(WGR 550) – The Rochester Americans made their fans incredibly proud during this season’s Calder Cup Playoffs, taking the Hershey Bears to six games before bowing out following a 1-0 loss in the AHL Eastern Conference Finals on Friday.
Rochester had been 4-0 in elimination games before Friday, but this game didn’t fit the script.
Overall with their experience, I think the Bears are the better team, but they didn’t show it in Games 5 and 6. When Hershey was winning three games in-a-row against the Amerks, they did it by taking Rochester’s time and space away, and then getting huge portions of offensive zone time which let them dominate large portions of the game.
Listen live to WGR:
For the first 40 minutes, the Bears didn’t take time and space away, and Rochester had some great opportunities they either missed on or Hunter Shepard stopped.
Game 6 was the second time in the series Shepard followed a bad game with a shutout.
Friday was a 24-save blanking of the Amerks. Rochester had a 5-on-3 handed to them for a 1:25 span in the second period, but missed their chances.
Jiri Kulich was in the right circle and missed a one-timer that is usually automatic for him. Isak Rosen was stopped by Shepard right in front and as the power play ended. Shepard stopped Michael Mersch’s one-timer from the circle.
Mason Jobst was excellent in this game, especially with his playmaking. He found Brett Murray on top of the crease with a shorthanded chance, but Shepard stood tall again.
Hershey rarely dominated in this game, and scored their only goal when Malcolm Subban left a bad rebound that was pounced on by Shane Gersich, who scored his first goal in just four playoff games.
The Bears finally got to their game in the third period, holding Rochester to seven shots and very few, if any good opportunities. They let Rochester have the puck, but didn’t let them get inside with it.
Rochester didn’t give up anything in the third either, as Subban only faced four shots on goal.
Subban robbed Riley Sutter breaking in, but he didn’t get much pressure at all from the Bears, stopping 18 shots.
The Amerks lost this series because they went 0-3 at home and were shutout twice.
Rochester’s power play is what helped them get to the Eastern Conference Finals, but it probably cost them a chance to advance to the Calder Cup Finals. The Amerks were 0-for-4 on Friday with the extra man, and were 1-for-15 in the series.
At the other end, Hershey was 3-for-15 on the power play.
Against the Toronto Marlies in the North Division Final, Rochester had seven power play goals in three games.
Rochester had to grind it out to even get this series to six games, because Jobst - their leading playoff scorer - had just one goal and two points in the series. Kulich also had one goal and two points, while Rosen didn’t have a point in the six games.
Murray was in the one-goal and two-point club. Lukas Rousek had two goals in Game 5, but only one point in the other five games.
The other thing that killed the Amerks was Shepard in goal for the Bears. In Hershey’s four wins, he was spectacular. He held Rochester to just four goals in their three home games.
This playoff run was a great experience for Rochester’s young players. They played against an older team that was smart. Guys like Kulich, Rosen and even Matt Savoie will be better prepared to play teams like that down the road.
Head coach Seth Appert had this team believing in itself for this run, and they fell one goal short of sending the Eastern Conference Finals to a seventh game in Hershey.