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AHL Weekly Release: Revisiting the ’98 All-Star Classic

WEEKLY RELEASE #12

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … Nearly 10 years ago, the AHL stars came out in Syracuse, N.Y., for the 1998 AHL All-Star Classic. It marked the second-ever All-Star event in the state of New York and the first in Syracuse, home to the Crunch since 1994.

The AHL introduced new team names for the 1998 Classic, as Canadian-born players took on a team of PlanetUSA all-stars, comprised of all players born outside of Canada. The Canadian vs. PlanetUSA structure is still in use today.

A sold-out War Memorial at Oncenter hosted the AHL’s brightest stars on Feb. 10-11, 1998, and the crowd took in one of the league’s highest scoring midseason classics to date. A night after taking a 13-8 win in the Skills Competition, the PlanetUSA team scored a record six first-period goals in the All-Star Game. Current Carolina Hurricanes forward Matt Cullen, a 2006 Stanley Cup champion, scored twice in that first period.

The Canadian squad responded with eight straight goals to take a 10-6 lead and matched PlanetUSA’s record with six tallies in the second period alone. After PlanetUSA tallied four consecutive goals of its own, Canadian center Peter Zezel notched the game-winner at 11:29 of the third period, marking his second goal and third point of the night. Zezel, who entered with 13 seasons of NHL experience, was named the game’s most valuable player.

Other notable AHL All-Stars that took the ice in 1998 included 2006-07 NHL All-Star Game MVP Daniel Briere, now of the Philadelphia Flyers, Brendan Morrison, Jay Pandolfo, and current Boston Bruins teammates Zdeno Chara and Marc Savard, all of whom have more than 600 career NHL games to their credit.

Both head coaches in 1998 went on to become bench bosses in the NHL. PlanetUSA’s Bill Barber won the Calder Cup with the Philadelphia Phantoms in the spring of 1998 and led the parent Flyers to the postseason in 2001-02. Canadian coach Bob Hartley, who won the Calder Cup with Hershey in 1997, guided Colorado to the 2001 Stanley Cup title, and in 2002 he became the first NHL coach in 35 years to appear in the conference finals in each of his first four years with the same team.

The AHL’s mid-season showcase returns to New York in just over a month, when the 2008 AHL All-Star Classic takes place at the Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena in Binghamton on Jan. 27-28. 

HOME SWEET HOME … Since losing its first seven home games in regulation, Grand Rapids has posted a 6-2-1-1 mark in its last 10 contests at Van Andel Arena, including 4-1-0-0 against fellow North Division foes.

Portland went 3-1-1-0 on a five-game homestand against divisional opponents and sits second in the league with 12 home wins on the season (12-4-1-0).

Rockford has an AHL-best home points percentage of .864 (9-1-0-1) despite playing a league-low 11 home games thus far. Following Saturday’s game at Peoria, the IceHogs will play 29 of their final 45 games at the MetroCentre.

HEATING UP … Syracuse left wing Joakim Lindstrom posted five points (2-3-5) in three games last week for the Crunch. Lindstrom now has 14 points (4-10-14) in six games since being reassigned from the parent Columbus Blue Jackets, for whom he scored one goal in three contests.

Manchester rookie Brian Boyle, who recently switched from defense back to his natural center position, has four goals over his last two games for the Monarchs. The 23-year-old is riding a four-game scoring streak (4-3-7) and has a point in seven of his last eight outings (5-6-11), helping Manchester to a 5-2-1-0 record over that span.

ETC … Admirals left wing Antti Pihlstrom netted two goals just 14 seconds apart in his club’s 4-3 win over Grand Rapids on Dec. 18… Pihlstrom followed that up with another two-goal showing in a 4-2 win at Quad City on Friday night… After going 6-0-0-0 in his first six North American pro decisions, Hartford goaltender Miika Wiikman suffered his first AHL loss on Saturday night as the Wolf Pack fell to Syracuse, 4-3… Wilkes-Barre/Scranton has won a season-high four straight games… After going just 1-for-25 (4.0%) on the power play in their previous seven contests, the Penguins are 7-for-21 (33.0%) during the four-game run… Lowell is 8-1-1-2 when scoring three or more goals this season and 1-16-2-0 when scoring fewer than three… Rochester’s Clarke MacArthur has a five-game scoring streak (3-4-7) and has registered a point in 14 of his last 16 AHL games (10-13-23)… Houston goaltender Nolan Schaefer is 8-1-0 with a 1.54 GAA and .943 save percentage over his last 10 starts, including two shutouts… Bridgeport leading scorer Jeff Tambellini scored the tying goal late in the third period and notched the decisive shootout goal as the Sound Tigers downed Hartford, 2-1, on Friday night… Bridgeport is 3-0-0-0 against Norfolk this season and has yet to allow a goal on 67 shots against; Joey MacDonald has blanked the Admirals twice, and Mike Morrison did the trick in a 3-0 win on Dec. 19… Philadelphia reached 20 wins prior to Christmas for the fourth time in franchise history, and two of the previous three Phantoms teams to accomplish the feat went on to win the Calder Cup (1997-98, 2004-05)… Defenseman Dan Spang scored in overtime and rookie goaltender Taylor Dakers won his second straight start as Worcester defeated Portland on Saturday by a 4-3 count, ending the Sharks’ 0-5-1-1 slide at the Cumberland County Civic Center… It marked Worcester’s first victory in Portland since the franchise’s inaugural game, a 4-3 shootout win on Oct. 6, 2006.