Seattle Kraken farm team foe, Calgary Wranglers

Kraken: Firebirds Hope To Avoid Same Fate As Big Club

Kraken’s Top Affiliate

For the 2nd consecutive game, the American Hockey League’s Coachella Valley Firebirds will have an opportunity to advance to the AHL’s western conference final. Leading their series against the Calgary Wranglers 2-games-to-1, the Firebirds dropped their chance to advance on Wednesday night, 1-0. Now even 2-2 in games, the teams will battle it out again Friday night at Acrisure Arena in the valley.

The Firebirds shouldn’t have home ice for Game-5, they just do. That’s life in the AHL, the building conflicts and costs are much more restrictive than for their big brothers in the NHL. The Wranglers actually finished with the best regular season record in the league, three points ahead of the 2nd best Firebirds.

Kraken Prospects Shine

As one might expect, it’s been one heck of a competitive series, loaded with drama. Kraken defensive prospect Ryker Evans scored the game winner in triple-overtime of Game-3 to give the Firebirds that 2-games-to-1 lead in the best-of-5. That’s when the Wranglers answered back with their tight shut-out victory in Game-4.

Firebirds goalie Joey Daccord, who played in five games this past season for the Kraken, has been outstanding with a playoff goals against average of 1.88 and a .942 save percentage. What a shame it would be to see his club lose given those postseason numbers, superior to those of Wranglers goalie Dustin Wolf at the other end, a guy who just happened to win goalie-of-the-year honors in the league for the 2nd straight year, plus the overall regular season most-valuable-player award.

It’s reminiscent of recent Kraken opponent Jake Oettinger’s efforts last postseason, The recently streaky Dallas Stars goalie was exemplary in the 2022 playoffs with a team that was bounced in seven games in the 1st-round by the Calgary Flames. If not for Oettinger they wouldn’t have lasted that long; he posted a 1.88 goals against average and a .954 save percentage.

That’s just how it goes sometimes. Goalies can steal a series, and sometimes they fall just short, no fault of their own.

In the case of the Firebirds, it’s more simply a matter of two outstanding goalies and AHL teams going head-to-head. Friday night’s message: May the best team win.

Added Firepower

Despite added firepower and 27 shots-on-goal, the Firebirds couldn’t solve Wolf and the Wranglers on Wednesday. Tye Kartye returned from his successful 10-game, three-goal, two-assist stint with the Kraken in the playoffs. The rookie jumped back into the Coachella Valley line-up and registered four shots-on-goal. Seattle “black ace” playoff reserve Jesper Froden also returned to the AHL club, registering one shot-on-goal in Wednesday’s match.

For the second consecutive game, previously injured Andrew Poturalski, who similar to Andre Burakovsky with the big club would have finished as his team’s leading scorer without the health setback, was pointless for the second straight game. Poturalski had 42 points in 38 games when he was knocked out of the regular season line-up.

The Firebirds can hope that any chemistry impact and adjustment from re-introducing bodies into the line-up was only temporary, and that the added talent will help push them over the top in Game-5.

Nothing Wright

Another by-product of those re-introductions was the removal of prospect Shane Wright from the line-up. The 2022 4th-overall NHL Draft pick sat out Game-4 after playing less minutes and going pointless in Game-3. Wright had an assist in the Firebirds 3-2 loss in Game-2 and went pointless in their 6-3 victory in Game-1.

“It’s a possibility it’s really going to come down to Shane and how hard he works in the summertime, to be honest with you,” Kraken General Manager Ron Francis said Thursday. “He’s presently in Coachella and playing in Game-5 tomorrow night, my plan is to be on a plane tomorrow to be down there to watch that game and then hopefully they’re winning and advancing and we’ll continue to grow down there and play.

“At some point we’ll have that conversation as to what he needs to do in the summertime, but as you saw, this is not an easy league and we’ve got a good team, and he’s gonna have to earn it like everyone else has around here and that includes having a big summer this summer for him.”

The Stanley Cup playoffs Western Conference Final, the event to which the Kraken fell just one win short, begins Friday night with the Dallas Stars visiting the Vegas Golden Knights in Game-1.

Rob Simpson

Rob Simpson has covered the NHL in five different decades. He’s authored 4 books on hockey and is a veteran TV and radio play-by-play man and reporter.