Kraken Affiliate Jumps Ahead
The Kraken’s top affiliate in Coachella Valley will have the opportunity to close out the Calder Cup western conference final on Monday night after taking a 3-games-to-2 lead with a 2-1 victory over the Milwaukee Admirals on Saturday night.
After Kiefer Sherwood scored to give the home team Admirals a 1-0 lead in the first period, the Firebirds came back in the 2nd period to score two unanswered even strength goals to win it.
At 1:22, defenseman Brogan Rafferty scored his first goal of the postseason with assists to Andrew Poturalski and Cameron Hughes. It was Hughes’s Calder Cup leading 16th helper of the playoffs.
The winner came from Firebirds captain Max McCormick at 16:43 with assists to Kole LInd and Alexander True. While McCormick’s 12 goals leads everyone in these playoffs, the same can be said for Lind’s 21 points.
Lind played 23 games and tallied eight points for the Kraken in the NHL in 2021-’22 while McCormick went ten pointless games with the big club that same season. McCormick had previously played 83 NHL games combined for the Ottawa Senators and Carolina Hurricanes.
The win sets up the opportunity for the Firebirds to finish off the series on Monday night at the Acrisure Arena in Game-6 and move on to play the Hershey Bears in the Calder Cup Final. Game-7 would also be a home match for Coachella Valley on Wednesday if necessary.
If that final match-up occurs it would pit the AHL’s oldest franchise, the Bears were founded in 1938, against the youngest, with the Firebirds being a first year franchise.
The Bears won their eastern conference final in six games by shutting out the Rochester Americans 1-0 on Friday night.
Seattle Title Chance
The Seattle Thunderbirds have reached the Memorial Cup final for the first time in history and can bring the championship home to the Emerald City with a victory over the Quebec Remparts on Sunday afternoon.
The two teams met in the preliminary round on Monday, May 29th and the Quebec League champions came away with a 3-1 victory over the Western League title holders. As always, goaltending played a huge part in the game with William Rousseau of the Remparts turning aside 35 of 36 shots in the contest.
“There’s some things in that game, the first game against Quebec that we can do better,” Thunderbirds head coach Matt O’Dette said. “I thought we played a fairly decent game, but not well enough in some areas. What stands out is not getting to the net, to the inside enough. They do a great job of defending, they don’t make it easy, a really good defensive team. There will be a couple things we’ll look at and see if we can apply them to this next game.”
Seattle winger Kyle Crnkovic, acquired from the Saskatoon Blades last off-season, leads the tournament in goal scoring with five and is second in overall points with eight. Center Jared Davidson is next with six.
Crnkovic put the semi-final game against the Peterborough Petes out of reach, giving the Thunderbirds a 3-1 lead midway through the 3rd period. Seattle added an empty-netter for the 4-1 margin.
The win put the club in a position it’s never been in before, just one step away from realizing the ultimate major junior hockey dream. It would be the culmination of a season-long effort that began last September.
“Just trying to live in the moment,” Crnkovic said, “When I got traded here they had a good thing going and I just tried to hop in onboard. It’s been a lot of fun and it’s not over yet, so just trying to get the last one.”
“We’ve been driving towards this all season, so I’m proud of the group and the drive to get here, but we still have one more job to do,” added O’Dette.