MONDAY’S THREE STARS:
1. Chris Bourque tallied a goal and two assists in Hershey’s series-clinching 5-2 victory at Providence.
2. Michael Grabner tallied the game-winning goal in the third period as Manitoba finished off Houston with a 3-1 triumph in Game 6.
3. Alexandre Giroux posted a goal and an assist to help Hershey back to the Calder Cup Finals after a one-year absence.
SATURDAY’S SCHEDULE (all times ET):
Game 1 – Hershey at Manitoba, 8:30
2009 Calder Cup Finals – Series “O” (best-of-7)
N1-Manitoba Moose vs. E1-Hershey Bears
Game 1 – Sat., May 30 – Hershey at Manitoba, 8:30 ET
Game 2 – Tue., June 2 – Hershey at Manitoba, 8:30 ET
Game 3 – Sat., June 6 – Manitoba at Hershey, 7:00 ET
Game 4 – Sun., June 7 – Manitoba at Hershey, 5:00 ET
*Game 5 – Tue., June 9 – Manitoba at Hershey, 7:00 ET
*Game 6 – Fri., June 12 – Hershey at Manitoba, 8:30 ET
*Game 7 – Sun., June 14 – Hershey at Manitoba, 8:30 ET
Eastern Conference Finals – Series “M” (best-of-7)
E1-Hershey Bears vs. A2-Providence Bruins || Preview
Game 1 – Sat., May 16 – Providence 3, HERSHEY 2
Game 2 – Sun., May 17 – HERSHEY 2, Providence 1
Game 3 – Fri., May 22 – Hershey 6, PROVIDENCE 4
Game 4 – Sun., May 24 – Hershey 3, PROVIDENCE 2 (OT)
Game 5 – Mon., May 25 – Hershey 5, PROVIDENCE 2
Western Conference Finals – Series “N” (best-of-7)
N1-Manitoba Moose vs. W3-Houston Aeros || Preview
Game 1 – Fri., May 15 – MANITOBA 2, Houston 1
Game 2 – Sat., May 16 – MANITOBA 5, Houston 2
Game 3 – Mon., May 18 – Manitoba 4, HOUSTON 3
Game 4 – Wed., May 20 – HOUSTON 5, Manitoba 4 (OT)
Game 5 – Fri., May 22 – HOUSTON 4, Manitoba 3 (2OT)
Game 6 – Mon., May 25 – MANITOBA 3, Houston 1
GAME NOTES (all times ET):
Game 1 – Hershey at Manitoba, 8:30
Webcast: AHL Live (www.ahllive.com)
The 2009 Calder Cup Finals get underway tonight as the Western Conference champion Manitoba Moose host the Eastern Conference champion Hershey Bears at the MTS Centre in downtown Winnipeg… Both teams bring a 12-4 postseason record into Game 1… The regular-season Moose dispatched of Toronto (4-2), Grand Rapids (4-0), and Houston (4-2) en route to their first-ever appearance in the AHL’s championship series… The Bears, who are appearing in their record 21st Calder Cup Finals and third in the last four years, bested Philadelphia (4-0), Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (4-3), and Providence (4-1) to get here… During the regular season, Hershey averaged a league-high 3.70 goals per game while Manitoba surrendered an AHL-low 2.35 tallies per contest… In the playoffs, both sides lead the league with an average of 3.25 goals per game… AHL MVP Alexandre Giroux shows a team-high nine goals and 20 points in 16 postseason games for the Bears, and he brings a seven-game scoring streak (5-6-11) into this series… Chris Bourque tallied a goal and two assists in Hershey’s series-clinching victory over Providence on Monday and ranks second on the team with 18 points overall (4-14-18), including one in four straight tilts (2-4-6)… Quintin Laing also had a goal and two helpers against the Bruins on Monday… Keith Aucoin, who is making his first Calder Cup Finals appearance, has a point in five of his last six games (2-6-8) for Hershey… Rookie goaltender Michal Neuvirth (12-4, 2.03, .929) has a league-best three shutouts this postseason… At the other end, AHL goaltender of the year Cory Schneider also shows a 2.03 goals-against average while winning 12 of 15 decisions in the playoffs for Manitoba; two of Schneider’s three losses have come in overtime… In his second straight Calder Cup Finals, Jason Krog leads the Moose with 18 points (7-11-18) and has found the scoresheet in 11 of the club’s 16 playoff games… Michael Grabner tallied six goals and seven points in Manitoba’s six-game triumph over Houston last round and shows 12 points (7-5-12) for the postseason… Jason Jaffray ranks second on the Moose with 14 points (6-8-14) but is on a seven-game goal-scoring drought… Manitoba is a perfect 9-0 when it scores the game’s first goal this postseason, while Hershey is 9-1… The team that captures Game 1 of the Calder Cup Finals has gone on to win the championship 55 of 72 times (76.4%) throughout AHL history.
LEAGUE POWERS COLLIDE IN FINAL
Tim Leone, Harrisburg Patriot-News
Not since 2000, when Hartford faced Rochester, have the top playoff seeds from each conference advanced to the Calder Cup finals. That’s what the AHL gets this season in Hershey Bears vs. Manitoba Moose. The all-chalk finals is a dream matchup for the league. It features two powerful clubs backed by two passionate fan bases. The Bears, No. 1 in the Eastern Conference, led the AHL in regular-season attendance (8,987 average), while Manitoba was second (7,769). The Moose, No. 1 in the Western Conference, lead the AHL in playoff attendance (8,919), and Hershey (7,329) is second. Reports out of Winnipeg, which will host Game 1 tonight and Game 2 Tuesday, are that interest in the series is at a fever pitch. Games at MTS Centre (15,015 hockey capacity) loom as potential sellouts.
BEARS’ 10TH CUP WOULD BE SPECIAL
Tim Leone, Harrisburg Patriot-News
The late Frank Mathers, the most towering figure in the history of the Hershey Bears, was a Winnipeg native. As a player-coach, coach or executive, Mathers formally participated in six of Hershey’s nine Calder Cup championships and also provided unofficial help in 1996-97. There is a great measure of hockey kismet in the fact that the Bears will be playing for an unprecedented 10th Calder Cup in Mathers’ hometown against the Manitoba Moose. "For myself and our team, I think the 10th means a whole lot," said Bears president-GM Doug Yingst, a Mathers protege. "To win it in Frank’s hometown would mean a whole, whole lot."
DREAM MATCHUP IN CALDER CUP
Dan Sernoffsky, Lebanon Daily News
The Beast of the East against the Best of the West. The 2009 Calder Cup championship showdown is a match made in hockey nirvana. The Beast of the East, the Hershey Bears, the East Division champion and best team in the Eastern Conference in the regular season. The Best of the West, the Manitoba Moose, the North Division champion and the best team in the Western Conference in the regular season. Teams separated geographically by half a continent, but teams separated in the standings by just one point. That hasn’t changed in the postseason. Both the Moose and the Bears are 12-4 in the playoffs, having gone 7-1 at home and 5-3 on the road. Each team has scored 52 goals. The Moose has allowed 33, the Bears 35, two of which were empty-net goals.
VETERAN D-MAN COULDN’T BE HAPPIER
Dan Sernoffsky, Lebanon Daily News
There was no question about it. Even though the Hershey Bears had a dual affiliation, they had some serious problems along the blue line. Thanks to injuries, and some decidedly uninspired play, Hershey general manager Doug Yingst decided to bring in some reinforcements from the ECHL. It was the 2003-04 season. The Bears, the primary affiliate of the Colorado Avalanche, had signed a secondary affiliation with the Tampa Bay Lightning. For a variety of reasons, not the least of which were some gaping holes on defense, the Bears really weren’t going anywhere. Still, one of the guys that got called up from the Reading Royals, a defenseman named Dean Arsene, attracted some notice. He didn’t score, but he made life extraordinarily difficult for opposing forwards trying to score on the Bears.
FOCUSED NEUVIRTH PROVING HIS WORTH
Corey Masisak, Washington Times
Michal Neuvirth has been through quite a bit the past two seasons, from injuries to trades to demotions based on circumstance instead of merit. Through it all, he has remained resolute in his quest to become an NHL goaltender. Still, it would have been easy for him to see fellow 2007 draft pick Simeon Varlamov‘s star turn with the Washington Capitals this postseason as the breaking point. Instead, the 21-year-old Czech Republic native has proved his resiliency again. Neuvirth has been fantastic for the Hershey Bears this postseason and is a big reason why they will face Manitoba in the American Hockey League’s Calder Cup Finals, which begin Saturday in Winnipeg.
BEARS BOAST LOTS OF BACKBONE, HAVE FACED ADVERSITY HEAD-ON
Tim Campbell, Winnipeg Free Press
The Hershey Bears have twice trailed in playoff series this spring — once even staring at a what-might-have-been summer with one more loss — but have dealt with adversity like a team that belongs in a championship tilt. "Against Wilkes-Barre we went down 3-2, lost all three in their building," Bears captain Bryan Helmer said Friday afternoon. "We came back to our place and our team never got down once, we never thought we’d lose and we had a positive attitude we’d win both Games 6 and 7 and we shut them out both games." The Bears also dropped the first game of the Eastern Conference final to Providence, but rallied to win the next four. Hershey coach Bob Woods, though, saw the seven-game series against Wilkes-Barre as the team’s biggest character call so far. "They kind of ran our show pretty good in their building and it’s always a tough place to play," Woods said Friday. "But we found a way to get it done.”
THESE BEARS ATTACK
Ken Wiebe, Winnipeg Sun
The Hershey Bears feature the top two scorers in the American Hockey League, but to confuse them as a one-line hockey team would be a big mistake. Sure, Alexandre Giroux scored 60 goals and was the Most Valuable Player in the AHL this season. And while veteran centre Keith Aucoin was the only other player in the 29-team circuit to put up 90-plus points, the Bears feature plenty of depth throughout a lineup that had 49 wins and 106 points, one point less than the Manitoba Moose. "They’re a big team, they skate very well and they’re a team that has some dangerous weapons," said Moose head coach Scott Arniel.
KEY KROG IN CUP ASPIRATIONS
Ken Wiebe, Winnipeg Sun
The hired gun helped take his new team to the big dance. When the Vancouver Canucks signed Jason Krog to a one-way deal back on July 14, it sent a clear message that the Manitoba Moose were going for broke this season. Coming off a remarkable campaign that saw him put up 112 points in the regular season and another 36 points in the playoffs while leading the Chicago Wolves to the Calder Cup, Krog provided excellent depth for the Canucks and gave the Moose the most sought after player on their shopping list. Sure, they were on the hook for the majority of the big ticket, but Krog was a bona fide No. 1 centre, he could quarterback the power play and most importantly, he was a winner.
BOURQUE, SCHNEIDER SET TO FACE OFF FOR AHL TITLE
Phil Stacey, Salem News
The biggest goal of Chris Bourque‘s pro hockey career isn’t difficult for him to remember. It came five days ago, when he scored a shorthanded goal that proved to be the game-winner as his team, the Hershey (Penn.) Bears, beat the Providence Bruins to advance to the American Hockey League’s Calder Cup finals. "To score a game-winner to advance to the (Calder) Cup, I can’t think of a bigger one than that," said the 23-year-old Bourque, who calls Boxford home. "Now I’d love the chance to score an even bigger, more important goal in the finals." In order to do so, however, he’d have to score against the world’s best goaltender who isn’t currently in the National Hockey League — someone he grew up in the same area as and actually knows quite well.
COACH BYLSMA’S IMPROBABLE RISE TO THE CUP FINALS
Eric Duhatschek, Globe and Mail
Dan Bylsma is the new kid in town, the flavour of the month, the rookie who in his first full season as the head coach of his own team, has gone from running the Pittsburgh Penguins’ minor-league affiliate in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., to getting the parent club to within four wins of a Stanley Cup championship. Not bad for a former NHL journeyman who was once turned down for a job by a Minnesota prep school because of his comparative lack of experience, but now has a chance to be the first rookie coach since Jean Perron in 1986 to lead his team to a Stanley Cup.
FROM CALDER TO STANLEY:
Nearly 75 percent of the players, coaches, and managers involved in the 2009 Stanley Cup Finals between Detroit and Pittsburgh are graduates of the American Hockey League… This will mark the sixth consecutive season that a former AHL coach will lead a team to the Stanley Cup championship, as either the Red Wings’ Mike Babcock will repeat, or the Penguins’ Dan Bylsma will join Babcock (2008), Anaheim’s Randy Carlyle (2007), Carolina’s Peter Laviolette (2006), Tampa Bay’s John Tortorella (2004), and New Jersey’s Pat Burns (2003) in accomplishing that feat.
BY THE NUMBERS:
35 – Calder Cup Finals appearances by teams from Pennsylvania (Hershey 21, Pittsburgh 7, Philadelphia 4, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton 3), the most of any state/province… New York teams have appeared in 33 Finals (Rochester 16, Buffalo 9, Glens Falls 4, Syracuse 2, Albany 1, Binghamton 1).
ON THIS DATE:
May 30, 2006 – Tomas Fleischmann records a goal and two assists, Mike Green adds a goal and an assist and Eric Fehr scores his second goal of the night 9:07 into overtime as Hershey wins the Eastern Conference championship with a 5-4 win over Portland in Game 7 at Giant Center.
May 30, 2003 – In the longest Calder Cup Finals game in AHL history, Ty Conklin makes 83 saves and Michael Ryder scores 14:56 into the fourth overtime period to give Hamilton a 2-1 win over Houston in Game 2 at Copps Coliseum.
May 30, 1999 – Martin Biron stops 38 shots as Rochester grabs a 3-2 lead in its conference final series with a 2-1 overtime win over Philadelphia.
May 30, 1993 – Bill McDougall caps his astonishing postseason run with four assists – giving him 52 points (26g, 26a) in 16 playoff games – as Cape Breton wins the Calder Cup with a 7-2 victory over Rochester.
Don’t miss a step on the road to the 2009 Calder Cup championship. AHL Live continues to bring AHL action to your computer all postseason long with live video webcasts and highlights of every AHL game, as well as behind-the-scenes features and interviews in the Video On Demand section… Visit theahl.com or ahllive.com for details.
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