Hershey Bears Rally To Beat Coachella Valley Firebirds, 3-2 In Overtime Of Game 7 Of Calder Cup Finals – Win 12th Calder Cup

Photo: Twitter/TheAHL

The Hershey Bears rallied from two goals down to beat the Coachella Valley Firebirds 3-2 (OT) in game 7 of the Calder Cup Finals Wednesday night at Acrisure Arena in Palm Desert, California. The victory earns the Bears their 12th Calder Cup in franchise history.

The Firebirds struck first less than five minutes into the contest with a goal from Ryker Evans, his fifth of the postseason and held the 1-0 lead after 20 minutes of play. The Bears struggled with zone exits and zone entries in the early going, but settled down as the period progressed.

The Firebirds made it 2-0, just 24 seconds into the middle frame with a goal from Max McCormick, his 14th goal of the postseason. But the Bears would storm right back.

Connor McMichael added a power play goal, his second goal in as many games, and Hendrix Lapierre scored on a redirect to tie the game 2-2 going into the second intermission.

Following a scoreless defensive struggle in the final frame, Mike Vecchione scored the overtime series winner for the Bears 12th Calder Cup.


Hunter Shepard (13-6, 2.32 GAA, .910 sv%) got the start between the pipes for the visiting Bears. Joey Daccord (15-10, 2.21 GAA, .926 sv%) got the start in goal for the 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 Firebirds opened the scoring less than five minutes into the contest with a tally from Ryker Evans (5) at 4:41. Andrew Poturalski (9) and Jesper Froden (5) had the helpers.

And that was it for the first 20 minutes of play. Coachella Valley led in shots 17-12 after 20. The Bears seemed a bit tight in the early  going, struggling with defensive zone exits and offensive zone entries, but improved as the period progressed.


The Firebirds stretched their lead to 2-0 just 24 seconds into the middle frame with a goal from Max McCormick (14). Kole Lind (22) and Ryker Evans (21) had the helpers.

The Firebirds had a clean shorthanded breakaway by Carson Twarynski with 13:27 remaining in the middle frame, but Hunter Shepard came up huge with the stop. The play would signal the turning point of the game.

The Bears cut the Firebirds lead to 2-1 with a power play goal from Connor McMichael at 13:52 of the second period. It was McMichael’s second goal in as many games. Mason Morelli (8) and Joe Snively (13) had the assists.

Moments later the Bears tied the game on a redirected shot by Hendrix Lapierre (3) at 17:09. Vincent Iorio (4) and Aliaksei Protas (8) had the helpers.

The second period concluded with the game remaining tied, 2-2. Coachella Valley led in shots 13-7 in the second period and 30-19 after 40 minutes of play. Hershey was 1 for 2 and Coachella Valley 0 for 1 on the power play after two periods.


The first half of the third period was dominated by the Bears, but the Bears were unable to dent the twine, as regulation concluded with the game remaining tied, 2-2. The Bears had two power plays but could not capitalize.

Hershey led in shots 9-4 in the third period, with the Firebirds leading 34-28 after three periods of play.


The Bears won it in the extra frame on a goal from Mike Vecchione. The Calder Cup winner came at 16:19 of the extra frame. Henrik Borgstrom and Ethen Frank recorded the assists.

The victory gives the Bears their 12th Calder Cup in franchise history. Bears Captain Dylan McIlrath was presented with the hardware.

Bears head coach Todd Nelson would eventually receive the Calder Cup from McIlrath after all Bears players and black aces had a chance to hoist and skate with the cup.

Bears goaltender Hunter Shepard was awarded the Jack A. Butterfield Trophy for series most valuable player.

The Bears have won their fourth Calder Cup since becoming the top development affiliate of the Capitals in 2005-06, with Hershey also winning in 2006, 2009 and 2010. The Capitals and Bears were previously affiliated for seven seasons from 1977 to 1984, including Hershey’s 1980 Calder Cup championship.

Nine Bears that were dressed for Game 7 also appeared in games with the Capitals this season, including Washington draft picks Connor McMichael (2019 NHL Draft, 1st rd, 25th overall), Aliaksei Protas (2019 Draft, 3rd rd, 91st overall), Vincent Iorio (2021 Draft, 2nd rd, 55th overall), Lucas Johansen (2016 Draft, 1st rd, 28th overall) and Beck Malenstyn (2016 Draft, 5th rd, 145th overall), as well as Herndon, Virginia native Joe Snively.

Championship merch is already available here:


  • AHL box score
  • Attendance: 10,087
  • Coachella Valley led in shots, 47-38.
  • Garrett Pilon led all Bears in shots with 9.
  • Hershey was 1 for 4 and Coachella Valley 0 for 2 on the power play.
  • Hunter Shepard stopped 45 of 47 shots faced for a .957 game save percentage.
  • Stars of the game: 1) Mike Vecchione, 2) Hendrix Lapierre and 3) Connor mcMichael


  • 4th Game 7 in Calder Cup Finals for the Bears.
  • 12th Game 7 in Calder Cup history.
  • 8th time the home team won each of the first six games of the Calder Cup Finals.
  • The Bears are 4-2 in Calder Cups as the Capitals AHL affiliate.
  • The Bears won three of their four victories in overtime.


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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43 Responses to Hershey Bears Rally To Beat Coachella Valley Firebirds, 3-2 In Overtime Of Game 7 Of Calder Cup Finals – Win 12th Calder Cup

  1. andrew777dc says:

    I can’t believe it! What a comeback! Time to party! 🐻🕺🏼

  2. DWGie26 says:

    Man That was awesome! Boys looked good tonight. Especially in third and OT. Thank god they won it after dominating possession. Saw what you will about Borgstrom but he was a beast on the OT goal keeping possession of the puck. And of course Shepdog shutting the door especially on short handed breakaway!

    • Anonymous says:

      Bears were clearly better team in second half of the game. I wonder what was said or done? Or did CV tighten up?

  3. GRin430 says:

    That was crazy… The first half of the game was completely different than the last half plus overtime. Team play, effort and grit overcame skill and talent, as it looked like the Bears just wore down CV.

    There’re a few lessons in this outcome for the Caps, who seem to have forgotten them since 2018… including that you don’t need pretty players to win in the playoffs, you need guys who will play as a unit and do whatever it takes to win. I think there are several guys on the Bears who should bring those lessons with them to DC next year…


  4. Brant says:

    YES BOYS!!

  5. Anonymous says:

    I hope they re-sign Pilon and give him a legitimate chance to make the Caps roster. To me, he was by far one of Hershey’s best players in the playoffs, the Finals especially.

  6. Jon Sorensen says:

    Hunter Shepard save down 2-0. HUGE !

  7. Anonymous says:

    Caps kids get it done. Big game hunter McMichael and Lappy were huge tonight!

  8. Anonymous says:

    Go Bears!

  9. Anonymous says:

    Way to go Bears!

    • Anonymous says:

      I’m definitely gonna grab some of this. Thanks for all of your excellent coverage all season long. You guys rock!

  10. hockeydruid says:

    Congrats on the outstanding win tonight. I look at the Hershey roster and think that there are probably 11 future Caps on the team. rather than making trades for players maybe just maybe it is time to look at Hershey players to fill the empty slots. ANd before that resign several of them as I have a feeling that if they get away the Caps are going to be sorry; even if it is just for 3-5 years.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Was there an MVP?

  12. Anonymous says:

    Loved Pilon talkin like a truck driver in postgame interview.😂 The Hockey Guy admitted he liked it as well. Peels earned it!

  13. Jeremy says:

    I work at 4 am. Got a few hours of sleep before third period and OT. I’m super tired, but totally worth it. GO BEARS!

  14. Prevent Defense says:

    A great day for Caps-Bears fans who’ve had NOTHING to cheer about for six years

    Unlikely too. Bears gave up those early goals, en route to another “Here we go again” blowout loss. Two of the Bears more dubious performers on the season scored Goals 1 and 2. WONDERFUL to see the Bears’ victory picture in an empty enemy stadium!

    This adds the final pressure to Caps’ brass and leadership to integrate Hershey Bears into the Caps lineup – not in some mushy future scenario, but right friggin’ NOW. We WILL see that younger, Bears-heavy Caps lineup in the upcoming season. Finally. We also see the final discrediting of the Veterans-Only HCPL system. If I didn’t hate the RAGS enough before, I sure do now. Hooray for the Bears and Let’s Go Caps!

  15. novafyre says:

    Lots of good opportunities for coaches and players to learn from. No home field advantage, loooong road trip (max time zones), only away win the last one, 7 games, three OT wins, down 2-0 in series, out scored 22-14, no Sgarbossa.

  16. Lance says:


  17. Anonymous says:

    “Over?!. Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbord?” It’s over! Way to go Bears.

  18. novafyre says:

    from Desert Sun: “The Hershey Bears won the Calder Cup championship on Wednesday night in an overtime and historic classic, defeating the Coachella Valley Firebirds 3-2. The only previous Calder Cup Finals Game 7 to go to overtime was in 1953, when Bob Chrystal scored the only goal to give the Cleveland Barons a 1-0 Cup-clinching victory over the Pittsburgh Hornets.”

  19. novafyre says:

    The Thrill of Victory

    The Agony of Defeat

  20. novafyre says:

    Bears website: “Join us at GIANT Center on Saturday, June 24, 2023 at 3 pm for a Calder Cup Championship Celebration! Admission is free and doors open at 2 pm”

  21. Anonymous says:

    Peels 😂 He followed national interview with Bears radio interview and they had to warn him “we are live” 😂

  22. Anonymous says:

    Thoughts on goal call?

  23. Anonymous says:

    Worst officiated game I’ve ever seen. Firebirds were outplayed in overtime but it never should have gone into overtime. The refs have been terrible all post season but last nights game was blatantly biased

    • Bob says:

      Firebirds were outplayed in the half the second and most of the third. They had plenty of opportunities to score. They didn’t. And considering how ridiculous game 2 officiating was against the Bears, last night was hardly a blip. They let them play. Not the Bears fault Coachella got wore down.

    • Joe says:

      I didn’t realize the refs blocked that Coachella breakaway shot in the second. That was the turning point. Plain and simple.

  24. Rich427 says:

    Congrats to the Hershey Bears!! Glad to see that they finally put CV on their heals in the 3rd period in their house. That and Shepherd’s save at 2-0, to me, were the keys to turning the game around. Great job! Now let’s give these kids a real chance to fill some spots on the Caps roster.

  25. Anonymous says:

    Shepard winning MVP will increase his value on the streets of free agency. In a weird way slightly decrease the chances of his return.

    • novafyre says:

      I don’t see him going to another AHL team. If he gets an NHL offer, yes. He has cemented his #1 spot in Hershey with this Calder Cup MVP even if Zach leaves and Clay comes up. I think it will take an NHL offer to move him.

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