Sean Collins made the trip up to Hershey for the Bears’ Game 6 on Sunday night against the Charlotte Checkers hoping for the best.
“I was at the game and I went to the game thinking it would be a good time and I’d get to see the guys after and we’d win, obviously,” he said Monday.
And then Nicolas Blanchard beat Braden Holtby early in overtime to end Hershey’s season short of a Calder Cup title for the first time in three years.
“It was terrible,” Collins said. “You never like to see your teammates and your buddies disappointed ’cause obviously everybody wanted to win. I think everyone’s kind of in shock and just really upset about it.”
As Bears PR and radio man John Walton tweeted Monday morning: “Finding it a bit hard to downshift this morning. Household chores are a far cry from playoff hockey. Still can’t believe it’s over.”
Life goes on, which for Collins means having some teammates join him with the Caps for their playoff run. It’s the first time under these Bruce Boudreau teams that Washington’s season has outlasted Hershey’s, so the Caps will get at least a few “black aces.”
Holtby and center Mathieu Perreault seem givens. Not only do they both still have lockers in Arlington but Holtby and Perreault spent significant time up here in the regular season.
If the Caps want to make it an even 10 defensemen in practice, they’ll call on Brian Fahey or Patrick McNeill. Other candidates at forward include Andrew Gordon (who has been out with a lower-body injury), Keith Aucoin, Steve Pinizzotto and Brian Willsie.
Defense prospect Dmitry Orlov isn’t eligible to play or officially be a black ace, but he could skate with the team in practice. As of mid-day Monday there was no word yet on whether Orlov will go to the world championships to play for Russia.
The Caps won’t announce Hershey call-ups until Tuesday. But Collins said he has a good idea of who will be around – and who he’d like to make the trip down I-83.
“If I could pick, all of them would be up here,” Collins said. “It’s a really, really good group of guys down there, so whoever comes I’m gonna be happy to be here with them.”
There’s no roster or salary cap limit in the playoffs, but Collins will likely have to settle for a few old teammates suiting up around here.
UPDATE: With black aces likely on their way to the D.C. area, some fans are wondering where the term “Black Aces” came from. Here’s the answer from hockey historian Jen Conway:
“The term refers to the unlucky “Dead Man’s Hand” in poker, which includes the black aces. In the 1940s, Eddie Shore, who was owner of the Springfield Indians, used this term originally to refer to players who he considered to be “out of luck” and needed to work their way back into the lineup from injury or the doghouse. Eddie was pretty famous for how hard he made his “Black Aces” work. Not only did they have to work extra hard in practice and scrimmages, they were also required to be available for every game to play on an emergency basis and to work around the hockey rink, doing various odd jobs such as painting, blowing balloons, and selling popcorn and programs.”