- After an eight day wait between rounds, the BEARS welcome Wilkes-Barre/Scranton to town Saturday for Game 1 of the East Division Finals.
The BEARS last played eight days ago, defeating the Philadelphia Phantoms 1-0 in Game 4 of the East Division Semi-Finals. Graham Mink scored the game's only goal as Michal Neuvirth picked up his first AHL postseason shutout. The win enabled the Chocolate and White to sweep the Phantoms in the series, one of two sweeps in first round action in the 2009 Calder Cup playoffs. The game also marked the last time the BEARS and Phantoms will ever play one another. Philadelphia was sold at midseason, and will play in Glens Falls, New York in 2009-10.
The 2009 Calder Cup playoffs mark the fourth consecutive spring that the Penguins and BEARS have met in postseason play. HERSHEY won the 2006 and 2007 East Division Finals, advancing to the Calder Cup Finals both seasons, while Wilkes-Barre/Scranton claimed the 2008 East Division Semi-Finals en route to an appearance in the Calder Cup Finals last season. Dating back to 2005, a team from Pennsylvania has made it to the Calder Cup Finals every season, with Philadelphia winning the Cup in 2005 and HERSHEY claiming the trophy in 2006.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton finished the regular season as the third seed in the East Division, but won the same number of games (49) as the BEARS did this season. Janne Pesonen, Wilkes-Barre's leading scorer during the regular season, was injured during the first round series with Bridgeport. J-M Daoust has been moved to the top line in Pesonen's absence. Goaltender John Curry led the Penguins to the 2008 Calder Cup Finals in his rookie season last spring. Wilkes-Barre's power play is number one in the 2009 Calder Cup playoffs thus far, scoring nine goals with the man advantage in 42 tries in round one (42.9 percent.)
Elsewhere around the Eastern Conference, Providence Bruins captain Jeremy Reich snapped a wrist shot home from the right face-off dot at 6:19 of overtime to give the Bruins a 3-2 win over Worcester on Tuesday at the Dunkin' Donuts Center in Game 1 of the Atlantic Division Finals. The Bruins will take a 1-0 series lead into Game 2 on May 6 in Worcester. The winner of the Providence/Worcester series will meet the HERSHEY/Wilkes-Barre/Scranton winner in the 2009 Eastern Conference Finals later this month.
Tickets for Game 1 and Game 2 of the East Division Finals are on sale now at the GIANT Center box office or by calling (717) 534-3911.