Hersheypark is scheduled to open for the season in a few days. Bears goalie Jason Bacashihua
is planning a trip the amusement oasis with teammate Andrew Gordon
"It's starting to get nice out," Bacashihua said. "It always seems to be more fun when the weather gets warm."
Bacashihua might give the rollercoaster a try, although he said he's more the type of guy who grips the safety bar instead of throwing his hands in the air. Either way, the season he's rolling through in Hershey has prepared him for those highs and lows.
When he's played, Bacashihua has turned in the effort expected of a 27-year-old veteran. He's gone 15-2-1, 2.44, .914 for a Hershey squad zeroing in on a repeat of its Calder Cup win of last year.
But whether Bacashihua gets a chance to zoom through the postseason fun is another matter. He's not on the playoff roster, getting bumped in favor of youngsters Michal Neuvirth
, the championship anchor of last year, and Braden Holtby
, the mystery contestant of this season.
Even regular-season minutes are rationed out carefully. When Bacashihua made 29 saves to beat Syracuse on March 20, it was his first action in almost a month.
"This was something new for me, something new I had to deal with," he said. "I think I've dealt with it pretty well. After talking to my coaches and my family, I realized I'm not going to get any better... if I'm not prepared when I do have to play. Every day you should have a purpose with what you do."
Bacashihua signed an AHL deal with the Bears in the off-season hoping to split time with starter Neuvirth, 22. The dynamics changed a little when Neuvirth was called up to Washington and Bacashihua found himself part of a tandem with Holtby, 20, who was promoted from the ECHL. Holtby went nuclear during his trial in Hershey and when Neuvirth returned the two youngsters got the minutes while Bacashihua was relegated to troubleshooter.
"You do what to can. The competitive edge is always there, but at the same time you want to help out your teammates," Bacashihua said. "We all get along well. That obviously makes a team stronger. I haven't been playing as much as I'd like. But I've been taking care of myself off the ice. I like to think of myself as a young 27 instead of an old 27."
There's only one way to find out who is the youngest at heart - an all-goalie outing to Hersheypark.
"Being around all these young kids, it makes me feel young too," Bacashihua said. "We'll see if they enjoy it as much as I do."
Picking his spots
-- Grand Rapids defenseman Ole-Kristian Tollefsen
might be a little more tempered these days, which only makes him more dangerous.
The 6-foot-2, 211-pound bumper car claims that at age 25, and with a body that most days feels like it slept in a gravel pit, he picks and chooses his demolition projects more carefully.
Maybe, but that's little comfort to the opponents who rudely meet up with one of the thorniest and most aggressive hitters in the NHL or AHL.
"I don't just run around any more," Tollefsen said. "You can't do that in the NHL level. You have to look for your opportunity. I would say I'm the same physical presence, but you have to pick your spots. I've been injured quite a lot. You have to think about stuff like that."
Tollefsen has had too much time to weigh those issues. He's been chipped and dented for most of his career, and last season a bad knee injury limited him to 19 games with Columbus. He signed with the Flyers last summer but, still trying to round back into form, got just 18 games in Philadelphia before his trade to Detroit in February.
Through his first 11 games with the Griffins, Tollefsen posted 1 goal and 35 penalty minutes. Tollefsen admits his knee still slows him, but remains more concerned about causing discomfort in others than tending to his own.
"I'm not going to be fully back for a couple years. But it's good enough to play hockey," he said. "If I want to keep playing in the NHL, I have to play the way I always do. You don't want to destroy your body forever. But whatever I do now to play in the NHL, that's what I have to do. I'm not the only guy who's been hurt."
Jackets, Syracuse break bond
-- One of the AHL's longest partnerships is over.
The Syracuse Crunch and Columbus Blue Jackets
have agreed to part ways at the end of this season after a 10-year marriage. That partnership was the fifth-longest deal currently active in the league, behind Providence-Boston (started in 1992), Hartford-New York (1997), Milwaukee-Nashville (1998 in the IHL, 2001 in the AHL) and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton-Pittsburgh (1999).
The Crunch, who are on their way to missing the playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time in its 16-year history, will be the new farm team of Anaheim. The Ducks do not have an AHL affiliate this season.
"Anaheim is clearly one of the elite profile organizations. Everything I hear about them, these are the people we are looking for," said Syracuse owner Howard Dolgon. "These are the guys who know how to get it done."
"This was something new for me, something new I had to deal with. I think I've dealt with it pretty well. After talking to my coaches and my family, I realized I'm not going to get any better... if I'm not prepared when I do have to play. Every day you should have a purpose with what you do."
-- Jason Bacashihua
Columbus has an agreement to be the parent team of Springfield. Edmonton, Springfield's current affiliate, is moving to Oklahoma City in 2010-11.
Around the AHL
-- Worcester goalie Alex Stalock
broke an AHL rookie record with his 36th win of the year by beating Syracuse 3-1 on March 23. ... P.K. Subban's tally against Lake Erie on March 19 set a Hamilton franchise record for most goals by a defenseman in a season with 17. That broke the mark set by Yannick Weber
last year. ... Rochester's Chris Taylor
became the newest member of the AHL's career 500-point club with a goal against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on March 20. ... Manitoba rookies Jordan Schroeder
and Kevin Clark
both scored in their professional debuts March 21 vs. Grand Rapids. ... Hershey has as many wins by five goals or more (13) as by one goal this season. ... Adirondack goalie Carter Hutton
, coming off a four-year career at UMass-Lowell, earned his first pro victory with 35 saves on March 21 to end Hershey’s home winning streak at an AHL-record 24 games. ... Hutton and Kris Mayotte
both made their Adirondack debuts last weekend in Norfolk, becoming the eighth and ninth goaltenders to play for the Phantoms this year. ... Binghamton’s Chris Holt
put his name in the AHL record books on March 19 when he became the 10th goaltender in league history to score a goal. Holt’s empty-net tally capped a 4-2 Senators victory over Rochester. ... Following his hat trick at Peoria on March 21, Texas’ Aaron Gagnon
has 13 goals in his last 16 games after totaling 11 goals in his first 53 contests. ... Chicago's Tim Stapleton
has scored 4 goals in his last three outings after being held to 4 goals in his previous 22 contests. ... Milwaukee goaltender Mark Dekanich
surrendered 3 goals on four shots vs. Houston on Jan. 1, but since then has turned aside 104 of 106 Aeros shots (.981) in four straight victories. ... Grand Rapids and Manitoba played their entire four-game season series between March 5-21, with the teams getting into the spirit of their rough-and-tumble rivalry. The games featured a combined 41 roughing minors, 10 fighting majors, five unsportsmanlike conduct calls and three 10-minute misconducts. ... By contrast, only one minor penalty total was whistled in the Adirondack-Norfolk game on March 20. Over the two-game weekend series, the teams combined for just three infractions and six total penalty minutes. ... Binghamton's Denis Hamel
played in his 700th career AHL game March 20 vs. Albany. Sens forward Martin St. Pierre
’s assist against the Rats on March 21 was his 400th career AHL point.