A Tip Of The Hat To Mason Morelli, 2023 Calder Cup Champion

Back in the 2020-21 American Hockey League (AHL) season, Mason Morelli came to the Hershey Bears on an AHL contract with very little fanfare, registering five assists in 15 games played in his inaugural campaign as a Bear. Little did anyone know at the time that Morelli would become a key contributor on a Hershey Calder Cup championship team two short years later.

It is a testament to the work ethic of the Minot, North Dakota native. That work ethic earned Morelli his first NHL contract with the defending Stanley Cup champion Vegas Golden Knights on July 1. Morelli departs the organization for bigger opportunities, but his impact on the franchise and this season’s title run will not be forgotten.

When Morelli re-signed with the chocolate and white prior to the 2021-22 season, it was viewed as a depth signing. He was a healthy scratch on opening night and only played twice in the season’s opening month. However, the Nebraska-Omaha product got into the lineup in early November and stayed there for the remainder of the campaign, playing on all four lines and at all three forward positions. On a team that scuffled offensively after the new year, Morelli was one of the few players to exceed expectations. He posted 23 points after January 1 and finished the season with a career best 33 points.

After his strong finish, the Bears unsurprisingly brought Morelli back on another one-year, AHL contract and he proved to be Hershey’s most dependable player. He was the lone Bear to play in all 72 of the team’s regular season games and played in every situation for the chocolate and white.

He was parked in front of the net on the power play. He killed penalties and played up and down the lineup. Morelli spent most of the season on the third line, mentoring and protecting rookie pivot Hendrix Lapierre. The Nebraska-Omaha Maverick alum dished out a career high 29 assists and also set a career high with 41 points. He finished fourth on the team in scoring.

Morelli’s contributions helped the Bears finish second in the Atlantic Division with 97 points as Hershey headed to the Calder Cup playoffs with title aspirations.

With the postseason pressure on, Morelli shined. He potted the game-winning goal in game two of the Atlantic Division semifinals in Charlotte against the Checkers and then started the rally that saw the Bears eliminate Charlotte in game four with a second period tally.

In the next series against Hartford, Morelli had a power play goal and an assist in the first period of a 4-2 win in game two (Hershey swept the series 3-0). The Bears played a clunker of a game one at home against Rochester in the Eastern Conference finals, but rebounded with a 2-0 win in game two and Morelli assisted on both Hershey goals.

Later in the series, he was front and center as the Bears scored four times in the third period to stun Rochester in game five. Morelli assisted on Logan Day’s tying goal and then put home a rebound from a Day shot to give Hershey their first lead of the game. He sealed the game with an empty netter and was named the game’s number one star.

As any Bears fan knows, the Calder Cup finals versus the Coachella Valley Firebirds was an up and down series. Hershey eventually pulled the series out, but getting to Mike Vecchione’s dramatic overtime winner in game seven entailed a few clutch moments and Morelli was integral on three of the most important goals of the series.

The first came in game three. The chocolate and white were down two games to none and had surrendered a two-goal advantage late in the third period. The Bears needed an overtime hero to keep their championship dreams afloat. Riley Sutter was that hero, but Morelli’s shot produced the rebound that Sutter lifted over Joey Daccord to give the chocolate and white the needed 5-4 victory.

Then, Morelli dropped a feed back to Garrett Pilon in game five and headed to the front the net to take Daccord’s eyes away. Pilon snapped a shot through Morelli’s screen and in to provide Hershey with a three games to two series lead.

Finally, there is the first goal for the Bears in game seven. Vecchione’s goal is what will be remembered, but that goal never happens if the chocolate and white do not comeback from a 2-0 deficit. That rally started with a power play goal in the second period. Stationed in front of Daccord, Morelli slipped a pass over to Connor McMichael on the left goal and McMichael slid the puck into the net to get the Bears on the scoreboard.

The comeback was on and Lapierre tied the game a few minutes later. Then, as Bear Nation knows, Vecchoine etched his place in history and Hershey won their 12th Calder Cup.

Now, Morelli moves on to chase his NHL dream. He has earned that chance and nobody can hold that against him. Morelli’s days in Chocolate Town may be done, but his role in the run to the Calder Cup lives on.

By Eric Lord

About Eric Lord

Eric has been a Hershey Bears fan since attending his 1st game at age 8. He has been a season-ticket holder since the 2009-10 season and has been writing about Hershey Bears hockey since 2012. His favorite Bears memory is the team's 1996-97 run to the Calder Cup Championship where Hershey was 5-0 when facing elimination. Eric graduated from Fordham University in 2000 with a bachelors in communication and from Iona College in 2005 with a Masters in Journalism. He is also a photographer and serves as an assistant soccer coach for the Pottsville Area High School girls soccer team.
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4 Responses to A Tip Of The Hat To Mason Morelli, 2023 Calder Cup Champion

  1. Anonymous says:

    I am happy for him but so sad to see him leave. I bought his jersey this year because I really loved his style of play. I am going to miss him very much 😢

  2. Diane Doyle says:

    The current group of Bears had a very strong Italian flavor to them, to include Morelli, of course. Also, Sgarbossa, Vecchione, Iorio, Nardella.

    The 2008-09 and 2009-10 editions of the Bears had a very strong French flavor in Chris Bourque (born in Massachusetts with a French-Canadian father), Keith Aucoin (born in Massachusetts with French-Canadians in his family tree), Alexandre Giroux (French-Canadian), and Mathieu Perreault (French-Canadian). Often, I took to referring to the Bears of that era as Les Ours (translating Bears into French).

  3. novafyre says:

    Hope his dreams all come true.

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