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Field of 16 set for Calder Cup Playoffs

The last three berths in the 2014 Calder Cup Playoffs were all clinched on Friday night, but there will still be plenty left to decide when the regular season ends on Saturday.

The Providence Bruins punched their playoff ticket with a 2-1 overtime victory over Manchester. The Bruins got a pair of goals from Matt Fraser, including the game-winner 2:57 into the extra frame.

This will be the Bruins’ 17th trip to the Calder Cup Playoffs in 22 seasons, and their second in a row after failing to qualify in 2010, 2011 and 2012.

About half an hour after Providence’s win, the Norfolk Admirals finished off a 3-1 win over Hershey, eliminating the Bears and claiming the final Eastern Conference invite to the postseason party.

Dave Steckel, a member of the Bears’ Calder Cup championship team in 2006, scored the winning goal for Norfolk late in the second period and ended Hershey’s run of eight consecutive playoff appearances. The Admirals, who won the Calder Cup in 2012 as Tampa Bay’s top affiliate, will head to the postseason for the first time as Anaheim’s development partner.

The last spot up for grabs was the eighth seed in the Western Conference, and when regulation losses by Charlotte and Rockford opened the door, the Oklahoma City Barons walked in. The Barons needed just a single point by the time their game with Iowa was winding down, and Roman Horak‘s goal with 2:01 left in regulation tied it at 3-3 and forced overtime, sending Oklahoma City to the playoffs for the fourth year in a row.

For good measure, C.J. Stretch scored 3:21 into overtime and the Barons defeated the Wild, 4-3. Oklahoma City will meet top-seeded Texas in the Western Conference quarterfinals beginning Wednesday night.

While all 16 berths are clinched, the other seven first-round matchups won’t be determined until Saturday, when a 13-game schedule marks the completion of the AHL’s 78th regular season.

In the Eastern Conference, Manchester (1), Springfield (2), Binghamton (3, clinching the East Division title on Friday) and St. John’s (4) will be the top four seeds. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Albany, Providence and Norfolk will be seeded 5 through 8, but the order is still up in the air.

Following Texas in the Western Conference, Grand Rapids and Chicago enter the final day of the season tied for the lead in the Midwest Division. The division champion will be the 2 seed and the loser will be the 4 seed, with Toronto locked into #3. Abbotsford and Milwaukee will be 5 and 6 — or 6 and 5 — and Rochester (7) and Oklahoma City (8) have secured their positions.