Hershey returning to Calder Cup Finals

The Hershey Bears advanced to the 2016 Calder Cup Finals with a 3-2 victory over the Toronto Marlies at Ricoh Coliseum on Sunday afternoon.

Hershey won the series, four games to one, over the regular-season champion Marlies.

Winners of the Richard F. Canning Trophy as the AHL’s Eastern Conference champions, the Bears will meet the Western Conference champion Lake Erie Monsters in the Calder Cup Finals beginning Wednesday night in Hershey, Pa.

Antoine Bibeau stopped Jakub Vrana on a penalty shot 6:22 into the game, but the Bears broke through less than three minutes later as Liam O’Brien gave Hershey a 1-0 lead at the 9:18 mark with his second goal of the series and third of the playoffs.

The Bears then scored twice in the first 2:13 of the second period to open up a 3-0 lead. Christian Djoos took advantage of some open space and beat Bibeau at the 1:09 mark, and Nathan Walker struck 64 seconds later off a feed from Riley Barber during a three-on-two break.

Toronto got on the board at 8:05 of the second period with William Nylander redirecting Connor Carrick’s point shot home for his fifth goal of the series and seventh of the playoffs.

The Marlies clawed back to 3-2 at 5:11 of the third as Zach Hyman beat Peters to a loose puck and found Nikita Soshnikov, who tapped it into the open cage for his fifth goal of the postseason.

Toronto outshot Hershey by an 11-4 margin in the third, but Justin Peters made 10 of his 21 saves in the final stanza to preserve the win.

The Bears are heading to the Calder Cup Finals for the fifth time in 11 seasons since becoming the top affiliate of the National Hockey League’s Washington Capitals. Under head coach Troy Mann, the Bears won the Atlantic Division title during the regular season with a record of 43-21-5-7 (98 points) before defeating the Portland Pirates (3-2) in the division semifinals, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (4-3) in the division finals and the Marlies (4-1) in the conference finals.

The 2016 Calder Cup Finals will be a fitting end to the AHL’s 80th-anniversary season as it will feature the two cities with the most championships in league history. Hershey has won the Calder Cup 11 times since joining the league in 1938; the Cleveland Barons won nine titles during their AHL tenure from 1936-72.

Established in 1990, the AHL’s Eastern Conference championship trophy honors Richard F. Canning, who served the AHL for more than 50 years during his career, including a term as league president from 1958-61. Mr. Canning is recognized as the author of the AHL’s constitution, by-laws and regulations.

2016 Calder Cup Finals – Series “O” (best-of-7)
A1-Hershey Bears vs. C2-Lake Erie Monsters
Game 1 – Wed., June 1 – Lake Erie at Hershey, 7:00
Game 2 – Fri., June 3 – Lake Erie at Hershey, 7:00
Game 3 – TBD – Hershey at Lake Erie
Game 4 – TBD – Hershey at Lake Erie
*Game 5 – TBD – Hershey at Lake Erie 
*Game 6 – Tue., June 14 – Lake Erie at Hershey, 7:00
*Game 7 – Fri., June 17 – Lake Erie at Hershey, 7:00
   *if necessary… All times Eastern

Eastern Conference Finals – Series “M” (best-of-7) 
N1-Toronto Marlies vs. A1-Hershey Bears
Game 1 – Fri., May 20 – HERSHEY 3, Toronto 1
Game 2 – Sat., May 21 – HERSHEY 3, Toronto 2 (OT)
Game 3 – Wed., May 25 – Hershey 8, TORONTO 2
Game 4 – Fri., May 27 – TORONTO 5, Hershey 0
Game 5 – Sun., May 29 – Hershey 3, TORONTO 2