Firebirds/Kraken coach Dan Bylsma was pleased with the speed and pace of the first period in his team’s Game 3 win before a raucous home crowd. But he did caution that both teams were flying and getting their scoring chances, with the goal count at 2-1 Coachella Valley after the first period. None of Bylsma’s charges, from an assistant coach to grizzled veterans to AHL newbies, figures Hershey to wilt in the urgency of Game 4 Thursday. Here are three things to monitor with a 7 p.m. puck drop (AHLTV.com, NHL Network).

Ahead of tonight's Game 4 against the Hershey Bears, Firebirds' forward Ryan Winterton and head coach Dan Bylsma speak with the media after morning skate.

One: Keep Those Shots and Rebound Chances Coming

Coachella Valley finished with 42 shots on goal in Game 3, chasing Hershey starter and 2023 Cup-winning goalie Hunter Shepard after a fifth goal – a highlight-reel beauty from Shane Wright, who sped up ice from his own blue line then dead-stopped in the high slot for his shot. After allowing a power-play goal early second period to even the score at 2-2 (pause here to recall this was a closer game than the score indicates), the Firebirds responded with 23 shots on goal (franchise record of one period) the rest of the middle stanza. CVF scored twice, but it wasn’t easy with Shepard battling hard as he’s been doing since he was a big reason why NCAA Minnesota-Duluth won the Frozen Four in 2017.

Shane Wright makes it 5-2 in Game 3 of the 2024 Calder Cup Finals against the Hershey Bears.

Speaking of the NCAA, Bemidji State free agent signee Lleyton Roed, playing in just his second pro game, scored the game-winner when he cleaned up a rebound on a Ryker Evans shot from the left blue line. Later period, with the game still very much in the balance, AHL rookie and 2021 original draft class member (third round) Ryan Winterton showed serious skill, gathering a loose puck and scoring from a bad angle with a quick release that any NHLer would like to display. Without those two rebound conversions, the Game 3 win is much more in question.

Two: Scoring Depth in the Clutch

With the aforementioned Roed’s game-winning goal Tuesday, the Firebirds now have benefited from 10 different players earning a GWG across 12 playoff wins to date. Along with Roed, high-promise prospects Wright and Winterton have both scored game-winners, same for defenseman Ryker Evans, the second-year pro who appeared in 36 games for the Kraken this past season.

Those are vital contributions from younger teammates to bolster two GWGs from both forward John Hayden and D-man Jimmy Schuldt, plus more veteran scores from defenseman Cale Fleury (who’s having a monster postseason that is bit under the radar), Max McCormick, veteran forward Devin Shore and CVF regular season leading scorer Kole Lind (who, you heard it here, is overdue for heroics in this 2024 Cup Final).

Three: Oh, Captain, Oh, New Daughter

McCormick’s dad energy was in full-on mode with his infant daughter at the game and down on the glass for warmups. McCormick and his wife, Alexis, welcomed baby girl, Mia Laine, in mid-May during an off-day before the Firebirds leader flew to Milwaukee to suit up for Game 3 of the Western Conference final. He missed 15 days of his new child’s early life but was clearly channeling reunion vibes Tuesday. McCormick is just one of many under-the-radar but now front-and-center signings for the Kraken, engineered by Seattle GM Ron Francis and Coachella Valley VP of hockey operations Troy Bodie.

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