HERSHEY, Pa. – The two oldest teams in the American Hockey League are set to duke it out for the right to compete for the Calder Cup as the Rochester Americans and the Hershey Bears battle in the Eastern Conference Final. It’s been a while since either team has been to this point, and it makes for a uniquely close series in terms of proximity which allows for a rare 2-2-1-1-1 format. Rochester boasts the top scorers coming into the matchup while Hershey has the top goaltender of either team for a true clash of styles.
Final Regular Series Record:
Hershey Bears: 44-19-5-4, 97 points, 2nd Atlantic
Rochester Americans: 36-27-6-3, 81 points, 3rd North
How They Got Here: Both teams swept their way to this round as Rochester dropped the Toronto Marlies in three games while Hershey similarly bounced the Hartford WolfPack without taking a loss in the best-of-five series. Rochester survived the Syracuse Crunch a round prior courtesy of a Game Five overtime winner while Hershey took care of the Charlotte Checkers in four games in the first round.
Game One: Rochester Americans at HERSHEY BEARS, Tuesday, May 23, 7:00 PM EST
Game Two: Rochester Americans at HERSHEY BEARS, Thursday, May 25, 7:00 PM EST
Game Three: Hershey Bears at ROCHESTER AMERICANS, Saturday, May 27, 7:05 PM EST
Game Four: Hershey Bears at ROCHESTER AMERICANS, Monday, May 29, 7:05 PM EST
Game Five (if necessary): Rochester Americans at HERSHEY BEARS, Wednesday, May 31, 7:00 PM EST
Game Six (if necessary): Hershey Bears at ROCHESTER AMERICANS, Friday, June 2, 7:05 PM EST
Game Seven (if necessary): Rochester Americans at HERSHEY BEARS, Monday, June 5, 7:00 PM EST
Season Series Recap: The Bears and the Americans met up just twice during the 2022-23 season in back-to-back games at both venues, with each team taking one win. Hershey won on home ice on March 18 by a 2-1 count, while Rochester bounced back from an early 3-0 deficit to take a 4-3 decision in a shootout six days later on March 24. This series marks the first time the two oldest teams in the league have met in the postseason since the Eastern Conference Final in the year 2000, where Rochester took a 4-0 sweep. In the lineup for the Bears for that series was Nick Bootland, who is behind Hershey’s bench for his first season as an assistant coach.
How Hershey Wins: The Bears live by a philosophy that strong defense is the base upon which their game is built. Goaltender Hunter Shepard has been a rock for them in this series, leading active teams in terms of statistics and hasn’t allowed more than two goals in any of the Bears’ seven playoff games. Hershey’s offense has come from a variety of sources, with nearly every player tallying at least a point, led by Aliaksei Protas, Sam Anas, and Joe Snively who all have seven points in as many games. The Bears have endured offensive pressure from their opponents in games but have only seemed to get better at defending a lead as the clock winds down.
How Rochester Wins: The Amerks have played a very opposite style to what the Bears have played, lighting the lamp four or more times in six of their last eight games including three games where they’ve tallied seven or more goals. As a result, Rochester’s players light up the league leaders in terms of points led by Mason Jobst, who has 11 points (two goals, nine assists) in eight games. Behind him, Jiri Kulich, Michael Mersch, and Lukas Rousek all have nine points to round out Rochester’s scoring machine. Rochester will want to keep their offense flowing to bury a Hershey team that hasn’t scored as many goals while getting strong goaltending from Malcolm Subban.
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