Thursday, January 05, 2012
Written by Dave Sottile
Patrick Wellar’s family and friends back in Saskatchewan don’t get much of an opportunity to watch the Hershey Bears defenseman play very often.
Friday night, though, Wellar and other Canadian-born Bears will be seen live on television in their native country.
Hershey’s American Hockey League Outdoor Classic game against the Adirondack Phantoms will be shown on Sportsnet north of the border.
“I just found out from my brother this morning,” Wellar said today. “Sportsnet is a national network in Canada. I was fortunate enough to play a game on that network when I was in junior. It makes things more exciting when the game is on TV.
“All my friends I keep in touch with are pretty excited that they’ll get to see the game live, too. I’m just hoping to play well for them.”
Friday night’s outdoor game at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia also will be shown live on The Comcast Network, which is available on Xfinity cable TV systems in parts of eastern and central Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey and Delaware.
Of course, it’s the Sportsnet carriage that has Wellar so fired up.
“Basically a lot of my family that I left behind, I only get to see them for maybe a week or two each year,” Wellar said, “so for me to get an opportunity like this, it’s pretty special.
“It adds a little more pressure because you want to play well and you want to perform. But it’s going to be a pretty neat experience.”
Bears ready to go
After practice at Giant Center, Bears coach Mark French pronounced his team ready to go. They departed Hershey for Philadelphia around 2 p.m.
“It was a little bit of a concern coming into today because of the travel and the game being right upon us,” French said. “I thought we might forget about what we needed to do at practice to get ready for the game, but I thought our execution was really good.
“The mood was obviously positive, and there’s a lot of anticipation, but we still focused on our preparation, which was good.”
Tough lineup choices
With 22 players on the roster and only 20 eligible to suit up Friday night, French and assistant coach Troy Mann have the unenviable task of telling two eager Bears they won’t be facing the Phantoms.
“Everybody wants to play every game, so those decisions are tough on a daily occasion,” French said, “but we’re certainly mindful as coaches that this is one that probably stings a little bit more.
“More thoughts certainly went into those decisions. It’s the only downside of the game, because everyone wants to play in it so passionately.”
French said all 22 would be on the ice for Friday’s morning skate at Citizens Bank Park. And while the coach said a decision on the two healthy scratches had not been made yet, it’s believed forward D.J. King and defenseman Danny Richmond are the most likely candidates to sit out.
Richmond has been in and out of the lineup all season as one of Hershey’s extra veteran players. King has been scratched in five of the team’s last six games since he returned from a nine-game injury absence.
Even though Keith Aucoin has played in five previous AHL All-Star Classics, the Hershey center was still excited about being selected for No. 6.
Wednesday afternoon, Aucoin and linemate Chris Bourque were named to the Eastern Conference squad for the Jan. 29-30 event at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J. Bears captain Boyd Kane had previously been named to serve in a similar capacity for the Eastern Conference squad.
“It’s still an honor to be picked,” Aucoin said after practice today. “Making an all-star game is not easy to do. I’ve always said it’s fun to go and meet the other guys you battle against all year.
“It’s the time of year where you could use a few days off, but at the same time you’re not really using that much energy to be there, plus you get a couple days off after the game.”
Mingling with the other all-stars and competing in the skills competition are Aucoin’s favorite things about being selected.
“I enjoy meeting the other guys, people you don’t really know but battle with,” Aucoin said. “You find that (opponents) aren’t so bad after all. It’s fun hanging out in the locker room and getting to know everybody.”
French thought several of his other players were deserving of consideration, namely forward Jacob Micflikier and defenseman Patrick McNeill.
“They both should have got a look at, which I’m sure they did,” French said. “It’s just hard to make everything right” when it comes to picking the rosters.
Hershey players and staff ate a catered lunch in the Giant Center press room after practice. … Bears president/general manager Doug Yingst and other AHL executives are meeting in New York City today and are scheduled to wrap things up in time Friday to arrive in Philadelphia for the game. … Washington Capitals associate goalie coach Olie Kolzig attended practice today and did extra work afterward with Gs Braden Holtby and Dany Sabourin. … French said the Bears considered doing a large team function/dinner tonight in Philadelphia but changed their minds given all the family members and friends who are attending the game. “We’re letting them do things on their own, because there really won’t be any time for that tomorrow,” French said. “They can enjoy spending time with their families tonight, and we’ll get down to business tomorrow.”