PALM DESERT, Calif. (theahl.com) … For the 12th time in their storied history, the Hershey Bears are Calder Cup champions.
The Bears extended their league record and captured their first championship since 2010 with a 3-2 overtime victory over the Coachella Valley Firebirds tonight at Acrisure Arena, winning the Calder Cup Finals series four games to three.
Bears forward Mike Vecchione became the first player in AHL history to score a sudden-death overtime goal in Game 7 of a Calder Cup Finals, clinching the championship at 16:19 of OT. Top Washington Capitals prospects Connor McMichael and Hendrix Lapierre scored in regulation for Hershey, which rallied from a 2-0 deficit to become the first road team to win a game in the series.
Goaltender Hunter Shepard won the Jack A. Butterfield Trophy as the most valuable player of the 2023 Calder Cup Playoffs. Shepard started all 20 games for Hershey during the postseason and posted a record of 14-6 with a 2.27 goals-against average, a .914 save percentage and three shutouts, capped by a 45-save performance in Game 7.
The Bears’ 2023 championship marks their fourth Calder Cup since becoming the top development affiliate of the Capitals in 2005. Under head coach Todd Nelson, who won his second Calder Cup as a head coach and fourth overall, Hershey defeated the Charlotte Checkers (3-1), the Hartford Wolf Pack (3-0) and the Rochester Americans (4-2) before outlasting Coachella Valley in the Finals.
Hershey’s victory brings an end to the AHL’s 87th season. In operation since 1936, the AHL continues to serve as the top development league for all 32 National Hockey League teams. Nearly 90 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.
P2-Coachella Valley Firebirds vs. A2-Hershey Bears
Game 1 – Thu., June 8 – COACHELLA VALLEY 5, Hershey 0 | Recap/Highlights
Game 2 – Sat., June 10 – COACHELLA VALLEY 4, Hershey 0 | Recap/Highlights
Game 3 – Tue., June 13 – HERSHEY 5, Coachella Valley 4 (OT) | Recap/Highlights
Game 4 – Thu., June 15 – HERSHEY 3, Coachella Valley 2 | Recap/Highlights
Game 5 – Sat., June 17 – HERSHEY 1, Coachella Valley 0 (OT) | Recap/Highlights
Game 6 – Mon., June 19 – COACHELLA VALLEY 5, Hershey 2 | Recap/Highlights
Game 7 – Wed., June 21 – Hershey 3, COACHELLA VALLEY 2 (OT)