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

May 30, 2024

The Hershey Bears take the ice tonight against the Cleveland Monsters for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Hershey has advanced to the American Hockey League's Final Four for the second consecutive season and will look to claim its second consecutive Richard F. Canning Trophy with a series win.

Hershey Bears (6-1) vs. Cleveland Monsters (6-1)
May 30, 2024 | 7 p.m. | GIANT Center | Series tied, 0-0
Referees: Justin Kea (44), Mike Sullivan (47) 
Linespersons: Brandon Grillo (79), Ryan Jackson (84)

Tonight's Promotions:

Eastern Conference Finals Rally Towel Giveaway - All fans will receive an Eastern Conference Finals rally towel, courtesy of York Financial Community of Pennsylvania, Kint Corp., Penn State Health, Planet Fitness, Cleveland Brothers, Harrisburg University, Pepsi, and Accord Restoration.


Broadcast Information 
Voice of the Bears, Zack Fisch, former Bears captain Garrett Mitchell, and FOX43 sports reporter Ryan Ye on the call
TELEVISION: Antenna TV (WPMT FOX 43.2, Xfinity Ch. 247 and 1178, Verizon FiOS Ch. 463, Blue Ridge Ephrata Ch. 91, and Blue Ridge Newberry/Duncannon Ch. 88); Monumental Sports Network (Washington, D.C. market) 
RADIO: WFVY-100.1 FM, Fox Sports 1460-AM, SportsRadio 98.9-FM & WOYK 1350-AM (joined in-progress), Capitals Radio, In-Arena on 88.9 FM
LISTEN LIVE: Fox Sports AM-1460 StreamCaps Radio 24/7 
Radio pre-game coverage starts at 6:30 p.m., Television coverage starts at 7 p.m.

Hershey rallied from a 1-0 deficit to defeat the Hartford Wolf Pack 4-1 in Game 3 of the Atlantic Division Finals on May 22, completing a three-game sweep of its series. Hershey trailed by a goal in the second period before Garrett Roe redirected a shot from the point at 1:56 to draw the Bears level, then Roe gave Hershey the lead with his second of the night at 7:29. Matt Strome scored a power-play goal at 11:52 of the third, and Roe assisted on Mike Vecchione's empty-net goal at 17:58 to close out the series. Cleveland similarly completed a three-game sweep of the North Division Finals that same evening in Syracuse with a 6-4 win over the Crunch, as the Monsters trailed 3-2 heading into the third frame. Alex Whelan tied the game at 3-3 62 seconds into the period, then Josh Dunne found the net at 9:29 to send Cleveland ahead 4-3. Barre-Boulet scored his second of the game for Syracuse at 16:32 to tie the game at 4-4, but Luca Del Bel Belluz put the Monsters ahead for good at 17:42, and Roman Ahcan added an empty-net tally at 18:59 to close out the series.

Hershey finished their second regular season under Todd Nelson with a 53-14-0-5 record, good for first place in the league, while setting the AHL record for the most wins under a 72-game schedule and establishing a new franchise record for points percentage at .771. The Bears took down the Lehigh Valley Phantoms 3-1 in the Atlantic Division Finals, before sweeping the Hartford Wolf Pack 3-0 in the Atlantic Division Finals. In that series Hershey outscored its opponent 14-4, matching the franchise record for the most goals scored in a playoff series decided in three games, and setting a new club mark for fewest goals allowed in a playoff series of the same length. The Monsters, under second-year head coach Trent Vogelhuber, captured the North Division crown with a 40-24-5-3 record for 88 points, finishing the season tied with Rochester but owning the secondary tiebreaker for 36 regulation and overtime wins compared to Rochester's 35. After earning a first-round bye, the Monsters faced the Belleville Senators in the North Division Semifinals, where they dropped the opening match and then won three straight games to advance to the North Division Finals, where they swept the Syracuse Crunch.

Hershey was a perfect 4-0-0-0 in the regular season against the North Division champions, and outscored Cleveland by an aggregate of 22-5. Ethen Frank led the way for the Bears with 11 points (4g, 7a) in four games, while Pierrick Dube tied with Frank for the team lead in goals. Clay Stevenson received the lion's share of work against the Monsters, going 3-0-0 while allowing only five goals for a 1.67 goals-against average and a .925 save percentage, while Hunter Shepard went a perfect 20-for-20 in Hershey's final victory of the season series on March 23, a 5-0 victory. Hershey's roster boasts 553 games of Calder Cup Playoffs experience, while Cleveland's playoff roster has 235 games of experience in the AHL postseason.

2016 REDUX:
The Bears will face the Monsters in the Calder Cup Playoffs for only the second time in team history, after the two clubs previously squared off in the 2016 Calder Cup Finals, a 4-0 series win for the Monsters, who were playing in their final season under the Lake Erie moniker. Current Bears vice president of hockey operations Bryan Helmer was an assistant coach on Troy Mann's staff, while current Bears defender and alternate captain Aaron Ness was in his first season with the Chocolate and White and led all playoff performers with 12 assists. Current Monsters head coach Trent Vogelhuber scored the game-winner for Lake Erie in Game 1, while current Seattle Kraken forward Oliver Bjorkstrand scored the game-winning tallies in Games 2-4, the latter two of which were settled in overtime.

While the Monsters have only existed since the dormant Utah Grizzlies franchise was purchased in 2006 and relocated to the Buckeye State starting with the 2007-08 season, the Forest City has a long and storied history of American Hockey League excellence, as the original Cleveland Barons and Bears met numerous times from 1938 until January of 1973, when the Barons were relocated to Jacksonville. A second AHL incarnation of the Barons was present from 2001-06 when the San Jose Sharks relocated the Kentucky Thoroughblades to Ohio. In total, the Bears have battled an AHL club from Cleveland in the Calder Cup Playoffs 13 times prior to this year, owning a cumulative 5-8 series record; all five of Hershey's series wins against a Cleveland-based team came in the semifinal round. Current Bears assistant coach Nick Bootland played for the second incarnation of the Barons from 2001-05, and head coach Todd Nelson played for the Cleveland Lumberjacks of the defunct International Hockey League in the 1992-93 season.

Hendrix Lapierre is tied for eighth in AHL playoff scoring with eight points (3g, 5a), and is tied for the league lead in power-play assists with four...Ethen Frank is tied for first with four game-winning goals...Garrett Roe led Hershey in the Atlantic Division Finals with five points (3g, 2a) and his playoff shooting percentage of 50% (3-for-6) leads all active skaters...Hunter Shepard is second in the AHL with six playoff wins...Chase Priskie is tied for the league lead in scoring among defensemen with seven points (1g, 6a)...Ivan Miroshnichenko (5g, 1a) and Chase Priskie (1g, 4a) are enjoying four-game point streaks...Aaron Ness is Hershey's active leader for career playoff games with 59, and he is one game away from tying Larry Zeidel (60 GP) for 10th in franchise history. Ness' 16 career playoff assists are tied for eighth in franchise history among defensemen with Rich Brennan, Mike Gaul, and Steve Smith...Hershey is the only team among the remaining four to have not played an overtime game in the 2024 postseason...The Bears are tied for first in goals scored per game (3.71) and are first overall in goals against per game (1.57)...Hershey's penalty kill has gone 12-for-12 on home ice.

May 30, 2006 - The Bears clinched the 2006 Eastern Conference championship with one of the most dramatic come-from-behind win in franchise history. Trailing 4-3 with less than two minutes remaining in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals, Graham Mink tied the game at 4-4 with just 2:09 remaining in regulation. In sudden-death with the Eastern Conference crown on the line, Eric Fehr forever etched his name into the Hershey history books with the game-winner at 9:07 of overtime past Portland goaltender Jani Hurme. The Pirates were poised to rally all the way back from a 3-1 series deficit when Mink tied the game, and Fehr's goal was the first Game 7 overtime goal in Hershey's favor that clinched a playoff series.

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