Just outside coach Bruce Boudreau’s office near the Hershey Bears’ locker room hangs a pair of wooden plaques. They’re square and they’ve each got 16 holes, four rows of four holes on each. The holes are three inches in diameter and there is a strip of adhesive inside each. Just above the plaque on the right is an engraved sign: “Hershey Bears Wins 2005-06.” Just to the right of that plaque are two screws, ready to support a third plaque.
Good thing, too. That third plaque will be necessary before you know it.
The first plaque is already filled, holding game pucks – 16 tiny trophies that represent the Bears’ first 16 wins of the season. The Bears got a good start on the second plaque over the past weekend when they forged back-to-back home ice victories over the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, one of their five East Division rivals in the American Hockey League’s Eastern Conference.
The Bears are now 18-4-2-4 on the season. In the 68-year history of the Bears, only the 1946-47 and 1996-97 teams have had starts on a par with the 2005-06 edition. Both of those vintage Bears teams went on to win the Calder Cup. With a win this Saturday over Hamilton, the 2005-06 Bears would stand alone as having the fastest start in franchise history.
The Capitals were off last weekend, so we took the short and easy drive up north to watch the Bears in those two home games against Bridgeport. Before we departed D.C., we got a little preview of what to expect from a pair of players who have spent time in both Washington and Hershey this season.
“I think you are going to see a hard working team that plays together,” forward Graham Mink told us. “Special teams have certainly given us a lot of success this season. The power play is second or third in the league right now and penalty killing is in the top five. The team works hard. Guys go hard and they don’t stop. It’s a well-coached team.”
“They play a very high tempo game,” said Laich. “Bruce preaches speed and skill and getting up ice. They emphasize skating a lot and they are going to get the wheels going. They are also very good on special teams; I think they are top three in both power play and penalty killing. The five-on-five play is strong but their bread and butter is the special teams so look for them to win that area of the game and hopefully come out on top.”
We arrived on Saturday; Laich and Mink actually got there first. They were reassigned to Hershey after Washington’s Friday night game against Detroit.