|The Hershey Bears are headed to the Calder Cup Finals for the 23rd time in franchise history. Photo: Nina Weiss/The Home News|
All three professional hockey leagues in North America - the NHL, AHL and ECHL - now have their championship rounds set. The Hershey Bears defeated the Toronto Marlies 3-2 in Game Five Sunday afternoon to claim the Eastern Conference championship, and they'll face the Lake Erie Monsters in the Calder Cup Finals beginning with Game One in Hershey on Wednesday night.
The Bears are 0-3 all-time in the finals against an AHL team from Cleveland, falling to the then-Barons in 1941, 1945 and 1954. The league's historic 80th season pits the two AHL markets with the most championships (Hershey - 11, Cleveland - 9) and it's the 23rd time Hershey has made it to the Calder Cup Finals, setting up a potentially epic match up between two teams who did not meet in the regular season.
In the NHL, the Stanley Cup Finals begin tonight in Pittsburgh as the Penguins take on the San Jose Sharks in their first ever trip to the finals.
In the ECHL, affiliates of Pittsburgh and San Jose battle for the Kelly Cup Championship. Last night in Game Two, the Wheeling Nailers (Pittsburgh) evened the series with the Allen Americans (San Jose) in exciting fashion. Taking a 7-1 lead into the final frame, the Nailers were able to escape a monumental collapse that saw the Americans tally five third period goals and actually make it a one-goal game - setting the tone for Game Three Wednesday night as the series shifts to Wheeling.
REMINDER: I will be making a major announcement at noon ET on Wednesday June 1st that you won't want to miss. I'll have the full details online both here and on Twitter - @H_P_Hockey and @TonyAndrock. It's good news for all hockey fans, and you won't want to miss it. Stay tuned!
Last week at The Home News, my weekly Phantoms print story took a look at the future of the team heading into the 2016-17 season. Stay tuned for this week's feature on Tim Brent for an exclusive 1-on-1 interview about his decision to retire from pro hockey.
Saturday's Morning Skate (5/28) explored the possibility of supplemental discipline on Hershey Bears' defenseman Madison Bowey for his blatant head hit to an opponent and potential homophobic slur in their Game Four loss to Toronto. The AHL determined no suspension was needed, and Bowey played in Sunday's Game Five.
The Lehigh Valley Phantoms made their first off-season signing Wednesday night when they signed forward Steven Swavely, a Reading, Pa native who joined the team from Maine University last spring, to a one-year AHL contract. We broke the news here on Thursday.
Also on Thursday, I posted my fourth Flyers prospect update of the off-season. It featured 6-foot-7 defenseman Sam Morin and took a look at his development through his rookie season at the pro level with Lehigh Valley.
The first profile story featured forward Cole Bardreau.
The second profile story featured defenseman Robert Hagg.
The third profile story featured forward Tyrell Goulbourne.Here's a quick look at the news of Tim Brent retiring from pro hockey, first reported here on Wednesday.
In last Monday's weekly catch up & links post, I mapped out all of the movement among AHL franchises in recent history as well as looked at the AHL coaching vacancies heading into the summer.
My latest AHL feature for Hockey's Future takes a look at the wild rookie season of Pittsburgh Penguins prospect Daniel Sprong, which saw his season go full-circle as he joined the NHL Penguins after the AHL Pens' playoff run came to an end earlier this month.
Also at Hockey's Future, my final monthly notebook article of the season that included the top-five playoff performers in the AHL's Eastern Conference.