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Conference final matchups set

The AHL’s final four are set.

Hartford and Rochester were joined on Friday night by Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and Milwaukee, setting up the matchups for the AHL’s Calder Cup 2004 conference finals. The Wolf Pack will take on the Penguins in the East, while the Admirals and Americans tangle in the West.

For three of these teams, a trip to the conference finals is nothing new. Wilkes-Barre (2001), Rochester (2000, 1999) and Hartford (2000, 1998) have all gotten this far in recent postseasons.

Milwaukee is in the Calder Cup conference finals for the first time, and has reached a league semifinal series for the first time since the Admirals’ days in the old IHL, where they were among the final four in 1983 and 1995.

All four teams are led by head coaches with championship experience as well.

Hartford’s Ryan McGill is two years removed from leading Kootenay to a Memorial Cup championship in 2002. The other three all won Calder Cup titles during their playing days: Milwaukee’s Claude Noel with Hershey in 1980, Rochester’s Randy Cunneyworth with the Amerks in 1983, and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s Michel Therrien with Sherbrooke in 1985.

In the West, some of the top playoff scorers in the AHL this postseason go head-to-head, as Rochester’s Domenic Pittis (16 pts.), Jason Pominville (15 pts.) and Chris Taylor (15 pts.) match up against Milwaukee’s Darren Haydar (15 pts.), Tony Hrkac (13 pts.) and Simon Gamache (12 pts.).

The Eastern Conference series pits two of the hottest goaltenders in the AHL against each other, with league MVP Jason LaBarbera of Hartford (8-1, 1.27 GAA, 3 SO) meeting rookie Andy Chiodo of Wilkes-Barre (6-1, 1.41 GAA, 3 SO).

Game 1 in both best-of-seven series will take place on Tuesday night. The Western Conference series opens at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee, while the Eastern Conference begins at the Wachovia Arena at Casey Plaza in Wilkes-Barre, Pa.

Eastern Conference — Series M (best-of-7)
A1-Hartford Wolf Pack vs. E3-Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins
Game 1 – Tue., May 18 – Hartford at Wilkes-Barre, 7:05
Game 2 – Thu., May 20 – Hartford at Wilkes-Barre, 7:05
Game 3 – Sat., May 22 – Wilkes-Barre at Hartford, 7:05
Game 4 – Sun., May 23 – Wilkes-Barre at Hartford, 6:05
*Game 5 – Tue., May 25 – Wilkes-Barre at Hartford, 7:05
*Game 6 – Fri., May 28 – Hartford at Wilkes-Barre, 7:05
*Game 7 – Sat., May 29 – Wilkes-Barre at Hartford, 7:05

Western Conference — Series N (best-of-7)
W1-Milwaukee Admirals vs. N3-Rochester Americans
Game 1 – Tue., May 18 – Rochester at Milwaukee, 8:00
Game 2 – Thu., May 20 – Rochester at Milwaukee, 8:00
Game 3 – Sat., May 22 – Milwaukee vs. Rochester, 7:35 (at HSBC Arena, Buffalo)
Game 4 – Sun., May 23 – Milwaukee vs. Rochester, 5:05 (at HSBC Arena, Buffalo)
*Game 5 – Wed., May 26 – Milwaukee at Rochester, 7:05
*Game 6 – Fri., May 28 – Rochester at Milwaukee, 8:00
*Game 7 – Sat., May 29 – Rochester at Milwaukee, 8:00

*if necessary… All times Eastern