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Game 1 Preview: Bears at Checkers, 7 p.m.

Game 1 Preview: Bears at Checkers, 7 p.m.

May 3, 2019

Tonight, the Hershey Bears open their best-of-seven Atlantic Division Finals series against the Charlotte Checkers, American Hockey League affiliate of the Carolina Hurricanes. The Checkers advanced to the second round after beating the Providence Bruins in four games in the Atlantic Division Semifinals. 

 #3 Hershey Bears (3-2) at #1 Charlotte Checkers (3-1) 
Series Tied, 0-0
May 3, 2019 | 7 PM | Round 2; Game 1 | Bojangles' Coliseum 
Referees: Mitch Dunning (43), Furman South (44)
Linesmen: Tim Lyons (33), Jesse Marquis (86)

Broadcast Information (Pre-game 6:30 p.m.)
RADIO: WQIC-100.1 FM, Fox Sports 1460-AM, Zack Fisch, the Voice of the Bears, and Matt Trust. 
LISTEN LIVE: Fox Sports AM-1460 StreamCaps Radio 24/7
WATCH LIVE: AHLTV, The Bears' Den 


The Hershey Bears advanced to the Atlantic Division Finals with a thrilling 3-2 overtime win over the Bridgeport Sound Tigers in Game 5 on last Saturday. The Bears erased two separate one-goal deficits, and Brian Pinho scored the series clinching goal at the 10:27 mark of the sudden-death. One day prior, the Charlotte Checkers closed out their first round playoff series against the Providence Bruins in Game 4. Andrew Poturalski tallied twice for Charlotte to help them to a 4-1 victory. 

Charlotte was the AHL’s top team this season with 110 points. However, the Bears enjoyed success vs. the Checkers, going 3-0-0-1 in the four regular season meetings. The Bears have won the past three meetings with the Checkers, with Vitek Vanecek blanking Charlotte on Oct. 20 at the Bojangles’ Coliseum, and the Bears claiming a pair of one goal victories in the midst of the team’s historic, 17 game point streak in February. Hershey’s power play went 5-for-24 (20.8%) vs. the Checkers in the four games, and forward Shane Gersich led the team in scoring with four points (one goal, three assists).

The Bears and Checkers have met in the Calder Cup Playoffs just once previously. The two teams squared off in the opening round in 2011, with Charlotte ending Hershey’s bid for a three-peat with a six-game series win. Current Hershey assistant coach Patrick Wellar played in that series for the Bears, registering one assist in six games. Charlotte held Hershey’s power play to just 1-for-26 in the series. 

In addition to Charlotte's best record in the AHL throughout the regular season, they carry an impressive streak into the second round. The Checkers enter tonight an astounding 41-0-0-0 this season when leading after 40 minutes of hockey. In the regular season, Charlotte finished the campaign 38-0-0-0 when leading at second intermission, and went 3-0 in the same situation against their first round opponent, Providence Bruins. 

Vitek Vanecek and Ilya Samsonov stopped 180 of 189 Bridgeport shots in the opening round, combining for a 1.56 goals against average and a .952 save percentage. Both Vanecek and Samsonov respectively rank as two of the top three goaltenders in the 2019 Calder Cup Playoffs for highest save percentage. Vanecek leads the way in the AHL with a .962 save percentage by stopping a combined 79 of 82 shots in Game 2 and Game 4 of Hershey's first round series. Samsonov is ranked third in the AHL with a .945 save percentage after turning aside 110 of 116 shots. He recorded wins for the Bears in Game 3 and Game 5 against Bridgeport. On the opposing side, Charlotte goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic finished the regular season leading the league in wins (34), games played (51), goals against average (2.26) and saves (1,196). On Apr. 29, Nedeljkovic was recalled by Charlotte's parent club, Carolina. In his absence, the Checkers could turn to veteran goaltender Dustin Tokarski to tend the crease. Tokarski was 17-6-2 this season with a 2.58 goals against average and .914 save percentage and was a perfect 7-0-0 after joining the Checkers.

Hershey Bears in a victory embrace

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