Bears Beat Firebirds, 1-0 In Overtime, Lead Series 3-2; Garrett Pilon Scores Game-Winner

Photo: Twitter/The AHL

The Hershey Bears downed the Coachella Valley Firebirds, 1-0 (OT) in game 5 of the Calder Cup Finals Saturday night at Giant Center in Hershey. With the win, the Bears take a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series.

Game 5 had a much different feel than the first four games of the series, as the game was scoreless at the end of regulation. The Bears had several golden scoring opportunities in all three periods, but just couldn’t find the back of the net. Garrett Pilon would finally score the game-winner in the extra frame.


Hunter Shepard (12-5, 2.29 GAA, .912 sv%) got the start between the pipes for the Bears. Joey Daccord (14-9, 2.29 GAA, .925 sv%) got the start in goal for the visiting Firebirds. The forward lines and defensive pairs for the Bears:

Mike Vecchione – Henrik Borgstrom – Ethen Frank
Joe Snively – Connor McMichael – Garrett Pilon
Aliaksei Protas – Hendrix Lapierre – Sam Anas
Beck Malenstyn – Riley Sutter – Mason Morelli

Aaron Ness – Logan Day
Gabriel Carlsson – Dylan McIlrath
Lucas Johansen – Vincent Iorio

Hunter Shepard
Zach Fucale

Scratches: Mike Sgarbossa (injury), Bobby Nardella, Jake Massie, Shane Gersich, Henrik Rybinski, Matt Strome, Julian Napravnik, Bogdan Trineyev, Ludwig Persson, Dru Krebs, Alexander Suzdalev.


The Bears were awarded the game’s first power play just six minutes into the contest but were unable to capitalize. Four minutes later, the Firebirds went to their first man advantage, but the Bears’ penalty kill was also up to the task.

There would be no scoring in the opening frame. The Bears had a majority of the scoring chances, including a couple of grade “a”s, but no paydirt.

Bears led in shots, 8-6. Both sides were 0 for 1 on the power play in the first 20 minutes.


The Firebirds stepped up the offensive zone pressure to start the second period, leading in shots, 6-1 in the first seven minutes.

The Bears finally stepped-up their offensive zone pressure and went to their second power play of the game with eight minutes gone in the middle frame, but were unable to strike.

The Firebirds returned to the man advantage with just under eight minutes remaining in the period, but were unable to do any damage. The penalty parade continued when Coachella Valley was called for too many men, but the Bears came up empty on their third man advantage of the game.

The second period would ultimately go without a score. Hershey led in shots 13-7 for the second period and 21-13 after two periods. Coachella Valley was 0 for 2 and Hershey 0 for 3 on the power play after 40 minutes of play.


The Bears and Firebirds completed the trifecta by skating to a scoreless draw in the final period of regulation. Coachella Valley led in shots, 7-3. The Bears led 24-20 after three periods of play.

Both teams were 0 for 3 on the power play after 60 minutes.


The Bears went to their fourth power play of the game less than two minutes into the extra frame, but were once again stymied by the Firebirds penalty kill.

The Bears returned to the power play with 12:06 remaining in overtime, but once again came up empty.

However, immediately following the expiration of the Bears fifth power play, Garrett Pilon scored the game-winner at 10:01 of the extra frame.

Coachella Valley protested that the Bears had too many men on the ice for the Pilon goal, but officials determined there was no penalty on the play.

Game 6 is set for Monday night in Palm Desert, California. Puck drop is scheduled for 10PM ET.


  • AHL box score
  • Attendance: 10,869
  • Bears led in shots 31-21.
  • Bears led in shots 7-1 in overtime.
  • Connor McMichael led all Bears in shots with 5.
  • Hunter Shepard recorded his third shutout of the postseason.
  • Stars of the game: 1) Garrett Pilon, 2) Hunter Shepard, 3) Joey Daccord.
  • The home team has won all five games of the series so far.
  • This was game 94 for the Bears this season.

Game 5 recap video courtesy of “The Hockey Guy”:

About Jon Sorensen

Jon has been a Caps fan since day one, attending his first game at the Capital Centre in 1974. His interest in the Caps has grown over the decades and included time as a season ticket holder. He has been a journalist covering the team for 10+ years, primarily focusing on analysis, analytics and prospect development.
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18 Responses to Bears Beat Firebirds, 1-0 In Overtime, Lead Series 3-2; Garrett Pilon Scores Game-Winner

  1. Anonymous says:

    Go Bears!

  2. Anonymous says:

    Westward ho!

  3. GRin430 says:

    I’m getting too old for this “shot”…

  4. Anonymous says:

    God bless #Peels !

  5. Anonymous says:

    Sutter and Peels with the OT game winners. Cant think of two players who deserve to be the heroes more than those two. Well done, gents!

    • Jon Sorensen says:


    • GRin430 says:

      This is a team of hard-working, well-coached, responsible players. No flash, but they play with heart. I’d take that over what a number of current Caps “top-six” players offer most nights. Every NHL winner needs superstars, but they also need lunch-pail guys. Hershey has a lot of those, and the Caps need to give them a chance to play at the major league level. Not as a fill-in for a “cup of coffee”, but as a regular contributor.

  6. Anonymous says:

    “It ain’t over til the phat lady sings”

  7. GRin430 says:

    Now comes the real test. Can this team beat CV in CV?

    I dunno, but no matter what, the Caps have gotten about as much from this run as they could. These kids are now playoff tested — yeah, it’s the AHL but the stress levels are still playoff final stress levels. And this group, without any top 10 picks, no likely NHL superstars, has proven that great team play and hard work can win at the highest level of AHL play. To me, that says that a lot of these guys can play a regular role in the NHL, even some who have been written off as AHL lifers (e.g., Pilon, Johansen). I just hope they truly get the chance.

  8. Brant says:

    Very exciting times for Bears. You can easily argue our team gets even stronger next season.

    I don’t want to be that guy, but McMichael did not look great tonight. Wonder what Carbs is thinking….

    • Jon Sorensen says:

      Hey, I’m a McMichael proponent but have to agree with your assessment of McMichael’s game 5. Not his best. But they all have those gsmes.

      Also agree, next year could be even stronger. Not many spots for players to move up (1-2) to Washington. Add Miroshnichenko, Hofer, Hardy Harman Aktell, Suzdalev (?), etc. there aren’t many spots open in Hershey either.

      • Rich427 says:

        Jon, I agree that the Caps and Bears don’t have many openings for next seasons rosters. But the Caps have to make room for a few of the Bears if they are going to get younger and quicker. Don’t be surprised if a player in waiting at Hershey winds up as part of a deal with either Mantha and/or Kuzy to help make some cap room. I don’t like thinking about who that might be. But that may provide a little more space on the Caps roster and potentially 3 or 4 openings on the Bears roster. We can’t have Hershey’s roster remain static like the Caps, or it could kill both teams.

        Since I live in SW Florida, I don’t get to see the Bears much, if at all. So was looking forward to watching game 5 last night on the NHL Channel. But even though it was announced that since the Stanley Cup finals was over, the NHL Channel was going to broadcast the remaining Calder Cup games, that didn’t happen last night down here. The NHL channel showed the Knights victory parade instead of game 5 of the Calder Cup. Ugh! So much for getting a look at the Bears.

    • GRin430 says:

      Actually, I agree with Nelson’s post-game comments — neither team looked particularly good tonight and I would argue that none of the forwards on either team played great. It’s the end of a long season, and AHL players are not really used to playing every other night for a month (they mostly play weekends). The ice also appeared to suck, but that’s not unusual in June games. This is why heavy teams have, historically, done well in the playoffs, and the Bears are a great example of that.

      That said, McMichael appears to be, at best, a middle-6 NHL player. He has no dominant skill at the NHL level. He’s not particularly fast, he doesn’t have exceptional hands, his shot is decent but not great, he hasn’t shown great creativity or vision on the ice. He’s got pretty good hockey sense, but the rest of his skill-set is NHL-average. That’s not a bad thing — NHL teams need a variety of skill-sets/levels — there’s a salary cap after all, so no team can afford 12 superstar forwards. But it means that his future is as a responsible two-way player, not as a top scorer, and he will have to keep working his butt off all over the ice to stay in the NHL.

      I’m pretty sure that’s the message that the Caps have been sending to him all year, which is why he went down. It was up to him to prove that he can be that type of player, and for the most part he has. But it can be a tough mental transition for young players who have been stars coming up through juniors, then find that they aren’t going to be stars as pros. He appears to have handled that transition pretty well, and could be a significant contributor in the future. But he’s not “the one” to revitalize the franchise as the core ages out.

      The Caps need to add top-end talent. Here’s hoping that starts happening about 10-11 days from now.

  9. Prevent Defense says:

    A great win for Hershey Bears. GRin430 says it best, the “hard-working, well-coached, responsible” team in Hershey. Much concurrence among commenters that the Caps of the previous several seasons have demonstrated acute lack of motivation, and could scarcely be accused of being “well coached.” And we’re all appalled at the system of “Cup of Coffee” at the Parent Team level when a Bears player gets promoted, all too temporarily.

    Amen again to GRin430’s comment, “the Caps need to give them a chance to play at the major league level …. but as a regular contributor.” As a Caps fan (Orioles too), I’ve always been willing to “live or die” with my pipeline, propects and coaching. The O’s promote their talented prospects and leave them long enough to figure out the MLB game. The Caps fail to do so, and it shows! Let’s see if the Carbery – GM Mac leader team can do better

    • andrew777dc says:

      Given that they’re such a playoff team, how about, if the Caps make it there… 🤔 Nah, forget it, doesn’t work like that)))

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