Firebirds repeat as Western Conference champions

Photo: Mike Zitek

The Coachella Valley Firebirds are heading to the Calder Cup Finals for the second year in a row after capturing the Robert W. Clarke Trophy as Western Conference champions.

Coachella Valley scored four times in the first period and John Hayden finished off a hat trick with a shorthanded goal late in the second as the Firebirds rolled to a 5-1 win over Milwaukee in Game 5 of the conference finals on Saturday.

Cale Fleury recorded three assists, and Chris Driedger made 25 saves on the evening.

The Firebirds are the fourth club in American Hockey League history to reach the Calder Cup Finals in each of its first two seasons of play, joining the Syracuse Stars (1937-38), the Nova Scotia Voyageurs (1972-73) and the Maine Mariners (1978-79).

Led by former Stanley Cup winning head coach Dan Bylsma, the Firebirds, top development team of the NHL’s Seattle Kraken, won the Pacific Division during the 2023-24 regular season with a record of 46-15-6-5 (103 points). They have gone 10-2 thus far in the Calder Cup Playoffs while eliminating the Calgary Wranglers (3-1), Ontario Reign (3-0) and Milwaukee Admirals (4-1).

The Firebirds will face the winner of the Eastern Conference Finals between the Hershey Bears and the Cleveland Monsters. The Bears currently lead that series, three games to two.

Established in 1990, the AHL’s Western Conference championship trophy honors the late Robert W. Clarke. Mr. Clarke served as the Chairman of the AHL’s Board of Governors from 1967-94, and in 1956 he played an instrumental role in the formation of the Rochester Americans, one of the most successful franchises in AHL history.

(Coachella Valley wins series, 4-1)
Game 1 – Wed., May 29 – COACHELLA VALLEY 2, Milwaukee 1
Game 2 – Fri., May 31 – COACHELLA VALLEY 3, Milwaukee 1
Game 3 – Tue., June 4 – Coachella Valley 5, MILWAUKEE 2
Game 4 – Thu., June 6 – MILWAUKEE 7, Coachella Valley 2
Game 5 – Sat., June 8 – Coachella Valley 5, MILWAUKEE 1