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Manchester Monarchs face tough challenge against Hershey

Monarchs The Hershey Bears may sound like something you'd find wrapped in foil at the grocery store, but the Kings' American Hockey League affiliate isn't expecting a treat when it plays the Bears in Game 1 of the Calder Cup Eastern Conference finals on Wednesday.

The Manchester Monarchs are the underdog heading into their second-ever conference final appearance against a Hershey team that has gone 8-1 in the postseason since posting a league-best 60 wins in the regular season (their parent club, the Washington Capitals, had the NHL's best record this past season).

In addition, Hershey's Alexandre Giroux, Chris Bourque and Andrew Gordon are 1-2-3 in playoff scoring. Not exactly Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin and Mike Green, but they're still a formidable trio in AHL terms.

So can goalie Jonathan Bernier and the Monarchs mimic their Canadien brethren from just across the border by pulling off an upset of Halak-ian proportions? It's hard to say, but the goaltending and the scoring have definitely been among the Monarchs' strengths this postseason.

Bernier continues to earn his one-way ticket to L.A. in September, recording a 1.48 goals-against-average and an 8-2 record in the postseason.

Bud Holloway has been equally impressive. The 22-year-old forward enters the series on a 10-game scoring streak, and each of his six goals have been game-clinching tallies, tying him for the AHL record for most winning goals in a single postseason. The previous record was set over 21 games; Holloway's feat took 10.

In addition, the Monarchs were one of only four teams to beat the Bears on the road this season. They also lost to Hershey, 4-1, at home.

It'll be interesting to see how the Kings' top prospects perform against an older and more experienced Hershey team. Sure, a lot Kings fans recently have been regretting that Michael Cammalleri trade, but maybe the Kings' faithful will see another budding playoff hero in the days ahead.

You can listen to Game 1 of the series via an online radio broadcast here.

-- Austin Knoblauch

 
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