Desert Stormed: Coachella Valley Firebirds Blast Hershey Bears, 4-0, Take Commanding 2-0 Series Lead In Calder Cup Finals

Photo: Mike Zitek/Coachella Valley Firebirds

The Coachella Valley Firebirds blasted the Hershey Bears, 4-0 in game 2 of the Calder Cup Finals Saturday night at Acrisure Arena in Palm Desert, California. With the win, the Firebirds blank the Bears 9-0 in the first two games of the series and take a commanding 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.

The Bears looked well rested at the start of this one. They outshot the Firebirds 15-5 in the first period and hit three pipes in the process, but were unable to dent the twine as the first period went scoreless. Unfortunately, the missed opportunities would prove costly for the Bears.

The Firebirds were awarded a penalty shot early in the middle frame, but Hunter Shepard was able to shut the door. Unfortunately, the Firebirds would followup the missed penalty shot opportunity with two quick tallies to take a 2-0 lead early in the second period. They would add two more tallies in the second half of the second period for a 4-0 lead at the second intermission. The final frame would go without a score.


Hunter Shepard (10-4, 2.09 GAA, .920 sv%) got the start between the pipes for the visiting Bears. Joey Daccord (13-7, 2.26 GAA, .927 sv%) got the start in goal for the Firebirds. The forward lines and defensive pairs for the Bears:

Mike Vecchione – Henrik Borgstrom – Ethen Frank
Joe Snively – Connor McMichael – Garrett Pilon
Aliaksei Protas – Hendrix Lapierre – Sam Anas
Beck Malenstyn – Riley Sutter – Mason Morelli

Aaron Ness – Logan Day
Gabriel Carlsson – Dylan McIlrath
Lucas Johansen – Vincent Iorio

Hunter Shepard
Zach Fucale

Scratches: Mike Sgarbossa (injury), Bobby Nardella, Jake Massie, Shane Gersich, Henrik Rybinski, Matt Strome, Julian Napravnik, Bogdan Trineyev, Ludwig Persson, Dru Krebs, Alexander Suzdalev.


The Bears held the early advantage in offensive zone time, and led in shots, 7-1, for the first eight minutes of the contest.

It was a penalty-fest in the first frame. The Bears were awarded the game’s first power play early in the first period but were unable to convert.

The Firebirds went to their first power play two minutes later but were also unable to convert. The Firebirds then returned to the power play with 9:30 remaining in the opening stanza, but the Bears penalty kill unit was once again up to the task.

Just as the Firebirds’ second power play expired, Ethen Frank was tripped on a 1-on-4 rush, giving the Bears their second man advantage, but they were unable to do any damage.

The Firebirds were awarded their third power play opportunity of the period with just under five minutes remaining in the period, but the Bears penalty kill took care of business, once again.

The first period concluded without a score. The bears led in shots 15-5 and hit three pipes. The Firebirds were 0 for 3 and the Bears 0 for 2 on the power play in the first period.


The Firebirds were awarded a penalty shot early in the second period, but Hunter Shepard was able to shut the door.

Unfortunately, Coachella Valley would follow up the missed penalty shot opportunity with two quick scores. Jesper Froden (4) notched the game’s first tally on the power play at 9:08, with Cameron Hughes (18) and Alexander True (11) providing the helpers.

The Firebirds quickly made it 2-0 less than 90 seconds later. Austin Poganski (1) scored at 6:22 with assists from Shane Wright (5) and Ryker Evans (17).

The Firebirds made it 3-0 with a little more than eight minutes remaining in the second period. Ryker Evans (4) added the Firebirds third goal at 11:55 of the second stanza. Max McCormick (12) and Andrew Poturalski (6) had the helpers.

The Firebirds added a fourth goal of the period and the route was on. Cameron Hughes (1) notched the power play tally at 18:37.

Thankfully, that was it for the second period. Coachella Valley led in shots 13-8 in the second period with the Bears leading 23-18 after two periods. The Firebirds were 2 for 8 and the Bears 0 for 3 on the power play after 40 minutes of play.


The final frame featured plenty of defense by the Firebirds, as they packed their zone and made it difficult for the Bears to generate much in the way of the offense. As a result, there were no goals in the final frame.

Game 3 is set for Tuesday in Hershey. Puck drop is set for 7PM.


  • AHL box score
  • Attendance: 10,087
  • Hershey led in shots 33-23.
  • Mason Morelli led all Bears in shots with 6.
  • Bears outscored 9-0 in first two games of the series.
  • Those nine goals have been scored by eight different players.
  • The Firebirds were 2 for 9 and the Bears 0 for 3 on the power play.
  • Joey Daccord posts second consecutive shutout, third of the postseason.
  • Daccord is the first goaltender to begin a Calder Cup Finals series with consecutive shutouts since Moe Roberts of the Cleveland Barons in 1939.


About Jon Sorensen

Jon has been a Caps fan since day one, attending his first game at the Capital Centre in 1974. His interest in the Caps has grown over the decades and included time as a season ticket holder. He has been a journalist covering the team for 10+ years, primarily focusing on analysis, analytics and prospect development.
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23 Responses to Desert Stormed: Coachella Valley Firebirds Blast Hershey Bears, 4-0, Take Commanding 2-0 Series Lead In Calder Cup Finals

  1. Anonymous says:

    Another ugly one. Birds score quick. It was a close game and then it wasn’t in a blink of an eye.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Go Bears! (Still)

  3. Anonymous says:

    Making Daccord look like a Vezina winner

  4. GRin430 says:

    That was ugly in many respects. Very poor discipline, particularly from McIlrath, who should know better. He also was basically a pylon out there defensively, so overall really bad play from him. His partner Carlsson has also been embarrassed a couple of times: that goal from Hughes was pretty but the defense by Carlsson was bad — he bit on an outside fake and gave up a center drive when he had to see that Iorio needed to take the LW who was making a wide drive.

    Snively was also really bad again — 2 straight awful games from him. At this point I’d swap him for Gersich.

    Other than that, I thought the Bears really didn’t play all that poorly at 5v5. They had more good scoring opportunities at 5v5 than CV. Either Daccord is the best goaltender in AHL — and maybe NHL — history, or the Bears just lack true finishers, so they’re making him look unbeatable. In either case, they need to do something different and score early in Hershey or this could be over quickly.

    One question I have is whether AHL refs ever crossed over from west to east or vice-versa this season. Some of the penalty calls were definitely BS, but it was also clear that these guys were just calling a different game than the Bears were used to, and that might make sense if they had never seen these refs, and/or the game is just called somewhat differently in the two conferences because there’s no crossover.

    And I’ll still take Malenstyn and Sutter on the Caps next year, please.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Gotta say, not a fan of these new teams getting easy access to championships. Coachella Valley in their first year, Vegas two trips to finals in first six years. Whatever happened to paying your dues?

    • Anonymous says:

      I was wondering that as well? How do they stock an AHL expansion team? They need to revamp the formula. I get trying to give fans a winner to entice new hockey fans, but not to damage the integrity of the game.

      • ItDoesn'tMatterWhoWeAre says:

        It happened that way because a bunch of guys on the Firebirds this year (eg.Max McCormick, Kole Lind, Alex True, Chris Dreidger, Andrew Poturalski) are NHL regulars who got taken in the Kraken expansion draft and squeezed down to the AHL, because that team has four Line 2s and three 2nd pairings (although Dunn and Larson are arguably a real first pairing now). Then you have the prospects–Shane Wright and Ryker Evans–who got grabbed with crazy early draft picks. Because the ownership group is rich as hell, they didn’t mind shelling out for a few borderline-NHL vets (such as Gustav Olofsson, Jesper Froden, and John Hayden) to help the young kids along. Like every AHL team, they found a couple surprise stars in Joey Daccord and Tye Kartye who are all but guaranteed to be in the NHL next season. The result is an AHL team that is completely stacked with NHL talent.

    • Prevent Defense says:

      I can help you with this. It’s called greed, avarice, criminality, and downright evil – The Gory Bottmann System! Yes it is all about newbies no longer “paying their dues” but instead furnishing a Billion Dollar Bribe to Bottmann’s NHL and the gambling industry – in exchange for rocketing straight to the top. It is grotesquely unfair and nasty. That’s why I write frequently that Bottmann is not the glorious business acumen hero that he is made out in the Press – but rather an organized crime mobster goon who has ruined the integrity of the once-great NHL.

      All the NHL expansion franchises we grew up with started with dreadful expansion rosters. We reckon PHI, NYI, PIT, STL and DAL as being fabulous, winning NHL franchises. In reality, ALL those teams had to grow into their successful years. As 1968 expansion teams, they all stunk, and horribly. Ask a Penguins Fan or a Flyers fan what their teams were like in 1969. The extreme examples of NHL expansion hideousness are the Washington Capitals and the Ottawa Senators. The Caps opening year won all of eight games. Ottawa won only ten. OTT needed five seasons to reach its first Stanley Cup Playoffs – and did so with a losing record. The Caps needed NINE seasons and NINE coaches to get to the playoffs finally in 1981!

      [Notes: DAL was the MNS before Norm Green moved them to Dallas in 1993. The California Golden Seals were also part of the 1968 expansion, but soon after moved to Cleveland (the Barons), finally folding as a franchise in 1978. NJD franchise started as the Kansas City Scouts in 1974 – in the same brutal expansion as the Washington Capitals. And yes, Virginia, they stunk. KCS moved to Denver as the “Rockies” (1976) and then to New Jersey as the Devils (1982). In short, before Bottmann arrived to Corporatize the NHL, every expansion franchise had to “pay its dues”, big time]

      Count me as an NHL fan who passionately HATES the Bottmann system where suddenly we have expansion franchises Leap-frogging over all the established teams. It’s no mistake that the Billion Dollar Bribe Seattle NHL franchise has an AHL counterpart in Coachella Valley that has “started at the top.” Wait til we see what happens with the perpetually-bankrupt Arizona State NHL team. The situation screams for a relocation – but Bottmann will resist at all costs, preferring yet another Billion Dollar Bribe Expansion – or 3 or 4!!

      I’ll end the rant recalling a comment I got on this board back in 2017. I was complaining about the Rocket-to-the-Top Vegas Knights and their sweetheart deal with their Billion Dollar Bribe (actually the initial bribe was about Five Hundred Million Dollars … but the effect is the same). The VGK billion team could have beaten the Caps in the Stanley Cup Finals with a few puck bounces here and there and a few more rigged referee calls. Another commenter on the boards declared that “I was just jealous.” So be it. I was. The Bottmann Bribe system is ugly and nasty and has ruined the integrity of both the NHL and the AHL.

      • Lenny says:

        Chat GPT Prompt: Write 500 words that are only vaguely relevant to the conversation. Make sure that it’s incoherent, a grammatical mess, lacks any knowledge of sports business, misconstrues history, and is a bit anti-Semitic. Also, work in the phrase “business acumen hero”, which no one has ever said.

  6. Jeremy says:

    This feels a bit like 2016. Firebird are just so stacked it makes them kind of OP. Difference this time is this Bears team has a better roster and coaching staff than 2016. I don’t know if the Bears can pull off a comeback

    • Jon Sorensen says:

      Good analogy. I was thinking about the Minsters series as well. Just ran into a team that was stacked, but agree, in looking/comparing with 2016 roster, this year’s roster seems to be more talented, although the 2026 team had a few NHLers.

      • Anonymous says:

        A few 2016 names:


      • Jeremy says:

        I think the other problem is that the Bears don’t have those guys that can lead the charge. Look at CV, they have 3 guys with 20 points or more these playoffs with 2 more who could crack the 20 mark as well. CV has 5 guys that are their key offensive players while everyone else can effectively contribute. Hershey on the other hand doesn’t really have anyone that stands out as offensive leaders. Protas has been a good offensive contributor, but he’s not as impactful compared to those 5 for the Firebirds. Hershey has a well rounded team, but it lacks the game changing offensive firepower.

        • Jon Sorensen says:

          I think Sgarbossa was one of those guys that could lead the charge. His absence has helped quiet Vecchione and Frank as well. But you’re right, CV has the volume in top, leading players.

  7. Jon Sorensen says:

    CV’s 4th goal was probably the biggest disappointment of all their goals. This simply can’t happen:

    • Anonymous says:

      That’s an ugly goal. Iorio was smoked.

      • Anonymous says:

        I know McMichael was at the end of a shift.

        • GRin430 says:

          If McMikey was that tired, he should have gotten off the ice when the puck was deep in the CV zone. No excuses.

      • GRin430 says:

        It wasn’t Iorio, it was Carlsson, though McMikey should have slowed him down well before that and helped Carlsson as well. Iorio was covering the left wing on that play, so was slow to react. As I indicated above, Carlson needed to take away the center of the ice, force Hughes to either wing. Instead he bit on the out fake and let Hughes have the center lane. Not good.

        • Anonymous says:

          He was Iorio’s man. There was another CV player entering the zone, following the play on the right side, where Carlsson was trying to also cover.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Win or lose, I appreciate your coverage over the course of the season. A lot of fair weather reporting going on right now, but you guys are there each and every day throughout the year.

    • Jon Sorensen says:

      Thank you for your kind words. I haven’t missed a Bears game in 9 years, on top of all the other prospect games we watch. I know Eric has been a season ticket holder for nearly as long, if not longer.

  9. Jon Sorensen says:

    Bears last goal in Calder Cup Finals – 2nd period of game 3 vs. Lake Erie Monsters:

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