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Checkers oust two-time champs in OT

Nicolas Blanchard buried his second goal of the postseason only 1:30 into overtime, and Charlotte eliminated the two-time defending Calder Cup champions on Sunday with a 2-1 road win over Hershey in Game 6 of their opening-round series.

Blanchard took a feed from Nick Dodge in the slot and tucked the puck past Bears goaltender Braden Holtby for the game-winner. Dodge extended his scoring streak to four games (3-1-4), and defenseman Casey Borer also picked up an assist on the play.

Fresh off a pair of home-ice victories which turned a 2-1 series deficit into a 3-2 lead heading back to Hershey, the Checkers couldn’t have asked for a better start in this one when Brett Sutter lit the lamp only 35 seconds after the opening face-off.

Top prospects Zac Dalpe and Zach Boychuk earned the helpers on Sutter’s second goal in as many games.

Charlotte maintained that slim 1-0 lead into the latter stages of regulation, but Hershey forward Brian Fahey scored right off a face-off win by Keith Aucoin at 14:18 of the third period to tie it up for the moment.

Hershey had captured an AHL-record eight overtime wins en route to the 2010 Calder Cup championship but could not come through in the first game of this series to extend to an extra session. The Bears, who played into June in four of the past five seasons, see their season come to an end in April for the first time since a five-game opening-round loss to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in 2008.

The Checkers will advance to take on the Penguins in the East Division Finals, beginning on Thursday night in Wilkes-Barre.

East Division Semifinal – Series “D” (best-of-7)
E2-Hershey Bears vs. E3-Charlotte Checkers || Preview
Game 1 – Thu., Apr. 14 – Charlotte 5, HERSHEY 4
Game 2 – Sun., Apr. 17 – HERSHEY 4, Charlotte 2
Game 3 – Tue., Apr. 19 – Hershey 3, CHARLOTTE 2
Game 4 – Wed., Apr. 20 – CHARLOTTE 3, Hershey 2
Game 5 – Fri., Apr. 22 – CHARLOTTE 5, Hershey 3
Game 6 – Sun., Apr. 24 – Charlotte 2, HERSHEY 1 (OT)