The Texas Stars have themselves a fight with the Hershey Bears now.
After an open to the Calder Cup final that few observers anticipated, the Stars will need every possible advantage to wrestle the Cup away from the American League’s defending champions.
The Bears won Game 4 by a 4-2 margin Wednesday night to erase the 2-0 series lead the Stars had seized. The loss means Texas will face a return trip to Chocolatetown, where it will encounter another rowdy Hershey crowd.
Prior to the Stars taking two wins on Hershey ice, the Bears had just one loss at home since last November.
How the clubs will fare in their return to Hershey is just one subplot in this series.
With the possible exception of the Manitoba Moose, the Bears rank as the AHL’s premier franchise.
Exhibit A: After dropping the first two games of the final to the Stars on home ice, the Bears boarded a Texas-bound charter flight to arrive early for Game 3. Outside of Hershey, AHL clubs chartering flights is not something that is done on a normal basis.
Meanwhile, Texas, no slouch of a franchise itself, saw its charges board a bus for Philadelphia, where the Stars players and personnel flew a commercial flight home.
Texas needs to tap every potential advantage to put away a Hershey club that burst back to life in Games 3 and 4. Texas goaltender Matt Climie figures the Stars’ many early mornings and late nights on the road this season are an asset come this point of the year.
“It hasn’t been easy for us,” Climie said after Game 2. “We travel and we have two or three different flights, we have the bus trips. We don’t have it easy…we have had to battle, get up at four in the morning and gone and caught (an early flight).
“But it really brings us together. We joke around about the (lousy) food and the (lousy) travel, but at the same time it really helps us battle that adversity and come together as a team.”
Coach Glen Gulutzan’s Stars had the Bears down 3-1 in the second period of Game 3 and talk of a most-improbable sweep of the powerhouse Bears seemed reasonable, given the pace of the series at that point.
The Stars’ ultra-experienced defense and unrelenting defensive commitment from their forwards had utterly frustrated the Bears at every point through the opening seven-and-a-half periods of the series.
Then Hershey’s Kyle Wilson and Mathieu Perreault spaced goals 1:28 apart in the middle frame to erase the Texas lead and send the Bears on their way. Hershey spun off three third-period goals, took Game 3 by a 6-3 count and then won Game 4.
After Friday’s Game 5 on Texas ice, the series will shift back to Hershey for Game 6 Monday, June 14. If necessary, Game 7 would go Wednesday night in Hershey.
THIS & THAT
• The Manitoba Moose are in the market for a coach after the Columbus Blue Jackets anointed Scott Arniel as their new bench boss. Arniel registered a 181-106-33 mark over four seasons running the Moose bench…
• The Hamilton Bulldogs will also need a new coach, as Guy Boucher was hired by the Tampa Bay Lightning for his first NHL head-coaching appointment…
• As expected, the New Jersey Devils announced their AHL affiliate will move form Lowell to Albany, N.Y., for next season…
• To celebrate the AHL’s 75th anniversary next season, six cities with long-standing ties to the league will start the year with home-and-home matchups. Hershey-Rochester, Lake Erie-Syracuse and Providence-Springfield will highlight the AHL’s early-season slate.
From THN.com American League correspondent Patrick Williams, Around The AHL keeps tabs on the world’s second best circuit, details all the news and notes and profiling prospects destined for the next level. It appears every weekend only on TheHockeyNews.com.