Checkers’ early barrage too much for Bears

Photo: Jacob Kupferman

Charlotte blitzed Hershey with four goals in the opening 11:32 and rolled to a 4-1 win in Game 1 of the Atlantic Division Finals on Friday night.

Game 2 of the best-of-seven series is set for Saturday evening.

The Bears allowed just nine goals in five games during their first-round victory over Bridgeport, but found themselves in a hole just 1:42 into this series when Julien Gauthier got behind the Hershey defense and beat Vitek Vanecek for his second goal of the postseason.

The Checkers made it 2-0 at the 3:56 mark when Derek Sheppard scored his first career AHL goal on a long shot from the point.

Aleksi Saarela opened up a 3-0 lead with a quick shot from in close at 10:27, and Stelio Mattheos deflected home a shot at 11:32 to effectively put the game out of reach.

Chris McCarthy had the only goal for Hershey in Game 1, getting the Bears on the board late in the first period.

Dustin Tokarski, getting the start with Alex Nedeljkovic on NHL recall to Carolina, finished with 20 saves for his eighth win in as many starts since joining the Checkers on Feb. 28.

Vanecek finished with 34 saves for the Bears.

Atlantic Division Finals – Series “I” (best-of-7)
A1-Charlotte Checkers vs. A3-Hershey Bears
Game 1 – Fri., May 3 – CHARLOTTE 4, Hershey 1
Game 2 – Sat., May 4 – Hershey at Charlotte, 6:00
Game 3 – Tue., May 7 – Charlotte at Hershey, 7:00
Game 4 – Wed., May 8 – Charlotte at Hershey, 7:00
*Game 5 – Fri., May 10 – Charlotte at Hershey, 7:00
*Game 6 – Sun., May 12 – Hershey at Charlotte, 5:00
*Game 7 – Tue., May 14 – Hershey at Charlotte, 7:00
*if necessary… All times Eastern