SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … After an exciting opening round of the 2012 Calder Cup Playoffs, eight teams remain in the hunt for the American Hockey League’s championship as the best-of-seven conference semifinals prepare to get under way on Tuesday.
The best-of-five first round ended on Saturday night with a classic Game 5 showdown between arch rivals Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and Hershey. The Penguins, returning home after coughing up a 2-0 series lead, got goals from Cal O’Reilly and Zach Sill just seven seconds apart late in the second period on Saturday and held on for a 2-1 win, marking the ninth time in the last 10 postseasons that Wilkes-Barre has won at least one series. The Penguins next face St. John’s, which was one of three teams to advance on a thrilling Friday night. Derek Meech, who was limited by injury to just six AHL games and two NHL contests during the 2011-12 regular season, netted his third goal of the playoffs and second game-winner at 5:01 of overtime to give the IceCaps a 4-3 victory and a 3-1 series decision over Syracuse.
The regular-season champion Norfolk Admirals needed four games to eliminate Manchester, winning twice on the road after the Monarchs’ ended Norfolk’s winning streak at 29 games with a victory in Game 2. Alex Killorn, a 2007 draft pick by Tampa Bay who finished his senior season at Harvard last month, capped a six-point series with his first playoff goal 13:27 into overtime of Game 4. Norfolk draws Connecticut in the second round after the sixth-seeded Whale swept in-state rival Bridgeport in three straight games, capped off by Casey Wellman’s series-clinching overtime goal in Game 3 on Apr. 22.
The Western Conference half of the bracket completed its opening round with a Game 5 classic at Allstate Arena on Friday night. Having already seen a 2-0 series lead slip away, sixth-seeded San Antonio saw Chicago come back from 2-0 down in the third period of Game 5 as well. The Rampage’s Jacob Markstrom and the Wolves’ Eddie Lack – former teammates in Sweden – dueled into a second overtime period before Roman Derlyuk scored to give San Antonio its first series win in franchise history. The Rampage move on to meet Oklahoma City in the conference semis after the Barons ousted Houston, three games to one, getting goals from 10 different players and points from 16 of their 18 skaters in the series.
The other Western Conference semifinal will pit #2 Toronto against #4 Abbotsford, both coming off first-round sweeps. The Marlies took care of Rochester in three straight games, with Jerry D’Amigo leading the way for Toronto offensively with 5-1-6, two game-winning goals and a plus-6 rating. On the other side, Krys Kolanos paced the Heat to three straight wins over Milwaukee with 4-4-8 in the series.
CONFERENCE QUARTERFINAL NOTES … Friday’s clinchers by St. John’s, Norfolk and San Antonio marked the first time in AHL history that three series ended with overtime goals on the same night… The Rampage’s win over Chicago marked just the seventh winner-take-all game in Calder Cup Playoff history to extend to double overtime… The home team has now won the last 16 playoff meetings between Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and Hershey, including all five this year, all seven in 2009 and the last four in 2008… Connecticut’s Cameron Talbot became the sixth goaltender in AHL history to earn shutouts in the first two games of a playoff series… Chicago’s Darren Haydar had a goal and an assist in Game 5 vs. San Antonio, giving him 4-7-11 in six career winner-take-all games… Hershey’s Boyd Kane moved into a tie with former teammate Ken Gernander for second place all-time with 123 career Calder Cup Playoff games played… Average attendance for 31 conference quarterfinal games was 4,992, highest for an opening round since 1997.
Eastern Conference Semifinals – Series “I” (best-of-7)
1-Norfolk Admirals [TB] vs. 6-Connecticut Whale [NYR]
Game 1 – Wed., May 2 – Connecticut at Norfolk, 7:15
Game 2 – Fri., May 4 – Connecticut at Norfolk, 7:30
Game 3 – Sun., May 6 – Norfolk at Connecticut, 7:00
Game 4 – Mon., May 7 – Norfolk at Connecticut, 7:00
*Game 5 – Wed., May 9 – Norfolk vs. Connecticut, 7:00 (at Bridgeport, Conn.)
*Game 6 – Fri., May 11 – Connecticut at Norfolk, 7:30
*Game 7 – Sun., May 13 – Connecticut at Norfolk, 5:00
Eastern Conference Semifinals – Series “J” (best-of-7)
2-St. John’s IceCaps [WPG] vs. 4-Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins [PIT]
Game 1 – Tue., May 1 – W-B/Scranton at St. John’s, 6:00 ET
Game 2 – Wed., May 2 – W-B/Scranton at St. John’s, 6:00 ET
Game 3 – Sat., May 5 – St. John’s at W-B/Scranton, 7:05 ET
Game 4 – Sun., May 6 – St. John’s at W-B/Scranton, 4:05 ET
*Game 5 – Tue., May 8 – St. John’s at W-B/Scranton, 7:05 ET
*Game 6 – Fri., May 11 – W-B/Scranton at St. John’s, 6:00 ET
*Game 7 – Sat., May 12 – W-B/Scranton at St. John’s, 6:00 ET
Western Conference Semifinals – Series “K” (best-of-7)
1-Oklahoma City Barons [EDM] vs. 6-San Antonio Rampage [FLA]
Game 1 – Thurs., May 3 – San Antonio at Oklahoma City, 8:00
Game 2 – Sat., May 5 – San Antonio at Oklahoma City, 8:00
Game 3 – Mon., May 7 – Oklahoma City at San Antonio, 8:00
Game 4 – Thurs., May 10 – Oklahoma City at San Antonio, 8:00
*Game 5 – Fri., May 11 – Oklahoma City at San Antonio, 8:00
*Game 6 – Sun., May 13 – San Antonio at Oklahoma City, 5:00
*Game 7 – Tue., May 15 – San Antonio at Oklahoma City, 8:00
Western Conference Semifinals – Series “L” (best-of-7)
2-Toronto Marlies [TOR] vs. 4-Abbotsford Heat [CGY]
Game 1 – Tue., May 1 – Abbotsford at Toronto, 7:00
Game 2 – Thurs., May 3 – Abbotsford at Toronto, 7:00
Game 3 – Sat., May 5 – Toronto at Abbotsford, 10:00
Game 4 – Tue., May 8 – Toronto at Abbotsford, 10:00
*Game 5 – Wed., May 9 – Toronto at Abbotsford, 10:00
*Game 6 – Sat., May 12 – Abbotsford at Toronto, 3:00
*Game 7 – Sun., May 13 – Abbotsford at Toronto, 3:00
*if necessary… All times Eastern