Finding it hard to choose between Eric Fehr and the Pittsburgh Penguins or Joel Ward and the San Jose Sharks in the Stanley Cup Final?
Then turn your attention to Hershey, Penn., where the Capitals’ AHL affiliate Bears and the Columbus Blue Jackets’ affiliate Lake Erie Monsters will begin the Calder Cup Finals tonight at the Giant Center.
Here are some quick facts worth noting as the Bears and Monsters get ready to drop the puck:
How they got here:
The Bears won the Atlantic Division title with a 43-21-5-7 record for 98 points. They went the distance to defeat the Portland Pirates in five games in the division semifinals and the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in seven games in the division finals, before dispatching the Toronto Marlies in five games in the conference finals.
Lake Erie swept the Rockford Ice Hogs in three games in Round 1, beat the Grand Rapids Griffins in six games in Round 2 and swept the Ontario Reign in the Western Conference finals.
The Bears are loaded with young talent, including first-year AHLers Jakub Vrana, who is tied for fourth in playoff scoring with 13 points and Travis Boyd and defenseman Madison Bowey, Tyler Lewington and Christian Djoos.
The Monsters have a pair of highly touted rookies in defenseman Zach Werenski, taken by the Blue Jackets with the No. 8 pick overall in the 2015 NHL draft, and winger Sonny Milano, taken 16th overall in 2014. Werenski is third on Lake Erie in playoff scoring with 11 points, while Milano has eight points in the post-season.
Who’s in goal:
Justin Peters is slated to start for the Bears. He is 11-5 in the playoffs with a 1.95 goals-against average.
Lake Erie is likely to go with Anton Forsberg, who has gone 5-0 with a 1.30 GAA since replacing Joonas Korpisato in the seconds round.
The Bears and Monsters did not face each other in the regular season, but Bears coach Troy Mann said his team has shown him it can play any style.
“You can't, all of a sudden, change structure and system of play,” he said. We just have to come out and dictate the pace and make adjustments.”
Since becoming the Caps’ AHL affiliate 12 years ago the Bears have been to the Calder Cup Finals five times in 11 seasons. In its history, Hershey has won the Calder Cup 11 times since joining the league in 1938. The Cleveland Barons, the last AHL team to play in Cleveland before the Monsters, won nine AHL titles from 1936-72.
Overall the Bears are making their 23rd trip to the Calder Cup finals, while Cleveland has a participant for the 15th time (14 with the Barons, first with the Monsters). Lake Erie is 20-4 in its last 24 games (9-2 to end the regular season and 11-2 in the playoffs.
Don’t have tickets?
The AHL is showing live streams of every game on its website.
Calder Cup Finals Schedule
Game 1: Wed., June 1 – Lake Erie at Hershey, 7 p.m.
Game 2: Fri., June 3 – Lake Erie at Hershey, 7 p.m.
Game 3: Mon., June 6 – Hershey at Lake Erie, 7 p.m.
Game 4: Sat., June 11 – Hershey at Lake Erie, 7 p.m.
*Game 5: Sun., June 12 – Hershey at Lake Erie, 6 p.m.
*Game 6: Tue., June 14 – Lake Erie at Hershey, 7 p.m.
*Game 7: Fri., June 17 – Lake Erie at Hershey, 7 p.m.