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Game Preview: Checkers at Bears, 7 p.m.

Game Preview: Checkers at Bears, 7 p.m.

January 6, 2018

Charlotte Checkers (21-12-0-1) at Hershey Bears (15-16-1-3) 
Saturday, January 6, 2018, 7:00 p.m
Giant Center

REFEREES: Michael Sheehan (74), Mitch Dunning (3) 
LINESMEN: Libor Suchanek (60), Luke Murray (92)

Broadcast Information (Pre-game 6:30 PM)
RADIO: WQIC-100.1 FM, Fox Sports 1460-AM, WOYK 1350-AM, Hershey Bears App, Listen at Giant Center on 88.9 FM--Zack Fisch, the Voice of the Bears, and Mitch Lamoureux on the call
LISTEN LIVE: Fox Sports AM-1460 Stream, Caps Radio 24/7


LAST TIME OUT: Tonight is Hershey’s first game in a week. Last Saturday, the Bears ended 2017 with a 2-1 overtime loss to the rival Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins on home ice. After a scoreless first period, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s Zach Aston-Reese struck in the second period to make it 1-0 Penguins. Hershey goaltender Vitek Vanecek was solid all night long, stopping 36 shots, and the Bears rewarded him by tying the game on a Tyler Graovac goal in the third period. Dominik Simon scored the winning goal for the Penguins 3:05 into overtime to hand Hershey the loss. The Bears were outshot 38-21 and went 0-for-6 on the power play. Charlotte is coming off a 5-2 win at Lehigh Valley a week ago. The Checkers peppered the Phantoms with a season-high 44 shots, and Warren Foegele and Phillip Brown had a goal and an assist. Alex Nedeljkovic stopped 26 shots to earn the win in goal for the visitors.

IT’S BEEN AWHILE: Tonight marks Charlotte’s first visit to Hershey since a two-game series on Mar. 1-2, 2014. After Hershey won two games in Charlotte earlier that season, the Checkers returned the favor, beating the Bears 4-1 and 6-3 at Giant Center. Zach Boychuk had a big weekend, scoring one goal in the first game, then notching a pure hat-trick in the third period of the 6-3 Charlotte win. Ryan Stoa, who was just named to Team USA for the 2018 Winter Olympics, had a goal in both of the losses for Hershey. The Bears last win versus Charlotte at the Giant Center was on Mar. 25, 2012 when Hershey scored a 3-2 shootout win. Current Bears captain Garrett Mitchell scored the game-winning marker in the fifth round of the shootout to earn Hershey the victory. The Bears are 4-4-0-0 versus the Checkers all-time in regular season play at the Giant Center.  

BOURQUE’S BIG WEEK: USA Hockey announced Monday afternoon that Chris Bourque was named to the U.S. Men's Olympic Ice Hockey Team for the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games. Bourque, 31, is currently tied as the American Hockey League's leading scorer with 39 points (11 goals, 28 assists) in 35 games this season. An alternate captain with Hershey, Bourque leads the club in all offensive categories. The Boston, Mass. native has previously represented Team USA at the 2005 and 2006 World Junior Championships, and led USA to the 2013 Deutschland Cup title. Bourque’s big week continued on Thursday when he was named to the 2018 AHL All-Star Classic roster for the Atlantic Division. This is the sixth all-star selection for Bourque, a mark which ties an AHL record.

200 FOR TUNA: Hershey forward Liam O’Brien will skate in his 200th career AHL game this evening. O’Brien, who has spent his entire AHL career with the Chocolate and White, has collected 67 points (29 goals, 38 assists) and 392 penalty minutes in his 199 AHL games. The Halifax, Nova Scotia native ranks third on the Bears with eight goals this season, and has posted 12 points in 31 games.

GUIDED BY GRAOVAC: Hershey forward Tyler Graovac has found his offensive stride since being reassigned by the Capitals in December. The forward has points in two straight games, and points in three of his last four games. Graovac has potted nine points (four goals, five assists) in 14 games this season with Hershey. The forward can certainly provide a scoring punch to the Bears based on his previous AHL numbers with the Iowa Wild. Graovac scored 46 points (21 goals, 25 assists) during the 2015-16 season, the best offensive year of his career.

SAARELA SHOW: The last time Hershey and Charlotte played, Charlotte forward Aleksi Saarela had quite the night. The native of Helsinki, Finland tallied his first AHL hat-trick to hand Hershey its most lopsided loss of the season, as the Checkers earned a 6-0 win. The rookie was originally a third round selection of the New York Rangers in 2015 and came to Carolina in the Eric Staal trade in 2016. In 31 games with Charlotte this season, Saarela has collected 19 points (13 goals, six assists). He was recalled to Carolina earlier this week but did not make his NHL debut before returning to the Checkers.

BEARS-CHECKERS FAST FACTS: Hershey forward Travis Boyd enters tonight’s game with 99 career AHL assists…Charlotte forward Valentin Zykov has points in eight straight games, while forward Andrew Miller has points in four straight…Hershey assistant coach Ryan Murphy and associate goaltending coach Alex Westlund are both former members of the Checkers during their ECHL days.

Hershey Bears in a victory embrace

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