AHL Morning Skate: 6.15.22

A2-Springfield Thunderbirds vs. N3-Laval Rocket
Game 7 – Wednesday, 7:05 ET, AHLTV
(Series tied, 3-3)

Game 1 – Sat., June 4 – SPRINGFIELD 2, Laval 1 (OT) | Recap
Game 2 – Sun., June 5 – Laval 4, SPRINGFIELD 2 | Recap
Game 3 – Wed., June 8 – Springfield 6, LAVAL 3 | Recap
Game 4 – Fri., June 10 – LAVAL 3, Springfield 2 (OT) | Recap
Game 5 – Sat., June 11 – Springfield 3, LAVAL 2 (OT) | Recap
Game 6 – Mon., June 13 – Laval 5, SPRINGFIELD 1 | Recap
Game 7 – Wed., June 15 – Laval at Springfield, 7:05
*if necessary… All times Eastern

After alternating wins through the first six games of the series, the Springfield Thunderbirds and Laval Rocket play one more time with the Eastern Conference championship on the line at MassMutual Center tonight... This is just the fourth Game 7 ever played in Springfield during the city’s 78 seasons in the American Hockey League, following wins by the Indians in 1991 and 1992 and by the Kings in 1970... The Rocket forced tonight’s winner-take-all contest with a 5-1 victory on Monday night... Danick Martel (9-6-15) notched two goals and an assist and Cayden Primeau (9-4, 2.10, .937) shined with 30 saves... Brandon Gignac (5-4-9), who missed Games 4 and 5 of the series, picked up a goal and an assist in his return to the Laval lineup... Gabriel Bourque (2-2-4) scored the eventual game-winning goal in Game 6, his first tally since he netted the series-clinching overtime goal in Game 5 at Syracuse on May 17... Matthew Peca (4-8-12) scored the only goal for Thunderbirds on Monday... Joel Hofer (6-2, 2.08, .947) stopped 26 of 30 shots in the Springfield cage... Sam Anas (4-9-13), who had 13 points through the Thunderbirds’ first two rounds, is still looking for his first point of the Eastern Conference Finals... Springfield had allowed six third-period goals in 11 playoff games before Laval scored four times in the final frame of Game 6... The Rocket are a perfect 29-for-29 on the penalty kill in the series; the Thunderbirds have killed off 15 of 18 Laval chances (83.3 percent)... Tonight’s game is the 96th Game 7 in American Hockey League history, and the first since Toronto’s win over Texas in the 2018 Calder Cup Finals... Home teams are 54-41 (.568) all-time... Since 1992, teams are 53-13 (.803) in Game 7’s when scoring first... Eighteen Game 7’s have gone to overtime, most recently the 2016 Atlantic Division Finals between Hershey and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton... The Eastern Conference Finals have not gone to a seventh game since 2008, when Wilkes-Barre/Scranton defeated Portland... Tonight’s winner will meet the Chicago Wolves in the 2022 Calder Cup Finals, which will begin Sunday afternoon in Rosemont, Ill.

C1-Chicago Wolves vs. P1-Stockton Heat
(Chicago wins series, 4-2)

Game 1 – Fri., June 3 – CHICAGO 5, Stockton 4 (OT) | Recap
Game 2 – Mon., June 6 – CHICAGO 3, Stockton 2 | Recap
Game 3 – Wed., June 8 – Chicago 3, STOCKTON 0 | Recap
Game 4 – Fri., June 10 – STOCKTON 4, Chicago 3 (OT) | Recap
Game 5 – Sat., June 11 – STOCKTON 3, Chicago 2 (OT) | Recap
Game 6 – Tue., June 14 – CHICAGO 3, Stockton 0 | Recap

The Wolves can exhale, at least for a few days.

Ivan Lodnia saw to it last night ― even if he was not sure at first. Lodnia broke free of Stockton net-front coverage and earned enough ice to convert a beautifully threaded pass from Spencer Smallman that finally solved goaltender Dustin Wolf, breaking a scoreless tie with 11:25 to go in regulation and propelling Chicago to a 3-0 win and a 4-2 series triumph.

“I don’t know,” Lodnia said in recounting the goal to reporters. “I shot it, and I didn’t know where it was. It just kind of, I guess, got in the back of the [net’s] padding, and I couldn’t see where it was.”

The goal light, Allstate Arena’s trademark goal fireworks, and the crowd quickly brought Lodnia up to speed, however.

Then captain Andrew Poturalski’s breakaway goal with 1:20 remaining lightened Chicago’s weight a bit more, and Josh Leivo’s empty-netter 35 seconds later finally put away the relentless Heat. Now a trip to the Calder Cup Finals awaits, with Game 1 set for Sunday afternoon against either Laval or Springfield.

“Unreal,” Lodnia said of the Wolves’ post-game emotion. “It’s nice to take a weight off our shoulders and focus on the next round. It’s huge.”

The Wolves had powered through the opening two rounds of their Calder Cup Playoff run against Rockford and Milwaukee, but now they have taken some of the hits that a playoff-tested club usually must endure at some point.

“I can’t say enough good things about [Lodnia],” Poturalski told reporters. “He works his tail off. He brings us so much energy, and he’s a guy everybody roots for. I know it’s got to be the biggest goal of his career... Everybody on the bench [was] so happy for him.”

Goaltender Cayden Primeau has been Laval’s top penalty-killer through the first six games of the Eastern Conference Finals.

Entering the series, the Springfield power play had gone 11-for-29 (37.9 percent) through two rounds of Calder Cup Playoff action. Against the Rocket, they are 0-for-29. And while their penalty kill has excelled, Primeau and the Rocket would prefer to rely on it much less often.

“I think it was important for us to try to stay disciplined,” Primeau said to the media after Game 6. “When you go give them power plays early, it sucks the life out of anything you’re trying to get going. I think as long as we stay disciplined, it’s a pretty even game.”

But with the likes of Sam Anas, James Neal, and a quarterback like Calle Rosen among the many weapons for the Springfield power play, the Rocket cannot continue to risk penalty issues in Game 7 tonight.

“We can’t give them any life,” Primeau said.

The Thunderbirds hope that the investment they made during the regular season can pay off when they most need it.

Having finished seventh overall in the AHL at 43-24-6-3 (.625), Springfield earned home ice for tonight’s decisive Game 7. The Thunderbirds posted a robust 26-10-2-0 home record in the regular season, and had a five-game home winning streak in the postseason ― until the Rocket took the last two contests in Springfield.

Head coach Drew Bannister will have a simple message for tonight.

“We know, as a group, individually, we’ve got to be better,” Bannister said following Springfield’s Game 6 loss. “And as a group, we will be better.

“We played 76 games to have this opportunity to have home-ice advantage. We’re going to have to take advantage of it here.”

Patrick Williams

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