PROVIDENCE — Chris Bourque of the Hershey Bears has even greater incentive to light up American Hockey League goalies this season.
The 31-year-old left winger, who has won two scoring titles and three Calder Cups in the AHL, is in the running for a slot on the U.S. team that will compete in the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, in February.
As usual, Bourque is putting up points this season. He was the league’s leading scorer with 7-16-23 in 16 games heading into Friday night’s contest in Providence.
“I had a couple of conversations with (USA Hockey) over the summer,’’ Bourque said on Friday morning. “They called me and let me know I was in the mix, that I was on their radar for making the team. I’ve had a couple of more conversations with them since then.
“I talked to (Olympic team assistant coach) Scott Young right before the season. He told me, ‘Do your thing and we’ll be in contact.’ Get off to a good start and all that kind of stuff. I’ve obviously been thinking about it a little bit, but I’m not worried about it right now.’’
Bourque is on an AHL contract with Hershey so he is eligible to be loaned to the U.S. team. Players with NHL contracts are not eligible to go to the Olympics.
He has a history with USA Hockey. He participated in Select festivals when he was a teenager, played on two World Junior Championship teams, and suited up for the U.S. in the Deutschland Cup in Germany a few years ago when he was playing in the KHL.
The Olympics would be the icing on the cake.
“Any time you get the opportunity to represent your country, you jump right on it. When it’s the Olympics, that’s a no-brainer. It’s a special chance for guys in my situation, where if the guys in the NHL were doing it, we wouldn’t have the opportunity,” he said.
“I’m excited about that, but obviously (USA Hockey has) some decisions to make. I’ve just got to keep playing well and hopefully things will take care of themselves. It should be exciting. We’ll see.’’