Firebirds Aim to Secure 2-0 AHL Final Lead on the Road Against Bears Sunday

Vince Carbonneau
June 16, 2024  (10:33)

Calder Cup game 1
Photo credit: The Hockey News

Coachella Valley Firebirds vs. Hershey Bears: What to Expect in Game 2

In a game where Coachella Valley led from the late first period to the final buzzer, maintaining a 4-2 margin despite Hershey's four consecutive penalties in nine minutes of the third period, the Firebirds' victory wasn't secure until the clock showed zero. But as Firebirds coach Dan Bylsma emphasizes, every win in the race to four is crucial for a Calder Cup celebration. Here's what to look for when the puck drops at 2 p.m. Sunday in central Pennsylvania (, NHL Network):
1. Busy Goaltenders
Game 1 saw relatively low shot totals as both teams felt each other out and Coachella Valley protected their lead. Hershey managed 10 shots in the first period, Coachella Valley had 11 in the second, and both teams combined for just eight shots in the third. Despite this, Firebirds goalie Chris Driedger made crucial saves in the last two minutes, securing the win. Expect an increase in shots and workload for both Driedger and Hershey's Hunter Shepard in Game 2.
2. Bears Defending Home Turf
Hershey boasts a formidable home record, being the defending Calder Cup champions with a 7-2 postseason home record. They led the league in regular-season home wins and win percentage, allowing just 60 goals in 36 home games. With top postseason scorers like Hendrix Lapierre, Joe Snively, and Ethen Frank, the Bears will be a tough opponent. Firebirds forward John Hayden, also a top scorer, will be key in matching Hershey's firepower.
3. Kraken Prospects to Watch
A deep playoff run benefits top prospects, turning them into experienced players. Firebirds rookie Ryan Winterton shone in Game 1, scoring twice and playing a critical role in penalty kills. Alongside him, Shane Wright led in shots, and defenseman Ville Ottavainen provided two primary assists. These young players will be vital for Coachella Valley's continued success.
Coachella Valley Team Playoff Notes
- Coachella Valley leads the playoffs with an average of 3.6 goals per game, continuing their regular-season trend where they led the league with 252 goals.
- The Firebirds' power play ranks 12th in the postseason at 18.8%, while their penalty kill is 15th at 78.4%.
- Historically, the Game 1 winner in the Finals wins the Calder Cup 74.1% of the time, a positive sign for Coachella Valley after their Game 1 victory.
Firebirds Individual Standouts
- Forward John Hayden's 9 playoff goals, including five in the last two games, tie him for second in the postseason, with two shorthanded goals tying him for first.
- Forward Cameron Hughes' 11 assists tie him for second in the playoffs.
- Defenseman Cale Fleury's +10 rating is the best among postseason defensemen.
- Goalie Chris Driedger ranks fourth among postseason goalies with a .923 save percentage, close to the leader at .926.
- Center Andrew Poturalski is aiming for his third AHL championship, having previously won with the Charlotte Checkers and Chicago Wolves.
As the Firebirds aim for a 2-0 series lead, these factors and players will be pivotal in Sunday's matchup against the Bears.
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Firebirds Aim to Secure 2-0 AHL Final Lead on the Road Against Bears Sunday

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