AHL Morning Skate: June 16, 2024

Photo: Tori Hartman

A1-Hershey Bears vs. P1-Coachella Valley Firebirds
Game 2 – Today, 5:00 ET, , NHL Network, SiriusXM NHL Network Radio
(Coachella Valley leads series, 1-0)

Game 1 – Fri., June 14 – Coachella Valley 4, HERSHEY 3 | Recap/Highlights
Game 2 – Sun., June 16 – Coachella Valley at Hershey, 5:00
Game 3 – Tue., June 18 – Hershey at Coachella Valley, 10:00
Game 4 – Thu., June 20 – Hershey at Coachella Valley, 10:00
*Game 5 – Sat., June 22 – Hershey at Coachella Valley, 9:00
*Game 6 – Mon., June 24 – Coachella Valley at Hershey, 7:00
*Game 7 – Wed., June 26 – Coachella Valley at Hershey, 7:00
*if necessary... All times Eastern

Hershey and Coachella Valley square off in Game 2 of the Calder Cup Finals this evening after the Firebirds opened the series with a 4-3 win on Friday... John Hayden (9-3-12) and Ryan Winterton (3-4-7) each scored twice as Coachella Valley improved to 8-1 in Game 1’s over the last two postseasons... Hayden has scored five goals on six shots in the Firebirds’ last two games, including one power-play tally and two shorthanded markers... Hayden also leads the league in plus/minus (+12), posting an even or better rating in all 13 playoff outings... Winterton has 3-2-5 over the last four contests after beginning the postseason with 0-2-2 in his first nine games... Cameron Hughes (0-11-11) and Ville Ottavainen (0-3-3) each recorded two assists for the Firebirds in Game 1, and Logan Morrison (1-7-8) extended his scoring streak to five games with an assist... Chris Driedger (11-2, 2.37, .923) made 16 saves in the win... Joe Snively (3-11-14) and Hendrix Lapierre (5-12-17) had a goal and an assist each for the Bears, who lost for just the second time at home this postseason (7-2)... Hershey was 1-for-5 on the power play in Game 1, scoring during a 6-on-4 advantage with 1:56 left in regulation... The Firebirds went 0-for-4 on the power play... Hershey, which is playing in the Calder Cup Finals for the seventh time in 19 years, has now lost Game 1 in six of those series; the Bears are 2-4 in Game 2, and 14-8 in Games 3-7... The Firebirds are 5-0 in one-goal decisions this postseason.

After backing up Joey Daccord on the Firebirds’ run to Game 7 of the Calder Cup Finals last year, the net belongs to Chris Driedger this year. He has played every minute of the postseason so far, including Friday’s 4-3 win in Game 1 the Finals rematch against the Bears on Friday.

When the Bears opened the scoring 1:15 into the game, though, it was not the start that the Firebirds had envisioned.

“The crowd definitely gets into it, no doubt about that,” Driedger said after the win. “It’s a gritty team over there. I thought the Bears came out pretty hot, and we were maybe on our heels there for the first 10 [minutes]. I think we weathered the storm nicely and got to our game, played fast, played hard.

“Honestly, I was a little worried there. I was like, ‘Oh, maybe we’ve met our match here.’”

But Driedger shook off those doubts, settled in, and finished with 16 saves. He has gone 11-2 this postseason with a 2.37 goals-against average and a .923 save percentage.

“I think once we got up to pace, our speed and skill did the job, and we were able to come out on top.”

All week long the Firebirds had waited and bided their time.

After closing out the Western Conference Finals in Milwaukee on June 8, Firebirds flew to Pennsylvania rather than heading back home. But Hershey and Cleveland still had to settle the Eastern Conference Finals; after the Bears had gone up three games to none in that series, Cleveland had responded with three straight wins before Hershey ended the series Wednesday night.

That meant six days between games for the Firebirds.

"We’ve been waiting here watching the series play out against Cleveland,” head coach Dan Bylsma said, “and there was just a little bit of anticipation for us to get this thing going. The message to the guys was just, ‘Get into the series. Get into the match.’

“This one is going to go 420 minutes, and we’re fully expecting that. I thought whether it’s a mistake or taking a hit or giving a hit, we had to get into the match, and we didn't do that early. I think the guys on the bench were just talking about the next play, the next play, the next play.”

With Hershey on the power play early in Game 1 and already up a goal, John Hayden’s shorthanded marker tied it at 1-1.

“That settled everyone down,” Bylsma said.

Bears head coach Todd Nelson did not rule out changes to his defense corps as the series moves forward.

The Bears are without three top blueliners in Vincent IorioLucas Johansen and Aaron Ness, all members of their Calder Cup-winning team last year. Dmitri Osipov, who played just 17 games in the regular season, made his first appearance of the playoffs in Game 1.

“I didn’t mind the ‘D’ corps,” Nelson said after Friday’s game. “I thought Osipov came in and did a fine job. I’ll check with the medical staff to see where we’re at. I’m not ruling anything out.”

― with files from Patrick Williams

Dylan Holloway scored two goals and assisted on another as Edmonton cruised past Florida, 8-1, in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final last night... Holloway played 18 games in the AHL for Bakersfield this season collecting 10 goals and six assists, including a hat trick against Calgary on Apr. 6... Mattias Janmark added a goal and an assist for the Oilers, and Stuart Skinner made 32 saves... Two-time AHL All-Star Anthony Stolarz made his playoff debut for the Panthers, making 16 saves in 35 minutes of relief work.

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