AHL Morning Skate: April 14

Every game day from now until the end of the Calder Cup Playoffs, the AHL Morning Skate takes 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.

HOUSTON 4, Peoria 1 (HOU leads series, 1-0)

1. Veteran forward Jed Ortmeyer notched a goal and an assist as Houston opened the 2011 Calder Cup Playoffs with a 4-1 victory over Peoria.

2. Aeros forward Robbie Earl tallied the eventual game-winning goal in the first period.

3. After Peoria had taken an early 1-0 lead, Warren Peters tied up the contest a 1-1 with his first goal of the playoffs.

Game 1 – Connecticut at Portland, 7:00
Game 1 – Charlotte at Hershey, 7:00
Game 1 – Binghamton at Manchester, 7:05
Game 1 – Oklahoma City at Hamilton, 7:30
Game 1 – Texas at Milwaukee, 8:00

Atlantic Division Semifinal – Series “A” (best-of-7)
A1-Portland Pirates vs. A3-Connecticut Whale || Series Preview

Game 1 – Thu., Apr. 14 – Connecticut at Portland, 7:00
Game 2 – Sat., Apr. 16 – Connecticut at Portland, 7:00
Game 3 – Sun., Apr. 17 – Portland at Connecticut, 6:00
Game 4 – Tue., Apr. 19 – Portland at Connecticut, 7:00
*Game 5 – Thu., Apr. 21 – Connecticut at Portland, 7:00
*Game 6 – Sat., Apr. 23 – Portland at Connecticut, 7:00
*Game 7 – Mon., Apr. 25 – Connecticut at Portland, 7:00

Atlantic Division Semifinal – Series “B” (best-of-7)
A2-Manchester Monarchs vs. E5-Binghamton Senators || Series Preview

Game 1 – Thu., Apr. 14 – Binghamton at Manchester, 7:00
Game 2 – Fri., Apr. 15 – Binghamton at Manchester, 7:00
Game 3 – Sun., Apr. 17 – Manchester at Binghamton, 5:05
Game 4 – Tue., Apr. 19 – Manchester at Binghamton, 7:05
*Game 5 – Wed., Apr. 20 – Manchester at Binghamton, 7:05
*Game 6 – Fri., Apr. 22 – Binghamton at Manchester, 7:00
*Game 7 – Sat., Apr. 23 – Binghamton at Manchester, 7:00

East Division Semifinal – Series “C” (best-of-7)
E1-W-B/Scranton Penguins vs. E4-Norfolk Admirals || Series Preview

Game 1 – Fri., Apr. 15 – Norfolk at W-B/Scranton, 7:05
Game 2 – Sat., Apr. 16 – Norfolk at W-B/Scranton, 7:05
Game 3 – Tue., Apr. 19 – W-B/Scranton at Norfolk, 7:15
Game 4 – Wed., Apr. 20 – W-B/Scranton at Norfolk, 7:15
*Game 5 – Fri., Apr. 22 – W-B/Scranton at Norfolk, 7:30
*Game 6 – Sat., Apr. 23 – Norfolk at W-B/Scranton, 7:05
*Game 7 – Mon., Apr. 25 – Norfolk at W-B/Scranton, 7:05

East Division Semifinal – Series “D” (best-of-7)
E2-Hershey Bears vs. E3-Charlotte Checkers || Series Preview

Game 1 – Thu., Apr. 14 – Charlotte at Hershey, 7:00
Game 2 – Sun., Apr. 17 – Charlotte at Hershey, 5:00
Game 3 – Tue., Apr. 19 – Hershey at Charlotte, 7:00
Game 4 – Wed., Apr. 20 – Hershey at Charlotte, 7:00
*Game 5 – Fri., Apr. 22 – Hershey at Charlotte, 7:00
*Game 6 – Sun., Apr. 24 – Charlotte at Hershey, 5:00
*Game 7 – Mon., Apr. 25 – Charlotte at Hershey, 7:00

North Division Semifinal – Series “E” (best-of-7)
N1-Hamilton Bulldogs vs. W5-Oklahoma City Barons || Series Preview

Game 1 – Thu., Apr. 14 – Oklahoma City at Hamilton, 7:30
Game 2 – Sat., Apr. 16 – Oklahoma City at Hamilton, 4:00
Game 3 – Tue., Apr. 19 – Hamilton at Oklahoma City, 8:05
Game 4 – Wed., Apr. 20 – Hamilton at Oklahoma City, 8:05
*Game 5 – Fri., Apr. 22 – Hamilton at Oklahoma City, 8:05
*Game 6 – Sun., Apr. 24 – Oklahoma City at Hamilton, 4:00
*Game 7 – Mon., Apr. 25 – Oklahoma City at Hamilton, 7:30

North Division Semifinal – Series “F” (best-of-7)
N2-Lake Erie Monsters vs. N3-Manitoba Moose || Series Preview

Game 1 – Sat., Apr. 16 – Manitoba at Lake Erie, 12:00
Game 2 – Sun., Apr. 17 – Manitoba at Lake Erie, 3:00
Game 3 – Tue., Apr. 19 – Lake Erie at Manitoba, 8:30
Game 4 – Thu., Apr. 21 – Lake Erie at Manitoba, 8:30
*Game 5 – Fri., Apr. 22 – Lake Erie at Manitoba, 8:30
*Game 6 – Sun., Apr. 24 – Manitoba at Lake Erie, 4:00
*Game 7 – Tue., Apr. 26 – Manitoba at Lake Erie, 7:00

West Division Semifinal – Series “G” (best-of-7)
W1-Milwaukee Admirals vs. W4-Texas Stars || Series Preview

Game 1 – Thu., Apr. 14 – Texas at Milwaukee, 8:00
Game 2 – Sat., Apr. 16 – Texas at Milwaukee, 8:00
Game 3 – Tue., Apr. 19 – Milwaukee at Texas, 8:30
Game 4 – Wed., Apr. 20 – Milwaukee at Texas, 8:30
*Game 5 – Fri., Apr. 22 – Milwaukee at Texas, 8:30
*Game 6 – Mon., Apr. 25 – Texas at Milwaukee, 8:00
*Game 7 – Tue., Apr. 26 – Texas at Milwaukee, 8:00

West Division Semifinal – Series “H” (best-of-7)
W2-Houston Aeros vs. W3-Peoria Rivermen || Series Preview

Game 1 – Wed., Apr. 13 – HOUSTON 4, Peoria 1
Game 2 – Fri., Apr. 15 – Peoria at Houston, 8:35
Game 3 – Mon., Apr. 18 – Houston at Peoria, 8:05
Game 4 – Tue., Apr. 19 – Houston at Peoria, 8:05
*Game 5 – Wed., Apr. 20 – Houston at Peoria, 8:05
*Game 6 – Fri., Apr. 22 – Peoria at Houston, 8:35
*Game 7 – Sun., Apr. 24 – Peoria at Houston, 5:05

*if necessary… All times Eastern

GAME NOTES (all times ET):
Game 1 – Connecticut at Portland, 7:00
Fresh off its first Atlantic Division title since 2006, Portland kicks off the postseason tonight against Connecticut at the Cumberland County Civic Center… The Pirates, who were dispatched in a four-game opening-round sweep by Manchester last spring, are looking to snap an eight-game playoff losing skid and earn their first postseason victory since beginning the 2009 division semifinals with a 3-0 win at Providence… 2011 AHL rookie of the year Luke Adam leads Portland into the playoffs after tying for the lead among AHL first-year pros in both goals (29) and points (62) in 57 regular-season contests… Rookies Nick Crawford (1-5-6) and Corey Tropp (0-6-6) paced Portland with six points apiece against Connecticut this season… Portland remains without top scorer First Team AHL All-Star Mark Mancari (32-32-64), Eddie Shore Award winner Marc-Andre Gragnani (12-48-60), and goaltender Jhonas Enroth (20-17-2, 2.78, .912), all still on NHL recall with Buffalo… David Leggio, who was 22-12-0 (2.80, .911) in 36 regular-season appearances, is poised to make his AHL playoff debut for the Pirates… Connecticut, back in the playoffs following a one-year absence, captured five of eight regular-season clashes with Portland this year (5-3-0-0), including three of four in Maine… Kris Newbury (17-44-61) and Jeremy Williams (32-23-55) were the Whale’s top offensive guns in the regular season, and fourth-year pro Brodie Dupont added a career-best 45 points (14-31-45)… Former Pirates netminder Dov Grumet-Morris solidified Connecticut’s goaltending position down the stretch, posting a 13-5-1 mark (2.12, .913) with one shutout in 22 outings.

Game 1 – Binghamton at Manchester, 7:00
Binghamton begins its first playoff series since 2005 tonight with a visit to Manchester, which has made the postseason in nine of its first 10 seasons in the AHL… The Senators crossed over to the Atlantic Division’s playoff bracket by virtue of finishing fifth in the East Division but with more points (92) than fourth-place Worcester (85) in the Atlantic… These teams split their two-game regular-season series, each winning on the other’s home ice in an eight-day span in mid-January… The Senators feature AHL MVP and scoring champion Corey Locke (21-65-86), who won the Calder Cup with Hamilton in 2007 and reached the 2009 Western Conference Finals in a Houston uniform… Former first-round draft pick Jim O’Brien racked up 56 points (24-32-56) in the regular season for Binghamton after managing just 17 points as a rookie in 2009-10… 2011 AHL All-Star Game MVP and former University of New Hampshire standout Bobby Butler (22-11-33), fellow rookie Colin Greening (15-25-40), and forward Erik Condra (17-30-37) were among the eight players assigned to Binghamton by parent-club Ottawa when the NHL’s regular season concluded… Manchester has reached the conference finals in two of the last four seasons, falling in six games last year to eventual-champion Hershey… Bud Holloway (28-33-61) and Justin Azevedo (18-35-53) each enjoyed career-best seasons offensively to pace the Monarchs, and Dwight King’s 52 points (24-28-52) doubled his output from 2009-10… Second Team AHL All-Star Viatcheslav Voynov tied for third among AHL defensemen with 15 goals (15-36-51) for the Monarchs.

Game 1 – Charlotte at Hershey, 7:00
Hershey begins its quest for a third consecutive Calder Cup title tonight at the Giant Center when the first-year Charlotte Checkers come to town for Game 1 of their East Division semifinal… At 46-26-3-5 (100 points), the Bears reached the 100-point plateau for a third straight season and the fifth time in six years since becoming the top affiliate of the NHL’s Washington Capitals in 2005-06… Despite being limited to 53 games in an injury-riddled regular season, former AHL MVP Keith Aucoin still ranked third in the AHL in assists (54) and tied for fifth in points (72)… Bears forward Andrew Gordon closed the regular season on a four-game goal-scoring streak (4-1-5)… Brian Willsie, who finished second on the Bears with 68 points (30-38-68) while putting up a plus-27 rating, is in the playoffs for the first time since making it as a member of the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche in 2003… The Bears and Checkers each took four victories in their eight-game season series, although the sides met just twice since Dec. 19… Charlotte rebounded from a 2-6-0-0 start to finish third in the East Division at 44-27-2-7 (97 points)… 2011 AHL All-Rookie forward Zac Dalpe ranked third among first-year pros in both assists (34) and points (57) for the Checkers and also played 15 NHL games for Carolina… Former first-round draft pick Zach Boychuk (22-43-65), Chris Terry (34-30-64) and Jacob Micflikier (29-32-61) all established career-high point totals for Charlotte’s second-ranked offense (3.31 goals per game)… Checkers forward Oskar Osala (13-29-42) was a member of Hershey’s Calder Cup-winning team in 2009.

Game 1 – Oklahoma City at Hamilton, 7:30
After clinching a playoff spot on the last weekend of the regular season, Oklahoma City crossover over to the North Division to battle division-champion Hamilton in round one… The Barons (40-29-2-9, 91 points) began April with a four-game winning streak – outscoring opponents 18-2 in that span – to ensure themselves of a postseason berth in their inaugural season… Oklahoma City’s lineup includes seven-time 30-goal scorer Alexandre Giroux (32-46-78) and all-time AHL defensemen scoring leader Bryan Helmer (6-19-25), both of whom are coming off back-to-back Calder Cup championships in Hershey… Oklahoma City’s top line of Giroux, Brad Moran (20-52-72), and Colin McDonald (42-16-58) combined to produce 208 points during the regular season… McDonald won the AHL’s goal-scoring title with his 42 markers after combining for 32 goals in his first three AHL seasons… Former Stanley Cup champion Martin Gerber went 20-16-4 (2.60, .911) between the pipes for the Barons… Hamilton captured the North Division crown for the second time in as many seasons and is in the postseason for the 12th time in 15 AHL campaigns… Midseason acquisition Nigel Dawes racked up 14-14-28 in 19 games after joining the Bulldogs, and his 41 goals overall (41-31-72) ranked second in the AHL to McDonald’s 42… Former second-round draft pick Aaron Palushaj, who totaled 8-24-32 as a rookie in 2009-10, produced 57 points (22-35-57) in 68 games this season to place second on the Bulldogs in scoring… Goaltender Drew MacIntyre made 21 straight starts after joining Hamilton in mid-February, posting a 12-6-2 mark (1.89, .938) in that span and surrendering either one or zero goals in 12 of the 21 outings… Hamilton was 22-15-1-2 on home ice this year, while the Barons were 22-13-0-5 on the road.

Game 1 – Texas at Milwaukee, 8:00
Texas, which reached the 2010 Calder Cup Finals in its inaugural season, begins defense of its conference title tonight in Game 1 of the West Division semifinals at Milwaukee… The Stars owned an impressive 5-1-0-0 regular-season record against the division-champion Admirals, including a perfect 3-0-0-0 mark at Milwaukee’s Bradley Center, and allowed just seven goals in the six contests… Travis Morin (3-1-4), Greg Rallo (2-2-4), and Raymond Sawada (2-2-4) paced the Stars with four points apiece in the season series… Rallo established career highs in goals (26), assists (28), and points (54) in 78 games overall to lead Texas in all three categories… Stars second-year pro Colton Sceviour ranked third on the club with 41 points (16-25-41), 10 better than the 31 he produced while playing all 80 games as a rookie last year… In his first full AHL season, Texas goaltender Richard Bachman went 28-19-5 (2.20, .927) with five shutouts in 55 appearances, ranking fourth among all AHL goaltenders in goals-against average, third in save percentage, and second in both saves (1,478) and minutes played (3,191)… Milwaukee, which is making its ninth straight postseason appearance, parlayed two of its first three division titles (2004, 2006) into Calder Cup Finals appearances, winning it all in 2004… Chris Mueller (24-26-50) and 2011 AHL All-Star Linus Klasen (22-23-45) each topped the 20-goal mark for the Admirals, and Roman Josi ranked third among AHL rookie defensemen with 40 points (6-34-40) in 69 contests… Milwaukee was an impressive 27-3-3-4 (.824) during the regular season when scoring the game’s first goal.


The American Hockey League announced today that its Board of Governors has approved a schedule modification plan beginning with the 2011-12 season. Under the plan, the regular-season playing schedule will be reduced to 76 games; the AHL playing calendar will be extended by one week; all sequences in which teams play four games in five nights will be eliminated; and the first round of the Calder Cup Playoffs will be reduced to a best-of-five series.

The Aeros have won six straight playoff series when taking Game 1, so with the Peoria Rivermen in town looking to steal a game, the Aeros wanted to make things as difficult as possible for the visitors. After allowing the first goal before many fans were in their seats, the Aeros settled down and dismantled the Rivermen 4-1 to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven West Division Semifinals.

For 76 seconds, the Peoria Rivermen looked like a high-energy team on the way to a dominating playoff run Wednesday against the Houston Aeros. For one shift. The Houston Aeros had a good time after that — 58:14 worth, actually — and buried a self-destructing, shiftless-looking Peoria team 4-1 to take Game 1 of their best-of-7 AHL West Division Semifinal.

If someone had told forward Mark Voakes and defenseman Corey Fienhage two months ago they would be suiting up for the Portland Pirates tonight in the opening round of the Calder Cup playoffs, both would have laughed. Both may now play pivotal roles for the Pirates, who open their best-of-seven series tonight against the Connecticut Whale at the Cumberland County Civic Center.

In the first month, there was a nine-game winless streak that dropped them to the bottom of the standings. Near the end of the season, there were 10 wins in 12 games to fuel a playoff push. In between, the Hartford Wolf Pack became the Connecticut Whale as the team found its identity on and off the ice. The Whale qualified for the playoffs in the season’s final weekend and enter the postseason with renewed confidence.

The Whalers left Hartford for North Carolina in the spring of 1997, shortly after current Pirates coach Kevin Dineen scored the last goal in the history of the Whalers. In an unusual twist, Dineen’s team opens the first round of the AHL playoffs at 7 tonight against the Connecticut Whale. Originally the Hartford Wolf Pack, the organization renamed itself the Whale in November, complete with green and blue uniforms reminiscent of the Hartford Whalers.

A tough season for the Ottawa Senators could mean a tougher playoff series for the Manchester Monarchs. Because the Senators finished near the bottom of the NHL standings, their season is done. Over the weekend, Ottawa sent eight players to Binghamton and now those players join a solid roster to take on the Monarchs in round one of the AHL playoffs beginning tonight at 7 at Verizon Wireless Arena.

FOR B-SENS, FRESH START AND FRESH FOE – Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin
Playoff excitement had a week to build at the Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena before the Binghamton Senators carried some of it out the door and onto their bus Wednesday morning. The six-hour trip to Manchester, N.H., where they open a best-of-seven first-round Calder Cup playoff series against the Monarchs Thursday night, was the final leg of a journey that began at a rookie tournament in London, Ontario, seven months ago.

While backstopping the Hershey Bears to Calder Cups the past two seasons, Michal Neuvirth served as an ideal playoff role model for Braden Holtby. This postseason, Holtby goes from goalie understudy to main man. Holtby and Hershey open the playoffs Thursday night when the Charlotte Checkers visit Giant Center for Game 1 of a best-of-seven.

The Charlotte Checkers will rely on their high-scoring, up-tempo game tonight in Hershey, Pa., to try to take down the defending American Hockey League champion Hershey Bears in the first round of the AHL best-of-seven playoffs. The second-place Bears finished three points ahead of the third-place Checkers in the East Division. “They’re a great team. Very well balanced. Lot of guys who can score,” Checkers coach Jeff Daniels said. “A big, solid defense and great goaltending all year.”

When Zach Bennett’s favorite hockey team, the Albany River Rats, moved to Charlotte, N.C., Zach wanted to move with it. Zach’s family discovered that a Charlotte medical center offered specialized treatment for his disease, so they decided to put their house on the market and make the move. But the real estate market did not cooperate with the Bennetts’ plans, and for the past few months they have been in Albany waiting for a seller so they could finally move the entire family to Charlotte. On Friday night, the Charlotte Checkers decided their biggest fan and “brother” shouldn’t have to wait any longer.

While Chris Vandevelde was with the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers down the stretch of the regular season, his mind — while focused on the games up there — also wandered back to what was going on with the Oklahoma City Barons. And with not many Edmonton players having experienced the playoff atmosphere, even the players who didn’t have the chance to come back to the Barons for the American Hockey League playoffs were keeping tabs.

ADMIRALS HAVE MADE THEIR MARKS – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Considering the American Hockey League has been around since 1936 and Milwaukee wasn’t added until 2001, some of the AHL records the Admirals recently broke are pretty remarkable. Not only did Milwaukee extend its AHL record of at least 40 wins and 90 points to eight straight years, the team set a league mark by finishing this season with a 16-game point streak on the road. By not losing in regulation on the road since Jan. 13, Milwaukee is in the playoffs for the ninth straight season; and only 10 teams in the history of the league have had longer streaks.

The Texas Stars have seen the enemy, and it is them. Well, not exactly. But the Stars’ first round opponent in the Calder Cup playoffs — the Milwaukee Admirals — are a pretty close impersonation. The two sides are defensive-minded and disciplined, which could make for a series low on goals but high on drama.

There’s no question Brad Thiessen earned the Baz Bastien Award as the top goaltender in the AHL this season. He went 35-8-1 to set a franchise record for wins in a season, his peripheral stats were top notch, and he was the cornerstone of a defense that allowed the fewest goals in the league. But the Bastien Award’s not going to help him now. Fair or foul, in professional hockey, a goaltender’s reputation is made in the playoffs, and Thiessen knows it.

Steve Wagner was relieved as he walked off the ice after practice at the Ice Rink at Coal Street on Wednesday. No, Wagner wasn’t relieved that practice was over. He was just happy to be a part of it. As the Penguins prepare to open their playoff series against the Norfolk Admirals at home on Friday, Wagner was joined on the ice by Tim Wallace and Geoff Walker for Wednesday’s practice. Their return – just in time for the playoffs – would solidify a Penguins lineup that went 7-3 in its last 10 games.

For the second consecutive year the injury bug bit the Abbotsford Heat hard. Coupled with one of the youngest rosters in the American Hockey League, the Calgary Flames’ top farm club was left on the outside looking in at the Calder Cup playoffs. “I think our players did a really good job of dealing with the travel issues, the injury issues and they stayed consistent with what they wanted to do and that was to be a team that was hard to play against and competitive every night,” said head coach Jim Playfair.

In Game 1’s around the Stanley Cup Playoffs last night, Alexander Semin, who had 11 points in seven AHL playoff games for Portland in 2004, scored the overtime goal in Washington’s 2-1 win against the New York Rangers… Teammates on Milwaukee’s 2006 Calder Cup finalist team, Shea Weber scored a goal and Pekka Rinne made 27 saves to lead Nashville to a 4-1 win in Anaheim… AHL alumni Alexei Kovalev, Arron Asham and Chris Kunitz scored third-period goals and Marc-Andre Fleury made 32 saves as Pittsburgh blanked Tampa Bay, 3-0… Jimmy Howard stopped 26 shots in Detroit’s 4-2 win over Phoenix… Chris Higgins and Jannik Hansen provided the offense and Roberto Luongo earned the shutout as Vancouver defeated Chicago, 2-0.

8 – Consecutive playoff series won by the Hershey Bears, an AHL record… The Bears go for number nine and begin their quest for a third straight Calder Cup when they host Charlotte in Game 1 tonight.

April 14, 2009Joey Crabb scores two goals, Matt Anderson records three assists and Chicago begins the West Division semifinals with a 6-5 win over Milwaukee.

April 14, 2004Quintin Laing scores twice and Michael Leighton makes 31 saves as Norfolk opens its best-of-three East Division qualifying series with a 3-0 win at Binghamton.

April 14, 2002 – In Bridgeport’s first-ever playoff game, Jason Krog (2g, 2a), Juraj Kolnik (1g, 3a), Trent Hunter (1g, 2a) and Rick DiPietro (20 saves) pace the Sound Tigers to a 5-0 win over Manitoba.

April 14, 1990 – Chris Joseph scores 8:44 into overtime as the Cape Breton Oilers stave off elimination with an 8-7 win over the Springfield Indians in Game 5 of their Northern Division semifinal.

April 14, 1957 – Fred Shero, Fred Glover and Andy Bathgate are among the goal scorers in Cleveland’s 5-3 win over Hershey, giving the Barons their second consecutive Calder Cup championship.

Don’t miss a step on the road to the 2011 Calder Cup championship. AHL Live brings AHL action to your computer all season long with live video webcasts and highlights of every AHL game, as well as behind-the-scenes features and interviews in the Video On Demand section… Visit theahl.com or ahllive.com for details.