Capital Hodgepodge: Aucoin’s Second Season, Bears Beaten at Home, & ‘Rays of Sunshine

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Posted February 26, 2012

By the time they read this post, anyone with access to twitter or the DC-area news media will surely have discovered that the Caps beat the Leafs 4-2 last night to extend their current winning streak to two.  Maybe this will get the Associated Press off their backs, at least until GM George McPhee works this year’s version of trade magic.  But Caps Outsider doesn’t exist simply to parrot the news; there are plenty of other places to find yet-another-recap.  So, since my focus this year has been the Bears, I’m going to put the emphasis in tonight’s NHL mentions squarely where it belongs – Keith Aucoin.

Keith Aucoin, pictured here in his jersey from the 2012 All Star Classic to avoid the impression of AHL v. NHL bias (All Photos Credit: M. Richter)

That’s right, we’re calling out the man who scored his first NHL goal in over two years tonight (2 years, 4 months, and 1 day).  A man who also quietly crossed another “to do” off of his professional list: playing in his 83rd NHL game.  It might not sound like much – it’s not a flashy round number like 100 or 200 or 500 – but it’s significant in its own right.  82 games make up the regular NHL season in this day and age, and tonight Keith Aucoin officially broke out of his numerical rookie year.  At age 33.

In a moment of complete seriousness: All the respect in the world, Coiner.

In all fairness to Braden Holtby, one can't say that he didn't try. It was not his best night (17 saves, 4 goals against), but he wasn't alone in that.

Down in Hershey, the news was not quite so good.  After a week of road games, ranging from Manchester, NH to Cleveland, OH, the Bears lost their grand homecoming 4-3 to the Norfolk Admirals.  For those who have been following the season more casually, that’s the same team who claimed victory at the season home-opener back in October and broke Hershey’s start-of-season winning streak.  Not cool.

The loss came as the Bears were hoping to shake off an ugly patch of road that included only one W out of five attempts.  The impact of both the on-ice performance and the regulation L was significant enough in-house that Head Coach Mark French was detained by GM Doug Yingst to the point of canceling his regular post-game press conference.

Our minor league coverage here is all about finding the silver linings, so here are a couple of positive tidbits to go along with that ulcer and low grade depression:

– Due to Christian Hanson‘s wrist injury earlier in the week, and the resulting surgery he had on Friday, Mike Carman is back in the role of center.  The injury is by no means a good thing – Hanson has been solid at center for the Bears, often keeping a steady hand on the second or third line, and he’s a valuable player.  But it is nice to get a chance to see what Carman can do when given the middle of the ice to play with.  Given the way things have been going for the Caps, the more information McPhee has to play around with, the better.

Cody Eakin spent the entire evening on the first line, and saw substantial time on both the power play and penalty kill.  For anyone doubting the wisdom in sending him down to Hershey and keeping Aucoin in Washington, the kid’s minutes speak for themselves.  He’s seeing close to double the ice he’d see with the Caps, and that can only do good things for his development.

Matt Pope, who signed with the Bears mid-season after starting the year on an ECHL contract with the Stingrays, scored his fifth AHL goal of the season.  Always worth a mention when the call-ups are doing well.

– This was the last February home game for the Bears, and the crowd who turned out at Giant Center for their last chance at Chocolate-Covered February set a high for the season – 10,901 tickets sold.

– The Bears have a chance to avenge their loss on Wednesday, both breaking their abysmal road streak and reminding Norfolk who’s boss.  It should be interesting to see what they do with the opportunity.

Pink Power in South Carolina!

Maxime Lacroix, last night's golden child (and first star!), pictured here in the 'Rays thirds jersey.

Last night, the South Carolina Stingrays held their “Pink in the Rink” night.  The ice crew logged some serious hours, shaving the ice down so that it could be colored for the event, and the players donated some dignity by wearing the obligatory pink jerseys (Authorial side note here: these are the best looking Pink in the Rink jerseys I’ve seen to date. Great color-combo & design adaptation!).

The sacrifice paid off, and not only did the Stingrays walk away with a resounding 5-2 win over the Gwinnett Gladiators (including a hat trick by Maxime Lacroix, who saw time with the Bears earlier this season, and a strong performance by Philipp Grubauer in net), but the post-game auction brought in over $24,000 dollars for charity.  That’s almost Hershey territory!