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Depth tested by strong Bears |

Patrick Features Writer

With as much attention as their elite talent is getting, the Hershey Bears have two must-haves going into June: they possess exceptional depth, and they love each other.

In the first two games of last year's Calder Cup Finals against Coachella Valley, the Firebirds dominated the Bears in almost every aspect and outscored them a combined 9-0. Then the Bears returned to Hershey, took back-to-back one-goal victories — two of them in overtime — and took that streak back to Acrisure Arena with a chance to win the Calder Cup.

But the Firebirds won Game 6 and made the Bears fall down 2-0 in the second half of Game 7. However, the Bears just kept grinding. They managed to tie the game at the end of the second half, withstood a fiery third, and won the 12th Calder Cup title. Mike VecchioneOvertime goal.

After a double overtime win to start the current Eastern Conference Finals series with Cleveland, Hershey is 6-0 in OT over the past two postseasons. In 2023-24, they went 8-0 in 3-on-3 overtime games. Time and time again because they have shown that they can handle the pressure.

Their impressive depth helps alleviate some of that pressure as they are one win away from returning to the Calder Cup final. The protectors Lucas Johansen, Aaron Ness, Hardy Häman Aktell, Day Logan again Vincent Iorio all who missed out on making the postseason; only Chase Priskie and the captain Dylan McIlrath they played all 11 playoff games on Hershey's blue line. Forward, Riley Sutter he missed the first two rounds of the playoffs, too Pierrick Dube again Henrik Rybinski it was a bruising Game 4 in Cleveland on Thursday night.

Bear vice president of hockey operations Bryan Helmer and the Washington Capitals sit down each summer and devote as much attention to building the bottom half of Hershey's roster as they do to making quality additions through free agency.

It pays to come in the spring.

Forward Matt Strome he has become a favorite of the head coach Todd Nelson. He was at times one of Hershey's best players in series wins over Lehigh Valley and Hartford before Sutter's return knocked him out of the lineup. Nelson restored Strome's confidence in Dube's absence.

Matthew Phillips, who scored 36 goals last season for the Calgary Wranglers, has spent most of this season in the NHL but has broken Nelson's streak of five games during the playoffs. That's the kind of depth Hershey boasts.

Or take it Garrett Roe. Drafted by Los Angeles in 2008, Roe played two seasons with the Adirondack Phantoms before heading overseas and spending 10 years in Austria, Germany, Sweden and Switzerland. The 36-year-old from the DC suburb of Vienna, Va., native signed with the Bears and was able to fill a number of different roles on the roster over the course of the season. He made his Calder Cup Playoff debut in Game 4 of the semifinals against Lehigh Valley and has been a staple since, contributing five goals and four assists in eight games.

There's something about this Hershey dressing room that just clicks. First, managers emphasize character and merit when creating a list. Nelson makes a point each fall to reinforce the need for team unity, a feeling that goes beyond the players and their families and loved ones. Last June, on the day off between Games 6 and 7 of the Finals in California, the Bears held a barbecue. The team flew in players' families and significant others that week, and instead of a stressful night between games and a Calder Cup championship on the line, the Bears just relaxed.

That concept has even continued to evolve since last season.

“It's not a lot of egos, and the guys love each other,” Roe said. “If you're really rooting for each other to do well and succeed, that just comes out of the show.”

Like Roe, Dube also came to Hershey this season looking for his first Calder Cup.

“It's amazing,” said Dube. “We are all brothers. We all care about each other. Being a part of these type of guys helps not only as a hockey player but as a person.” features writer Patrick Williams has covered the American Hockey League for nearly two decades at outlets including, Sportsnet, TSN, Hockey News, SiriusXM NHL Network Radio and SLAM ! Sports, and most recently was the host of The Hockey News On The 'A' podcast. He was the recipient of the AHL's James H. Ellery Memorial Award for the league's top scorer in 2016.

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