Monsters bring Calder Cup back to Cleveland

CLEVELAND ( … The Lake Erie Monsters won their first Calder Cup on Saturday night, defeating the Hershey Bears, 1-0 in overtime, in Game 4 of the American Hockey League’s championship series at a sold-out Quicken Loans Arena.

Oliver Bjorkstrand scored with 1.9 seconds left in the first overtime period as the Monsters finished off the Bears, four games to none. Lake Erie completed its postseason run with 15 wins in 17 games, the best record ever for a team requiring four playoff rounds.

Bjorkstrand, a 21-year-old rookie and a third-round selection by Columbus in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, was awarded the Jack A. Butterfield Trophy as the MVP in the Calder Cup Playoffs after totaling 10 goals and six assists for 16 points in 17 games. Bjorkstrand tied an AHL record with six game-winning goals and set a new mark with three overtime goals in a single postseason.

Anton Forsberg, who made 23 saves in the Game 4 shutout, finished the postseason with a 9-0 record in his 10 appearances, a 1.34 goals-against average and a .949 save percentage.

In their first season as the top development team of the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets, the Monsters followed up their second-place finish in the Central Division (43-22-6-5, 97 points, .638) with series wins over the Rockford IceHogs (3-0), the Grand Rapids Griffins (4-2) and the Ontario Reign (4-0) before sweeping Hershey in the Finals. Including their final 11 regular-season contests, Lake Erie went 24-4 over its final 28 games in 2015-16 en route to winning the 10th Calder Cup ever for the city of Cleveland; the original Cleveland Barons won nine titles in their existence from 1936-72, the last coming in 1964.

Attendance at Quicken Loans Arena on Saturday night was 19,665, the largest crowd ever to see a professional hockey game in the state of Ohio and the second-largest postseason crowd in American Hockey League history. For the regular season and Calder Cup Playoffs combined, a total of 7,129,963 fans attended AHL games across North America in 2015-16, the highest total ever.

Lake Erie’s victory brings an end to the AHL’s historic 80th-anniversary season. In operation since 1936, the AHL continues to serve as the top development league for all 30 National Hockey League teams. More than 88 percent of today’s NHL players are American Hockey League graduates, and more than 100 honored members of the Hockey Hall of Fame spent time in the AHL in their careers.

2016 Calder Cup Finals – Series “O” (best-of-7)
A1-Hershey Bears vs. C2-Lake Erie Monsters
Game 1 – Wed., June 1 – Lake Erie 4, HERSHEY 1 | Recap | Highlights
Game 2 – Fri., June 3 – Lake Erie 5, HERSHEY 3 | RecapHighlights
Game 3 – Mon., June 6 – LAKE ERIE 3, Hershey 2 (OT) | Recap | Highlights
Game 4 – Sat., June 11 – LAKE ERIE 1, Hershey 0 (OT)