The Seattle Kraken’s top farm team won again. The Coachella Valley Firebirds took a 2-0 lead in the western conference final of the Calder Cup playoffs of the American Hockey League with a 5-3 win over the Milwaukee Admirals. The best-of-7 series moves to Wisconsin for the next three games if all of them are necessary. Games 6 and 7 would be back in California.
More than 10,000 fans witnessed the victory at the Acrisure Arena.
In true Kraken organizational fashion, the Firebirds featured five different goal scorers and ten different players all picking up a single point. Two of the goals were empty-netters and for the second straight game the Admirals ended up scoring a goal late in the 3rd period after the result was well in hand for Coachella Valley.
Top Kraken prospect Shane Wright picked up an assist as did highly touted 21-year-old defenseman Ryker Evans.
In the eastern conference final the Hershey Bears took a 2-1 series lead over the Rochester Americans with a 4-2 victory in upstate New York. Aliaksei Protas, Logan Day and Sam Anas each had a goal and an assist for Hershey.
By the way, should the Bears and Firebirds prevail in their respective series, the Calder Cup Final would feature the AHL’s oldest franchise in Hershey (1938) against the league’s youngest in Coachella Valley (2022).
The Seattle Thunderbirds won their first effort at the Memorial Cup in Kamloops, British Columbia, beating the Ontario Hockey League champion Peterborough Petes by a 6-3 final on Saturday. The T-Birds scored four goals over the final ten minutes of regulation to secure the win.
Kyle Crnkovic, an undrafted 21-year-old winger tallied a hat trick, finishing it off with an empty-netter.
Left winger Lucas Ciona, a 6th-round pick of the Calgary Flames two years ago, forward Jordan Gustafson, a 3rd-round pick of the Vegas Golden Knights last summer, and defenseman Nolan Allan, a 1st-round pick for the Chicago Blackhawks in 2021, scored the other goals.
The Thunderbirds out-shot the Petes 39-26 with Seattle’s star goalie Thomas Milic making 23 saves for the victory.
Kraken prospect, right-shot center Tucker Robertson was pointless with three shots on goal for the Petes.
Peterborough plays again Sunday against the host Kamloops Blazers while the Thunderbirds get the Quebec Remparts on Monday. Quebec, under head coach and GM Patrick Roy, the Hockey Hall of Fame netminder, beat the Blazers 8-3 on Friday.
Given their 14-game run into the Stanley Cup playoffs, it came as no surprise that the Seattle Kraken offered up no representatives at the overlapping IIHF World Championships in Latvia and Finland. A player also requires an invite to participate from his country’s respective federation or governing body.
Sunday brought the medal games and … did we mention something about the US choking at times in this tournament? In the Bronze Medal game, Kristians Rubins scored in overtime to give Latvia a 4-3 victory after Team USA gave up a 3-2 lead in the 3rd period. Rubins also scored the game tying goal.
It’s Latvia’s first ever medal.
Rocco Grimaldi, who played for Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol at the University of North Dakota from 2011 through 2014, scored two 1st-period goals in leading the Americans. The stocky little forward, 5-foot-6 and 180-pounds, who managed to play his way into 203 regular season NHL games with three different clubs, played last season with the San Diego Gulls and Rockford Icehogs in the AHL.
Grimaldi scored two goals including the game winner for Team USA in helping them win the World Junior Championship a decade ago in Ufa, Russia.
Team USA played in the Bronze Medal game at this senior men’s tournament for the seventh time since 2013. The Worlds weren’t held in 2020 because of the Covid pandemic.
Later Sunday, Team Canada picked up two goals from Sammy Blais and beat Germany 5-2 for the Gold Medal.