Hershey Bears faithful in for exciting season

Drue Cappawana, Opinion Editor

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The 2018/19 hockey season is just around the corner, and it is a very exciting time if you are a Hershey Bears fan. It was a disappointing campaign last season for the chocolate and white, finishing with a 30-37-4-5 record, finishing with 69 points, which placed them last in the Atlantic Division. This came after over a decade of consecutive playoff appearances, so it is safe to say the Bears faithful were disappointed in their squad’s performance. However, much can be forgiven for the Bears’ lacklustre showing in the 2017/18 season, as their NHL affiliate Washington Capitals captured their franchise-first Stanley Cup championship.

The end of this past season saw a lot of change for the Bears. The coaching staff saw a monumental change, as head coach Troy Mann was not retained for an additional season, as were assistant coaches Reid Cashman and Ryan Murphy. They also moved on from a number of players, including enforcer Anthony Peluso, who signed with the Calgary Flames, Zach Sill, who signed with HC Sparta Praha of the Czech league, and superstar AHL forward Chris Bourque, who joined his brother Ryan in Bridgeport with the Sound Tigers.

Photo: NoVa Caps
Zach Sill #11, Chris Bourque #17

The Bears are going to see plenty of new faces on the roster this year, many offering fans a plethora of excitability and a new brand of hockey not known to Chocolatetown. Sue Snavely, a long time Bears season ticket holder said about the prospects, “I’m very excited to see all the prospects play. They won the Stanley cup with young players that came through Hershey. Longtime hershey [sic] fans want a Calder cup but I personally love watching the players grow and move on.” The pressure is on for the newcomers to impress the always demanding Bears faithful, but there is little reason to believe in another disappointing season. Here are some of the most noticeable additions to the Bears roster for this upcoming season. (Note: the official 2018/19 roster is not yet set, so this list is subject to change as players move throughout the Capitals affiliates)

Spencer Carbery, Head Coach

Spencer Carbery is coming into Hershey as the new bench boss, succeeding Troy Mann’s reign of 3 seasons as head coach. The former head coach of the Bears’ ECHL affiliate, the South Carolina Stingrays, joins the Bears after a season serving as the assistant coach to the Bears’ rival Providence Bruins. He helped lead the Bruins to a playoff appearance, placing fourth in the Atlantic Division, falling to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms in four games out of their best-of-five first round series. He brings in a sense of familiarity to the group, and a new energy that the team badly needs to compete again.

Axel Jonsson Fjällby, Forward

Axel Jonsson Fjällby is one of the most exciting prospects in the Capitals system. Drafted in the fifth round of the 2016 Entry Draft by the Caps, out of Djurgårdens IF J20 in the Swedish junior league, the immaculate-haired Swede brings a high level of skill and competitiveness to the Bears locker room. Fans who have already watch Jonsson Fjällby play at the World Junior Championships this past December have attributed to his skill, and expect Bears fans to love him when he steps onto the ice in October.

Photo: Capitals Sports PRSS

Shane Gersich, Forward

Shane Gersich was a signing out of the NCAA for the Capitals in March of this year, playing 3 regular season games, tallying an assist for the Capitals. He also featured in two playoff games for the Stanley Cup Champions, however, he did not tally a point. He scored 13 goals for the University of North Dakota, so expect his goal-scoring prowess to extend to the Hershey Bears as well.

Sergei Shumakov, Forward

Sergei Shumakov spent the entirety of his professional career in the various Russian hockey leagues, most recently CSKA Moscow of the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL). He is known to be a goal scorer and could compliment players like Shane Gersich and centre Mike Sgarbossa very well. Also, expect the 26-year-old winger to receive a call-up from the Washington Capitals at some point during the season.

Logan Pyett, Defenseman

Logan Pyett is a fantastic story. The 30-year-old defenseman was diagnosed with cancer at the start of the 2015/16, during which he was signed with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. He missed all of that season, and the following 2016/17 season, before playing for the Tohoku Free Blades of the Asian League in 2017/18. He is the epitome of an AHL veteran, playing five seasons in the AHL prior to this upcoming season, four of which were spent with the Grand Rapids Griffins, and his most recent with the Connecticut Whale. Erik Piri is quoted on Pyett’s Elite Prospects page as saying “A smooth-skating defenseman, Pyett likes to contribute offensively,” showcasing that Pyett could prove to be a force in the Bears top-four defence corps.

Ilya Samsonov, Goaltender

Ilya Samsonov is personally the most exciting player on this list. Coming from the KHL as one of the best goaltenders in the league at a ripe age of 21 years old, and having already won a KHL championship at 19 years old with Metallurg Magnitogorsk, Samsonov is something special. He accomplished a 92.6% save percentage in the 2017/18 season with Magnitogorsk, a rare feat for any goaltender in the league, let alone a 21-year-old goaltender. With Capitals backup Philip Grubauer having moved to the Colorado Avalanche in a trade on draft day, expect some competitiveness between Samsonov and current project backup, and former Bears starter Pheonix Copley for the backup role behind Caps goaltender Braden Holtby.

 

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Hershey Bears faithful in for exciting season