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Firebirds eliminate Calgary with 3-0 win and next face Ontario
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Firebirds eliminate Calgary with 3-0 win and next face Ontario


The Firebirds closed the series with three straight wins after a loss in Game 1

By earning the best record in the American Hockey League’s Western Conference, the Coachella Valley Firebirds had a first-round appearance in the Calder Cup Playoffs. With that came a 12-day hiatus from the regular season finale until their first playoff game, and there was some question as to whether the rest was worth the inevitable rust that was to come.

But as if it wasn’t already clear that the rest was worth it, Friday night’s decisive 3-0 series victory over the Calgary Wranglers at Acrisure Arena showed that.

The Firebirds will now take on the Ontario Reign in front of the Pacific Division crowd. Game 1 of that best-of-five series is scheduled for Wednesday at the Acrisure Arena.

After losing Game 1 in Calgary by three goals, the Firebirds won Game 2 in overtime before returning home to the Coachella Valley for a convincing Game 3 victory. Then on Friday in a closeout game, the Firebirds were the clear aggressor. They played faster and with much more energy than the opponent that was eliminated.

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Video: Coachella Valley Firebirds playoff run watched by Desert Sun sports reporters

Sports reporters Andrew John and Shad Powers discuss this year’s Coachella Valley Firebirds in the postseason.

Defenseman Cale Fleury scored first, followed by star rookie forward Shane Wright, in the first period. Veteran forward Devin Shore, who scored the walk-off goal in overtime of Game 2, added the exclamation point in the third period. The crowd of 7,936 people erupted.

The star of the game may have been Firebirds goaltender Chris Driedger, who recorded 31 saves and a shutout two days after allowing the Wranglers five goals. Several times during the match the home crowd erupted with a “Driedger! Driedger!” chant, similar to the “Joey!” chants for star goaltender Joey Daccord last season.

Driedger got the shutout despite Calgary pulling its goalie with about six minutes to play with a man advantage. Firebirds forward Kole Lind then went to the penalty box with just over a minute to play and Coachella Valley played the rest of the game with a 6-on-4 deficit.

For the game, the Firebirds went 0-for-3 on the power play, but 1-for-1 on the penalty kill.

In four games in this series, the Firebirds scored 14 goals (3.5 per game) against Calgary’s star netminder Dustin Wolf, the 2023 AHL MVP. Wolf had allowed 2.45 goals per game during the regular season, and only three in the two games against the Tucson Roadrunners in the previous series.

The goals

1-0, Firebirds. Fleury scored his first goal of the postseason with a laser shot at the 6:40 mark of the first period. The shot came courtesy of forward Logan Morrison, with forward Luke Henman also recording an assist on the play.

2-0. Wright scored his first goal of the postseason on what was perhaps the best assist of the postseason for the Firebirds. Forward Cameron Hughes served the puck to Wright just before it was shot into the boards, putting Wright in a one-on-one situation with Wolf. Wright fired the shot over Wolf’s right shoulder to give Coachella Valley a two-goal lead.

3-0. Shore’s goal was his third in four games in this series. It came on an assist from Hughes and blueliner Gustav Olofsson.

Next one

Because Ontario is less than 300 miles long, the format for the series will be 2-2-1, with the first two games played at Acrisure Arena. Game 1 is Wednesday at 7 p.m. Game 2 is Friday at 7 p.m

Games 3 will take place on May 19 (Sunday) at the Toyota Arena in Ontario. Game 4, if necessary, would be May 22 (Wednesday) in Ontario, and a possible Game 5 would be May 24 (Friday) at Acrisure Arena.

Andrew John covers the Firebirds for The Desert Sun and the USA TODAY Network. Email him at [email protected].