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2023 Calder Cup Playoffs

Flat-footed Roadrunners Torched by Firebirds

Flat-footed Roadrunners Torched by Firebirds

PALM DESERT, Calif.  – In the race to the Calder Cup, you need to be quick off the hop. The cartoon roadrunner was notoriously fast, but in this case, the Tucson Roadrunners were quick to give up goals and slow to earn them in a 5-1 final.

It took 60 whole seconds for the Firebirds to break open the series, with an opening goal from Max McCormick following an early power play. The Roadrunners got hit with too many men on the ice in the opening shift, and it opened the doors for the regular season 9th place power play to get to work with a shot from Brogan Rafferty.

The Firebirds would add one nearly six minutes later when a harmless, low shot from Alexander True. Ivan Prosvetov looked shaky at best, giving up two goals on the first three shots.

Little did we know that wasn’t the end of it.

The defense of Tucson let one of the league’s best scorers in the regular season waltz into the slot, placing a backhand that was signed, sealed and delivered to the top shelf. Kole Lind proved his skill by finding a way to dance into the slot, while the Roadrunners simply looked flat-footed.

For Tucson, sure it wasn’t the start they wanted, but it’s important to note that the shots were 16-8 for them after 20. The shots, albeit not dangerous in many cases, were enough to make it look like they didn’t throw away time in the offensive zone.

The quality of shots needed to change, and sometimes that can come in little ways. If I was a coach, I would rather have 8-12 quality shots as opposed to 16 poor to average shots. 

Speaking of quality shots, the Firebirds took a shot that had some danger, given the number of bodies in front of the net. And with traffic and a power play, the Firebirds went up by four. 

Puck possession lacked for the California club, but when they had it, they had a chance to score, especially in the opening two periods

McCormick’s goal was eerily similar to his first tally.

During the second intermission, I just kept getting these thoughts that had the Roadrunner played the same in the first period as they did the second, we may not have been in the situation we were in: down 4-0 with little signs of hope.

30 shots were taken in the first 40 minutes – which is impressive, don’t get me wrong – but Joey Daccord was a wall. No other way around it. 

Yes, shots were good, not great, but to even stop 30 of them is impressive.

The series could be much closer. After that intermission, very little changed – suggesting this could be open for something a little tight. Coachella Valley not firing on all cylinders (although I’m not sure they were ever at max power) showed me that this is much closer than one would think.

Their empty net would give us the 5-1 final, shortly before the first and only goal from Tucson.

Vladislav Kolyachonok would tap in his first-ever AHL playoff goal to break the shutout.

Being outshot reminded me of another race. The tortoise and the hare. Maybe the tortoise got off to a flat-footed start, and maybe in the sequel, the animal that got off to the slow start is the one that wins the game.

Tucson’s 46 shots on goal was the highest that they’ve ever put on goal dating back to April 9th 2021.

Game Two drops on Friday in Palm Desert, California.

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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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