Moose, Bears ready to meet in 2009 Calder Cup Finals

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SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … For the first time in nearly a decade, the top regular-season team in the Eastern Conference will meet the first-place finisher from the Western Conference in the Calder Cup Finals when the American Hockey League’s 73rd championship series gets underway on Saturday night.

After posting a record of 49-23-2-6 (106 points) in the regular season, the Hershey Bears won the Richard F. Canning Trophy and the Eastern Conference playoff crown with series wins over Philadelphia, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and Providence.

The Bears, featuring 2008-09 AHL MVP and regular-season scoring champion Alexandre Giroux, are the sixth consecutive East Division representative – and the sixth straight from the state of Pennsylvania – in the Calder Cup Finals and will be making their 21st appearance in the championship series, looking for the franchise’s 10th Cup win.

The Manitoba Moose captured the Robert W. Clarke Trophy and the Western Conference crown by knocking off Toronto, Grand Rapids and Houston in the postseason after putting up a league-best record of 50-23-1-6 (107 points) in the regular season.

The Moose boast the AHL’s outstanding goaltender for 2008-09 in Cory Schneider and its coach of the year in Scott Arniel, and will put their top-ranked defense up against Hershey’s number-one offense in an attempt to bring Winnipeg its first professional hockey championship in 30 years.

The best-of-seven 2009 Calder Cup Finals begin on Saturday and Tuesday nights at downtown Winnipeg’s MTS Centre, which will also host Games 6 and 7, if necessary. The middle three games of the series are scheduled for Giant Center in Hershey, Pa. 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 84 percent of today’s NHL players are American Hockey League graduates, and this season marks the eighth consecutive year in which more than 6 million fans have attended AHL games across North America.

ETC. … Hershey has reached the Calder Cup Finals three times in four seasons since becoming the Washington Capitals’ top affiliate in 2005-06… The Bears’ 21 Finals appearances overall are a league record, and a 10th Calder Cup win would be a record as well, breaking the tie they currently share with the original Cleveland Barons… Manitoba is in the Finals for the first time in franchise history… Winnipeg’s last pro hockey title came when the Jets won the WHA’s last league championship in 1979… Hershey scored a league-high 296 goals in the regular season, while Manitoba allowed a league-low 188… Both clubs are 12-4 this postseason, and both have scored 52 goals; the Moose have given up 33 to the Bears’ 35… Hartford and Rochester (2000) were the most recent regular-season conference champions to meet in the Finals… Terry Koharski (second Finals), Francois St. Laurent (second), Frederic L’Ecuyer (first) and Kyle Rehman (first) have been named the referees for the series.

2009 Calder Cup Finals – Series “O” (best-of-7)
N1-Manitoba Moose vs. E1-Hershey Bears

Game 1 – Sat., May 30 – Hershey at Manitoba, 8:30 ET
Game 2 – Tue., June 2 – Hershey at Manitoba, 8:30 ET
Game 3 – Sat., June 6 – Manitoba at Hershey, 7:00 ET
Game 4 – Sun., June 7 – Manitoba at Hershey, 5:00 ET
*Game 5 – Tue., June 9 – Manitoba at Hershey, 7:00 ET
*Game 6 – Fri., June 12 – Hershey at Manitoba, 8:30 ET
*Game 7 – Sun., June 14 – Hershey at Manitoba, 8:30 ET
   *if necessary