’s scoring up.
Hot or Not? It’ll be a different look across the board for the Bears, who lost several key players due to the NHL taxi squad rules and overseas assignments, but the Bears were able to retain their current core while adding to it. Some of the extra options the Capitals picked up during free agency like Daniel Carr seem destined to fill the taxi squad, and the abrupt shuffling of netminders that has seen Vitek Vanecek become a fixture in goal for the Washington Capitals. The Bears will rely on key performances from Pheonix Copley and Zach Fucale in goal to account for that loss.
Who’s Back? Joe Snively, Garrett Pilon, Axel Jonsson-Fjallby, and Brett Leason are all returning draft choices of the Capitals that will look to enjoy expanded roles with the Bears. With some additional scoring talent left on the Caps’ taxi squad, it will be imperative for these players to find the back of the net a bit more in the 2020-21 campaign and impress the staff up top.
Who’s Through? The Bears lost a number of familiar faces and holdouts from past successful seasons. Tyler Lewington, Liam O’Brien, Colby Williams, and Erik Burgdoerfer all left town, leaving a few leadership and experience holes along the way. All four players spent multiple years with the team, representing the end of an era that was appreciated and very successful in a historic town like Hershey. Their departure represents an opportunity for other players to take the reigns but also presents a challenge for the players on the current roster to step up and overcome.
Who’s New? Defensively, the Bears have Rob O’Gara and Reece Wilcox on professional tryout agreements while regular blue liners Alexander Alexeyev and Bobby Nardella remain overseas. The Capitals added defenders Paul LaDue and Cameron Schilling during the off-season, the latter of whom began his professional career in Hershey and now returns to add a veteran presence. Up front, the Bears have mostly the same group of players as last season, but will look for more contributions from depth players like Mason Morelli and Caleb Herbert, who were signed by the Bears over the summer.
What to Watch For: The Bears have already dealt with a number of recalls from the beginning of training camp to the start of the season, particularly between the pipes and up front. Watch for any rotation of players between the Capitals, their taxi squad, and the Bears during the season. Hershey will have to tweak some of their special teams to accommodate for the loss of some key players, in particular on the power play, so how the season opens on that side of things will be a key to watch. Schilling and LaDue seem to be logical choices to quarterback the power play, as both have had success in that role during their careers. LaDue previously spent time with the Ontario Reign, and played with Moulson and Maillet during that time, scoring four power-play goals while the three skated together during the 2017-18 season. Schilling has scored nine power-play goals since departing the Bears.