In a championship contest between the youngest team in the American Hockey League and the oldest team, so far, the developing verdict is “no contest.”
The Kraken AHL affiliate Coachella Valley Firebirds, an expansion team who have stormed through the Calder Cup Playoffs like a bolt of lightning, lit up the Hershey Bears for four second period goals to cruise to a 4-0 win and 2-0 series lead in the final before a sellout crowd of 10,087 at Acrisure Arena on Saturday night.
Dan Bylsma’s squad is two wins away from a championship, carrying heavy implications for several Kraken prospects who have outscored the Bears, 9-0 over the course of the first two games. The most obvious is goaltender Joey Daccord, unconscious in the Cup Final with his second straight shutout on 33 saves.
Defenseman Ryker Evans, who is playing electrifying hockey in the postseason as he builds a case for an NHL roster spot next year, earned a goal and an assist. He leads the entire postseason with 21 points in 21 games.
Hershey outshot Coachella Valley 15-5 in the first period as penalty killing got the job done for both teams, eradicating three Firebirds power plays and two for the Bears.
But the second period proved that pressure was building, and it was a matter of time before the Firebirds opened the floodgates. Jesper Froden got the Firebirds on the board with his fourth goal of the postseason at 5:08 on the power play, then Austin Poganski buried his first of the playoffs from the right circle for a 2-0 lead.
Evans sent a tumbling shot from long distance past Hunter Shepard for a 3-0 advantage with 8:05 left, and Cameron Hughes threaded the Bears defense on a feed by Daccord, for their second power play goal and a 4-0 cushion with 1:23 remaining.
Daccord, named first star of the game, has stopped all 58 shots in the first two games of the Calder Cup Final.
The series now shifts to Hershey with game three set for Tuesday, Jun. 13 at Giant Center, 4pm PT (950 KJR-AM).