It is official, as of Sunday afternoon there will be new winner of the Calder Cup in 2011. The two-time defending AHL champion Hershey Bears (who also defeated Milwaukee in the 2006 Calder Cup Finals) were eliminated by the Charlotte Checkers in the first round.
1:30 into overtime, Nicholas Blanchard scored the series clinching goal, giving the Checkers a 2-1 win in Game 6 and a 4-2 series victory. Former University of Wisconsin defenseman Brian Fahey scored for the Bears at 14:18 of the third period to tie the game and force overtime.
AHL clubs can breath a sigh of relief with Hershey eliminated, making the race for the cup wide open. However, the dilemma now falls on the Washington Capitals on whether they want to use Braden Holtby if their goaltending situation takes a turn for the worse during the NHL playoffs.
PS. Also congratulations to the Nashville Predators. With a 4-2 home win over the Anaheim Ducks, the Predators finally win their first ever playoff series.
PSS. I should also add that as of today, all of the other AHL playoff series, with the exception of Milwaukee/Texas and Lake Erie/Manitoba, are complete. The Division Finals in the East will see Portland/Binghamton and Wilkes-Barre Scranton/Charlotte. I will preview those series on Tuesday.