The Texas Stars and Toronto Marlies open their Calder Cup Finals series on Saturday, one which features a number of NCAA alumni on both sides.
The top two playoff scorers for the Stars and two of the top three for the Marlies are former college players, representing four of the 12 NCAA schools who have alumni in the series. Regardless of the winner, the Calder Cup will be presented to an NCAA alum, as Curtis McKenzie (Miami) captains Texas and Ben Smith (Boston College) captains Toronto.
Nine NCAA alums have played for Texas in the postseason, led by top scorers McKenzie and Brian Flynn (Maine) as well as goaltender Mike McKenna (St. Lawrence). McKenzie and longtime Star Travis Morin (Minnesota State) were both members of the Texas team that won the Calder Cup in 2014.
Alumni on the Stars include three rookies: Sheldon Dries (Western Michigan), Gavin Bayreuther (St. Lawrence) and Joel L’Esperance (Michigan Tech). Dries leads the team in playoff goals with seven, while L’Esperance has played all 15 games after posting 27 points for the Huskies this season as a senior.
Trevor Moore (Denver) and Smith are two of the top three playoff scorers for Toronto, which features six NCAA alumni among its regulars. Chris Mueller (Michigan State) is tied for fourth on the team in scoring, while Justin Holl (Minnesota) and Vincent LoVerde (Miami) are two of the team’s top defensemen.
The Marlies posted the AHL’s best record in the regular season and have won nine straight games entering the Finals.
Miami is ensured of a Calder Cup champion with McKenzie and LoVerde facing off. The two were Red Hawks teammates for two seasons (2009-11).
Maine and St. Lawrence both have a pair of alumni on the Texas Stars. Flynn and Matt Mangene represent the Black Bears, while Bayreuther and McKenna represent the Saints.
TSN2 and the NHL Network will carry all seven games of the Calder Cup Finals in Canada and the U.S.