Bears’ Shepard voted AHL’s outstanding goaltender

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … The American Hockey League announced today that Hunter Shepard of the Hershey Bears is the winner of the Aldege “Baz” Bastien Memorial Award as the AHL’s outstanding goaltender for the 2023-24 season.

The award was voted on by coaches, players and members of the media in each of the league’s 32 cities.

Coming off a season in which he won the Jack A. Butterfield Trophy as the most valuable player of the 2023 Calder Cup Playoffs, Shepard challenged the AHL record books in 2023-24 by posting a record of 27-4-3 – the second-highest winning percentage (.838) in league history – in 34 appearances, along with a 1.76 goals-against average that was the fifth-lowest mark ever recorded. He also led the league with a .929 save percentage and recorded five shutouts, combining with Clay Stevenson to earn the Harry “Hap” Holmes Memorial Award for fewest goals allowed by a team.

Also named a First Team AHL All-Star for 2023-24, Shepard ran his career record to 55-15-8 with a 1.94 GAA, a .925 save percentage and eight shutouts in 79 games with the Bears. The native of Cohasset, Minn., also made his NHL debut this season, appearing in four games for the Washington Capitals. Following a four-year collegiate career at the University of Minnesota-Duluth that included back-to-back national championships in 2018 and 2019, Shepard joined the Bears on an AHL contract in 2020 and signed his first NHL deal with the Capitals on July 28, 2021.

The Aldege “Baz” Bastien Memorial Award, which was first presented in 1984, honors former Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Baz Bastien, who played four seasons in goal with the AHL’s Pittsburgh Hornets (1945-49) before suffering a career-ending eye injury. Bastien would go on to serve as head coach and general manager of the Hornets, leading them to the 1967 Calder Cup championship. Previous winners of the award include Jon Casey (1985), Sam St. Laurent (1986), Mark Laforest (1987, ’91), Felix Potvin (1992), Corey Hirsch (1993), Jim Carey (1995), Manny Legace (1996), Martin Biron (1999), Dwayne Roloson (2001), Jason LaBarbera (2004, ’07), Ryan Miller (2005), Michael Leighton (2008), Cory Schneider (2009), Jonathan Bernier (2010), Jake Allen (2014), Matt Murray (2015), Peter Budaj (2016), Troy Grosenick (2017), Garret Sparks (2018), Alex Nedeljkovic (2019), Kaapo Kahkonen (2020), Logan Thompson (2021) and Dustin Wolf (2022, ’23).

In operation since 1936, the American Hockey League continues to serve as the top development league for all 32 National Hockey League teams. Nearly 90 percent of all players competing in the NHL are AHL graduates, and through the years the American Hockey League has been home to more than 100 honored members of the Hockey Hall of Fame.

The winner of the 2023-24 Dudley (Red) Garrett Memorial Award (outstanding rookie) will be announced Thursday.