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AHL Morning Skate: June 16, 2024 |

After making a backup Joey Daccord in the Firebirds’ run to Game 7 of the Calder Cup Finals last year, the net fell Chris Driedger this year. He has played every minute of the postseason thus far, including Friday’s 4-3 win in a rematch of the playoffs against the Bears on Friday.

When the Bears opened the scoring 1:15 into the game, however, it wasn’t the start the Firebirds had envisioned.

“The crowd is definitely into it, there’s no doubt about that,” Driedger said after the win. “It’s a bad team over there. I thought the Bears came out hot, and we were probably on our heels there in the first 10 [minutes]. I think we weathered the storm well and came to our game, played fast, played hard.

“To be honest, I was a little worried there. I was like, ‘Oh, maybe we’ve met our match here.'”

But Driedger shook off that doubt, settled down, and finished with 16 saves. He went 11-2 this postseason with a 2.37 goals-against average and a .923 save percentage.

“I think that when we got to the top, our speed and skill did the job, we were able to come out ahead.”

All week the Firebirds waited and bided their time.

After closing out the Western Conference Finals in Milwaukee on June 8, the Firebirds flew to Pennsylvania rather than return home. But Hershey and Cleveland still had to settle the Eastern Conference Finals; after the Bears went up three games to one in the series, Cleveland responded with three straight wins before Hershey ended the series Wednesday night.

That means six days between games for the Firebirds.

“We were waiting here watching the series against Cleveland,” the head coach Dan Bylsma he said, “and there was just a little expectation that we would make this thing continue.” The message to the guys was, ‘Get into the series. Get in the game.’

“This one will run for 420 minutes, and we fully expect that. I thought whether it was an error or a hit or a hit, we had to get into the game, and we didn’t do that early. I think the guys on the bench were just talking about the next game, the next game, the next game.”

With Hershey on the power play early in Game 1 and already scoring, John Hayden’s shortstop tied it at 1-1.

“That settled everybody,” Bylsma said.

Bears the coach Todd Nelson He made no changes to his defensive line-ups as the series progressed.

The Bears don’t have three top blueliners Vincent Iorio, Lucas Johansen again Aaron Nessall members of their Calder Cup winning team last year. Dmitri Osipovwho played just 17 games in the regular season, made his first appearance in the playoffs in Game 1.

“I didn’t care about the ‘D’ team,” Nelson said after Friday’s game. “I thought Osipov came in and did a good job. I will check with the medical staff to see where we are. I don’t decide anything.”

― with files from Patrick Williams

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