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Hamilton Bulldogs win Calder Cup

HAMILTON, Ont. (caldercup.com) Ajay Baines’ shorthanded tiebreaking goal midway through the third period propelled the Hamilton Bulldogs to the American Hockey League’s 2007 Calder Cup championship with a 2-1 win over the Hershey Bears at Copps Coliseum on Thursday night.

The Bulldogs, top development team of the National Hockey League’s Montreal Canadiens, defeated the Bears four games to one to win their first AHL title.

Carey Price made 29 saves in the decisive Game 5 and finished the playoffs with a record of 15-6 with a 2.06 goals-against average, a .936 save percentage and two shutouts. The 19-year-old Price, the fifth overall pick in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft who made his professional debut with the Bulldogs on Apr. 13, earned the Jack A. Butterfield Trophy as the most valuable player of the 2007 Calder Cup Playoffs.

Game 5 was scoreless until Maxim Lapierre got Hamilton on the board 14:37 into the second period, slipping a loose puck past Hershey’s Frederic Cassivi. The Bears evened things up just over four minutes later on Jakub Klepis‘s fifth goal in the last four games.

Price becomes the third goaltender in AHL history, and the first since Patrick Roy in 1985, to lead his team to a Calder Cup title as a teenager. It’s the culmination of a season in which the Williams Lake, B.C., native was named the tournament MVP for Canada at the 2007 World Junior Championships and the outstanding goaltender in the Canadian Hockey League.

Don Lever, 20 years removed from winning the Calder Cup as a player for the Rochester Americans, earned his first AHL title as a head coach as the Bulldogs captured the championship in their third trip to the Finals. Hamilton was the lower seed in each round but never trailed in any of its four series, defeating Rochester (4-2), Manitoba (4-2) and Chicago (4-1) before ousting the defending Calder Cup champs from Hershey.

Hamilton’s victory brings the curtain down on the AHL’s 71st season. In operation since 1936, the AHL continues to serve as the top development league for all 30 National Hockey League teams. More than 83 percent of today’s NHL players are American Hockey League graduates, and this season marked the sixth consecutive year in which more than 6 million fans have attended AHL games across North America.