Uh oh Kraken and Firebirds fans. Don’t look now, but the Calder Cup Final is tied at two games apiece following the Hershey Bears 3-2 Game-4 victory over Coachella Valley on Thursday night.
The Seattle Kraken affiliate won two games at home at Acrisure Arena and the Washington Capitals affiliate followed suit at the Giant Center in Hershey. Game-5 is in Pennsylvania on Saturday night with Game-6 back in the Valley on Monday. If necessary, the Firebirds will host Game-7 on Wednesday evening.
As we mentioned in our linked recap, veteran winger Mike Vecchione was the hero for Hershey with two goals and an assist. Goalie Hunter Shepard had a big night as well for the Bears in shutting down the Firebirds. As usual, along with goaltending, special teams played a big part. The Bears went 1-for-6 while the ‘Birds went 0-for-4 on the power play.
Kraken top prospect Shane Wright has a three game point streak. He has a total of nine points in 21 playoff games.
Kraken Goalie Neighbors
While Seattle Thunderbirds goalie Thomas Milic has earned plenty of attention, deservedly so this past season in helping win a Western Hockey League title and a World Junior Championship with Team Canada, his younger cohort with Seattle is about to enter the limelight as well. Recently turned 18-year-old netminder Scott Ratzlaff played one more regular season game than Milic for the T-Birds this past season and put up similarly sterling numbers.
Obviously it didn’t go unnoticed by scouts monitoring his progress.
Ratzlaff was rated as the 4th best North American goalie by the NHL’s Central Scouting Bureau (CSB) for the upcoming 2023 NHL Draft in Nashville. The prospect experts at NHL.com agreed for the most part, placing him 5th on their top-ten list, one that included the top draft eligible goalies from all over the world.
In 34 games for the Thunderbirds in 2022-’23, Ratzlaff won 25 of them while posting a goals against average of 2.15 and a save percentage at 91.8%. The 6-foot-1, 175-pound native of Irma, Alberta turned 18 on March 9th.
And yes, that’s the same town of Irma that claims both Kraken defenseman Carson Soucy and Kraken forward prospect Jagger Firkus as natives. Pretty amazing for a town with a population of 477.
Meanwhile, Tomas Suchanek of the Tri-City Americans is also on the pundits list, ranked tenth by scribe Adam Kimelman and 9th by the CSB. Not only did he win 27 games for Tri-City, he was the goalie at the other end of the ice for Czechia in the World Junior Gold Medal game. His country ended up with silver in the 3-2 overtime loss with Suchanek turning aside 35 of 38 shots. He was named to the tourney all-star team with his WJC best 1.52 goals against average.
Goaltender might be the hot position for up-and-coming Seattle youth hockey players the next few years with all of the great influences in the city and in the region.
Ground Up Vegas
The comparisons and correlations will continue as it relates to the Vegas Golden Knights winning a Stanley Cup in their sixth season of existence and the fans and media of the Seattle Kraken wanting to win a Stanley Cup within a similar time frame.
Sticking with today’s link theme, NHL.com writer Nick Cotsonika, a buddy we bumped into quite a bit during the Kraken playoff run, wrote about the ground up approach that Vegas owner Bill Foley took to build a winner. It started with the hiring of general manager George McPhee. The article takes you through the process.
The quote of the story for me is this one from the Cup winning GM, who had been fired by the Washington Capitals two summer earlier:
“I just wanted a second chance,” said McPhee, who had been fired as GM of the Washington Capitals on April 26, 2014. “I needed a job. Bill Foley gave me the opportunity, and it gave me a lot of confidence, because he’s a smart guy.“
The Kraken didn’t wait anywhere close to that long to snag GM Ron Francis after he was let go by the Carolina Hurricanes, but the compare and contrast won’t end there. The overall approach to personnel acquisition seems to be much different. That of course doesn’t mean both franchises can’t or won’t be successful, and that both can’t win a Cup somewhat quickly.
“Time will tell” is the most appropriate cliché.