The Lake Erie Monsters are one win away from a Calder Cup championship after a 3-2 overtime victory over the Hershey Bears in Game 3 of the Finals on Monday night at Quicken Loans Arena.
Oliver Bjorkstrand scored his second goal of the night just 1:20 into OT to give the Monsters a 3-0 series lead and four chances to secure the franchise’s first Calder Cup and the city of Cleveland’s first AHL title since 1964.
The teams are now off until Saturday, when Lake Erie hosts Game 4 at the Q.
The rookie Bjorkstrand, a 2013 third-round draft pick by Columbus who played 12 NHL games with the Blue Jackets this season, knocked in the rebound of Zach Werenski‘s center-point shot for his fourth goal in the last two games and his ninth of the playoffs, tying teammate Lukas Sedlak for the AHL lead.
Ryan Stanton got Hershey on the board first at the 2:07 mark of the first period of Game 3, driving a shot from the right-wing circle that got through traffic and beat Anton Forsberg for his third goal of the playoffs. It was the second time in the series that the Bears had grabbed a 1-0 lead.
But Lake Erie tied it at 6:44 as Bjorkstrand took a feed from Sedlak on a Monsters rush and one-timed it past Justin Peters, making it 1-1.
With 1:47 left in the second period, Lake Erie took its first lead of the night when Daniel Zaar ripped home his fourth goal of the Finals and seventh of the playoffs, a power-play goal to make it 2-1.
But the Bears came right back with 59.1 seconds left before intermission, tying things back up on Dustin Gazley‘s wrister that eluded Forsberg’s glove. It was Gazley’s fourth goal of the postseason.
A scoreless third period set up Bjorkstrand’s heroics as he potted his fifth game-winning goal of the postseason and second OT winner.
Forsberg improved to 8-0 in the playoffs with a 17-save effort, while Peters (11-8) stopped 25 shots in dropping his fourth decision in his last five starts.
The Monsters improved to 14-2, including a 4-0 record in the 2016 Calder Cup Playoffs. They also have held 3-0 leads in each of the four playoff rounds.