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2023 Calder Cup Playoffs

Atlantic Division Semifinals Preview: Hershey Bears vs. Charlotte Checkers

Atlantic Division Semifinals Preview: Hershey Bears vs. Charlotte Checkers

HERSHEY, Pa. – The Hershey Bears and the Charlotte Checkers are set to clash in the Atlantic Division semifinals as the playoffs shift to a best-of-five format with the teams who earned a bye in from the first round set to begin action this weekend. The two teams last met up in 2019, where the Checkers swept the Bears on their way to a Calder Cup. Now, with an affiliation change for the Checkers from the Carolina Hurricanes to the Florida Panthers, it’ll be a battle of rested versus tested as the two teams square off. History is on Charlotte’s side as the Checkers have won both of the previous playoff battles since the Albany River Rats moved south in 2010-11.

Final Regular Season Records:

Hershey Bears: 44-19-5-4, 97 points  (2nd Atlantic)

Charlotte Checkers: 39-25-5-3, 86 points (3rd Atlantic)

How They Got Here: The Charlotte Checkers earned a three-game series win over the Lehigh Valley Phantoms in the first round of the Calder Cup Playoffs. The Hershey Bears earned a bye from the first round courtesy of finishing second in the Atlantic Division; the top two teams in the division skip that round.

Series Schedule:

Game One: Hershey Bears at CHARLOTTE CHECKERS, Friday, April 28 at 7:00 PM EST.

Game Two: Hershey Bears at CHARLOTTE CHECKERS, Saturday, April 29 at 6:00 PM EST.

Game Three: Charlotte Checkers at HERSHEY BEARS, Wednesday, May 3 at 7:00 PM EST.

Game Four (if necessary): Charlotte Checkers at HERSHEY BEARS, Thursday, May 4 at 7:00 PM EST.

Game Five (if necessary): Charlotte Checkers at HERSHEY BEARS, Sunday, May 7 at 5:00 PM EST.

Season Series Recap: Hershey went 3-3-1-1 against Charlotte this season over eight games spread across the season, with two wins at Giant Center in four tries and two losses beyond regulation at Bojangles Coliseum.

How Hershey Wins: The Bears have a powered-up roster compared to the last time these two teams met on April 11. Mike Sgarbossa and Ethen Frank should be returning from injury in addition to receiving Aliaksei Protas, Beck Malenstyn, and Joe Snively back from the Washington Capitals. Despite finishing above the Checkers in the standings, the Bears have the added challenge of playing the first two games on the road, where they haven’t lost in regulation since October 21. Young players like Hendrix Lapierre (who had a hat trick versus Charlotte on April 8), Connor McMichael, Riley Sutter, and Frank are getting their first taste of Calder Cup action, and look to be big factors as they’ve been all season long. Hershey is a very strong defensive team, allowing the second-fewest goals against in the entire American Hockey League and the only team to have allowed fewer than 200 in the Eastern Conference at 184, but their challenge will be finding offense to match. The Bears have scored the third-fewest goals in the East, with both stats translating to the power play and penalty kill. If Hershey can hit their stride offensively, it’ll be a huge challenge for Charlotte to break through.

How Charlotte Wins: Simply put, the Checkers will need big time performances from their top players in order to get past the Bears. Goaltender Mack Guzda figures to be the starter going into the series, where he’s delivered three wins over the course of the season series. Charlotte has a habit of being very stubborn and hard to get rid of, a lesson which the Lehigh Valley Phantoms can attest to, and they’ll look to bring that same attitude into this series. Top scorers Riley Nash and Gerry Mayhew will be important to get going in this series along with strong depth contributions from players like Cameron Morrison, who finished the season on a hot streak and chipped in points in their first round series. The Checkers have plenty of players who can perform in clutch situations.

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