P.K. Subban returns to the Hamilton Bulldogs after playing 14 post-season games with the Montreal Canadiens. (Photo by Pellerins Photography)
For now, the Hershey Bears can be content to sit back, practice and take in the warmer weather that May brings, while the Hamilton Bulldogs and Texas Stars beat on each other one more time for the right to face the Bears in the Calder Cup final.
Besides, the Bears could use some extra rest after surviving their first scare of the 2010 playoffs.
Hershey put away a pesky, persistent Manchester Monarchs club Saturday, May 22 with a comeback that will fill another page in the storied club's book of lore. Hamilton and Texas, meanwhile, conclude their series with a Game 7 Wednesday night at Copps Coliseum in Hamilton. The Stars have battled back from 2-0 and 3-2 deficits in the series.
The Bears, after taking a 2-0 series lead in Hershey, lost Games 3 and 4 in Manchester and labored on without the services of injured sniper Andrew Gordon. Then, down 2-1 late in the third period of Game 5 and up against Jonathan Bernier's stout goaltending, the Bears tied the game on a Chris Bourque goal with 51 seconds left in regulation and went on to take the game in overtime.
Back home for Game 6, the Bears faced a 2-0 third-period deficit against Bernier and the Monarchs. Staring down the possibility of a Game 7 against Bernier – the Baz Bastien Award winner as the American League's top goaltender – the Bears spaced goals from Alex Giroux and Patrick McNeill less than seven minutes apart to tie the game. Boyd Kane then won the contest in overtime.
For the Stars, Hamilton has provided another battle of attrition. Texas beat out the Chicago Wolves in Round 2 in seven games and the Hamilton series has been both long and tightly played. Of the six games played so far, four have reached overtime, including Monday night's 3-2 Texas win that set up Wednesday’s tilt.
Texas also has spent most of its time chasing in this series. The Stars have led for only 18:19 of play in the 386:51 of total time in the series so far. That 18:19 of playing with the lead all came during a Game 3 overtime win on Texas’ home ice.
Matt Climie continues to carry the Texas load in net. With No. 1 goalie Brent Krahn out with a concussion sustained during the Chicago series, Climie has stepped in with solid performances, including a 51-save evening in Game 6.
Jamie Benn continues his phenomenal playoff run in the AHL. While he didn’t score in Games 5 and 6, Benn has still rung up 13 goals and 23 points in 17 playoff games so far, contributing two assists in Game 6.
Hamilton, however, will bring some of its own top prospects for Game 7. The Montreal Canadiens’ elimination from the Stanley Cup playoffs garnered Guy Boucher's Bulldogs the services of defenseman P.K. Subban and forward Ben Maxwell. Subban, a force on the Hamilton blueline in earning all-rookie and first-team all-star honors, stepped in nicely for the Canadiens during their long playoff run. Maxwell, meanwhile, chipped in 16 goals over 57 regular season games with the Bulldogs in his second AHL season.
THIS & THAT
• The AHL officiating corps will have a more European look next season. Last week the NHL hired Marcus Vinnerborg, a 37-year-old referee with a resume that boasts experience in Sweden's Elitserien. Vinnerborg will begin his North American career next season by working games in the AHL. Vinnerborg's past workload has included the 2010 Olympics and the 2008 World Championship. Forty percent of AHL games next season will feature the two-referee system.
• Oklahoma City's new AHL entry will be known as the Oklahoma City Barons and skate in parent club Edmonton's colors next season.
From THN.com American League correspondent Patrick Williams, Around The AHL keeps tabs on the world's second best circuit, details all the news and notes and profiling prospects destined for the next level. It appears every weekend only on TheHockeyNews.com.