Hershey Bears

The Calder Cup Finals will feature a repeat of last season’s seven-game battle between Hershey (Washington Capitals) and Coachella Valley (Seattle Kraken).

Hershey hosts Game 1 of the best-of-7 series Friday (7 p.m. ET; NHLN).

Last season, Hershey rallied to win Game 7 in overtime against Coachella Valley on the road to claim its league-high 12th American Hockey League championship. Trailing 2-0 late in the second period of Game 7, Hershey tied the game on goals by forwards Connor McMichael and Hendrix Lapierre, and forward Mike Vecchione scored at 16:19 of overtime.

Hershey survived another scare this year to defeat Cleveland (Columbus Blue Jackets) 3-2 in overtime in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals at home Wednesday. Hershey had won the first three games of the series before Cleveland won the next three to force Game 7.

Coachella Valley eliminated Milwaukee (Nashville Predators) in five games in the Western Conference Finals. Before facing Cleveland, Hershey eliminated Lehigh Valley (Philadelphia Flyers) and Hartford (New York Rangers). Coachella Valley got past Calgary (Calgary Flames) and Ontario (Los Angeles Kings) before advancing to meet Milwaukee.

Hershey, the AHL regular-season champion, had a 53-14-0-5 regular-season record and finished with the second-best points percentage (.771) in AHL history. Coachella Valley (46-16-6-5) won the Pacific Division and finished second in the AHL standings for the second consecutive season.

Last season's Coachella Valley-Hershey Calder Cup Finals series featured several players who have gone on to become NHL regulars. After leading Coachella Valley to Game 7, goalie Joey Daccord earned a full-time role with Seattle, going 19-18-11 with a 2.46 GAA and .916 save percentage in 50 games. Forward Tye Kartye, last season's AHL rookie of the year, had 20 points (11 goals, nine assists) in 77 games for the Kraken. Defenseman Ryker Evans joined Kartye on the AHL All-Rookie Team last season and divided his second pro season between Seattle and Coachella Valley. In 36 NHL games he had nine points (one goal, eight assists), and he had 15 points (two goals, 13 assists) in 25 AHL games. He has seven points (three goals, four assists) through 12 AHL postseason games.

This will be Coachella Valley coach Dan Bylsma's final games with the team. He was hired as Kraken coach May 28.

McMichael, who was selected by Washington in the first round (No. 25) of the 2019 NHL Draft, has since graduated to the Capitals and had 33 points (18 goals, 15 assists) in 80 games. Lapierre was chosen by the Capitals in the first round (No. 22) of the 2020 NHL Draft and had 22 points (eight goals, 14 assists) in 51 games this season. He returned to Hershey for the Calder Cup Playoffs and has 15 points (four goals, 11 assists) in 14 games.

More talent from both teams could be in the NHL next season.

Coachella Valley forward Shane Wright, selected by Seattle in the first round (No. 4) of the 2022 NHL Draft, last played May 17 because of an undisclosed injury. The 20-year-old had 47 points (22 goals, 25 assists) in 59 games with Coachella Valley in his first full pro season, and five points (four goals, one assist) in eight games with the Kraken.

Rookie forwards Logan Morrison and Ryan Winterton also had brief stints with Seattle along with strong AHL seasons. Morrison, 21, signed as an undrafted free agent April 11, 2023. He had 41 points (16 goals, 25 assists) in 64 games for Coachella Valley and did not have a point in four games with Seattle. Winterton, 20 was chosen by Seattle in the third round (No. 67) of the 2021 NHL Draft and had 35 points (22 goals, 13 assists) in 58 AHL games. He did not have a point in nine games for the Kraken.

Hershey forward Ivan Miroshnichenko could push for a job with Washington next season. Selected by the Capitals in the first round (No. 20) of the 2022 draft, the 20-year-old had six points (two goals, four assists) in 21 games for the Capitals. He has 10 points (six goals, four assists) in 14 playoff games with Hershey.