After beating the Coachella Valley Firebirds 3-2 in overtime of Game Seven, the Capitals’ AHL affiliate won the Calder Cup for the first time in 13 years. Hendrix Lapierre and Connor McMichael scored goals in regulation. 16:19 into the first overtime, Mike Vecchione scored the dramatic goal that ended the series. For his 14th and final victory of the postseason, Hunter Shepard made 45 saves. At the conclusion of the game, Shep was awarded the Jack Butterfield Trophy and was named postseason MVP.
At Acrisure Arena in the Coachella Valley, Hershey captain Dylan McIlrath received the Calder Cup from AHL President and CEO Scott Howson. The Bears have won the Calder Cup for the twelfth time in their history, an AHL record.
Cleveland’s victory over Pittsburgh in 1953 was the only other instance in which the Calder Cup Final was decided in overtime. In the history of the AHL Calder Cup Finals, this is the longest Game Seven.
After finishing as the fourth-best team in the league and scoring 97 points in the regular season, the Bears went 44-19-5-4 and won the Calder Cup. Hershey finished the postseason 14-6, defeating the Charlotte Checkers in the Atlantic Division Semifinals in four games; winning the Atlantic Division Final three games to none over the Hartford Wolf Pack; and losing six games to the Rochester Americans in the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Firebirds’ goaltender Joey Daccord shut out the Hershey Bears and outscored them 9-0 in their first two games of the Calder Cup Finals. However, the Hershey Bears won the next three games by one goal at home. In Game Six, Coachella Valley defeated Hershey 5-2, but the Bears prevailed in Game Seven.
Only four times has a team won after falling behind by two games to none in the first two matches of the Calder Cup Finals. The 2010 Bears, who came back from a 2-0 deficit against the Texas Stars to win four straight games, were the last team to accomplish this before the 2023 Bears.
After winning the championship in 2017 with Grand Rapids, this is Todd Nelson’s second Calder Cup title as head coach. Along with former Bears bench bosses John Paddock and Frank Mathers, Nelson is now the 12th head coach in league history to win two Calder Cups. Nelson is the third head coach in league history to win the Cup with multiple teams, joining Paddock and Fred “Bun” Cook.
Connor McMichael scored six goals and Joe Snively scored fifteen for the Hershey Bears. To win the championship, they received contributions from every position.
Mike Vecchione stated earlier in the postseason, “You look at any championship team, you have depth and everyone is producing, and you’re seeing that from this team.” Everyone is getting rewarded for simply going out there and playing for one another. Throughout the season, it has kind of been like that: if one line isn’t working, another line will pick us up. In that locker room, everyone just sticks together; We’re having so much fun because the brotherhood there has been so great.