HERSHEY, Pa. – The Hershey Bears are working their way back to game action after about two weeks idle due to COVID-19 protocols that have postponed a few games.
The Chocolate and White returned to practice over the past week, a positive indication that the team will soon be ready to return to game action. The Bears will be looking to bounce back to their early-season success and hopefully get some key players back into the lineup over time. One such player the team would like to see get healthy is Mike Vecchione, who flew under the radar a bit over seven games before an injury on November 5 sidelined the playmaking center.
Vecchione signed with the Capitals over the summer as the biggest newcomer in the forward group for the Bears, perhaps as a replacement for the recently departed Phil Maillet. Hershey is quite familiar with Vecchione by virtue of his days skating with their biggest rival, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, where he played for two seasons before heading out west. This season marks his return to the Atlantic Division, and he was off to perhaps his best start until the injury. Vecchione posted eight points (one goal, seven assists) in seven games so far this season, collecting five of those points on the power play, while his lone goal came just after a Hershey power play had expired. With just about a quarter of his career goals (15 out of 61) coming on the man advantage, it’s easy to see why the Bears would be thrilled to get him back on the ice when they return to action.
— Bears Hockey Nation (@HBHNationBlog) October 17, 2021
It’s an exciting proposition to get a career year out of Vecchione when he’s back to health, as the forward put up tremendous numbers with 40 points during the 2017-18 season and 36 points (21 goals, 15 assists) in 61 games with the San Antonio Rampage during the 2019-20 season before the shutdown, which would have likely been a career year for the forward. The talent would undoubtedly come as a boost for Hershey, who remains competitive on the power play but has sorely missed him since he was injured. Vecchione is a versatile player that can score in many ways, but his bread and butter is hovering around the blue paint and jamming loose pucks past goaltenders. His lone tally of the season is a great example of this mindset, but he’s skillful in moving the puck around and playing with a lot of flow in the process.
Hershey has a strong and diverse roster this season, with a lot of young talent joining the Washington Capitals in the days since Vecchione was injured, and he’s a player that should be on the National Hockey League team’s mind when he returns to play. The 28-year-old had a brief two-game stint with the Philadelphia Flyers at the conclusion of the 2016-17 season following his last season at Union College. Despite such strong seasons in the American Hockey League, he hasn’t received an NHL call since. It’s very unfortunate as he possesses a lot of skills that an NHL team would want in a call-up and seems suited to take on that role well. His return to the Hershey lineup will not only bolster the Bears’ line but give him a chance to prove to the brass in D.C. that he can make an impact as well.
When Vecchione went down with an injury in that fateful November 5 game, he did so during the same game as forward Brian Pinho, a player whose value on special teams is immeasurable. Pinho is a crucial component on the penalty kill and has found some time on the power play this season, and the former 20 goal scorer provides some key offense that was a difference-maker both last season and during the 2019-20 campaign. Both players have been simply listed as week-to-week by head coach Scott Allen in previous injury reports, with few details given. While other players have stepped up to fill the roles of both Pinho and Vecchione, the duo goes beyond the stat line in terms of providing an example to younger players and helping to set the all-important standard that the team preaches. Getting both players into the lineup will go a long way towards getting the team back to its winning ways when play resumes.
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