Firebirds draw first blood in Finals

Photo: Mike Zitek

HERSHEY, Pa. (theahl.com)John Hayden and Ryan Winterton scored twice apiece as the Coachella Valley Firebirds opened the 2024 Calder Cup Finals with a 4-3 win over the Hershey Bears at Giant Center on Friday night.

Game 2 of the best-of-seven series is set for Sunday (5 ET, AHLTV, NHL Network).

Hayden, who had a hat trick in the Firebirds’ 5-1 win at Milwaukee last Saturday to clinch the Western Conference championship, scored his second shorthanded goal of the postseason to erase an early 1-0 Bears lead, and converted again late in the second period to restore a two-goal cushion after Hershey had closed to within 3-2.

Winterton scored his second and third goals of the playoffs. All three have come in the last four games after he was scoreless over the Firebirds’ first nine outings.

Cameron Hughes and Ville Ottavainen each recorded two assists for Coachella Valley, and Chris Driedger stopped 16 shots to improve to 11-2 this postseason.

Joe Snively, Hardy Häman Aktell and Hendrix Lapierre scored for the Bears, who lost for just the second time at home this postseason (7-2), and now trail in a playoff series for the first time in 2024.

Hunter Shepard finished with 19 saves.

(Coachella Valley leads series, 1-0)
Game 1 – Fri., June 14 – Coachella Valley 4, HERSHEY 3
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