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Hershey is having a beary good start to the holiday season after record-setting Teddy Bear Toss

Hershey is having a beary good start to the holiday season after record-setting Teddy Bear Toss

It's one of the greatest holiday traditions in minor league hockey. 

The Teddy Bear Toss, put on by the Capitals' American Hockey League affiliate Hershey Bears each holiday season, collects thousands of stuffed animals to donate to more than 30 local organizations including schools, food banks and the Children's Miracle Network and the American Cancer Society. 

As soon as right wing Riley Barber scored the Bears' first goal during Sunday's game, 10,000 fans began hurling the plush toys onto the ice.

The Teddy Bear Toss is always a sight to see, but this year was historic.

The awesome Bears fans donated so many toys that it caused the team to delay the game 45 minutes as they rounded them all up. On top of that, it was announced that a record-breaking 34, 798 toys were collected.

34, 798; a new world record previously set in 2015 by the Calgary Hitmen of the Western Hockey League. The record-high for the Bears was 25,017 back in 2017.

Not only did the Bears go on to beat the Binghamton Devils 6-3, but a lot of people are going to be having a beary good holiday.

Click the media player above to watch the historic event


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Capitals prospect report: Ilya Samsonov earns first AHL win

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Capitals prospect report: Ilya Samsonov earns first AHL win

Things were not going too well for the Hershey Bears or for prospect goalie Ilya Samsonov at the start of the season.

The Bears did not earn a single point through their first five games. Samsonov, meanwhile, struggled through his first starts and then suffered a lower-body injury that kept him out for about a week.

Things, however, are finally starting to look up.

Samsonov returned from his injury to earn his first AHL win on Saturday. He stopped 19 of 22 shots against rival Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and also stopped both shootout shots he faced in the 4-3 win. Samsonov is now 1-3-0 on the season with a .860 save percentage and 3.70 GAA. Those stats certainly aren’t great, but the switch from European hockey to North American hockey is typically a difficult one. He should improve as the season moves on.

Just as Vitek Vanecek was forced to take the net briefly with Samsonov out, Samsonov may be given a similar task this week as Vanecek is dealing with an upper-body injury. Hershey has games on Friday, Saturday and Sunday so it certainly seems probable that Samsonov will get at least two of those starts.

Other Capitals Prospect Notes

·        The hot start continues for Liam O’Brien who scored two more goals over the weekend. He currently leads Hershey in both goals (6) and points (7). O’Brien looks like a high-end AHL player, but I am skeptical of his NHL prospects. He would certainly be a fourth line type of player, but if he can show he can be offensively productive and not just someone looking for the first opportunity to drop his gloves, there is still a chance, albeit a slim one, for him to climb into the NHL roster.

·        Riley Barber was held without a goal through the first six games of the season, but finally found the back of the net twice over the week with a goal in both Saturday and Sunday’s wins. Barber led the Bears in goals last season with 20 which made his slow start to the season a bit of a surprise. He is still someone hoping to break into the NHL so let’s see if these two goals open the scoring floodgates a bit for him.

·        Fresh off his player of the week honors,  Vanecek stayed hot with a 34-save win Sunday over Lehigh Valley. In his last five games, Vanecek is 3-1-0-1 with a .938 save percentage and 1.97 GAA.

·        While everyone has Samsonov penciled in as the Caps’ future starter in net, Vanecek is intent on disputing that. “Vitek wants to show people what he can do because I think he is getting a little bit lost behind Samsonov,” Bears vice president of hockey operations Bryan Helmer said. “He’s like, ‘hey, I’m still down here, too.’ He has that little bit of motivation to make himself better and … if he keeps going the way he’s going, he’s going to be successful in the NHL. If it is with Washington, it’s a pretty good one-two punch with Samsonov and Vitek down the road. To be honest, I think [Vanecek’s] ceiling is right up there with Samsonov. He’s getting better each year he has been over here.” Read Chris Kuc’s full story on Vanecek here.

·        Shane Gersich scored the shootout winner to lift Hershey past Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Saturday.

·        Beck Malenstyn scored his first professional goal in Saturday’s win.

·        Alexander Alexeyev was named the WHL On the Run Player of the Week on Monday. Among defenseman, Alexeyev is tied for first with seven goals and tied for second with 20 points.

·        Alexeyev’s recent play caught the eye of The Hockey News’ Ryan Kennedy who named him one of the hottest prospects in the hockey world. He wrote, “The league’s player of the week, Alexeyev is a Washington Capitals first-rounder who plays a great two-way game, complete with size and skating. At his best, he can control the play and right now his 20 points through 15 games ties him for tops among defensemen in the league. NHL arrival: 2020-21” Read the full article here.

·        Kody Klark signed an entry-level deal with the Caps last week. Naturally, plenty of people reached out to the proud father Wendel Clark for his reaction. “He’s extended his game, he’s earned three more years of trying to get to the next level,” Wendel said of his son. “Now he has to put the weight on, but I’ve told him there are no skinny guys in the Clark family, it’ll come.” See the full story here on Canoe.com. Clark has had a bit of a slow start to the season in the OHL, but he managed a goal and an assist on Sunday and hopefully, that will spark a hot streak from him.

·        It’s been a tough start to the season for the University of New Hampshire, as the Wildcats entered this past weekend without a win. They are winless no more, however, thanks to prospect defenseman Benton Maass, who scored the overtime-winning goal over the Catamounts of Vermont on Saturday.


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Capitals prospect report: The chocolate and white is feeling a bit black and blue

USA Today

Capitals prospect report: The chocolate and white is feeling a bit black and blue

The Hershey Bears won their first game of the season on Tuesday, beating rival Wilkes-Barre/Scranton 3-2. That’s the good news. The bad news is that Hershey is now 1-5 on the season and sits in last place in the Atlantic Division.

The Bears missed the playoffs last season meaning a 1-5 start to this season is not sitting well for fans of the storied AHL franchise.

The roster in Hershey looks much improved compared to last season. So why are they struggling and how do they turn things around?

The biggest issue to me is cohesion. Head coach Spencer Carbery is in his first season with the team. In addition, this roster has had a lot of turnover. Caps prospects Shane Gersich, Juuso Ikonen, Axel Jonsson-Fjallby, Max Kammerer, Beck Malenstyn, Garrett Pilon, Brian Pinho, Tobias Geisser and Ilya Samsonov are all making their AHL debuts this season. Other additions such as Michael Sgarbossa, Jayson Megna and Sergei Shumakov makes this roster largely a collection of players who have not played together before. There were going to be growing pains, but the Bears are going to get better as the season goes along.

    Another issue has been injuries.

    Samsonov became just the latest in a long list of players on the shelf due to injury. It was announced on Wednesday that he suffered a lower-body injury and is considered day-to-day. He did not dress for the team’s game that night and Hershey was forced to sign a local goalie, Padraig Carey, to an amateur tryout agreement to serve as the backup to Vitek Vanecek.

    Hershey recalled goalie Parker Milner from the ECHL on Thursday.

    In addition to Samsonov’s injury, Kris Bindulis, Colby Williams, Riley Barber, Ikonen and Shumakov are all dealing with upper-body injuries while Mason Mitchell has a lower-body ailment.

    Other prospect notes:

    • With so many new players, several have reached early career milestones. Pilon (2 assists), Kammerer (3 assists), Malenstyn (1 assist) and Jonsson-Fjallby (1 goal) all recorded their first AHL points over the week. Here’s a look at Jonsson-Fjallby’s goal:

    • Jonsson-Fjallby remains in Hershey despite rumors last week of a return to Sweden. Those rumors seem to have originated from Sweden and now it looks like any speculation of Jonsson-Fjallby leaving for his home country have been put to bed. Swedish outlet Expressen spoke with Joakim Eriksson, sports director of Jonsson-Fjallby’s Swedish team Djurgarden. In that report published Monday, Eriksson said (as translated by Google translate), “Axel has a contract with Washington and no other team. It's Axel's decision altogether, but we have said that we have a place available and that's how the situation has been. Everything else has just been media speculation.”
    • The blog Russian Machine Never Breaks made a trek out to Hershey and spoke with Ilya Samsonov about his transition to North America and his start in the AHL. “For so long, as you understand, I spent my whole life speaking a different language,” Samsonov said. “So, for now, it’s hard for me to hear what my teammates are saying on the ice. Some things I don’t understand, but I’m trying, and I think I’ve made a step forward in that regard.” Check out the full interview and article here.
    • I spoke with Capitals coach Scott Murray recently on Samsonov and the language barrier. “He actually did a really good job this summer,” Murray said. “He stayed in the US and did a really good job bridging that gap and then obviously we’ve made it a point and he’s made it a point that he wants to continually get better at the English language so that we can communicate because when you can communicate it’s way easier to teach, it’s way easier for him to learn and be engaged.”
    • Vanecek got his first win of the season on Wednesday and the Penguins made him earn it. He turned aside 40 shots in the effort, a new career-high for him.
    • Defenseman Tyler Lewington scored on Sunday against Rockford. It was his first goal since Nov. 11, 2017. You can see the replay of it here:  

    • Riley Sutter was named first star of the game on Saturday in Everett’s win over Kamloops in the WHL. He scored two goals and an assist to help lead Everett to the 7-2 victory.