AHL Morning Skate: 5.10.22

Photo: Jeff Pexton

A1-Charlotte Checkers vs. A6-Bridgeport Islanders
Game 1 – Tonight, 7:00 ET, AHLTV

Game 1 – Tue., May 10 – Charlotte at Bridgeport, 7:00
Game 2 – Thu., May 12 – Charlotte at Bridgeport, 7:00
Game 3 – Sat., May 14 – Bridgeport at Charlotte, 4:00
*Game 4 – Mon., May 16 – Bridgeport at Charlotte, 7:00
*Game 5 – Wed., May 18 – Bridgeport at Charlotte, 7:00
*if necessary… All times Eastern

The Charlotte Checkers begin their Calder Cup road when they visit Bridgeport for Game 1 of their Atlantic Division semifinal series tonight... The Checkers have been idle since finishing their regular-season schedule on April 23, while the Islanders last played on May 4 when they completed a two-game sweep of Providence in their first-round series... Charlotte, in its first season as the top affiliate of the Florida Panthers and sharing an affiliation with the Seattle Kraken, went 16-3-2-1 down the stretch to secure the Atlantic Division title... The Checkers were led in scoring by Alexander True ― whose 42 points put him in a tie for 80th place overall in the league ― but they did see nine skaters hit double digits in goals, led by Zac Dalpe with 30... Ten different Islanders have already recorded a point this postseason... Aatu Raty (1-1-2) assisted on the Game 1 overtime winner before scoring the series-clinching goal in overtime of Game 2, giving Bridgeport its first series victory since 2003... These teams split their eight-game season series in 2021-22, with the Islanders owning a 9-8 edge in points thanks to one shootout loss.

A2-Springfield Thunderbirds vs. A4-Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins
Game 1 – Wednesday, 7:05 ET, AHLTV

Game 1 – Wed., May 11 – W-B/Scranton at Springfield, 7:05
Game 2 – Thu., May 12 – W-B/Scranton at Springfield, 7:05
Game 3 – Sun., May 15 – Springfield at W-B/Scranton, 5:05
*Game 4 – Mon., May 16 – Springfield at W-B/Scranton, 7:05
*Game 5 – Wed., May 18 – W-B/Scranton at Springfield, 7:05
*if necessary… All times Eastern

N1-Utica Comets vs. N5-Rochester Americans
Game 1 – Tonight, 7:00 ET, AHLTV

Game 1 – Tue., May 10 – Rochester at Utica, 7:00
Game 2 – Sat., May 14 – Rochester at Utica, 7:00
Game 3 – Sun., May 15 – Utica at Rochester, 5:05
*Game 4 – Tue., May 17 – Utica at Rochester, 7:05
*Game 5 – Thu., May 19 – Rochester at Utica, 7:00
*if necessary… All times Eastern

After going wire-to-wire to win the North Division in the regular season, the Utica Comets’ postseason gets underway tonight with Game 1 against Rochester... Utica took off out of the gate with a 13-game winning streak, the longest in AHL history from the start of a season, and finished 43-20-8-1 (.660) to claim the first division title by a New Jersey Devils AHL affiliate since 1998 (Albany River Rats)... Five of the Comets’ 20 regulation losses in 2021-22 came at the hands of the Amerks, including an 8-1 defeat in the teams’ most recent meeting on Apr. 29... Utica had 11 skaters hit double digits in goals this season, led by rookie Alexander Holtz (26-25-51)... Chase De Leo was the Comets’ leading scorer with 21-35-56 in 55 games... Utica’s Nico Daws (14-4-2, 2.54, .916) and Akira Schmid (22-8-5, 2.60, .911) were two of the top rookie goaltenders in the AHL this season... After securing its playoff spot on the last day of the regular season, Rochester got past Belleville in the first round with a pair of overtime wins... Arttu Ruotsalainen (3-2-5) had five points in the two games, scoring the Game 1 winner and setting up Brett Murray’s clincher in Game 2... Aaron Dell (2-0, 2.33, .906), who spent last season in the Devils organization with New Jersey and Binghamton, backstopped the Amerks to their first series win since 2005.

N2-Syracuse Crunch vs. N3-Laval Rocket
Game 3 – Thursday, 7:00 ET, AHLTV
(Series tied, 1-1)

Game 1 – SYRACUSE 5, Laval 3 | Recap
Game 2 – Laval 3, SYRACUSE 2 | Recap
Game 3 – Thu., May 12 – Syracuse at Laval, 7:00
Game 4 – Sat., May 14 – Syracuse at Laval, 3:00
*Game 5 – Tue., May 17 – Laval at Syracuse, 7:00
*if necessary… All times Eastern

C1-Chicago Wolves vs. C4-Rockford IceHogs
Game 1 – Thursday, 8:00 ET, AHLTV

Game 1 – Thu., May 12 – Rockford at Chicago, 8:00
Game 2 – Sat., May 14 – Rockford at Chicago, 8:00
Game 3 – Sun., May 15 – Chicago at Rockford, 5:00
*Game 4 – Tue., May 17 – Chicago at Rockford, 8:00
*Game 5 – Thu., May 19 – Rockford at Chicago, 8:00
*if necessary... All times Eastern

C2-Manitoba Moose vs. C3-Milwaukee Admirals
Game 3 – Wednesday, 8:00 ET, AHLTV
(Milwaukee leads series, 2-0)

Game 1 – MILWAUKEE 3, Manitoba 2 | Recap
Game 2 – MILWAUKEE 2, Manitoba 1 | Recap
Game 3 – Wed., May 11 – Milwaukee at Manitoba, 8:00
*Game 4 – Fri., May 13 – Milwaukee at Manitoba, 8:00
*Game 5 – Sun., May 15 – Milwaukee at Manitoba, 3:00
*if necessary... All times Eastern

P1-Stockton Heat vs. P4-Bakersfield Condors
Game 1 – Tonight, 9:30 ET, AHLTV

Game 1 – Tue., May 10 – Bakersfield at Stockton, 9:30
Game 2 – Wed., May 11 – Bakersfield at Stockton, 9:30
Game 3 – Fri., May 13 – Stockton at Bakersfield, 10:00
*Game 4 – Sun., May 15 – Stockton at Bakersfield, 8:00
*Game 5 – Tue., May 17 – Bakersfield at Stockton, 9:30
*if necessary... All times Eastern

The Calder Cup Playoffs get a taste of the NHL’s Battle of Alberta as the Stockton Heat and Bakersfield Condors meet in the Pacific Division Semifinals beginning tonight at Stockton Arena... It is the first postseason meeting between the Calgary Flames’ and Edmonton Oilers’ AHL affiliates since 1997, when the Hamilton Bulldogs ousted the Saint John Flames in a five-game first-round series... En route to a first-place finish this season, Stockton ranked third in the league in scoring (3.56 goals per game), third in goals allowed (2.72 per game) and first in penalty killing (86.6 percent)... Rookie Dustin Wolf, winner of the Baz Bastien Award as the AHL’s outstanding goaltender this season, won a league-leading 33 games and ranked fourth with a .924 save percentage... Matthew Phillips (31-37-68) led the Heat in goals, assists and points... Jakob Pelletier (27-35-62) led all AHL rookies with eight game-winning goals... Bakersfield’s Stuart Skinner was 4-1-1 with a 1.50 GAA and a .947 save percentage in six starts vs. Stockton in 2021-22, including two wins over the final eight days of the regular season... Skinner also had a .950 save percentage in the Condors’ two-game sweep of Abbotsford in the first round, stopping 57 of 60 shots.

P2-Ontario Reign vs. P3-Colorado Eagles
Game 1 – Wednesday, 9:05 ET, AHLTV

Game 1 – Wed., May 11 – Ontario at Colorado, 9:05
Game 2 – Fri., May 13 – Ontario at Colorado, 9:05
Game 3 – Sun., May 15 – Colorado at Ontario, 11:00
*Game 4 – Tue., May 17 – Colorado at Ontario, 10:00
*Game 5 – Wed., May 18 – Colorado at Ontario, 10:00
*if necessary... All times Eastern


A common theme stressed by American Hockey League head coaches is the development opportunity that the Calder Cup Playoffs provide to National Hockey League prospects.

“That scar tissue builds up,” Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins head coach J.D. Forrest said following his club’s 4-3 overtime win that clinched an opening-round series with the Hershey Bears on Monday night. “[The] jubilation in the locker room, you couldn’t be happier for the guys, and that was one really high-character win.”

That scar tissue had indeed built up. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton had been locked for weeks in a battle even to qualify for the Calder Cup Playoffs. Then they faced an emotional series against an in-state rival following an already-tense regular-season series between the clubs.

Then Forrest’s team had missed out on an opportunity to eliminate the Bears a night earlier. That was one lesson. Then they built a two-goal third-period lead Monday only to see the Bears score twice in a 43-second span in the final 1:35 of regulation and take the Penguins to overtime. Another lesson.

And still one more lesson came with Alex Nylander’s overtime winner. The Penguins had used the intermission to shake off Hershey’s comeback, compose themselves, and then wear down the Bears in overtime to take the series.

“How we got to overtime [did not] matter anymore,” Forrest said of his Penguins following the third period. “The only thing that matters once you’re in overtime is that we continue to play the same way we played for most of that third period. We figured we’d be in good shape.

“Just like water on a duck’s back, just let it roll off, and then go out there and perform. It’s a grind, these overtimes, and we need energy. And that’s what we did. I couldn’t be more impressed with the response that our players had. Up and down, I just thought it was incredible.”

If Forrest’s players someday hope to be with the parent Pittsburgh Penguins or elsewhere in the NHL competing for a Stanley Cup, then Calder Cup Playoff pressure is one more step toward preparing for that stage. The stress will only intensify under that NHL glare.

“One of the biggest things amplified in the playoffs is just performing under that pressure, under that microscope, and the circumstances in a playoff game,” Forrest said.

“The decisions you make, the magnitude of the situation, can kind of freeze guys, and they’ve got to learn to play through that. And that’s what playoff hockey is all about... Get a taste for it, because that is a different feel to just have that pressure cooker.

“We’ve been playing playoff hockey a long time. But when you’re in an overtime situation, one goal is going to decide whether your season ends or continues ― that’s a whole other ballgame.”

The Bridgeport Islanders had a reliable penalty kill in the regular season that finished 13th overall at 81.5 percent (190-for-233).

But head coach Brent Thompson does not want to tempt fate against the Charlotte Checkers in the teams’ best-of-five Atlantic Division Semifinals. While the Charlotte power play registered a 19.2 percent conversion rate (48-for-250) that ranked 18th in the regular season, the Checkers have been fortified by the return of top talent from the Seattle Kraken and more than two weeks to practice and make any needed special-teams adjustments.

“They’re an opportunistic team,” Thompson said of the Checkers. “They’ve got a very good power play with a lot of high-end skill. So, discipline is going to be a huge factor coming up with this series.”

Then again, five-on-five play against the Checkers is no treat, either. Charlotte placed 11th in the AHL with 3.25 goals per game in the regular season and features a mobile, top-tier blue line.

Charlotte has a “high-powered offense,” Thompson said. “Very good on the rush. Big bodies. Very active [defensemen]. They have four on the rush all the time, so we have to be prepared to defend and counter that. I mean, with their speed on the rush, we have to manage the puck the right way.”

Plenty of respect comes Bridgeport’s way from Charlotte head coach Geordie Kinnear and his players, too.

“I think it’s a real elite hockey team with high-end personnel,” Kinnear said of the Islanders. “Chris Terry’s been in this league a long period of time.”

Kinnear and Terry have a long history going back to their days in the Carolina Hurricanes organization. Kinnear, an assistant coach as part of a Carolina-Charlotte affiliation, worked with Terry for parts of seven seasons. The pair went to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2011 with the Checkers in Terry’s second full pro season.

“There’s a lot of experience on that side,” Kinnear said of the Islanders.

Charlotte defenseman Chase Priskie echoed Kinnear’s words.

“Bridgeport is a fantastic team,” Priskie said. “They’re really respected. They bring a lot of tough skill, the gritty players that really make you pay, and they make you pay all over the ice, trying to get to their blue paint.

“Their D play extremely hard, and their forwards do the same thing, especially on the forecheck. It’s not going to be an easy series whatsoever. And I think that the team that’s able to put their best foot forward every shift will be the team that is able to move on.”

Patrick Williams

In last night’s Stanley Cup Playoff action, Carter Verhaeghe scored twice, including the game-winner at 4:57 of overtime, as Florida defeated Washington, 3-2... Verhaeghe was the AHL’s scoring champion in 2018-19 with the Syracuse Crunch... Jake Guentzel had a goal and an assist in Pittsburgh’s 7-2 win over the New York Rangers... Pavel Francouz made 28 saves and Andre Burakovsky had a goal and two assists as Colorado completed a four-game sweep of Nashville with a 5-3 victory... 2015 AHL All-Star Jacob Markstrom made 34 saves as Calgary beat Dallas, 4-1.

Watch the Calder Cup Playoffs on AHLTV
Don’t miss a second on the road to the 2022 Calder Cup championship. AHLTV features live streaming of every AHL game in high definition on desktop, laptop, tablet and mobile devices, as well as OTT platforms such as Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Android TV. A subscription is just $29.99 for the entire postseason, or just $8.99 for a day pass. Visit AHLTV.com for details.