In a game Coachella Valley led from later first period to the final buzzer, carrying a 4-2 margin as Hershey was whistled for what was effectively four straight penalties in nine minutes of play in the third period, a Firebirds win didn’t seem secure until the clock showed zero. But you mark off a Calder Cup Final victory any way it is delivered in what CVF coach Dan Bylsma calls a “race” to four wins and a Cup celebration. Here are three things to expect when the puck drops at 2 p.m. Sunday in central Pennsylvania (AHLTV.com, NHL Network):

One: Goaltenders Getting Busy

The Game 1 shot totals were typical of a game in which opponents are feeling each other out a bit, plus the Firebirds protecting a two-goal lead in the final period of a 4-3 win. Each only logged double-digit shots on goal (10 for Hershey in the first period, 11 for Coachella Valley in the second stanza). The third period totaled five shots on goal for the home squad, including two monster saves by Firebirds goalie Chris Driedger in the last two minutes that also featured a third Hershey goal. Coachella Valley produced just three shots on goal (plus John Hayden clanged a post, just missing on a second straight hat trick). That was with four CVF power plays in nine minutes of clock time in the final frame.

The shot stats (19 for Hershey, 23 for the Firebirds) are bound to increase and up the workload for Driedger and Hershey goaltender Hunter Shepard.

Two: Bearing It on the Road

Hershey is defending Calder Cup champ and 7-2 at home this postseason. Their fans are loyal and loud and will be ready on Sunday. The Bears were 29-7-0 at home during the regular season, leading the league in wins and win percentage (a whopping .806) by significant margins. They gave up a miserly 60 goals in 36 home games, 20 less than any other team and 35 less than Coachella Valley (95 goals against, 4th best in the AHL with only six teams under 100 or more goals). Expect pushback from a home squad that features three players, Hendrix Lapierre (17 points), Joe Snively (14) and Ethen Frank (13), among the top four AHL postseason scorers. Firebirds forward John Hayden is fifth with 12. He and Frank both have nine goals, second only to the eliminated Milwaukee forward Zach L’Heureux (10).

Three: No Kidding, Keep Tabs on Kraken Prospects

One of the benefits of a deep playoff run is a team’s top prospects are effectively no longer rookies after the 72-game grind of an AHL regular season. Firebirds rookie Ryan Winterton scored a couple of skill goals Friday, one with a great feed from fellow first-year linemate Logan Morrison and the other turning a puck retrieval into a backhanded shot that appeared to surprise the stellar Hershey goalie Hunter Shepard. During the regular season, CVF coach Dan Bylsma worked Winterton in the penalty-kill mix and, by April, said “he was first off the bench” during PKs. The 2021 third-rounder also blocked a shot during the last-minute Hershey flurry in the Firebirds zone in Game 1. Along with Winterton, AHL rookie Shane Wright is back in the lineup and led CVF in shots, while first-year AHL defenseman Ville Ottavainen is a trusted top-three pair D-man who notched two primary assists in Friday’s opening win.

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