AHL Morning Skate: All four division finals set to resume
AHL Quick Hits is now the Morning Skate… Every morning, take a spin around the AHL ice with recaps and previews, news and notes, facts and figures, and the top headlines from around the American Hockey League.
No games scheduled
FRIDAY’S SCHEDULE (all times ET):
Game 6 – Portland at Providence, (POR leads, 3-2)
Game 5 – Philadelphia at W-B/Scranton, (WBS leads, 3-1)
*Game 7 – Tue., May 13 – Rockford at Chicago, 8:00
*if necessary… All times Eastern… (WC) – WachoviaCenter
GAME NOTES (all times ET):
Game 6 – Portland at Providence, (POR leads, 3-2)
Portland can finish off the upset of regular-season champion Providence tonight when the teams square off for Game 6 of the Atlantic Division finals at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center… The home team has won each of the first five games in this series, including the last three by the Pirates after the Bruins won Games 1 and 2 by a combined score of 11-1… Portland goaltender Jean-Sebastien Aubin, who did not play in those first two games, has won seven straight starts – each by one goal – since dropping the team’s playoff opener at Hartford on Apr. 16… 2008 AHL All-Rookie forward Bobby Ryan has netted a goal in three straight games (4-2-6) and boasts a team-high five goals and 10 points overall this postseason… Drew Miller has five assists for the Pirates over the last two games… Second-year pro T.J. Trevelyan has a five-game scoring streak (3-2-5) for the Bruins, who are 4-0 at home this postseason… Martins Karsums has scored five goals in the series, and Petteri Nokelainen has added four… Portland is 9-1 all-time in Game 6’s, and 11-10 all-time with a chance to eliminate an opponent… Providence is an impressive 19-12 when facing elimination, and has twice won series after trailing 3-2 (2007 vs. Hartford, 2001 vs. Worcester).
Game 5 – Philadelphia at W-B/Scranton, (WBS leads, 3-1)
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton hosts Philadelphia tonight in Game 5 of the East Division finals, with the Penguins seeking to advance the conference finals for the first time since 2004… The Penguins have taken their 3-1 series lead by winning three straight games after losing the series opener at home… Nine different Pens skaters had at least two points in Wednesday’s 8-4 win in Game 4… Ryan Stone led the way with four points (2-2-4), and Tim Brent added two goals and an assist, raising his league-leading playoff totals to nine goals and 16 points in nine games… Dustin Jeffrey picked up a goal and an assist in Game 4, his first two professional points… Wilkes-Barre defenseman Alex Goligoski brings an eight-game scoring streak into tonight’s contest… Philadelphia has been outscored 15-6 since taking a 4-1 lead into the third period of Game 2… Phantoms forward Stefan Ruzicka leads all skaters in the series with six assists, nine points and 26 penalty minutes… Jared Ross scored his team-best fifth playoff goal in Wednesday’s loss… Philadelphia is 6-for-18 (33.3 percent) on the power play in the series; Wilkes-Barre is 5-for-33 (15.2%)… Philly has won six of seven visits to the Wachovia Arena this season… The Penguins are 11-6 all-time when trying to eliminate an opponent, including a 2-3 mark against Philadelphia in 2001 and 2004… The Phantoms are 8-6 all-time when facing playoff elimination.
Game 5 – Syracuse at Toronto, (SYR leads, 3-1)
TV: Leafs TV, Time Warner Cable
Syracuse can advance to the conference finals for the first time since 1996 with a win in Game 5 of the North Division finals at Ricoh Coliseum tonight… The Crunch are coming off a 5-4 overtime victory in Game 4 on Wednesday, a contest in which they trailed 4-2 with less than eight minutes left in the third period… Derek MacKenzie and Derick Brassard netted goals to knot the score, and Joakim Lindstrom tallied his second overtime winner of the playoffs at 9:44 of the extra session… The rally came against a Marlies club that had been 42-0-0-1 this season when taking a lead into the third period, including 4-0 in the playoffs… It marked Syracuse’s fifth overtime win of this postseason, putting them one shy of the AHL record held by Saint John (1996) and Milwaukee (2004)… MacKenzie (3-3-6) and Brassard (2-4-6) each sports a team-high six points in the series for the Crunch… Karl Goehring stopped 39 of 43 shots in Game 4, upping his playoff record to 7-3… Former Syracuse forward David Ling has five points (1-4-5) over the last two games for Toronto… Jay Harrison assisted on all four of the Marlies’ goals in Game 4, and his nine postseason points (2-7-9) lead the club… John Mitchell shows three goals in the last two contests and has a team-high six goals (6-2-8) in the playoffs.
Game 5 – Rockford at Chicago, (Series tied, 2-2)
TV: Comcast Cable Chicago
The West Division finals shift back to the Allstate Arena in Rosemont tonight for the pivotal Game 5… The home team has won 13 of 14 games between the teams this year, including all four in the series… The Wolves are 7-0-0 vs. Rockford in Rosemont, outscoring their guests by a 39-17 count… The IceHogs pulled even in the series with a pair of wins at the MetroCentre in Games 3 and 4, most recently a 3-2 decision on Wednesday… Troy Brouwer scored twice for Rockford in that victory, and Martin St. Pierre scored his first goal since an empty-netter in Game 1 of the first round vs. Houston on Apr. 16… After falling behind 3-0, the Wolves made it close in the third period on goals by Brian Fahey and Jesse Schultz, but IceHogs goaltender Corey Crawford held on for the win, stopping 32 of 34 shots on the night… Crawford ranks second among active goaltenders with a 2.02 GAA in nine postseason appearances (6-3)… League MVP Jason Krog, who led the AHL in all three major offensive categories in the regular season, shows a team-high 12 points – all assists – thus far in the playoffs… Neither Chicago (5-0) nor Rockford (5-0) has lost a game this postseason after scoring the game’s first goal.
Fluto Shinzawa, Boston Globe
The shot, a whack by Portland defenseman Joe Callahan, took off from the right point, advancing toward the Providence net through a shooting lane with no traffic to disrupt the sight lines of Tuukka Rask. Earlier in the second period, Petteri Nokelainen gave the P-Bruins a 1-0 lead on the power play. But less than three minutes after Nokelainen’s goal, the opportunity opened up for Callahan when Chris Collins backchecked too far into the corner, giving the defenseman time and space to send his long-distance shot on net. Somehow, the puck eluded Rask and ended up behind him. It was the first shot Rask had seen the entire period, and one that gave Portland a jolt of energy. In the third period, Portland busted the tie with a pair of strikes, and can now end the series tonight at Dunkin’ Donuts Center, which would tag Rask with the longest losing streak of his rookie season.
After being outscored 11-1 by the Providence Bruins in the first two games of their second-round playoff series, it looked like the season was about to end for the Portland Pirates. Less than two weeks later, following three one-goal victories at the CumberlandCountyCivicCenter, the Pirates are on the verge of closing out the Bruins tonight. What happened? After the two losses, the Pirates needed to loosen up. The coaching staff showed the team the “House Fire” episode of Seinfeld. In the episode, George Costanza attends the birthday party of the son of a new girlfriend. He runs out of the house screaming after discovering a fire in the kitchen. In his hurry, Costanza runs over kids, a clown and a grandmother with a walker. To Portland coach Kevin Dineen, that was what his team had done in Providence. “Everybody left the house,” he said.
Nine games into their playoff run, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins have already passed several postseason tests. Tonight, they’ll get a chance to test their killer instinct. Holding a 3-1 lead in the East Division finals, they can finish off the Philadelphia Phantoms with a win in Game 5 at the Wachovia Arena. “You couldn’t ask for a better scenario, winning two on the road in Philly, but it won’t mean much if we lose here at home,” defenseman Alain Nasreddine said. The Phantoms, badly beaten in an 8-4 loss in Game 4 Wednesday night, are apparently not broken. Buoyed by their 6-1 record at the Wachovia Arena this season, coach Craig Berube said his team is one win away from retaking the advantage in the series.
Playoff hockey is like a pendulum. Consider the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins series against the Philadelphia Phantoms. In Game 2, the Penguins were down 4-1 at the start of the third period and the Phantoms were outplaying them in every aspect. Then Tim Brent scored, followed by Luca Caputi and Kurtis McLean and just when it seemed as though the Penguins would be swept at home to start the series, they were now headed to overtime. A slap shot by Chris Minard won the game, and it sent a Penguins team that could’ve easily given up back to Philadelphia with momentum – and a 1-1 tie in the series instead of a 2-0 deficit. Tonight, the Penguins will go into Wachovia Arena with a 3-1 series lead and the chance to finish off the Phantoms. It sure is a change from the first two periods of Game 2.
Our playoff series against Toronto gives a lot of guys on the team a chance to spend extra time with their families, since many are from that area. I would say maybe half the Crunch has some friends or relatives with them this week, a much higher number than usual. I’m one of the lucky ones. I’m from Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., maybe 45 minutes from Toronto. At Games 1 and 2 in Toronto, I had around 30-40 buddies and family in the stands. My mom, Arlene, was there, ringing her cowbells. Sacrificing family life is part of playing the sport. As young teenagers in junior hockey, we often move hours away from our homes to play at that level. Even in the middle of an intense playoff series, it’s good to have the diversion of family.
In a sense, this playoff tussle between the Wolves and Rockford IceHogs is a battle of two home teams. So it’s probably appropriate that only the home team seems to win. Rockford, the Blackhawks’ top farm team, will try to snap a seven-game losing streak at Allstate Arena tonight in Game 5 of the West Division championship series. The IceHogs tied up the best-of-seven series at 2 with a 3-2 victory Wednesday night in Rockford. The Wolves, meanwhile, dropped to 1-5-1 this season in Rockford, where the series will return Sunday no matter who wins tonight. IceHogs winger Troy Brouwer, a Hawks call-up the last two seasons, can’t explain the extraordinary home domination by both teams. “The crowd has a lot to do with it,” he said. “They’re hostile in both buildings. You’ve got to tune it out.”