Goalie Michal Neuvirth celebrates shortly before the final buzzer! (Photo by Sean Simmers, The Patriot-News)
The fantastic Hershey Bears, AHL minor league affiliate of our Washington Capitals, have once again won the Calder Cup, the AHL’s championship trophy. This is the second year in a row the chocolate-and-white have captured the trophy, and the first time in over 20 years they’ve won it at home (and the first time in GIANT Center)!
Lead by a shutout effort by goalie Michal Neuvirth and goals by defensemen John Carlson, Karl Alzner, and Patrick McNeill (2), the Bears won Game 6 of the finals 4-0 against the Texas Stars, completing their roaring comeback from a 0-2 series deficit.
The Bears have been to the Calder Cup Finals four times in the last five years, and have won the Cup in three of the last five years. Incredibly, all three wins have come under different coaches. This time, first-year coach Mark French (hoisting the cup to the right) lead the Bears to their 11th championship as well as the best regular season in AHL history (Photo by Sean Simmers, The Patriot-News). The Bears are the oldest continuously operating AHL franchise, and are also the most-winning, with a record 11 Calder Cups won now.
Many of the players with the Bears this year will likely have big roles with the Capitals next season. Goalie Michal Neuvirth, who has been in net for both championship runs, will likely earn a spot with the Caps next season. The Caps are not in contract talks with Theodore, and I’d love a 1A / 1B pairing between Varlamov and Neuvirth. Both are only 21 years old.
Another pairing that will likely see a spot of the Capitals roster (GMGM promised it) is the defensive duo of John Carlson and Karl Alzner. John Carlson is only 20 years old, but has been very good defensively and is an incredibly clutch player. Bruce Boudreau, following the Capitals’ Game 7 defeat at the hands of the Canadiens, commented on how fame seems to follow Carlson; it very much does. In just the last 6 months, goals scored by him have won both a World Junior Championship gold medal for Team USA (he scored the OT winner against Team Canada) as well as winning the Calder Cup for the Bears (he scored the first goal in the shutout victory). Karl Alzner is a bit older and more experienced at age 22, and have been in and out of Washington for the last two seasons. Hopefully next season he will claim a permanent spot along with Carlson.
Hershey also has many other players that are probably NHL ready, such as Chris Bourque, who won the playoff MVP award this season. Time will tell who gets a spot on the Capitals roster.
After their sweet, sweet victory, the Bears will go into hibernation once again for the summer, bringing an end to hockey in North America for a few months. Now, however, is a time to celebrate once again in chocolate town, home of the 2010 (and 2009, and 2006….) Calder Cup winning Hershey Bears!
The Bears! (Photo by Sean Simmers, The Patriot-News)
Check out more great photos at http://photos.pennlive.com/4503/gallery/hershey_bears_win_11th_calder_cup/index.html