Max McCormick notched a third-period hat trick as the Coachella Valley Firebirds pulled away for a 6-4 victory over the Milwaukee Admirals in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals at Acrisure Arena on Thursday night.
Game 2 of the best-of-seven series is set for Saturday evening.
The Admirals were holding a 3-2 lead when McCormick scored his first of the night with 12:38 remaining in regulation, burying a pass from Alexander True.
Andrew Poturalski put the Firebirds ahead for good 47 seconds later, and McCormick rang one off the post and in with 9:06 to play to give Coachella Valley a two-goal lead for the first time since Game 1 of their division final series against Calgary.
The Firebirds captain finished off his fourth career AHL hat trick with an empty-net tally, his league-leading 10th goal of the playoffs.
Tye Kartye recorded a goal and an assist and Jimmy Schuldt scored shorthanded for the Firebirds, who won their fourth Game 1 of this postseason.
Joakim Kemell, Phil Tomasino, Michael McCarron and Jimmy Huntington scored for the Admirals.
(Coachella Valley leads series, 1-0)
Game 1 – Thu., May 25 – COACHELLA VALLEY 6, Milwaukee 4
Game 2 – Sat., May 27 – Milwaukee at Coachella Valley, 10:00
Game 3 – Mon., May 29 – Coachella Valley at Milwaukee, 7:00
Game 4 – Thu., June 1 – Coachella Valley at Milwaukee, 8:00
*Game 5 – Sat., June 3 – Coachella Valley at Milwaukee, 7:00
*Game 6 – Mon., June 5 – Milwaukee at Coachella Valley, 10:00
*Game 7 – Wed., June 7 – Milwaukee at Coachella Valley, 10:00
*if necessary… All times Eastern