Calder Cup Finals series preview

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SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … A familiar face meets the new kid in town when the 2010 Calder Cup Finals – the American Hockey League’s 74th championship series – get underway on Thursday night.

The Hershey Bears are in the Finals for the fourth time in five years after knocking off Bridgeport, Albany and Manchester in their first three playoff series, but the road to the Calder Cup has been far from a smooth one. The Bears, whose 60 regular-season wins (60-17-0-3, 123 points) set an all-time league mark, have gone 12-3 in the playoffs but have needed nine third-period comebacks and an AHL-record seven overtime wins to capture the Richard F. Canning Trophy and the Eastern Conference playoff title. Hershey’s roster features 18 members of last year’s Calder Cup championship team including the most dynamic offensive duo in the AHL in Keith Aucoin and Alexandre Giroux – who have combined for 203 goals and 290 assists for 493 points in Hershey’s 197 regular-season and playoff games over the last two years.

After a four-game sweep of Rockford in the first round, the Texas Stars ousted Chicago with a Game 7 overtime victory in the division finals before stunning Hamilton with road wins in Games 6 and 7 of the conference finals to claim the Robert W. Clarke Trophy as Western Conference champions. Texas, in its inaugural AHL campaign, was 46-27-3-4 (99 points) in the regular season and finished tied for second (with Hershey) in team defense allowing 2.48 goals per game. Jamie Benn has been the Stars’ offensive catalyst since joining the team from Dallas at the start of the postseason, leading the AHL with 14 goals and 24 points in 18 playoff contests.

The best-of-seven 2010 Calder Cup Finals begin on Thursday and Saturday at Giant Center in Hershey, Pa., which will also host Games 6 and 7, if necessary. The middle three games of the series are scheduled for the Cedar Park Center in Cedar Park, Texas. Stay connected to for live scores, broadcast and webcast information and the latest news from the AHL’s championship series.

In operation since 1936, the AHL continues to serve as the top development league for all 30 National Hockey League teams. More than 85 percent of today’s NHL players are American Hockey League graduates, and this season marks the ninth consecutive year in which more than 6 million fans have attended AHL games across North America.

ETC. … Hershey’s four Finals appearances in five years coincide with the beginning of their affiliation with the Washington Capitals in the fall of 2005… The Bears have won seven consecutive playoff series, tied for the longest streak in AHL history… Hershey’s 22 Finals appearances overall are a league record, as are their 10 championships… Hershey finished first in the AHL during the regular season in goals scored, power-play efficiency and penalty-killing efficiency, and was tied for second (with Texas) in goals against… The Stars were second in the regular season on the penalty kill but have been successful just 74.0 percent of the time in the playoffs… Texas is the fourth team in AHL history to win two Game 7’s on the road in the same postseason… The Calder Cup Finals are being contested in Pennsylvania for the seventh year in a row, and in the state of Texas for the first time since 2003… Terry Koharski (third Finals), Frederic L’Ecuyer (second), Kyle Rehman (second) and David Banfield (first) have been named the referees for the series.

2010 Calder Cup Finals – Series “O” (best-of-7)
E1-Hershey Bears vs. W2-Texas Stars
Game 1 – Thu., June 3 – Texas at Hershey, 7:00 ET
Game 2 – Sat., June 5 – Texas at Hershey, 7:00 ET
Game 3 – Mon., June 7 – Hershey at Texas, 8:30 ET
Game 4 – Wed., June 9 – Hershey at Texas, 8:30 ET
*Game 5 – Fri., June 11 – Hershey at Texas, 8:30 ET
*Game 6 – Mon., June 14 – Texas at Hershey, 7:00 ET
*Game 7 – Wed., June 16 – Texas at Hershey, 7:00 ET
   *if necessary