Hershey defeats Coachella Valley 5-4 in overtime to claim 13th AHL title

(Hershey, PA – June 24, 2024) – Pierrick Dubé recorded a hat trick and Matt Strome scored 66 seconds into overtime to lift the Hershey Bears (14-6) to a 5-4 victory over the Coachella Valley Firebirds (12-6) in Game 6 of the 2024 Calder Cup Finals in front of a franchise-record crowd of 11,013 on Monday night at GIANT Center, winning the best-of-seven 2024 Calder Cup Finals four games to two.

Hendrix Lapierre was awarded the Jack A. Butterfield Trophy as the most valuable player of the 2024 Calder Cup Playoffs after leading the postseason in scoring with 22 points (7g, 15a) in 20 games. Lapierre also tied with teammate Joe Snively for the league lead in power-play assists (9) and power-play points (11). Lapierre’s 20 points are tied with Josef Marha (1997) for the eighth-most points by a Bear in a playoff year. Lapierre’s seven points (3g, 4a) tied with teammate Alex Limoges for the team scoring lead against Coachella Valley in the championship round.

When AHL President and CEO Scott Howson presented the Calder Cup to Bears captain Dylan McIlrath, it marked the second time in as many years that the trophy had been awarded to the AHL’s most historic franchise – which has accumulated 13 Calder Cups, 25 Finals appearances, and 71 postseason appearances (all AHL records) – and is the third time in franchise history that the club has won the playoff championship in consecutive seasons (1958-59, 2009-10, 2023-24). Hershey has now won its last eight consecutive playoff series, matching the league record originally set by the Bears championship teams of 2009 and 2010. 12 players recognized as members of last season’s 2023 championship squad dressed in at least one playoff game for the Bears during the 2024 playoff run.

McIlrath, named captain of the club prior to the 2022-23 campaign, is only the third player in team history to captain the club to multiple Calder Cups, joining Ellard “Obie” O’Brien (1958-59) and Bryan Helmer (2009-10).

Helmer, also a former Bears assistant coach (2014-16) and current Bears vice president of hockey operations (2016-present), has now won four Calder Cups with Hershey, after twice capturing the trophy as a player (2009-10) and twice in his current role (2023-24). Recognized by the AHL as Hershey’s general manager, he is the fourth in team history to win multiple Calder Cups in that role, joining Lloyd Blinco (1958, 1959), Frank Mathers (1969, 1974, 1980, 1988), and Doug Yingst (1997, 2006, 2009, 2010).

Under head coach Todd Nelson, who won the 2023-24 Louis A.R. Pieri Memorial Award as the American Hockey League’s outstanding coach for the first time in his career, the Bears completed arguably their best regular season in franchise history after posting a club-record .771 points percentage (53-14-0-5) in 72 games during the 2023-24 campaign to claim the MacGregor Kilpatrick Trophy with the top record in the regular season, marking the ninth time the Bears finished first overall in the league standings. Hershey earned a bye for the first round of the playoffs before defeating the Lehigh Valley Phantoms (3-1), Hartford Wolf Pack (3-0), Cleveland Monsters (4-3), and Coachella Valley (4-2) to earn Nelson’s third Calder Cup as a head coach (Grand Rapids, 2017; Hershey, 2023 and 2024), making him just the seventh head coach in the history of the AHL to win three championships; this is his fifth Calder Cup overall, after also previously winning as a player (Portland, 1994) and as an assistant coach (Chicago, 2008). Nelson is only the second head coach in team history to lead Hershey to consecutive Calder Cups, joining Mathers (1958-59), and is the only bench boss in the history of the franchise to do so in his first two seasons at the helm of the Chocolate and White. Tonight’s Game 6 victory marked Nelson’s 70th career AHL playoff win, good for third all-time in league history for playoff wins by a head coach, trailing only John Paddock (77) and Fred “Bun” Cook (75). Nelson’s 28 career playoff wins as the bench boss for Hershey ranks fourth in franchise history, trailing only Mathers (60), Paddock (30), and Bruce Boudreau (29).

The Bears, an affiliate of the National Hockey League’s Washington Capitals, have now won five Calder Cups since the current affiliation with the Capitals began prior to the 2005-06 campaign, and have won six total Calder Cups while affiliated with the Washington organization over two separate stints (1977-84, 2005-present). 10 members of Hershey’s playoff roster saw at least one game of NHL action with the Capitals during the 2023-24 campaign, and six appeared in at least one game of Washington’s opening-round series in the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the New York Rangers. Four members of Hershey’s playoff roster (Hardy Häman Aktell, Hunter Shepard, Ivan Miroshnichenko, and Pierrick Dubé) also made their NHL debuts with Washington this season.

The Bears have won at least one Calder Cup in every decade since claiming their first championship in 1947. Hershey’s most recent title is its fifth since opening its current home - GIANT Center - for the 2002-03 season, its second to be won on GIANT Center ice, and its seventh won on home ice overall. Monday’s victory marked the 100th Bears home playoff game at GIANT Center; the club now owns a 66-34 home win-loss record in postseason play at the venue, winning 15 series-clinching games, and a lifetime overall playoff record of 213-123 on home ice (includes historic Hersheypark Arena).


The Firebirds took a 1-0 lead just 1:37 into the contest when Cameron Hughes fed Ryan Winterton from behind the net and Winterton snapped the puck over the glove of Hunter Shepard.

Hershey quickly responded with a power-play goal when Dubé one-timed a pass from Lapierre over the blocker side of Chris Driedger at 5:51 for his fifth of the playoffs. Lapierre’s assist was his 15th of the playoffs, tying Tony Cassolato (1980) and Mike Green (2006) for the ninth-most assists by a Bear in a single playoff year. Joe Snively earned a secondary assist on the goal, his 27th career helper as a Bear to move past Gordon Bruce and Larry Zeidel for sole possession of 10th in playoff history in assists.

Hershey went ahead 2-1 at 19:24 as Chase Priskie blasted a failed Coachella Valley clearing attempt into the slot, where Lapierre deflected it past Driedger for his seventh of the playoffs. The point earned by Lapierre on the goal also marked his league-leading 22nd of the postseason, moving him into a tie with Josef Marha (1997) for the eighth-most points by a Bear in a single playoff year.

Coachella Valley leveled the score at 2-2 early in the second during a 4-on-4 sequence, as Marian Studenic beat Shepard from the left flank at 1:51.

The Firebirds jumped ahead 3-2 at 7:59 as Ryan Winterton elevated the puck over Shepard during a goalmouth scramble.

Dubé struck again at 13:52 when Jimmy Huntington rolled the puck behind the Coachella Valley net to Alex Limoges, who dished it to Dubé in the slot, and the winger put it past Driedger to tie the score at 3-3.

Dubé completed his hat trick at 8:56 of the third period to give Hershey a 4-3 lead after Huntington forced a turnover in the attacking zone, allowing Limoges to slide it to Dubé at the net-front. The forward deked to his backhand before lifting it past Driedger to give Hershey its first playoff hat trick in nine years (Casey Wellman, May 1, 2015 vs. Worcester), and its fifth hat trick in the Calder Cup Finals in franchise history.

Cale Fleury spoiled a potential celebration in regulation with a goal at 17:05 to tie the game at 4-4 and force overtime.

Strome won the series and championship for Hershey at 1:06 of the extra frame when a turnover at the Coachella Valley blue line led to Riley Sutter finding Strome unguarded in the slot. Strome skated to the slot before beating Driedger to the glove side to give Hershey the Calder Cup.

Shots finished 22-21 in favor of the Bears. Shepard earned the victory for Hershey with a 17-for-21 performance for his 28th career playoff win for Hershey to take over for third in franchise history; Driedger took the loss for Coachella Valley by going 17-for-22. The Bears went 1-for-2 on the power play; the Firebirds went 0-for-1 with the man advantage.

Hershey’s 2024 Calder Cup celebration will be held at GIANT Center on Wednesday, June 26, at 6 p.m. Doors to the building will open at 5 p.m. Additional information about the festivities will be circulated later this week. Continue to check for the latest updates.

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