T.J. Syner Returns to the Reading Royals for thehockeywriters.com

Although separated by only 50 miles, the journey from Hershey to Reading can seem long for an ECHL player eying an AHL roster spot. Movement between the Washington Capitals, the Hershey Bears and the Reading Royals has been free-flowing early this season, with players like Dmitry Orlov being recalled to the NHL, and others being re-assigned to the ECHL.

“(The Club) is pulling guys in, we’re pulling guys out, we’re calling guys up now, we’re trying to send messages to guys, we’re benching guys, you’ve got to push buttons,” Coach Mike Haviland said after a November loss to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.

Forward T.J. Syner returned to the Reading Royals in time to face the Wheeling Nailers. (Annie Erling Gofus/The Hockey Writers)

Last Minute Re-Assignment an Opportunity to Stand Out

Early on November 2nd, The Bears announced they had recalled T.J. Syner from the Reading Royals, and the forward made his 2013-2014 Hershey debut that same night. Syner joined Hershey late in the 2011-2012 season after playing four years at the University of Massachusetts where he was a nominee for the Hobey Baker Award. Although Hershey lost to the Baby Penguins 4-2, Syner was among the players to make a positive impression on Coach Haviland during the November 2nd game:

“We need speed. He’s been playing outstanding on all the reports we got… I thought he played great tonight. We need more speed in the lineup, we need to get up and get after teams, and I think speed kills. And certainly he and Walker were our best two guys up front tonight. They got up and got after it.”

T.J. Syner Playing for the Hershey Bears in early November 2013. (Annie Erling Gofus/The Hockey Writers)

“I need to wait for an opportunity to present itself, and I need to be ready when it does.”

After two Bears games and recording five penalty minutes, Syner returned to Hershey’s ECHL affiliate, the Reading Royals, in time to help his flu-ravaged team to victory against the Wheeling Nailers on November 20th. With six or seven players out sick that night, Reading struggled to match Wheeling’s intense physical game.

“They work really hard, they finish every check,” Syner commented on the Nailers. “It’s hockey—you’ve gotta be able to take a hit. They’re good at that, getting under your skin.”

Reading Royals' Mike Banwell faces off with Wheeling Nailers' Paul Cianfrini. (Annie Erling Gofus/The Hockey Writers)

“I didn’t think the first half of the game we were very good,” Royals Coach Larry Courville recalled. “ I didn’t feel we played with enough passion, energy, heart—all the things you need to be successful. And then halfway through the game, I think we got our legs.”

After a scoreless overtime, the Reading Royals out-scored the Wheeling Nailers in a shootout, bringing the team’s record against the Nailers to 4-0-0-0.

With a win on his first night back in Reading, Syner reflected on his time in Hershey and what the rest of the season may hold:

“(My time with the Hershey Bears) was a good experience,” Syner said. “It’s better to be playing down here than to be sitting in the stands up there. I’ve just got to wait for my opportunity again. The season is long… I need to wait for an opportunity to present itself, and I need to be ready when it does.”

Originally published at http://thehockeywriters.com/t-j-syner-returns-reading-royals/

Annie Erling Gofus also writes for Olympus Athletics. Follow Annie on Twitter (@AnnieErGo) or email her at annie.erling@gmail.com.

Hershey Bears vs Hartford Wolf Pack: Photos

After three years as the Connecticut Whale, the Hartford Wolf Pack is celebrating its return to a more predatory moniker by preying on the Hershey Bears. No offense to whales, but an entire pack of bloodthirsty wolves is much scarier than a pod of marine mammals, and Hartford lived up to its name change at Saturday’s game. Hartford battled through a second period deficit to come out of Giant Center with a 4-3 victory over Hershey.

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Hartford Wolf Pack Top Hershey Bears via thehockeywriters.com

After three years as the Connecticut Whale, the Hartford Wolf Pack is celebrating its return to a more predatory moniker by preying on the Hershey Bears. No offense to whales, but an entire pack of bloodthirsty wolves is much scarier than a pod of marine mammals, and Hartford lived up to its name change at Saturday’s game. Hartford battled through a second period deficit to come out of Giant Center with a 4-3 victory over Hershey.

Hoping for the first home win since last spring, 8,001 fans cheered on the Bears at the Giant Center. Lighting the lamp first, Bears’ Assistant Captain Taffe found the back of the net with a little help from Dmitry Orlov who tallied his fifth point in two games. Late in the first, by freak accident or sheer force from the 210-pound d-man, Orlov’s stick snapped in two allowing Wolf Pack Center Oscar Lindberg to score.

Hershey Bears Defenseman Chay Genoway moments after scoring. (Annie Erling Gofus/The Hockey Writers)
Hershey Bears Defenseman Chay Genoway moments after scoring. (Annie Erling Gofus/The Hockey Writers)

Hartford opened the second period by scoring on a Power Play, but Hershey answered with two consecutive goals. Blueliner Chay Genoway scored with an assist from Connor Carrick and Tyler Ruegsegger, followed by a goal from Michael Latta who got the assist from  Tyson Strachan and Matt Watkins.

“We couldn’t seem to get any flow to our game and it definitely showed.”

The Chocolate and White strolled into the third period leading 3-2, which was about the same time that the Wolf Pack’s killer instincts kicked in. New York Rangers forward prospect Danny Kristo sunk one in on a power-play at the front end of the third, followed only five minutes later by a snap shot from Andrew Yogan. Although they had 11 minutes and 33 seconds to retaliate, this Bear Sleuth couldn’t muster the strength to tie the game. Holding last place in the East Division, Saturday’s loss dropped the Bears to a 1-3-1-0 record through five games.

Hartford celebrates after a goal by the Wolf Pack. (Annie Erling Gofus/The Hockey Writers)

“It’s just unacceptable coming out in the third period like that,” Genoway said after Saturday’s loss. “We’ve got to learn to react better when the other team scores or ties the game up… We talked a lot in the second period. All the right things were said. We just came out flat. We couldn’t seem to get any flow to our game and it definitely showed.”

“We took another lazy penalty and they score a goal on it,” Bears head coach Mike Haviland said. “We seemed to get back on our heels a little bit. And then, again, we decide to play the last four minutes and go after them a little bit.”

“We have to go after teams all the time. And it has to be in waves and it has to be everybody and it can’t be three or four guys. We had too many passengers tonight. You can’t play the game with passengers. We need everybody on board.”

Not All Heartache Last Night

While a rough night for the Bears, there are two happier occurrences to note about Saturday’s game. The first being that the super young anthemist totally nailed The National Anthem. And the second was Coco the Bear looking on as a Hershey fan get down on one knee and propose to his girlfriend—she said yes! Now that your heart has warmed slightly, remember that the Hershey Bears close their weekend series by facing the Norfolk Admirals today at the Giant Center at 5pm.

Originally posted to http://thehockeywriters.com/hartford-wolf-pack-drop-hershey-4-3/ by Annie Erling Gofus

Hershey Bears Drop Utica 6-0 in Pre-Season Opener

The Hershey Bears’ new coaching staff made a stellar debut on Friday night with a win against the Utica Comets. New bench boss Mike Haviland saw six of his players score in a game where visiting Utica tallied zero on the scoreboard. Five of the six goal-scorers donned the Chocolate and White for the first time last night, proving this young team has excellent potential to start a new era of Bears hockey.

The first to find the back of the net was Nathan Walker, who, with the help of defenseman Patrick Wey, fired a slapshot that rattled Comets’ goalie Joe Cannata’s throat guard before falling over the goal line. Walker’s first goal with Hershey was the cherry on top of an already great week for the rookie. Bears President/GM Doug Yingst announced Tuesday that the club had signed the 19-year-old Australian to an AHL contract for the 2013-2014 season.

Hershey Bears Center Matt Watkins assists Josh Brittain in scoring on September 27, 2013. (Ann Erling Gofus/The Hockey Writers)

Hershey Bears Center Matt Watkins assists Josh Brittain in scoring on September 27, 2013. (Ann Erling Gofus/The Hockey Writers)

Joining Walker on Friday night’s scorecard was Josh Brittain with an assist from Matt Watkins; a slapshot from Peter LeBlanc assisted by Chay Genoway and Stan Galiev; Genoway and LeBlanc assisting Derek Whitmore sinking’s backhand shot.

Tyler Ruesegger scored with help from forwards Brandon Segal and Ryan Stoa; and, for the sixth and final goal, Garrett Mitchell found the back of the net with a play assisted by forward Jamie Johnson and defenseman Julien Brouillette.

As fast as the Bears were knocking them in, Hershey’s goaltender David Leggio was knocking Comets shots down. Leggio was in mid-season form, stopping all 25 shots he faced in the crease. Hershey out-shot Utica with 30 shots on goals, and saw Cannata turn away 24 of them.

New Isn’t Always Better—The Newest Team in the League Faced the Oldest in Friday’s Match-up

The Utica Comets joined the AHL this summer, and faced off against the Hershey Bears on September 27, 2013. (Ann Erling Gofus/The Hockey Writers)

The Utica Comets joined the AHL this summer, and faced off against the Hershey Bears on September 27, 2013. (Ann Erling Gofus/The Hockey Writers)

Friday night’s game was not only the premiere of Haviland and assistant coach Ryan Mougenel, but also the second game ever for the newly formed Utica Comets. Based in Utica, New York, the Comets are the AHL affiliate of the Vancouver Canucks. Founded in 1932, the Comet franchise moved through six cities and six different names before it was announced in March 2013 that Canucks Sports & Entertainment, owners of the Vancouver Canucks, had purchased the franchise.

Vancouver ditched its previous AHL affiliate, the Chicago Wolves, renamed the franchise and moved it to Utica, NY. It was just three month ago, on June 14th, that the Utica Comets name, affiliation, logo and jerseys—mirroring the Canucks’ blue, green and silver color scheme—were revealed. A month later, Travis Green was named head coach of the brand-spankin’ new team. The Comets are the second AHL team to call Utica home. Before them came the Utica Devils who played in the city from 1987 until 1993, and were an affiliated of the New Jersey Devils.

Friday night’s match-up leaves The Bears 1-0-0-0 in the pre-season, while Utica falls to 0-2-0-0. The Comets have already played their first pre-season game, which was a 5-2 loss Sunday night at Abbotsford. The Bears will continue their pre-season schedule today at 7:00pm when the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins visit GIANT Center.

Originally posted to http://thehockeywriters.com/hershey-bears-drop-utica-6-0-pre-season-opener/ by Annie Erling Gofus

Hershey Adds Unsigned Aussie to Training Camp Roster

Finally, we can see the puck at the end of the hot, humid tunnel we call summer. With the NHL deep into training camps, the AHL is filling its rosters and prepping to kick off camps of its own.

On the same day the Hershey Bears announced their 2013 training camp schedule, a dozen players hit the ice at Giant Center. Last Friday, Derek Whitmore, Julien Brouillette, Peter LeBlanc, Chay Genoway, Patrick Wellar, Jamie Johnson, Brett Flemming, Matt Watkins, Brandon Segal, Nicolas Deschamps, Josh Brittain and goalie Brandon Anderson pulled on their skates to warm-up for the start of this week’s training camp.

The entire group, excluding Brittain, had participated in the Washington Capital’s training camp before being assigned to the Bears late last week or over the weekend. The Caps started their 2013-2014 training camp at Kettler Capitals Iceplex on September 12th, and assigned a handful of players to Hershey since then. Players at the Kettler Iceplex got a sneak peek of new Bears head coach Mike Haviland during on-ice practices. Haviland and Bears assistant coach Ryan Mougenel led a practice group that was numbered with Hershey players, including Jamie Johnson, Derek Whitmore, Matt Watkins and Chay Genoway.

“I really liked Whitmore and Watkins and Johnson,” Haviland said. “Those three guys looked pretty good today together in doing some of their line stuff. Genoway can really skate on the back end. I was pleasantly surprised with all four of those guys for me.”

Most recently, Jeff Taffe, Ryan Stoa, Casey Wellman and Nathan Walker were sent to the Hershey Bears on Saturday. While many of these players were expected to don the chocolate and white for the 2013-2014 season, Walker was a surprise pick from the Capital’s training camp.

 Walker Hopes to be First Australian NHL Player

One of 40 forwards listed on the Capitals’ training camp roster, Walker, 19, is still unsigned but will report to Hershey for camp on Monday. The 5’10”, 185-pound Australian hopes to be the first Aussie to play in the NHL—a league dominated by players who typically hail from much colder climates with far less marsupials. Walker was expected to play for Youngstown in the USHL this season, but had a strong showing at Washington’s training camp as an unsigned invitee. Born in Great Britain, Walker’s family relocated to Australia when he was 2-years-old. Realizing his Australian home was dominated by soccer and surf, Walker made the move to icier climates to hone his hockey skills.

“When I was 13, that’s when I decided I really wanted to take a shot at this, so I went overseas [to the Czech Republic] to learn and play the game,” Walker said.

Walker, nicknamed Stormy for his aggressive playing style, spent six seasons developing his game in the Czech Republic. Before joining the Youngstown Phantoms in January 2013, Walker played the past two seasons with HC Vitkovice in the top Czech professional league. Depending on how training camp goes, Hershey fans might have the opportunity to see this Wonder from Down Under in action at the Giant Center starting in October.

Before the Bears start training Monday, more assignments are expected from Washington.The Capitals’ roster must be trimmed from 70 to 23 players by Monday, September 30th. The Bears are slated to report for meetings and physicals on Monday, with the first on-ice session starting Tuesday at Hersheypark Arena. Hershey opens its three-game exhibition when the new Utica Comets visit Giant Center this Friday night, September 27th.

Originally posted to http://thehockeywriters.com/hershey-adds-unsigned-aussie-training-camp-roster/ by Annie Erling Gofus

Featured Image via Penn Live

Hershey Bears Find Winners With New Coaches for TheHockeyWriters.com

This summer, while Hershey fans were cranking up the A/C and dreaming of a cool October puck drop, the Bears were busy filling a roster void of key leadership roles. With the regular season just weeks away, the American Hockey League’s oldest and most storied franchise has welcomed newly hired Head Coach Mike Haviland and Assistant Coach Ryan Mougenel into the fold.

Haviland, 45, enters Giant Center as the Bears’ 24th Head Coach with 14 years of coaching experience under his belt. Prior to his move to Chocolatetown, Haviland spent four seasons as assistant coach with the Chicago Blackhawks, from 2008-2009 and again in 2011-2012. He arrived in Chicago after three years as a head coach for two different teams in the AHL—first for the Blackhawks’ AHL affiliate Rockford Ice Hogs (2007-2008) and before that the Norfolk Admirals (2005-2007). Most recently, Haviland returned to Norfolk, the Anaheim Ducksaffiliate, for 2012-2013 as associate coach.

“Mike Haviland has coached his teams to compete and win, and we look forward to having him do the same in Hershey,” Bears General Manager Doug Yingst said in a press release.

“This is the premier franchise in the American Hockey League. To be selected and knowing some of the guys I was up against, it was an honor and a privilege,” Hershey Bears Head Coach Mike Haviland said, “When you put that sweater on you have to understand that you are playing not for the name on the back but the name on the front.”

After his 2006-2007 season with the Norfolk Admirals, Haviland was honored with the Louis A. R. Pieri Memorial Award, a trophy awarded annually to the AHL’s most outstanding coach. In addition to winning AHL Coach of the Year, Haviland has championships on three different levels to his name. In 2010, he helped guide the Blackhawks to the Stanley Cup, and between 1996-1998 he lead Elmira College to two ECAC championships as an assistant coach. Additionally, Haviland hoisted the trophy twice as a bench boss in the ECHL—he coached the Atlantic City Boardwalk Bullies to the Kelly Cup in 2003 and again with the Trenton Titans in 2005.

Head Coach Haviland and Assistant Coach Ryan Mougenel Have History

It was while coaching in Atlantic City that Haviland met Ryan Mougenel, new assistant coach for the Bears. In his final season as a player, Mougenel served as an alternate captain for head coach Haviland on the Atlantic City club that won the Kelly Cup. After four years as head coach of the ECHL’s Las Vegas Wranglers hockey club, which he led to the Kelly Cup finals in 2011-12, Mougenel (pronounced moo-zhuh-NEL, in case you were curious), 37, has landed his first AHL coaching gig in Hershey. Before his head coaching job in Las Vegas, Mougenel spent four seasons as assistant coach of the ECHL’s Fresno Falcons.

“Ryan fits that bill. He understands the work ethic and the details that have to go into being successful. He also understands the relationship between the players and coaches, and he knows how to nurture them,” said Haviland. “He’s a good communicator. He’s a very personable guy. The players are going to like him and the fans are really going to like him. They’re going to take to him. He’s got a great personality.”

This duo’s history has the makings of a dynamic coaching relationship for the Bears. Being familiar with one another’s coaching and playing styles will hopefully make both Haviland and Mougenel feel comfortable and confident in their new leadership roles.

New Leaders Fill Roster Voids Left by Mark French and Troy Mann

Mougenel, a native of Ontario, follows Troy Mann, who served as Hershey’s assistant coach the past four seasons and is now head coach of the ECHL’s Bakersfield Condors. Haviland, a New Jersey native, replaces Mark French, who finished up four years in Hershey at the end of the 2012-13 season. French has since been named head coach of the Kontinental Hockey League’s (KHL) Medvescak Zagreb in Croatia, whose mascot just happens to also be a fierce bear.

French isn’t the only Bear to make the leap to Europe. A month after French landed a job with the Medvescak Zagreb, it was announced the Washington Capitals would not be renewing Boyd Kane’s contract for the 2013-14 season. Kane, three time captain of the Chocolate and White and three time Calder Cup Champion will swap one Bear sweater for another in Zagreb. In five seasons with Hershey, Kane skated in 365 regular season games along with 58 Calder Cup Playoff games.

Originally Posted to http://thehockeywriters.com/hershey-bears-find-winners-with-new-coaches/ by Annie Erling Gofus