PALM DESERT, Calif. – At the summit of the wild, wild west, only two teams remain. The champions of the Central and Pacific Divisions are lined up on the train tracks on a collision course with one another. The Milwaukee Admirals and Coachella Valley Firebirds come into the playoffs with two very different rosters and took two very different paths to get here in the Western Conference Finals.
A storied history on one side and a franchise with championship aspirations on the other. Two teams that took down regular-season division leaders to get to the biggest stage yet. With so much depth and so much talent on either side, where can one even look for an advantage?
Final Regular Season Records:
Coachella Valley: 48-17-5-2
How They Got Here:
Milwaukee entered the playoffs as the second seed in the Central Division bracket. The Admirals took on the Manitoba Moose in their first playoff matchup, which went the distance to 5 games with both of Milwaukee’s losses coming in overtime. They were rewarded with the Central’s top seed in the Texas Stars. Again, the Admirals went the distance in the series, taking two of three games on the road in Texas – including the deciding Game 5 to claim the Central Division crown.
The Coachella Valley Firebirds have had a similar path through the playoffs thus far – they’ve gone the distance in every series they’ve been in as well. From a three-game white knuckler against the humbling Tucson Roadrunners, a five-game comeback victory over the Colorado Eagles, and finally a five-game classic over the top-seeded Calgary Wranglers, they’ve seen it all.
Both teams have met and overcome adversity with shining grades. Coming up, this series will serve as the toughest test for both teams.
Game One: Milwaukee at COACHELLA VALLEY – Thursday, May 25 7:00 PM PDT
Game Two: Milwaukee at COACHELLA VALLEY – Saturday, May 27 7:00 PM PDT
Game Three: Coachella Valley at MILWAUKEE – Monday, May 29 6:00 PM CDT
Game Four: Coachella Valley at MILWAUKEE – Thursday, June 1 7:00 PM CDT
*Game Five: Coachella Valley at MILWAUKEE: Saturday, June 3 6:00 CDT
*Game Six: Milwaukee at COACHELLA VALLEY: Monday, June 5 7:00 PDT
*Game Seven: Milwaukee at COACHELLA VALLEY: Wednesday, June 7 7:00 PDT
* – if necessary
How Coachella Valley Wins:
Depth. The obvious candidates in Kole Lind, Max McCormick, and Andrew Poturalski will garner a ton of attention from Milwaukee defenders. One of Coachella’s strengths that has made it so successful in its inaugural season is its talent not just at the top of the lineup but throughout the four lines rolling.
“We’re a pretty deep team.” Poturalski said on the Holy GrAHL podcast. “We have four lines that can go and score on any given night. We have Joey Daccord and a solid D core. I think that’s what you need to make it this far, especially in playoffs. The depth, the veteran leadership we have and all our rookies are outstanding and playing great hockey – the combination between that makes for a good team.”
Touching on Daccord, he outdueled the AHL MVP in Dustin Wolf in net the last series by just the slimmest of margins. Facing off against a top goaltending prospect in Yaroslav Askarov, he’ll need to be every bit as good here as he was there to move on to the Calder Cup final.
Lean on the experience. Poturalski’s won two Calder Cups and is gunning for a third straight. Head Coach Dan Bylsma has raised the Stanley Cup. This team is brimming with winners who know how to get to the summit. The rest of the Firebirds will have to dig in, buy in, and follow the leaders who have been there before.
How Milwaukee Team Wins:
Forecheck. Forecheck. Forecheck. The Admirals were absolutely relentless against a Texas team that prided itself on the strength of its blueline, forced them into uncharacteristic turnovers and ultimately won the series on its strength. Heavy bodies like Michael McCarron and Isaac Ratcliffe that the Admirals have up and down the lineup need to keep up the pressure against the Firebirds and keep them turned into their own zone rather than turning up ice in transition.
Win the special teams battle. Milwaukee’s powerplay has been clicking this playoff, scoring at a 28% clip while their penalty killers have succeeded 84% of the time – both statistics outperforming the Firebirds. Joakim Kemmel has been a lightning rod on the man advantage for the Admirals, recording three powerplay goals so far this postseason. With Jordan Gross quarterbacking from the point and Luke Evangelista dishing on the wing, the Admirals need to take advantage of their opportunities when the Firebirds give them, and Askarov has to step up and show off his first-round pedigree when on the penalty kill.
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- The Holy GrAHL Podcast Episode 69: Finals
- Calder Cup Finals Preview: Coachella Valley Firebirds vs. Hershey Bears
- Newly-Affiliated Gladiators Elevate Nesbitt To Head Coach, Promote Pyle
- PHOTOS: Coachella Valley Firebirds vs. Milwaukee Admirals – 06/01/2023
- Bears Blank Amerks, Advance to Calder Cup Final
- Everblades Edge Out Steelheads in Game of the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
- ECHL Kelly Cup Final: Idaho Steelheads vs. Florida Everblades
- Amerks Outlast Bears to Force Sixth Game
- PHOTOS: Coachella Valley Firebirds vs. Milwaukee Admirals – 05/29/2023
- PHOTOS: Idaho Steelheads vs. Toledo Walleye – 05/27/2023