On June 14th, 2010, the Hershey Bears became the first AHL team in nearly two decades to win back-to-back Calder Cups. After a 30-year drought of not winning a league championship on home ice, the Bears finished off the Texas Stars in a 4-0 win at Giant Center.
The next night on Hershey Park Drive the Bears and their fans rallied together for the final time before summer to celebrate a league leading 11th Calder Cup. At the rally, radio play-by-play commentator, John Walton made a speech recapping the heavy accomplishments reached in the regular season and playoffs. While doing do, he laughed and stated, “Is it to early to be thinking three-peat?”
Now, nearly eight months later, it would be time for Hershey to again defend their title and think about a three-peat. Their first round opponent will be the Charlotte Checkers, who just joined the American Hockey League before this season.
The Checkers’ organization was recently held in the East Coast Hockey League, also known as the ECHL. In becoming the top affiliate for the Carolina Hurricanes, the Checkers finished their inaugural AHL season with a record of 43-27-2-7,good for third best in the East Division.
How the Two Teams Stack Up Against Each Other:
Due to Charlotte’s recent change, it will be the first time both the Bears and the Checkers stack up in post season play. The two evenly matched teams battled one another eight times in the regular season. Both teams split with four wins each. In a playoff duel between the two clubs, it is heavily believed the series could very well need all seven games to decide a series winner.
Bears’ goaltender, Braden Holtby is expected to draw the post season nod against the Checkers. In five games against Charlotte during the 2010-11 season, Holtby struggled, winning two of the five games with a GAA of 3.15. He also had a low save-percentage of .887.
It will remain a hot question to many until the official start of the series, who will guard the net for Charlotte? Mike Murphy started six of the eight games against Hershey, posting an excellent GAA of 2.23 along with a high save-percentage of .930.
Head Coach Jeff Daniels also has the option to go with goaltender Justin Pogge to face Hershey. Pogge in the two starts he made against Hershey, made an interesting name for himself in both games.
On December 19th, 2010, Pogge made himself a player for Hershey fans to remember as he lost his temper after giving up a third goal to the Bears’ Maxime Lacroix. Pogge released his frustration by tipping the net over and shattering his goalie stick before getting ejected from the game. It was the true definition of a goalie breakdown as spectators viewed in person what went on to earn 30,000 views on YouTube.
In a game on January 29th, 2011, right before the AHL All-Star Break, Pogge earned the opportunity to redeem himself against Hershey in front of the Giant Center faithful. With fans anticipating another breakdown, he went on to amaze and shut down the Bears’ offense. Despite a spectacular 21-save effort for Pogge, his teammates were unable to solve Braden Holtby as Hershey cruised to a 1-0 win. Sheldon Souray’s power play goal midway through the final stanza would be the tally giving Pogge an undeserved loss.
With Hershey and Charlotte’s special team numbers close by to one another in the rankings, both the penalty kill and power play will be expected to be a big factor for both clubs.
The series will begin in Hershey and have a 2-3-2 format. Games 1 and 2 are set for April 14th and 17th at Giant Center.