Kraken AHL affiliate pushed to brink in game 5 OT loss

COACHELLA VALLEY, CA - JUN 8, 2023: The Coachella Valley Firebirds vs. Hershey Bears at Acrisure Arena / Calder Cup Finals - Game 1 (Photo by Mike Zitek/Coachella Valley Firebirds)

It was just going to take one shot to get it done. 

It had to wait until overtime, and it left the Coachella Valley Firebirds on the brink of their Calder Cup run falling short. 

The Hershey Bears preserved a 21-save shutout from Hunter Shepard in net, outdueling Joey Daccord’s 30 stops, to take a 3-2 series lead over the Seattle Kraken AHL affiliate in a 1-0 overtime victory in game five of the Calder Cup Finals before a sellout crowd of 10,869 at Giant Center on Saturday.

Garrett Pilon, who has ties to the Pacific Northwest as a former Everett Silvertip forward, delivered the winner on a shot through traffic at 10:01 of overtime. He was set up from three failed attempts by the Firebirds to clear the zone at the end of a Gustav Olofsson penalty, even with the Bears perhaps maneuvering a sloppy change that dispatched six skaters on the ice, but no penalty call for too many men. 

The series will now shift back to Coachella Valley for good, and the Firebirds now will need to rely on home cooking to claim the Calder Cup title as an expansion team, aiming to knock off the AHL’s oldest franchise. Home ice advantage has dominated the series, with all five wins going to the home team so far. 

Daccord’s 30 stops was another remarkable effort in a series where he has Hershey scoreless in three games through regulation. However, in game five, the Bears were a step ahead with shot generation and outshot the Firebirds, 21-13 through two periods.   

Max McCormick missed on a walk-out attempt at the Bears net for the Firebirds best chance in overtime, where they were outshot 7-1.

Two of the last three Cup Final games, all in Hershey, have gone to overtime while all-out domination by the Firebirds in the first two games, outscoring the Bears 9-0, has turned into an edge-of-your seat nailbiter with the last three contests decided each by one goal. 

Game six will be at Acrisure Arena on Monday at 7pm PT (950 AM KJR) with Coachella Valley aiming to force game seven, and Hershey aiming for their 12th Calder Cup title. 

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