An emotional Bryan Helmer, on the same day as his seventeenth wedding anniversary, was introduced as the new head man of the Hershey Bears Hockey Club. Helmer, 44, becomes the first ever former Bears player, captain, and coach to take over the franchise, as he follows the path laid out by another former defenseman, Frank Mathers.
“Now I get to call Hershey home,” Helmer said. “I have stability with this job where I don’t have to move every one to two years. My family is excited. They get to stay in one spot.
During the regular season, we began our Hershey Bears video game series with Bears forward Jakub Vrana taking on Jonas Siegenthaler in a game of FIFA 16. Now, only weeks away from UFC 202, featuring a rematch of Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz, we have decided it’s now a perfect time to feature another match-up from that day. Vrana takes on Liam O’Brien in UFC 2. Vrana will fight out of the blue corner as Nate Diaz, as O’Brien fights out of the red as The Notorious Conor McGregor.
The AHL Board of Governors has approved a new alignment for the league in the 2016-17 season as the league’s annual meeting has concluded.
With the movement of Portland to Springfield and Springfield to Tucson, Arizona, the AHL’s Eastern Conference will feature one less team for the upcoming season. 14 teams will call the East their home, while 16 teams will call the Western Conference their home. Hershey will stay in the Atlantic Division, along with Bridgeport, Hartford, Lehigh Valley, Providence, Springfield, and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
One of Hershey’s biggest pieces on and off the ice from the 2015-16 season, Zach Sill is returning for another two seasons. Sill, 28, agreed to terms with Washington on a two-year, two-way contract for the 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons.
The Bears alternate captain had 22 points (9-13-22) in 63 games with the Hershey this past season. In 21 playoff games, Sill posted a line of 6-4-10, including big shorthanded goals in both Wilkes-Barre and Toronto series.
Monday marked the first day of 2016 Washington Capitals Developmental Camp at Kettler Capitals Iceplex. Only 16 days after the Hershey Bears season came to an end, four members of the Calder Cup Runner-Up team participated in the Camp. Travis Boyd, Riley Barber, Madison Bowey, and Tyler Lewington took part in a day of drills and classes.
Below the jump are photos from the first day of the camp.
Carter Camper came into the 2016 Calder Cup playoffs as an odd-man-out. After struggling to keep his spot in the lineup in January and February, a nine-game playoff point streak erased all doubt Hershey fans had in the 5-foot-9 forward.
After scoring in six of seven playoff games against Wilkes-Barre, Camper’s playoff heroics shined 9:09 into overtime of game two of the Eastern Conference Finals. As the puck bounced all over the ice in overtime, there was one bounce that put the Marlies in a 2-0 series hole. Luckily for Hershey, that puck bounced right onto Camper’s stick to send the Bears to Toronto with a major series lead.
There is a side to hockey where statistics are not a strong representation of a player’s contribution. The stay-at-home defenseman and avid penalty killer would certainly agree. Ask 27-year-old blueliner Erik Burgdoerfer. Affectionately known at “Burgy” to his teammates, he completed the 2015-16 campaign with six goals and 14 assists. In 21 postseason games, Burgdoerfer added an additional four helpers.
I wrote an opinion article on June 30, 2015, entitled “Is It Time For Chris Bourque to Return to Hershey?” Bears fans were still mourning a second round playoff exit at the hands of Bourque and his team, the Hartford Wolf Pack. Bourque was less than 24 hours from becoming a free agent and for the first time in three seasons, there was a real possibility of Bourque returning to Chocolate Town.
Wouldn’t you know it, I woke up late on the second day of free agency and was worried I missed something. So I unlocked my phone and opened Twitter right away. One of the first tweets I saw was from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton blogger Jason Iacona (awesome guy, by the way. Go check out his stuff if you’ve never read his site before,) and it read “I don’t ******************* believe it.” What was so shocking to the blogger of a rival team? The return of Chris Bourque to the most storied franchise in AHL history.
Looking back on it, the signing may go down as one of the biggest in Bears history if you take into account what would happen in the 350 days since the forward put pen to paper.
When Ryan Bourque joined the Hershey Bears in a trade deadline deal, most Bears fans understood they were going to see a reunion between Ryan and his brother Chris. What fans probably didn’t know was the Chocolate and White were receiving one of the top penalty killers in the American Hockey League. Bourque made a sudden impact, joining Zach Sill on the top PK unit and turning the Bears into one of the toughest teams to play against on the man advantage. That was evident in the Eastern Conference Finals when the Chocolate and White held the top scoring team in the league to three power play goals in 16 chances. Without Ryan Bourque, we might be having a totally different discussion right now.
Madison Bowey has all the qualities to be the complete package. At six-foot-two-inch, 210 pounds, he already has NHL size and plays with a physical edge to his game. Where he excels is on the offensive side of the puck. What Bears fans saw was a player much like former Bear Mike Green, a defenseman with a very offensive mind. Bowey has the ability to go deep into the offensive zone to help create plays on the offensive side of the puck very easily. Despite his size, he is an excellent skater with a heavy shot and good vision. He has played key roles in every step of his development and has only gotten better with the experience he gained his rookie season.