HERSHEY, Pa. (WHTM) – This was a season of champions for the Hershey Bears who earned their 12th Calder Cup title on Wednesday night, defeating the Coachella Valley Firebirds in Game 7 in overtime 3-2.
The Bears ended the regular season with a 44-19 record, just one win shy of earning the top spot in the Atlantic Division, which went to the Providence Bruins (44-18). The Bears only lost nine times at the GIANT Center prior to playoffs and just ten times away.
In the American Hocke League (AHL) Hershey finished fourth.
Mike Sgarbossa was the top points leader for the Bears with 21 goals and a team-high 37 assists. The top goal scorer was Ethen Frank who found the back of the net 30 times with 19 assists. Assistant captain Mike Vecchione, who scored the Calder Cup-winning goal, was second in assists with 32 and third in goals with 23.
Zach Fucale and Calder Cup Playoffs MVP Hunter Shepard split net minder duties for the regular season. Fucale played in 38 games with Shepard playing in 33. Clay Stevenson saw action in three games as well.
It took 20 playoff games for the Bears to secure the championship title. The Bears had a record of 14-7 in their cup run.
Hershey’s road started with a 3-1 series defeat over the Charlotte Checkers in the Semifinals. They followed that up with a commanding 3-0 sweep of the Hartford Wolf Pak in the Atlantic Division Finals.
The Eastern Conference Finals saw the Bears being truly tested for the first time in the postseason. However, Hershey was able to down the Rochester Americans 4-2 and advance to the Finals.
The matchup between the oldest and youngest AHL teams started out bleak for the Bears, who were unable to score a single goal through the first two games. The first game went to the Coachella Valley Firebirds 5-0 and they followed the victory up with another shutout, 4-0. in the second game. The Bears finally got on the board and earned a win in overtime in the third game back home in Hershey, taking down the Firebirds 5-4.
Hershey evened the series in game four with a 3-2 victory and took the series lead for the first time in their final game on home ice. The Bears won 1-0 in overtime.
The first game back in California went to the Firebirds 5-2 meaning Wednesday night’s matchup would be a winner-take-all game. The Bears claimed the Calder Cup with a 3-2 overtime victory on Wednesday to cap off their successful season.
A recap of each game can be found on abc27.com.
The points leader of the Calder Cup championship run was Joe Snively with 15 points. The left winger posted a team-leading 13 assists with two goals. Logan Day followed with 14 points and Mason Morelli and Aliaksei Protas tied for 13 each for third place.
Connor McMichael led in goals with six followed by a three-way tie for second most with five between Morelli, Protas, and Vecchione.
Hunter Shepard earned his tournament MVP playing 1187:31 minutes in net for the Bears. Shepard put up three shutouts in the effort with a final save percentage of 0.914 and a goals-against average of 2.27.
It’s over. The Hershey Bears are Calder Cup Champions after a season-long effort to earn the title of the best hockey team in the AHL for 2023. All that’s left to do is celebrate.