AHL Morning Skate: April 16

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.

Game 1 – Norfolk 2, W-B/SCRANTON 1 (NOR leads series, 1-0)
Game 2 – Binghamton 4, MANCHESTER 3 (OT) (Series tied, 1-1)
Game 2 – HOUSTON 3, Peoria 2 (OT) (HOU leads series, 2-0)

1. Rookie forward Derek Grant scored at 4:03 of overtime to give Binghamton a 4-3 win at Manchester and even the teams’ Atlantic Division semifinal at one game apiece.

2. Carson McMillan scored 11:34 into the extra session as Houston collected a 3-2 victory over Peoria and a 2-0 series lead.

3. Goaltender Dustin Tokarski stopped 32 of 33 shots as Norfolk opened its East Division semifinal with a 2-1 win at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

TODAY’S SCHEDULE (all times ET):
Game 1 – Manitoba at Lake Erie, 12:00
Game 2 – Oklahoma City at Hamilton, 4:00 (HAM leads series, 1-0)
Game 2 – Connecticut at Portland, 7:00 (POR leads series, 1-0)
Game 2 – Norfolk at W-B/Scranton, 7:05 (NOR leads series, 1-0)
Game 2 – Texas at Milwaukee, 8:00 (MIL leads series, 1-0)

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

Game 1 – Thu., Apr. 14 – PORTLAND 3, Connecticut 2
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 – MANCHESTER 2, Binghamton 1
Game 2 – Fri., Apr. 15 – Binghamton 4, MANCHESTER 3 (OT)
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 2, W-B/SCRANTON 1
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 5, HERSHEY 4
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 – HAMILTON 5, Oklahoma City 2
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 – MILWAUKEE 5, Texas 2
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 – HOUSTON 3, Peoria 2 (OT)
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 – Manitoba at Lake Erie, 12:00
The AHL’s last division semifinal gets underway on Saturday when Lake Erie hosts Manitoba in a matinee at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland… The fourth-year Monsters are making their first Calder Cup Playoff appearance after finishing in sixth place in the North Division in each of their first three seasons in the AHL… The Moose, meanwhile, reached the 2009 Calder Cup Finals and are in the postseason for the ninth time in 10 AHL campaigns… Lake Erie hovered around the .500 mark for most of the first half before surging toward the postseason with an impressive 20-7-0-1 record after the All-Star break… For the most part, the Monsters accomplished that without the services of rookie Mark Olver (23-17-40) and second-year pro Ryan Stoa (16-17-33), who spent much of the second half on NHL recall to Colorado but are back for the AHL playoffs… Ben Walter paced Lake Erie with a career-high 70 points (23-47-70) in 77 games and closed the regular season by recording a point in 14 of his final 15 contests (5-16-21)… Matthew Ford brings a three-game goal-scoring streak (4-1-5) into the playoffs and racked up a team-best 26 markers (26-16-42) during the regular season, doubling his output from the 2009-10 campaign… Lake Erie owned a 28-10-0-2 record against fellow West Division teams this year but split its four-game season series with the Moose (2-2-0-0)… Manitoba struggled to score at times this season – it ranked 20th in the AHL in offense (2.75 goals per game) – but the Moose made up for it with a sixth-ranked defense (2.63 goals per game)… AHL All-Rookie goaltender Eddie Lack was a huge part, going 28-21-4 (2.26, .926) while placing third in the AHL in minutes played (3,135)… Two-time AHL All-Star Sergei Shirokov produced his second straight 22-goal season for the Moose, and he led the team in both goals and points (58)… Manitoba forward Marco Rosa returned from injury and produced 11 points (6-5-11) in just nine games down the stretch.

Game 2 – Oklahoma City at Hamilton, 4:00 (HAM leads series, 1-0)
Oklahoma City is out to earn a split in Hamilton when the teams return to Copps Coliseum this afternoon for Game 2 of their North Division semifinal… The Bulldogs rolled to a 5-2 victory in Game 1 on Thursday, and dating back to the regular season, they have now won four straight games and nine of their last 10 (9-1-0-0)… Hamilton raced out to a 3-0 advantage after 20 minutes in the series opener on goals by Nigel Dawes, rookie Olivier Fortier, and Ryan Russell, and then received insurance markers from Aaron Palushaj and rookie Joe Stejskal down the stretch… The 22-year-old Stejskal scored his first professional goal after completing a four-year collegiate career at Dartmouth College… Dawes, who racked up 41 goals during the regular season (41-31-82) – ranking second in the AHL – added an assist on Thursday and now shows 12-13-25 in 21 career Calder Cup Playoff games with Hartford (2006, ‘07) and Hamilton… Bulldogs goaltender Drew MacIntyre stopped 24 of 26 shots in Game 1 and surrendered two or fewer goals for the 16th time in 22 appearances since joining the club in late February… Hamilton rookie forward Gabriel Dumont earned a penalty-shot attempt late in the second period but was denied by Oklahoma City goaltender Martin Gerber… Captain Ben Ondrus (1-1-2) and three-time Calder Cup champion defenseman Bryan Helmer netted goals for the Barons, and Gerber made 21 saves in relief… Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers, who had posted a shutout in three of his final four regular-season appearances, allowed three goals on six shots in the first period of his AHL playoff debut… The Bulldogs are 15-1 all-time in playoff series in which they win Game 1 – including 8-0 in the opening round – with the one loss coming to Texas in last spring’s Western Conference Finals.

Game 2 – Connecticut at Portland, 7:00 (POR leads series, 1-0)
Atlantic Division rivals Connecticut and Portland are set to battle in Game 2 of their division semifinal tonight at the Cumberland County Civic Center… The Pirates ended an eight-game postseason losing skid with a 3-2 win in Thursday’s series opener, collecting their first playoff win since Game 1 of the 2009 division semifinals at Providence on Apr. 15, 2009; Portland went on to lose the next four games of that series and was swept in 2010 by Manchester… Pirates forwards Luke Adam, Corey Tropp and Colin Stuart all scored within a 2:53 span late in the first period on Thursday, with Adam and Stuart connecting on the power play and Tropp burying an even-strength goal… Portland finished 2-for-5 on the power play overall and held Connecticut to an 0-for-4 showing… Making his AHL postseason debut, rookie Mark Voakes chipped in two assists for the Pirates; Voakes collected 11 points (6-5-11) in 18 regular-season games after coming up from the ECHL… Portland goaltender David Leggio, also appearing in his first career Calder Cup Playoff game, picked up the victory with 23 saves on 25 shots… Counting the regular season, Leggio has emerged victorious in four of his five appearances against Connecticut (4-1-0)… Rookie Blake Parlett and Dale Weise netted second- and third-period goals, respectively, for the Whale in Game 1… This is the first time Connecticut has dropped Game 1 of a playoff series since the 2006 division finals vs. Portland, ending a stretch of three straight Game 1 victories… Dating back to that series, Connecticut has now dropped three straight playoff games and four of their last five at the Cumberland County Civic Center.

Game 2 – Norfolk at W-B/Scranton, 7:05 (NOR leads series, 1-0)
Coming off a 2-1 victory over regular-season champion Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in Game 1 last night, Norfolk tries to bring a 2-0 series lead home tonight when the teams square off for Game 2 at Mohegan Sun Arena… The Admirals had dropped each of their last five regular-season meetings with the Penguins (0-3-0-2), and the Game 1 victory marked their first victory over the Penguins since taking a 7-4 decision on Dec. 11… Mattias Ritola, who collected 27 points (9-18-27) in just 17 contests with Norfolk during the regular season, registered a goal and an assist in the second period of Friday’s series opener… Ritola’s tally at 5:23 of the second frame, which was assisted by defenseman Troy Milam, marked the first goal of his Calder Cup Playoff career… Appearing in his first AHL postseason contest since putting up 5-5-10 totals in 11 games as a member of the Penguins in 2007, Marc-Antoine Pouliot nabbed the eventual game-winning goal later in the second period… Norfolk goaltender Dustin Tokarski made his AHL playoff debut and came within 2:47 of posting a shutout before Wilkes-Barre/Scranton rookie Keven Veilleux put his club on the board at 17:13 of the third period… Tokarski finished with 32 saves against a Penguins club which ranked fourth in offense during the regular season (3.26 goals per game)… AHL goaltender of the year Brad Thiessen stopped 20 shots in the losing effort for Wilkes-Barre… Thiessen did not lose back-to-back starts at any point in the regular year en route to a league-best 35-8-1 mark (1.94, .922) in 46 appearances… The Penguins, who went 30-10-0-0 on home ice, have not dropped two straight games at Mohegan Sun Arena since a season-high three-game skid from Nov. 6-19, which included a 4-1 loss to the Admirals.

Game 2 – Texas at Milwaukee, 8:00 (MIL leads series, 1-0)
Milwaukee looks to hold serve on home ice and take a 2-0 series lead over Texas when their West Division semifinal resumes tonight at the Bradley Center… The Admirals had totaled only seven goals during their six-game regular-season series against the Stars before opening this series with a 5-2 victory in Game 1 on Thursday… Milwaukee’s offense in the series opener was carried by Chris Mueller (2-2-4) and rookie Gabriel Bourque (2-3-5), who combined for nine points and a plus-8 rating… Bourque tied Libor Pivko’s Admirals AHL franchise record for points in a playoff game… Ryan Thang rounded out the Admirals’ offense on Thursday, and rookie goaltender Jeremy Smith earned the win with 22 stops in his AHL playoff debut… Texas netminder Richard Bachman, who allowed only four goals in four regular-season appearances against Milwaukee, was chased after 40 minutes in Game 1 after surrendering four goals on 13 shots… Texas had won each of its three visits to the Bradley Center during the regular season and got out to a good start again when Aaron Gagnon scored on the power play 9:48 into Game 1… The Admirals tallied the next four goals, though, before Mathieu Tousignant rounded out Texas’s offense midway through the third period… The Stars’ two-goal showing came on the heels of being shut out in their final two regular-season games and three of their last six… Texas has now dropped five straight playoff games since taking a 2-0 series lead over Hershey in the 2010 Calder Cup Finals… The Admirals are 8-3 all-time in playoff series after winning the opener.

B-SENS STRIKE IN OT, TIE SERIES – Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin

After playing 100 minutes of playoff hockey in a two-day span that they wanted to forget, the Binghamton Senators gave themselves a chance to move on with a furious third-period rally on Friday night. When three third-period goals were not enough, Derek Grant flew off the bench and finished Patrick Coulombe’s rush with a backhander at 4:03 of overtime that sent the B-Sens to a 4-3 overtime victory.

The Binghamton Senators came back from a two-goal deficit in the third period and eventually won in overtime, 4-3, over the Manchester Monarchs in front of 8,588 fans at Verizon Wireless Arena Friday night. With the win, the Senators tied the first round AHL playoff series at 1-1. Binghamton will host the next three games beginning on Sunday at 5:05 p.m.

Veteran center Matt Ellis had packed his bags for the flight to Philadelphia with the Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday when he got the word. “At the end of the day (Wednesday), right before heading to Philly, I was told to pack my bags and come back to Portland,” he said. “At the time, emotionally, it was a little bit tough. I had geared up for what I thought was going to be a challenge for the Stanley Cup with the Sabres.” Instead, it looks like Ellis is going to help the Portland Pirates try to win the second Calder Cup in the 17-year history of the AHL franchise.

The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins may have had the best record in the AHL during the regular season, but they didn’t have the best player on the ice Friday night. That honor was reserved for Mattias Ritola, who had a goal and an assist in the second period to lead the Norfolk Admirals to a 2-1 win over the Penguins in Game 1 of the East Division semifinals at the Mohegan Sun Arena.

PENS SINK IN OPENER – Wilkes-Barre Times Leader
During the regular season, the Norfolk Admirals had the lead after the second period in 40 games. They only lost one. When the Admirals closed out the second period against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins on Friday, they had a two-goal lead. It was the last thing the Penguins wanted.

Fresh from scoring the game-winning goal for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton against his former Norfolk teammates two weeks ago, Ryan Craig stopped while walking out of Scope and looked back. “We might see you in a couple of weeks,” he said. Indeed they will.

The way the captain of the Manitoba Moose sees it, the rookie label doesn’t apply at this stage of the season. So while inexperience could be a factor as the Moose open the best-of-7 American Hockey League North Division semifinal on Saturday at Quicken Loans Arena with as many as seven rookies in the lineup, Nolan Baumgartner expects the young players to be ready to go.

On the eve of the Manitoba Moose entering the heady days of the AHL post-season, head coach Claude Noel sauntered before the media Thursday with a T-shirt that read, “The beatings will continue until morale improves.” “That’s my new motto,” Noel cackled. “I should have worn that at the start of the year.” Perhaps, but Noel has been preaching another mantra of late: Will.

He’s seen quite enough losing for one season, so if you think Colorado Avalanche prospect Ryan Stoa is unhappy about being assigned back to the Lake Erie Monsters for the playoffs, you’d be wrong. “We went through a pretty bad stretch up there so every game was pretty important to keep battling and try to dig out of the hole,” Stoa said.

AEROS PREVAIL IN OT, GO UP 2-0 IN SERIES – Houston Chronicle
The Aeros knew they were going to get the best of the Peoria Rivermen in Game 2 of their first-round series Friday night at Toyota Center. Needing a split to even the best-of-seven AHL series, the Rivermen threw everything they had at the Aeros. But the Aeros got the breaks and played better en route to a 3-2 overtime victory in front of a crowd of 5,238.

AEROS PASS RIVERMEN IN OT, 3-2, TO WIN GAME 2 – Peoria Journal Star
The Peoria Rivermen never technically trailed Friday in Game 2 of their West Division Semifinal series against the Houston Aeros. But now Peoria trails the best-of-7 playoff 2-0. The Rivermen twice built one-goal leads, got a strong outing from rookie goaltender Jake Allen, but absorbed a 3-2 sudden-death overtime loss to the Aeros before 5,238 at Toyota Center.

The ghost of Phil McRae was on the ice with the Peoria Rivermen this week. The terrific rookie center wore a Rivermen game jersey and skated in practice with the AHL team, even though he can’t play with them. “I wanted to do this, be around the guys,” said McRae, who took in Games 1 and 2 of the West Division Semifinals from the grandstand at Toyota Center.

The start of this season wasn’t as bad as last year for Chris Mueller, but it was getting close. The Milwaukee Admirals right wing, who was shipped to the East Coast Hockey League last year, scored just one goal in his first 13 games this year. “At one point, I was almost going to be a healthy scratch just because things weren’t clicking for me,” Mueller said. Less than two months later, Mueller made his National Hockey League debut with Nashville.

It’d be a huge overstatement to say Marc-Andre Bergeron is haunted by his Game 7 loss as a member of the Hamilton Bulldogs in the Calder Cup finals back in 2003. But he is desperate not to suffer any more hockey heartbreak. Bergeron was a kid when he arrived in Hamilton. On a team loaded with talent he was an undersized 21-year-old with a huge shot who was good enough to be named an AHL second-team all star. The team dominated the league and rolled through the playoffs that year, until running into Houston in the final.

In last night’s Stanley Cup Playoff action, two-time Calder Cup champion and 2009 AHL playoffs MVP Michal Neuvirth turned in a 22-save shutout for Washington as the Capitals claimed a 2-0 series lead with a 2-0 win over the N.Y. Rangers… A veteran of 37 AHL playoff games, Nate Thompson nabbed his first career NHL postseason goal in Tampa Bay’s 5-1 win over Pittsburgh, evening that series at a game apiece… Rookie forward Ben Smith, who had 19-12-31 in 63 regular-season games with AHL Rockford, netted a pair of goals in Chicago’s 4-3 loss at Vancouver… 2008 AHL All-Rookie forward Bobby Ryan scored twice as Anaheim evened its series with a 5-3 win over Nashville.

4-0 – Record for the home team thus far in the early portion of the Western Conference playoffs, as Hamilton, Milwaukee and Houston (twice) have all defended their home ice… Lake Erie looks to join that group in Game 1 of its series vs. Manitoba this afternoon before the Bulldogs and Admirals host Game 2’s later on.

9 – Teams, since 1972, that have lost their first Calder Cup Playoff game after finishing first overall in the regular season, including Wilkes-Barre/Scranton last night… Each of the previous eight came back to win their series.

April 16, 2004Michael Leighton’s second consecutive shutout gives Norfolk a clean two-game sweep of Binghamton in the teams’ East Division qualifying series… After recording three points in Game 1, Alexander Semin posts three goals and an assist in Portland’s series-clinching 6-2 win at Providence.

April 16, 2002 – Raffi Torres tallies a goal and an assist and Trent Hunter registers three assists in Bridgeport’s 4-1 win over Manitoba in Game 2 of their conference quarterfinal series.

April 16, 1993 – Martin Brodeur makes 42 saves for his first pro playoff win as the Utica Devils take a 3-2 overtime decision from Rochester.

April 16, 1953 – In the only Calder Cup Finals Game 7 ever to go to overtime, Bob Chrystal’s goal gives the Cleveland Barons a 1-0 win over the Pittsburgh Hornets and their sixth AHL 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.