ST. JOHN’S, N.L. - The kings of sudden death are now the kings of the American Hockey League.
Patrik Nemeth scored 14:30 into overtime as the Texas Stars captured their first Calder Cup championship with a 4-3 win over the St. John's IceCaps in Game 5 of the Finals at Mile One Centre on Tuesday night.
Nemeth, a second-round draft pick by the Dallas Stars in 2010 who played five playoff games with the parent club also earlier this spring, netted the Cup-clincher off an outstanding individual effort. With the teams skating four-on-four, Nemeth scooped up the puck at his own blue line, raced up the right side, went inside-out on a St. John's defender and backhanded a shot over the glove of Michael Hutchinson for his first goal of the entire postseason.
Texas finished the playoffs with a 6-0 record in overtime, with all six wins coming on the road.
The back-and-forth Game 5 saw the Stars jump out to a 2-0 lead before the IceCaps, facing elimination for the first time in these playoffs, scored three straight goals to take a lead late into the third period before Texas tied it back up.
Mike Hedden opened the game's scoring with 1:08 left in the first period, giving Texas a 1-0 lead. Brett Ritchie took a long outlet pass from Cameron Gaunce and pushed it ahead to Hedden, who lifted a shot high past Michael Hutchinson for his second goal of the Finals and eighth of the playoffs.
Ritchie made it 2-0 in favor of the Stars when he skated into the offensive zone and let go of a long wrister that fooled Hutchinson at 4:59 of the second period. It was Ritchie's third goal of the series and seventh of the postseason.
St. John's broke through with 8:54 to play in the second as Jordan Hill's shot from the left point snuck through traffic and beat Nilstorp to cut the deficit to 2-1. It was Hill's second goal of the Finals after going without a goal in the regular season and the first three rounds of the playoffs.
The IceCaps then pulled even just seconds after a power play expired as Zach Redmond found Josh Lunden with a back-door pass and Lunden buried his second goal of the playoffs with 3:02 left in the middle frame.
St. John's took its first lead of the night at 6:33 of the third period when Blair Riley pounced on a Stars turnover and buried it for his second goal of the series and third of the playoffs.
Texas tied the score back up at 3-3 with 6:34 left in regulation when Justin Dowling's centering pass hit the stick of an IceCaps defender, ricocheted off Hedden and floated in over Hutchinson for Hedden's second goal of the night.
Both teams had prime chances to win in overtime before Nemeth ended it and brought the Calder Cup to Texas.
Nilstorp made 33 saves on the night, finishing the postseason at 13-5. Hutchinson stopped 41 shots, including 11 in the OT period, but fell to 12-9.
The Stars, Dallas’s top development team, won the Cup after also finishing first overall during the regular season. Under second-year head coach Willie Desjardins, Texas went 48-18-3-7 (106 points) in the regular season and eliminated the Oklahoma City Barons (3-0), the Grand Rapids Griffins (4-2) and the Toronto Marlies (4-3) before defeating St. John’s in the Finals. The Stars’ 2014 playoff roster featured nine players who played in the NHL with Dallas this season.
Travis Morin, who was the AHL’s most valuable player and scoring champion during the 2013-14 regular season, captured the Jack A. Butterfield Trophy as the MVP in the Calder Cup Playoffs after totaling a league-best 22 points in 21 playoff games. Morin led all scorers with seven points in the Finals, including three game-winning goals.
Texas’s victory brings an end to the AHL’s 78th season. In operation since 1936, the AHL continues to serve as the top development league for all 30 National Hockey League teams. More than 88 percent of today’s NHL players are American Hockey League graduates, and this season marked the 13th consecutive year in which more than 6 million fans attended AHL games across North America.
2014 Calder Cup Finals – Series “O” (best-of-7)
W1-Texas Stars vs. E4-St. John’s IceCaps | Series Snapshot
Game 1 – Sun., June 8 – TEXAS 6, St. John's 3
Game 2 – Mon., June 9 – St. John's 2, TEXAS 1
Game 3 – Wed., June 11 – Texas 2, ST. JOHN'S 1 (OT)
Game 4 – Mon., June 16 – Texas 4, ST. JOHN'S 3 (OT)
Game 5 – Tue., June 17 – Texas 4, ST. JOHN'S 3 (OT)