AHL Morning Skate: June 22, 2024

Photo: Eric Fowler

A1-Hershey Bears vs. P1-Coachella Valley Firebirds
Game 5 – Tonight, 9:00 ET, , NHL Network
(Series tied, 2-2)

Game 1 – Fri., June 14 – Coachella Valley 4, HERSHEY 3 | Recap/Highlights
Game 2 – Sun., June 16 – HERSHEY 5, Coachella Valley 2 | Recap/Highlights
Game 3 – Tue., June 18 – COACHELLA VALLEY 6, Hershey 2 | Recap/Highlights
Game 4 – Thu., June 20 – Hershey 3, COACHELLA VALLEY 2 | Recap/Highlights
Game 5 – Sat., June 22 – Hershey at Coachella Valley, 9:00
Game 6 – Mon., June 24 – Coachella Valley at Hershey, 7:00
*Game 7 – Wed., June 26 – Coachella Valley at Hershey, 7:00
*if necessary... All times Eastern

It’s a pivotal Game 5 in the 2024 Calder Cup Finals tonight as the Firebirds host the Bears... The teams have alternated victories in the series, with Hershey drawing even again thanks to a 3-2 win in Game 4 on Thursday night... The line of Hendrix Lapierre (6-14-20), Ethen Frank (10-7-17) and Joe Snively (4-13-17) provided all of the Bears offense, combining for eight points to hand the Firebirds their first home-ice loss of the postseason (7-1)... That trio also occupies the top three spots on the AHL’s scoring leaderboard this postseason... Hunter Shepard (12-6, 2.43, .913) stopped 22 of 24 shots in Game 4; in the Bears’ last three games following a loss, Shepard has stopped 96 of 102 shots (.941)... Both of Coachella Valley’s goals in Game 4 came with the teams skating four-on-four, with Shane Wright (4-6-10) and Ryker Evans (4-6-10) scoring to erase 1-0 and 2-1 deficits, respectively... Wright has 2-3-5 in the last three games for the Firebirds... Marian Studenic (3-7-10) recorded two assists on Thursday night... Chris Driedger (12-4, 2.50, .915) made 22 saves in the loss... Coachella Valley, 9-for-44 (20.5 percent) on the power play through their first three playoff rounds, is 1-for-14 (7.1 percent) in the Finals... Hershey is 3-for-16 (18.8 percent) on the power play in the series... There has not been an in-game lead change in the series since the first period of Game 1, when the Firebirds turned a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 lead... Hershey has scored first in three of the four games... Game 4 marked Coachella Valley’s first one-goal loss of the postseason (5-1)... Since going to a best-of-seven format in 1944, the Calder Cup Finals have been tied at 2-2 on 22 previous occasions and the team winning Game 5 has won the Cup 21 times, with Rochester (1987 vs. Sherbrooke) the only exception... Overall, the Game 5 winner of a tied best-of-seven series has gone on to win 82.5 percent of the time (118 of 143).

Nick Leivermann made his playoff debut in Game 4, the 10th different defenseman employed by Bears head coach Todd Nelson this postseason.

A seventh-round draft pick by Colorado in 2017, Leivermann played five seasons at the University of Notre Dame before signing an AHL contract with Hershey last summer. He served as team captain for the Fighting Irish in 2022-23 and spent most of this season with South Carolina of the ECHL, playing only three regular-season games in the AHL.

Leivermann played primarily in a pairing with veteran captain Dylan McIlrath in Thursday’s win.

“He did a great job,” Nelson said of Leivermann, who had not played a game since South Carolina’s season ended in April. “He’s a guy that can skate well, move the puck really well. For not playing for a couple of months, he stepped in in a very tough situation and had a very strong game.”

Alternate captain Aaron Ness, who has missed the last eight games due to injury, took pre-game warmups before Game 4.

Firebirds head coach Dan Bylsma summed up the Bears in his post-game media availability on Thursday: “They’re a championship team.”

So he was not surprised that Hershey came through when they most needed it, tying the series at 2-2.

“They brought the speed and the forecheck early on and hemmed us in,” Bylsma said. “Not as clean puck execution from us, and it led to their playing well. We expected it. We got it. They were very good. That was their best game of the series so far.

“It was a desperate time for them, and they brought it.”

Now it’s the Firebirds who must push back tonight before the series returns to Hershey, where they will have to win at least once if they are to take the Calder Cup. Losing tonight, of course, would force the Firebirds to take both games at Giant Center.

“It’s a massive game,” Bylsma said of Game 5. “Two teams trying to race to four wins. We expect it go all 420 minutes. There’s give-and-take. There are punches thrown each way. They took their swings and took it to us at times.

“In order to get to four wins, someone’s going to have to get the third one, and that’s coming [tonight].”

After setting an all-time playoff attendance record in 2023, the AHL will break that mark tonight with another capacity crowd expected at Acrisure Arena for Game 5.

Last year, AHL teams drew 551,138 fans over 85 postseason games, the highest total since the league started keeping official attendance figures in 1962-63. Tonight will be the 81st game of the 2024 Calder Cup Playoffs.

The postseason average of 6,861 fans per game (to date) is also a league record, as is the total of more than 7.3 million fans between the regular season and playoffs combined.

― with files from Patrick Williams

2018 AHL All-Star Warren Foegele recorded a goal and an assist as Edmonton forced a seventh and deciding game in the Stanley Cup Final with a 5-1 win over Florida last night... Fellow AHL alumni Adam Henrique, Zach Hyman, Ryan McLeod and Darnell Nurse all scored for the Oilers as well, and Stuart Skinner made 20 saves while also recording an assist... Game 7 is set for Monday night in Sunrise, Fla.

Watch the Calder Cup Playoffs on AHLTV
Don’t miss a second on the road to the 2024 Calder Cup championship. AHLTV features live streaming of every AHL game in high definition on desktop, laptop, tablet and mobile devices, as well as OTT platforms such as Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Android TV. A subscription is just $29.99 to watch every game for the entire postseason, or just $8.99 for a day pass. Visit AHLTV.com for details.