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Calder Cup Finals PREVIEW: Firebirds vs. Bears

Firebirds versus Bears. IT ALL LEADS UP TO THIS

Just the Facts:

  • The Opponent: The Hershey Bears, affiliate of the Washington Capitals
  • The Venues: Acrisure Arena in Thousand Palms, California and Giant Center in Hershey, Pennsylvania
  • The Place to Watch and Listen: Games 1 and 2 will be broadcast on ROOT Sports Northwest, and AHLtv, provided you pay.
  • An Opposing Viewpoint: Japers Rink, though they’re focusing more on draft content at the moment.

How the Firebirds got here:

The Firebirds made their playoff debut in the first round, where they established a very fun trend of being a team that needs every last game available to finish out a series. They tussled with Tucson in a trio of games, crushed Colorado in 5, crippled Calgary in the same amount as Colorado, and in a shocker, chose to mulch Milwaukee in 6, the only time they didn’t go the distance. They have some of the most explosive offense in the game anchored by Joey Daccord playing out of his gourd, and we couldnt be prouder of them.

How the Bears got here:

Hershey, by contrast…really didn’t struggle much at all to get here.

Relying primarily on a deep scoring threat that’s spread throughout the lineup, the Bears started their post-season on a first-round bye, and then summarily processed the Charlotte Checkers in four games, Swept the Hartford Wolfpack in the Conference Semis, and then beat the Rochester Americans in 6 games, culminating in a brutal 1-0 elimination game.

Now, they face the Firebirds.

Know Your Enemy:

The Bears are the oldest continually operating AHL teams, owned by (who else), the Hershey Chocolate company, and are an affiliate of the Capitals. They’re one of the most successful teams in the AHL for that reason: winning their conference 24 times, and the Calder itself 11 times, though none have come within the last decade. The Bears have tried! Oh how they’ve tried…but this year? This year they’ve come farther than they have in a good long while, and mostly stomped out their foes as previously stated.

They now have a new foe to face. Literally. As in, the Firebirds are only the second team in AHL history to debut and then go all the way to the Calder Cup Final. The AHL doesn’t do the long road trips like the NHL does, so this will be the first time ever these teams will ever meet on the ice. It’s gonna be excellent stuff.

Names to Watch:

Coachella Valley:

  • Tye Kartye: Kartye since his return to Coachella has been a force of nature, frequently joining series in huge ways by scoring big goals.
  • Kole Lind: Lind has been a goal-creating monster, currently sitting on a league-leading 23 points and just over 1.21 points-per-game, 16 of those 23 points being assists.
  • Ryker Evans: Evans on the backend has been exceptional so far for the Firebirds; putting up 13 points.
  • Max McCormack: Coachella Valley’s skipper has been an offensive dynamo through 19 games; getting 22 points and leading the entire playoffs in goalscoring. He’ll look to continue it on Thursday.
  • Joey Daccord: Daccord has been an exemplary goaltender all through these playoffs so far, posting a .924 SV% through 19 starts!

Hershey:

  • Aliaksei Protas: They make ’em big out in Belarus. Protas is a 6’6 Center who’s led the Bears in scoring this playoffs with 5 goals; making himself a problem no matter where he is on the ice. The Firebirds will have to pay special attention to him however; he’s a dynamite playmaker as well.
  • Mason Morelli: On the other end of the spectrum, is the more reasonably sized but very impressive other leading goalscorer with 5 goals. Keeping an eye on him will be paramount.
  • Joe Snively: this dude is a playmaker de luxe; 10 playoff points, all but one being assists.
  • Hunter Shepard: Shepard is doing some solid work for the Bears; playing with the third best SV% of the entire playoffs with a .929 SV%. He’ll be the thing to overcome if the Birds want to get on with winning.

Schedule:

  • Game 1
    • Thursday, June 8 Hershey at Coachella Valley, 7pm PT
  • Game 2
    • Saturday, June 10 Hershey at Coachella Valley, 7pm PT
  • Game 3
    • Tuesday, June 13 Coachella Valley at Hershey, 4pm PT
  • Game 4
    • Thursday, June 15 Coachella Valley at Hershey, 4pm PT
  • Game 5
    • Saturday, June 17 Coachella Valley at Hershey, 4pm PT
      • If Necessary
  • Game 6
    • Monday, June 19 Hershey at Coachella Valley, 7pm PT
      • If Necessary
  • Game 7
    • Wednesday, June 21 Hershey at Coachella Valley, 7pm PT
      • If Necessary

And here we are…the Firebirds on their first Calder Cup Final. I cannot wait.

Let’s enjoy the magic.