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Lake Erie wins an epic goalie duel to take the Calder Cup

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In front of a record-setting crowd, nearly the largest ever for an AHL playoff game, the Lake Erie Monsters won the Calder Cup at home.

Oliver Bjorkstrand in one of his 12 NHL games this year
Oliver Bjorkstrand in one of his 12 NHL games this year
Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The thing about a goalie duel is: the winner is never a goalie. Someone scores eventually, and she becomes the hero whose name is remembered forever, who lifts a trophy and receives the cheers while the goalie who was never bested has to say humble things while he holds the team up on his shoulders a little longer—through the celebration.

Oliver Bjorkstrand is the hero.

The thing about a goalie duel is: there is a loser. Someone lets in a goal eventually, and she becomes the one who was not good enough, the goat who has to bear up under that and shake it off, move on to the next game.

It's hard when the next game is who knows where.

Justin Peters was the man who let one in.

What Peters was fighting for was only a delay of the inevitable. The writing was on the wall for his Hershey Bears.

The Lake Erie Monsters were up three games to none in the Calder Cup Final, and the last seconds of the first overtime period in a scoreless game were ticking down. Peters had made 32 saves, the man opposite him, Anton Forsberg had won 8 games in a row since he'd come in in relief of Joonas Korpisalo almost a month ago to help wrench an overtime win from the Grand Rapids Griffins.

Even if Peters had won, he would have lost eventually. Peters is a UFA in a few weeks, and a man at a very different point in his career from Forsberg; he played behind Cam Ward in Carolina for years, and has bounced up and down between the AHL and the NHL for most of his years as a pro. Until this year, where he never saw an NHL game.

He was not very good for the Bears, is the irony, and the hallmark of streaky goaltending in a luck driven sport. He was hot in the playoffs. Hotter than the Marlies could handle, nearly unsolvable, and he was a big reason the Marlies were bounced from the playoffs.

Anton Forsberg is an RFA in a few weeks and will certainly be signed by his goalie-rich team. Korpisalo, the rookie who faltered after an excellent start to the playoffs and was there to have goalie hugs as they won the Calder Cup, is also an RFA, and he'll be back too.

The Monsters lost two games in the entire playoffs. Before they swept the Bears, they swept the Ontario Reign, the best team in the Pacific Division. They dropped the two to the Grand Rapids Griffins, one of them a blowout where Korpisalo had lost the plot and the game before the one where Forsberg took over.

Game four of the Calder Cup final was not just a goalie duel. It was, more accurately, a Peters versus the Monsters duel.

The Monsters, after a shaky game three where they had conceded the ice too much, dominated the play. There were people tracking the fancy stats on the game, they can tell you how it went:

Oliver Bjorkstrand. He scored six game-winning goals in the playoffs.

You may remember him from one of many Danish trips to the ball that ends at the stroke of midnight. His was in Toronto at the WJC in 2015 where he had five points in five games.

He has had a very good year, his rookie pro year in America, after a trip through the WHL for Portland. He will be pushing hard for a full time NHL job next year, and he will be amazing.

Bjorkstrand finished the playoffs third in scoring, first amongst rookies, with 10 goals and 6 assists in 16 games. In second place was the Hershey veteran Carter Camper—bane of the Marlies—with 6 goals and 11 assists in 17 games.

And in the final irony for us all, the Bears who he played most of the year for, the Marlies who went down to not very noble defeat, and the Monsters who didn't need the top scorer on their team when they had six in the top ten: the number one playoff scorer in 2016 was Connor Carrick with 7 goals and 11 assists in 18 games.

The Calder Cup Champions (first professional sports champion in Cleveland since 1964):

For a goaltender's eye-view of the game: InGoal Magazine has a recap.

For a Columbus and Cleveland Fan's eye-view: The Cannon has a recap as well.