A week ago, it looked nearly a sure thing the Coachella Valley Firebirds and Hershey Bears would skate a rematch of the 2023 American Hockey League’s Calder Cup Final. By puck drop Wednesday in Game 7 of the AHL Eastern Conference final, that rematch was way less probable.

A playoff series between division winners that Hershey once led three games to none had been nubbed down to a winner-take-all matchup after three straight wins from the visiting Cleveland Monsters. Cleveland jumped to a first-period lead with just under a minute remaining in the period (the Monsters scored game-tying goals very late in three different third periods in previous games). Of course, Hershey tied it 39 second later.

Hershey jumped to 2-1 in the middle period and the home crowd was in high-decibel protect-the-lead mode for the 19 minutes of game-clock time before Cleveland knotted the game at 2-2 on a goal from wing James Malatesta, his first of the playoffs.

Overtime ensued and Cleveland finished with 10 more shots on goal (38) in regulation than defending champion Hershey. The visitors kept pushing, making Hershey goaltender Hunter Shepard stop another six shots before teammate Garrett Roe made the biggest save of the night – preventing a flurry of “greatest AHL comebacks of all time” stories, broadcasts and social posts.

Roe, 36, scored the game-winner 7:38 into extra time. The well-traveled hockey lifer competed in pro leagues across Austria, Germany, Sweden and Switzerland and last played for an AHL team in 2013 (Adirondack, for two seasons). The season-saving goal was his sixth of the postseason in 11 games after seven goals in 48 regular-season contests.

The Hershey win sets up a Calder Cup Final and the expected rematch between the top two seeds in the 2024 postseason. Game 1 is Friday in Hershey with the season following a 2-3-2 format with the final four games as necessary in the best-of-seven championship series.

Check back on the Kraken app and website for Friday’s series preview, plus game previews and game stories throughout the Calder Cup Final. Here’s a look at the schedule (all games are on

2024 Calder Cup Final (all times Pacific)

Game 1: Friday, June 14: Firebirds at Hershey, 4 p.m.

Game 2: Sunday, June 16: Firebirds at Hershey, 2 p.m.

Game 3: Tuesday, June 18: Hershey at Firebirds, 7 p.m.

Game 4: Thursday, June 20: Hershey at Firebirds, 7 p.m.

* Game 5: Saturday, June 22, Hershey at Firebirds, 6 p.m.

* Game 6: Monday, June 24: Firebirds at Hershey, 4 p.m.

* Game 7: Wednesday, June 26: Firebirds at Hershey, 4 p.m.

(* if necessary)

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