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2023 Calder Cup Playoffs

Eagles Red-lighted in Game One

Eagles Red-lighted in Game One

LOVELAND, Co. – Do you ever feel like you’re wasting time and energy sitting in traffic? The Coachella Valley Firebirds haven’t! Game One of the best-of-five between the Firebirds and the Colorado Eagles showed that pucks have their way of getting by, even with bodies in front of the net. This was a big factor in the Firebirds’ 6-2 win.

Before they got caught in traffic, the high-pressure offense was GPS’d by the Eagles. They came firing on all cylinders on Joey Daccord. I got shades of the series past where the Firebirds were content to let Daccord have a few shots his way continued in the opening frame. This backfired when a Mikhail Maltsev shot ripped through the slot and in. The Firebirds let him walk down Main Street with the shot, which needed to be corrected through the first.

Here’s the start of the congestion. A quick shot from Eddie Wittchow may have caused a pileup in the rearview mirror. This might be because of the speed of the shot. The Cameron Hughes pass across opened the doors for the quick release, with nobody covering the former Hershey Bear wide open on the goalie’s right side.

Nearly five minutes later, the Firebirds struck again on the waning seconds of a power play. The puck had eyes as the long-range knuckler from Jimmy Schuldt squeaked through. This was the first of the goals from traffic in what turned out to be a flurry of them.

Going into the first intermission, both teams had to go back to the drawing board on what they were doing defensively. Arguably the first three goals all could have been avoided one way or another from the defense.

Outshot, outgunned, and another long-range shot flew past Justus Annunen. Wittchow’s drive from the blueline was one that should have been stopped by the bodies in front or, at the very least, by the goalie. Maybe this was a case where you were at the red light on your phone?

Meanwhile, it’s rush hour in front of AnnunenMax McCormick has got to be like Frogger if he wants to score. With everyone zipping by, he took the shot from the blue line and found mesh. The 5-1 marker late in the second all but sealed the fate for the Eagles in Game One.

Both teams kicked off the third period by scoring three goals in the first 9 minutes in a similar fashion. The common denominator? The pass in front left no chance for the goaltender.

  • The action first started with Maltsev scoring his second of the evening, with help from a pass from Mitchell Vande Sompel. By the time Daccord spotted it, it was far too late.
  • The Firebirds answered 55 seconds later with a goal from Alexander True. The pass came in front from McCormick, which from a sharp angle, True sniped the top corner. The shot over the shoulder is tough for goaltenders, as the shot went right by Annunen‘s ear.
  • Similarly, from the left-side trapezoid this time, Austin Poganski locates Carsen Twarynski in the slot for his second goal of the postseason.

Not surprisingly, Annunen finished the game out for the Eagles, with Jonas Johansson anticipated to start Game Two.

After the traffic jam in the second period, the Eagles were left chasing tail lights in the third period. By the time they could see the bumper sticker of the Firebirds, they were able to read “Sorry, you’re too late” on the back.

The Eagles chased the game. Turnovers and sloppiness gave them a ticket for distracted driving. They’ll have to pay for it as they rally back for the rest of the series.

Game Two comes tonight at 7:05 MDT.

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    Zack Power covers the Toronto Marlies for Field Pass Hockey. Follow and interact with him on Twitter @FPHMarlies.

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