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Texas set to take on Bulldogs tomorrow in Hamilton

by Staff Writer / Dallas Stars

The puck will drop at Copps Coliseum on Friday night with the Hamilton Bulldogs meeting the Texas Stars for the American Hockey League’s Western Conference championship.

The first-year Stars earned a trip to the AHL’s final four with a dramatic 6-5 overtime victory in Chicago on Tuesday night, rallying from 2-0, 4-2 and 5-4 down to advance on rookie Jamie Benn’s goal 4:57 into the extra session. The 20-year-old Benn, who notched 22 goals and 19 assists while skating for Dallas in the NHL during the regular season, is tied for second in the entire AHL in playoff scoring with 8-7-15 in 11 contests and tied with teammate Maxime Fortunus for the league lead with a plus-10 rating.

Brent Krahn (7-3, 2.32, .928) started every playoff game for Texas before an injury in Game 6 vs. Chicago returned Matt Climie to the crease. Climie, who helped Houston to the Western Conference Finals last spring, had a 2.46 GAA and a .919 save percentage in 42 regular-season appearances for the Stars and got the win in Game 7 on Tuesday.

The Bulldogs are in the conference finals for the fourth time in nine years, tied with Hershey and Chicago for the most appearances since the league’s 2001 expansion, after the North Division champions finished off Abbotsford with a 4-0 win in Game 6 on Monday night. Curtis Sanford (2-0, 1.00, .968), who along with Cedrick Desjardins (6-4, 2.62, .902) formed the top goaltending tandem in the AHL during the regular season, earned his first career playoff shutout in the series clincher.

Mike Glumac leads the Bulldogs with eight postseason goals, Andre Benoit is first with eight assists and David Desharnais is atop the scoring page with 13 points as Hamilton has gotten offensive contributions from 19 different players during their playoff run so far.

The Western Conference Finals series is a battle of rookie AHL head coaches, Guy Boucher leads his Hamilton Bulldogs against Glen Gulutzan’s Texas Stars. The Bulldogs owned the AHL’s top-ranked defense in the league during the regular season, while the Stars were tied for second. Hamilton is vying for its fourth trip to the Calder Cup Finals (1997, 2003, 2007). Texas is the first AHL team to reach the conference finals in their inaugural season since the Binghamton Senators in 2003. The Stars’ roster features three former Calder Cup champions in Landon Wilson (1999), Andrew Hutchinson (2004) and Dan Jancevski (2007). Defenseman Andre Benoit is the only current Bulldog who was on that 2007 squad that won the Calder Cup. Hamilton enters the series with a 6-0 postseason record when Mike Glumac (8-2-10) scores a goal, and Texas is 6-0 when Jamie Benn (8-7-15) records a point. The Bulldogs are second in the AHL in playoff penalty killing at home (92.9 percent) but last on the road (63.0 percent). Since a 5-0 home loss to Texas on Feb. 16, Hamilton is 26-7-0-3 overall and 16-3-0-1 at Copps Coliseum.

Western Conference Finals Schedule (best of seven)
Game 1 – Fri., May 14 – Texas at Hamilton, 6:30 pm CT
Game 2 – Sun., May 16 – Texas at Hamilton, 1:00 pm CT
Game 3 – Wed., May 19 – Hamilton at Texas, 7:30 pm CT
Game 4 – Fri., May 21 – Hamilton at Texas, 7:30 pm CT
*Game 5 – Sat., May 22 – Hamilton at Texas, 7:00 pm CT
*Game 6 – Mon., May 24 – Texas at Hamilton, 6:30 pm CT
*Game 7 – Wed., May 26 – Texas at Hamilton, 6:30 pm CT
*if necessary

After 12 days of hibernation, the Hershey Bears returned to the ice and scored their first goal of the night 16 seconds into the game. The Bears went on to win Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals 4-2 over Manchester. Michal Neuvirth, the reigning Calder Cup Playoffs MVP, earned the victory with 24 saves on 26 shots, improving to a perfect 7-0 this postseason. After defenseman Sean Collins made it 1-0, Andrew Gordon added his 10th playoff goal midway through the opening period, collecting the rebound of an Alexandre Giroux one timer in the slot for the power-play goal at 10:02. Steve Pinizzotto scored the lone goal of the second period for his third goal of the playoffs, sending an unassisted marker top shelf on Manchester netminder Jonathan Bernier at 7:25. Andrei Loktionov ended Michal Neuvirth's shutout bid at the 12:32 mark of the third period, potting a wrister from the right circle, assisted by Jacob Muzzin and Kyle Clifford. Karl Alzner answered for the Bears, burying a dish from Boyd Kane at 14:18. Gabe Gauthier rounded out scoring for the Monarchs, finishing a centering feed from Oscar Moller and Trevor Lewis at 16:10. Monarchs’ goaltender Jonathan Bernier also made 24 saves in net, suffering his third loss of the playoffs (8-3).

Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals is set for Saturday at 7:00 pm (ET) in Hershey.

•    Texas Stars Head Coach Glen Gulutzan is in the Conference Finals for the third straight year. Gulutzan guided the ECHL’s Las Vegas Wranglers to the National Conference Finals in 2008 and 2009. He is making his first appearance in the AHL’s Western Conference Finals.
•    Hamilton Head Coach Guy Boucher was named the winner of the Louis A.R. Pieri Memorial Award as the AHL’s outstanding coach for the 2009-10 season. 
•    Texas defenseman Dan Jancevski won the Calder Cup with the Hamilton Bulldogs in 2007.

Four rounds, with each round slated as a best of seven series. The top four teams in each division qualify for playoffs. The teams play within their division for the first two rounds. The division winners will meet in the conference finals. The winner of the Western Conference will play the winner of the Eastern Conference for the Calder Cup. In order to take the Calder Cup, a team must win 16 games.

The coveted Calder Cup has been a motivational force for American Hockey League teams throughout the League's 73-year history. It is one of our sport’s greatest challenges and ultimate honors to hoist the Calder Cup in victory.

The trophy is named for Frank Calder, who served as the National Hockey League’s first President from 1917 to 1943. During the 1920’s, Mr. Calder was instrumental in guiding hockey into the mainstream of America’s major cities including Boston, New York, Detroit and Chicago, while helping in the formation of the American League.

The Calder Cup trophy itself was actually first awarded in 1938 to the Providence Reds for winning the second International-American Hockey League championship. (In 1996, George Parsons of the Syracuse Stars was presented the Calder Cup in a ceremony at the Onondaga County War Memorial, as it is believed the Stars never received a trophy for their 1937 championship.

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