The Kraken’s AHL farm team, the Coachella Valley Firebirds, lost to the Hershey Bears in Game-7 on Wednesday night 3-2 in overtime and with it the Calder Cup championship. The Bears franchise won the American Hockey League title for a record extending 12th time.
The AHL’s oldest franchise, founded in 1938, beat the youngest, 2022.
Veteran forward Mike Vecchione scored off a scramble in front of Firebirds goalie Joey Daccord at 16:19 of overtime to win the cup. He had been the dominant hero of Game-4 in the series, scoring two goals and adding an assist in the Bears 3-2 win at home last Thursday night.
As it turned out, Hershey scored three unanswered goals in a come-from-behind effort to pull out Game-7.
Hot Firebirds Start
Kraken prospect Ryker Evans opened the scoring with his 5th goal of the playoffs and his Calder Cup final leading 7th point. By adding an assist later in the game, the lefty defenseman put up 26 points over the course of 26 playoff games.
That second and final Coachella Valley goal came just 26-seconds into the 2nd period when Firebirds captain Max McCormick made it 2-0 with his AHL playoff leading 14th goal. Calder Cup leading scorer Kole Lind added the second assist.
Needless to say the packed house at Acrisure Arena was smelling champagne at that point as the new barn was-a-rockin’.
Unfortunately for the home folks the Bears showed remarkable stick-to-it-ive-ness and intestinal fortitude to battle through the noise and the deficit. They became the first road team to win a game in the series.
Hershey put on an impressive push as the 2nd period moved along, twice cashing in late to tie things up.
At 13:52 Connor McMichael lit the lamp on the power play with his 6th goal of the playoffs, which made the local crowd nervous by cutting the lead to 2-1.
Just 3:17 later Hendrix Lapierre tied it at even strength with his 3rd of the postseason. The teams would head to the 3rd period even at two.
In the final stanza of regulation the Bears actually had the extra push with the help of a couple more power play opportunities, out-shooting the Firebirds in the period 9-4. Hershey had four consecutive man advantages in the game and would finish 1-for-4.
Coachella Valley can’t complain. Although they had just a single power play chance in regulation back in the 1st period, they were awarded another one just 1:18 into overtime when Bears forward Ethen Frank went off for tripping. The Firebirds failed to click. They had two shots-on-goal during the PP and four more shortly thereafter.
Almost exactly 15 minutes after that infraction, with an assist to Frank and Henrik Borgstrom, Vecchione banged home the cup winner. It was the first Calder Cup Game-7 overtime in 70 years. The Bears finished a perfect 4-0 in these playoffs in OT’s.
Despite the 47-38 shots-on-goal advantage for the Firebirds in the game, one should not assume that Bears goalie Hunter Shepard was the more heroic netminder. Both he and Daccord were outstanding. Daccord actually saved the game twice in overtime with spectacular saves prior to giving up the game winner off a scramble. u
It remains to be seen where Daccord ends up next season. His performance should give Kraken management pause when reviewing their plans for backing-up number-one goalie Philipp Grubauer.
Needless to say, it was a hell of year for hockey for fans in Seattle.
Year two for the Kraken, two rounds short of a Stanley Cup. Year one for the Firebirds, one goal short of a Calder.