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Eastern Conference Finals Game 1 Preview: Bears vs. Americans, 7 p.m.

May 23, 2023

The Hershey Bears continue the 2023 playoffs, presented by Penn State Health, as they take the ice at GIANT Center tonight for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Rochester Americans.

#2 Hershey Bears (6-1) vs. #3 Rochester Americans (6-2)
May 23, 2023 | 7 p.m. | Eastern Conference Finals – Game 1 | Series tied, 0-0 | GIANT Center
Referees: Stephen Hiff (#56), Carter Sandlak (#47)
Linespersons: Brandon Grillo (#79), Dan Kelly (#98)


Tonight’s Promotions:
  • Eastern Conference Finals Rally Towel - All fans in attendance will receive an Eastern Conference Finals Rally Towel on their seats, courtesy of The Hershey Company, Pepsi, Members 1st, Your Financial Community of Pennsylvania, ECS, and Penn State Health

Season Ticket Holders who have purchased a Playoff Package: please use Round 4, Home Game 1 ticket(s) for tonight.

Broadcast Information
Voice of the Bears, Zack Fisch, FOX43 Sports Director Todd Sadowski on the call
TV: Antenna TV (WPMT 43.2, Xfinity Ch. 247 and 1178, Verizon FiOS Ch. 463, Blue Ridge Ephrata Ch. 91, and Blue Ridge Newberry/Duncannon Ch. 88.)
RADIO: WFVY-100.1 FM, Fox Sports 1460-AM, Capitals Radio Network, SportsRadio 98.9-FM & WOYK 1350-AM (joined in progress)
LISTEN LIVE: Fox Sports AM-1460 Stream, Caps Radio
Radio pre-game coverage starts at 6:30 p.m.

The Bears
last skated on May 17 in Game 3 of the Atlantic Division Finals, a 3-1 win over the Hartford Wolf Pack. Turner Elson scored at 17:40 of the first period to put Hershey in a 1-0 hold, but Vincent Iorio netted his first of the postseason at 15:05 of the second period to tie the game. In the third, Sam Anas was awarded a penalty shot at 3:28, but was denied by the glove of Louis Domingue. Lucas Johansen then put Hershey up 2-1 at 4:22, before Garrett Pilon added a vital insurance marker at 7:25. Hunter Shepard finished the night with 33 saves to secure Hershey’s sweep of Hartford. The Americans earned an 8-4 win over the Toronto Marlies that same night to complete their own series sweep in the North Division Finals. Despite surrendering a goal to Toronto’s Pontus Holmberg just 17 seconds into the game, the Americans reeled off goals from Ethan Prow (3:05), Kohen Olischefski (6:33), and Lukas Rousek (9:57) to take a 3-1 lead into the dressing room. Jiri Kulich scored at 6:50 of the second to make it 4-1, but Holmberg scored again at 9:09 to end a four-goal run for the Americans. Isak Rosen netted a tally for Rochester at 13:27, before Holmberg completed a hat trick at 19:00. Rosen scored his second of the night midway through the third period at 9:45, while Topi Niemela found the net for Toronto’s final goal at 13:41. The Amerks added goals from Brett Murray (16:01) and Matt (19:36) to close out the scoring.

The Bears
and Americans will meet for the eighth time in their history in the Calder Cup Playoffs. The two storied franchises have a combined 17 league championships, and even played for the Calder Cup in the 1965 season (Rochester won that series, 4-1). In the previous two series against each other, both Hershey and Rochester each won a series via a sweep – Rochester won the 2000 Western Conference Finals 4-0, and Hershey took the 1994 Southern Division Semifinals 4-0. Hershey and Rochester each earned a win against the other to split the regular season series, although the Bears earned a shootout loss point.

The upcoming series between Hershey and Rochester presents a matchup featuring one of the most disciplined playoff teams against an opportunistic power play. The Bears have averaged 7.43 penalty minutes per game, good for the third-fewest among all 23 playoff teams; the Americans, meanwhile, boast the second-ranked power play, going 12-for-29 (41.4) with the man advantage.

The matchup with Rochester also presents a clash between the top offense in the playoffs against the top defense in the postseason. The Americans have scored 38 goals through eight playoff games, for an average of 4.75 goals per game; Hershey has recorded a stifling defense during the playoffs, surrendering 12 goals through seven contests, for an average of 1.71 goals against per game. Fortunately for the Bears, the Atlantic Division champs are also scoring at a high rate as well, finding the net an average of 3.86 times per game.

The Bears
have shown in the postseason an unwillingness to back down. Despite conceding the lead after the first period in three separate games, in each instance Hershey has managed to battle back – the team is 3-0 when trailing after the first period this spring, which leads the entire AHL.

Hunter Shepard has anchored the Bears in net during the postseason, ranking second with a 1.71 goals-against average and fourth with a .933 save percentage, while the Americans have leaned on Malcom Subban, who has posted a 3.06 GAA and a .910 save percentage. During the regular season, each goaltender earned a win, with Shepard making 22 saves in a 2-1 victory on March 18, while Subban went 24-for-27 in Rochester’s 4-3 shootout decision against the Bears on March 24.

A big point of emphasis for the Bears in this series will be shutting down Rochester’s Jiri Kulich. The 28th overall pick in last year’s NHL Draft has found the back of the net in each of his six playoff games, a streak which leads the entire playoff field. Two of his goals have also been game-winners, which is also tied for the league lead.

Connor McMichael is tied for first with two insurance goals…Vincent Iorio is tied for second among all rookies in plus/minus with +4, and tied for eighth among all rookie defensemen with four points (1g, 3a)…Hershey’s third-period goal differential of +10 leads the league…The Bears and Americans each carry home and road win streaks of three into this series.

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