The Hershey Bears (39-21-1-4) dropped a shootout decision in Portland, Maine, last night. Let’s just hope their bus driver is fresher than the skaters he’ll convoy through week’s end. When John Walton told me last weekend that beginning Saturday night the club was embarking upon a seven-games-in-nine-day stretch, I didn’t quite believe him. I actually went to the AHL web site and saw it with my own eyes. This is a regularly scheduled slate of boot camp by bus, and not some itinerary clogged by snow makeups. Look for yourself, starting with March 5:
When that game-ending horn sounds early Sunday evening back at Giant Center, what do you imagine the line will be like of Bears’ skaters awaiting submersion in training room whirlpools? And how about Walton’s voice come next Sunday? I’m guessing the Bears might take next Monday off.
This grind, all of it of course by bus, makes Dmitri Orlov’s commitment to beginning his North American pro hockey career late this winter all the more impressive, no? One wonders if General Manager Doug Yingst didn’t in fact hide the team’s March itinerary from the prospect and his agent during their discussions last month.
Walton told me he couldn’t recall such a slate in all his years in the ‘A.’ Neither could Patriot News Bears’ beat reporter Tim Leone, who’s been covering the league for more than 15 years. Three-game weekends are the norm; occasionally there’ll be four-in-five. But seven in nine? Guys who work in the American League understandably roll their eyes when the word ‘fatigue’ is uttered in association with the NHL’s two games in two nights slate.
More fun with labor on the junior circuit: The Bears have utilized seven goalies thus far on the ’10-11 campaign. Actually dressed eight. They started the season with Braden Holtby and Dany Sabourin, and because of injuries they’ve gone through three of the backstops from the Caps’ ECHL affiliate, the Stingrays (Todd Ford, Shane Owen, Jared DeMichiel). Sabourin’s been on the shelf since early February with a knee injury that required surgery. Semyon Varlamov did a conditioning stint up there. Nolan Schaeffer arrived on loan from Providence just this past weekend.
Things got real interesting the Saturday before last, when Varlamov went down in D.C. and both Holtby and Sabourin were sidelined. The Caps signed and recalled Ford for their game on Long Island. Hershey, which like Washington had a game that night, was left with a single fit goalie at 1:30 Saturday afternoon, facing a 7:00 faceoff. They tapped Bobby Jarosz, securing him on an ATO contract. Jarosz earlier this season was in net in the Central Hockey League for the Arizona Sundogs. The Bears knew him from his stint in Reading with the ECHL Royals.
And had Jarosz been unavailable? According to the Bears, they’d have been forced to ATO a netminder from HPA tenant Lebanon Valley College.
The funniest part about Saturday, February 26, and we can say this since both the Bears and Caps won that night: had Brett Leonhardt still been with the Capitals organization it would have been highly likely that he’d have been summoned to dress as backup for the Bears that night. And you just know Leonhardt Bears sweaters would have been purchased in bulk the following week.