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AHL Morning Skate: April 24

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 6 – Portland 6, CONNECTICUT 4 (POR wins series, 4-2)
Game 7 – Binghamton 6, MANCHESTER 5 (OT) (BNG wins series, 4-3)
Game 6 –  W-B/SCRANTON 6, Norfolk 3 (WBS wins series, 4-2)

1. Ryan Potulny capped a five-point night with the game-winning goal in overtime as Binghamton stunned host Manchester, 6-5, in Game 7 of their Atlantic Division semifinal series.

2. Defenseman Steve Wagner’s first-period hat trick sent Wilkes-Barre/Scranton to a 6-3 win over Norfolk in Game 6 and a 4-2 series victory.

3. Paul Byron led the way with two goals and an assist as Portland eliminated Connecticut with a 6-4 victory in Game 6.

TODAY’S SCHEDULE (all times ET):
Game 6 – Oklahoma City at Hamilton, 4:00 (HAM leads series, 3-2)
Game 6 – Manitoba at Lake Erie, 4:00 (LE leads series, 3-2)
Game 6 – Charlotte at Hershey, 5:00 (CHA leads series, 3-2)

Atlantic Division Semifinal – Series “A” (best-of-7)
A1-Portland Pirates vs. A3-Connecticut Whale || Preview
Game 1 – Thu., Apr. 14 – PORTLAND 3, Connecticut 2
Game 2 – Sat., Apr. 16 – PORTLAND 3, Connecticut 2 (OT)
Game 3 – Sun., Apr. 17 – CONNECTICUT 3, Portland 1
Game 4 – Tue., Apr. 19 – CONNECTICUT 3, Portland 1
Game 5 – Thu., Apr. 21 – PORTLAND 5, Connecticut 4
Game 6 – Sat., Apr. 23 – Portland 6, CONNECTICUT 4

Atlantic Division Semifinal – Series “B” (best-of-7)
A2-Manchester Monarchs vs. E5-Binghamton Senators || 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 5, BINGHAMTON 4 (OT)
Game 4 – Tue., Apr. 19 – Manchester 6, BINGHAMTON 3
Game 5 – Wed., Apr. 20 – BINGHAMTON 5, Manchester 4 (OT)
Game 6 – Fri., Apr. 22 – Binghamton 2, MANCHESTER 1 (2OT)
Game 7 – Sat., Apr. 23 – Binghamton 6, MANCHESTER 5 (OT)

East Division Semifinal – Series “C” (best-of-7)
E1-W-B/Scranton Penguins vs. E4-Norfolk Admirals || Preview
Game 1 – Fri., Apr. 15 – Norfolk 2, W-B/SCRANTON 1
Game 2 – Sat., Apr. 16 – Norfolk 2, W-B/SCRANTON 0
Game 3 – Tue., Apr. 19 – W-B/Scranton 2, NORFOLK 1
Game 4 – Wed., Apr. 20 – W-B/Scranton 4, NORFOLK 2
Game 5 – Fri., Apr. 22 – W-B/Scranton 2, NORFOLK 1
Game 6 – Sat., Apr. 23 – W-B/SCRANTON 6, Norfolk 3

East Division Semifinal – Series “D” (best-of-7)
E2-Hershey Bears vs. E3-Charlotte Checkers || Preview
Game 1 – Thu., Apr. 14 – Charlotte 5, HERSHEY 4
Game 2 – Sun., Apr. 17 – HERSHEY 4, Charlotte 2
Game 3 – Tue., Apr. 19 – Hershey 3, CHARLOTTE 2
Game 4 – Wed., Apr. 20 – CHARLOTTE 3, Hershey 2
Game 5 – Fri., Apr. 22 – CHARLOTTE 5, Hershey 3
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 || Preview
Game 1 – Thu., Apr. 14 – HAMILTON 5, Oklahoma City 2
Game 2 – Sat., Apr. 16 – HAMILTON 2, Oklahoma City 1
Game 3 – Tue., Apr. 19 – OKLAHOMA CITY 2, Hamilton 0
Game 4 – Wed., Apr. 20 – OKLAHOMA CITY 5, Hamilton 2
Game 5 – Fri., Apr. 22 – Hamilton 2, OKLAHOMA CITY 0
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 || Preview
Game 1 – Sat., Apr. 16 – LAKE ERIE 6, Manitoba 4
Game 2 – Sun., Apr. 17 – Manitoba 3, LAKE ERIE 2 (OT)
Game 3 – Tue., Apr. 19 – Lake Erie 2, MANITOBA 1
Game 4 – Thu., Apr. 21 – Lake Erie 6, MANITOBA 3
Game 5 – Fri., Apr. 22 – MANITOBA 2, Lake Erie 0
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 || Preview
Game 1 – Thu., Apr. 14 – MILWAUKEE 5, Texas 2
Game 2 – Sat., Apr. 16 – Texas 3, MILWAUKEE 1
Game 3 – Tue., Apr. 19 – TEXAS 3, Milwaukee 2 (OT)
Game 4 – Wed., Apr. 20 – Milwaukee 3, TEXAS 2
Game 5 – Fri., Apr. 22 – Milwaukee 2, TEXAS 1 (OT)
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 || 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 5, PEORIA 3
Game 4 – Tue., Apr. 19 – Houston 2, PEORIA 1

*if necessary… All times Eastern

GAME NOTES (all times ET):
Game 6 – Oklahoma City at Hamilton, 4:00 (HAM leads series, 3-2)
Hamilton can advance to its second straight North Division Finals tonight with a home-ice win over Oklahoma City in Game 6 of the teams’ North Division semifinal… This marks the second straight postseason series in which the Bulldogs have been ahead 3-2 with the final two games to be played at home; in the 2010 Western Conference Finals, Texas rallied from that series deficit to oust Hamilton… Dating back to the regular season, the Bulldogs have won five straight home games since dropping a 6-5 decision to Rochester on Mar. 13… The Bulldogs outscored the Barons 7-3 in winning Games 1 and 2 at Copps Coliseum… After dropping Games 3 and 4 on the road, Hamilton regained control of the series with a 2-0 victory on Friday night in Oklahoma City… Goaltender Drew MacIntyre made 20 saves for the shutout, just two nights after surrendering four goals in a 5-2 loss in Game 4… Going back to the regular season, MacIntyre has allowed two or fewer goals in 18 of his 26 appearances since joining Hamilton from the Chicago Wolves in late February… Bulldogs forwards Nigel Dawes and Aaron Palushaj registered a goal and an assist apiece in the Game 5 victory, with Palushaj producing a pair of points after sitting out Game 4… Dawes, who ranked second in the AHL with 41 regular-season goals, now has a point in four of his first five postseason contests (3-3-6) to lead the ‘Dogs in scoring… Dustin Boyd picked up a helper on both Hamilton goals and shows three assists in his last two outings… The Barons have received 10 goals from 10 different players so far in this series… Linus Omark sits atop the team’s scoring list with three points (1-2-3) in the five games, and eight players are all deadlocked with two points apiece… Despite a 2-2-0 record in five appearances, Barons goaltender Martin Gerber ranks third among all AHL postseason netminders in goals-against average (1.74) and fourth in save percentage (.938)… Oklahoma City is 1-for-26 on the power play in the series.

Game 6 – Manitoba at Lake Erie, 4:00 (LE leads series, 3-2)
Back on home ice, Lake Erie has another chance to put away Manitoba and clinch its first-ever postseason series win this afternoon when the teams collide for Game 6 of their North Division semifinal… The Monsters snagged a 3-1 series lead before suffering a 2-0 setback in Game 5 on Friday night in Winnipeg… These teams split the first two games of the series in Cleveland, with Lake Erie earning a wild 6-4 victory in the opener and Manitoba coming back to post a 3-2 overtime triumph in Game 2… The Monsters have totaled 14 goals in their three wins thus far and only two goals in their two defeats… AHL All-Rookie goaltender Eddie Lack, who gave way to ex-Monster Tyler Weiman in net for Games 2-4, returned to the crease on Friday and made 26 saves for his first AHL playoff win and shutout… Lack ranked second among rookie goaltenders with five shutouts during the 2010-11 regular season… Friday’s contest was scoreless until 6:35 of the third period, when Moose forward Sergei Shirokov beat Monsters goaltender Jason Bacashihua… Shirokov has three goals in the series after being held without a goal in Manitoba’s six-game opening-round ouster at the hands of Hamilton in 2010… Jason Jaffray assisted on Shirokov’s goal and then added an empty-net marker, and he now shows five points (2-3-5) through the first five postseason games… Marco Rosa helped out on both Game 5 tallies, giving him 3-6-9 in the series… Going back to the regular year, Rosa now boasts 20 points (9-11-20) in 14 games since returning from a two-month injury absence… Prior to Friday, Lake Erie had not been blanked since a 3-0 loss in Houston on Jan. 7… Excluding shootouts, the Monsters have lost back-to-back games only once since the All-Star break – home-ice setbacks to Rockford and Hamilton on Mar. 30 and Apr. 1… Justin Mercier and captain Ben Walter continue to lead Lake Erie offensively with three goals and five points each… Lake Erie’s penalty kill has been a perfect 21-for-21 in the series, and including the regular season has not allowed a power-play goal in 41 Moose chances over nine games.

Game 6 – Charlotte at Hershey, 5:00 (CHA leads series, 3-2)
The two-time defending Calder Cup champion Hershey Bears are on the brink of playoff elimination this evening as they host Charlotte for Game 6 of their East Division semifinal… Hershey went up 2-1 in this series but finished its visit to North Carolina by losing back-to-back tilts, including a 5-3 loss in Game 5 on Friday after the Bears stormed out to a 3-0 second-period lead… Two of the Checkers’ three victories in the series have come after Hershey scored the game’s first goal… Drayson Bowman and ex-Bear Oskar Osala led the charge with three points (1-2-3) apiece in Game 5 for the Checkers, who scored once in the second period and four times in the third to take the win… Zach Boychuk and Brett Sutter each had a goal and an assist, and Nick Dodge notched the eventual game-winner… Dodge totaled only five goals (5-8-13) in 57 regular-season games for the Checkers but has now scored three times (3-1-4) in five postseason contests, netting one in each of Charlotte’s three home contests… Boychuk is on a five-game scoring streak (3-3-6) to begin the postseason, while Dodge, Sutter (1-4-5), Bowman (2-4-6) and AHL All-Rookie forward Zac Dalpe (3-4-7) each has a point in four of the first five contests… Dalpe racked up 3-2-5 in the first two games of this series at the Giant Center… After sitting out two games due to injury and taking the loss in Game 3, Checkers goaltender Mike Murphy has stopped 67 of 72 shots (.931) in posting back-to-back victories… The Bears got goals from Steve Pinizzotto and Mathieu Perreault (1-1-2) on Friday, along with the first career AHL playoff goal for Andrew Carroll… Perreault now has multiple points in two straight games (3-1-4) and places second on the Bears with six points (3-3-6) overall… Hershey leading scorer and former AHL MVP Keith Aucoin (2-5-7) was held off the scoresheet for the first time in the series in Game 5… Brian Willsie shows a point in four of the first five games (2-3-5) for Hershey… The Bears have been outscored 9-2 in the third period this round and converted just one of their 24 power play chances (4.2 percent), including an 0-for-7 outing on Friday… Hershey is facing postseason elimination for the first time since the 2009 East Division Finals vs. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton; in that series, the Bears also returned home down 3-2 but won the final two games at Giant Center to advance… Hershey is 4-0 all-time when facing elimination at Giant Center; the last Bears playoff ouster on home ice was in 2002, when they lost to Houston in the last-ever game at Hersheypark Arena.


The sense of urgency was absent for the Portland Pirates in the first period but began to emerge at the start of the second. Before the second period was over, that vital sense of urgency reached a new height. The Portland Pirates avoided a seventh game in their Atlantic Division semifinal series Saturday night, scoring all their goals in the final two periods for a 6-4 victory against the Connecticut Whale.

The frustration poured out from the fans as they streamed out, and it was etched deeply on the faces of the Whale players and coach Ken Gernander. “It’s frustrating any time you lose,” forward Dale Weise said. “But to lose the way we did … it’s just that much worse.” The Whale came out crisp and took a two-goal lead, but then collapsed in a heap of mistakes and lost to the Portland Pirates 6-4 to end the season in the first round of the playoffs.

Momentum on this night changed because of a too-many-men-on-the-ice penalty. The issue was decided, the Whale’s season essentially ended, when two defensemen collided. Hockey seasons, like playoff games, often end painfully. Sometimes they also end with a degree of slapstick. Saturday was a bad day for the Rangers. Saturday was a doubly bad day for the Rangers organization.

Everyone told them it was impossible. The Binghamton Senators made it incredible. Ryan Potulny scored 3:07 into overtime for a 6-5 victory in Game 7 of the B-Sens’ first-round playoff series against the Manchester Monarchs on Saturday night to complete an improbable comeback that saw the B-Sens rally from a 3-1 series deficit with three OT victories.

MONARCHS LOSE GAME 7 IN OVERTIME – New Hampshire Sunday News
The Monarchs’ season is over. The Binghamton Senators scored 3:07 into overtime to defeat the Monarchs, 6-5, in Game 7 of their first-round AHL playoff series at Verizon Wireless Arena Saturday night. The Senators came back from a 3-1 deficit in the series, winning three straight, including the final two in Manchester. All four of Binghamton’s wins came in overtime and five of the seven games needed extra frames.

Center Ryan Potulny scored 3:07 into overtime, as the Manchester Monarchs fell to the Binghamton Senators by a 6-5 final last night at the Verizon Wireless Arena. The Senators won three straight overtime games to win the 2011 Calder Cup Atlantic Division semifinal four games to three. “We’ve had a lot of those lately,” explained Monarchs head coach Mark Morris when asked about the tough defeat. “We’re awfully proud of our guys.”

GAME 7 YIELDS MANY FIRSTS – Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin
The Binghamton Senators and Manchester Monarchs met Saturday for the seventh time in their first-round playoff series, but the game was a first in more ways than one. Saturday’s contest was the first Game 7 of the 2011 Calder Cup playoffs, the first Game 7 in B-Sens history, the first Game 7 on the road for any Binghamton AHL team and the first Game 7 ever hosted by the Monarchs.

On the list of things defenseman Steve Wagner thought he’d do Saturday night, it probably ranked somewhere between winning the lottery and walking on the moon. But there he was, blasting three pucks to the back of the net in the first period alone. Wagner’s natural hat trick helped the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins to a 6-3 win over the Norfolk Admirals to close out the East Division semifinals in six games at the Mohegan Sun Arena.

After playing their first AHL game, most young players don’t get a call from a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame. Penguins prospect Andy Bathgate did. The 20-year-old center who is currently skating with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s taxi squad is the grandson of the former New York Rangers great of the same name. “He gave me a call and told me to work hard and have a good time,” the younger Bathgate said. “It was neat.”

PENS COME HOME, OUST ADS – Wilkes-Barre Times Leader
The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins needed to break a trend if they wanted to advance to the second round of the Calder Cup playoffs on Saturday. During the first five games of the series against the Norfolk Admirals, the road team won each game. That worked out well for the Penguins, who won the last three in Norfolk. But the pattern needed to change in Game 6 at the Mohegan Sun Arena.

Forty seconds into the first period of Game 6, the Norfolk Admirals found themselves in the last place they wanted to be against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins on Saturday night. On the penalty kill. It began when Norfolk defenseman Vladimir Mihalik was whistled for interference, and it ended almost two minutes later when Penguins defenseman Steve Wagner sent a slap shot into the net to put the Admirals down 1-0.

BEARS FACE ELIMINATION IN GAME 6 – Harrisburg Patriot-News
Oskar Osala has inside knowledge of how hard it is to close out the Hershey Bears in the Calder Cup playoffs. The Charlotte Checkers winger was a member of Hershey’s 2008-09 Calder Cup club, which trailed the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins 3-2 in the East Division finals before winning Games 6 and 7 at home to advance. After staging a stunning rally to win Game 5, Osala’s Checkers have a 3-2 lead on Hershey in the East Division semifinals.

Two third-period blitzes last week propelled Charlotte to a 3-2 series lead against the Hershey Bears, giving the Checkers the chance to eliminate the Bears today in the American Hockey League playoffs. Except games today and, if necessary, Monday, will be in Hershey, Pa. Except the Bears are a skilled team whose players have a combined 1,377 NHL games’ experience compared to 200 for the Checkers. Except the Bears didn’t win the past two Calder Cup championships by collapsing during first-round games.

Losing Game 5 at home to Hamilton was certainly a setback for the Oklahoma City Barons. A win and they would’ve pushed the Bulldogs to the brink of elimination. The loss, though, has the Barons just one game away from the season coming to an end. “We’re facing adversity,” defenseman Bryan Helmer said. “That’s what you have to deal with in the playoffs. That what the guys know in there.” If anyone on the Barons should know, it would be Helmer.

The Monsters are just one win from eliminating the Manitoba Moose and moving to the second round of the AHL playoffs, yet coach David Quinn sees plenty of room for improvement. “We still haven’t played a really good hockey game,” he said. “We’ve played solid defense in stretches, and our offense has been good in spurts, but we haven’t played a complete game. We haven’t played our best hockey.”

MOOSE HAVE LACK’S BACK – Winnipeg Free Press
When rookie goalie Eddie Lack was ineffective in Game 1 of the AHL North Division playoff series last weekend, Manitoba Moose left-winger Jason Jaffray felt the need to offer some brotherly reassurance. “I just kind of pulled him aside and told him to keep his head up. He took home three-quarters of the (team) awards a few nights ago so this team depends on him. I felt he’d get another opportunity to play.” That’s precisely what happened.

His season is but 11 games old and Jason Jaffray knows he is still in catch-up mode. Some pucks remain just out of reach. His shot release has sometimes been just a fraction of a second too slow. That first stride is still a chore. But improvements, however incremental, are surfacing. “I’ve felt more comfortable especially in the last three games,” said Jaffray, whose season began in late March after September knee surgery.

The Manitoba Moose have given themselves reason to believe. After playing what was easily their most complete game of the Calder Cup playoffs in Friday’s 2-0 shutout victory over the Lake Erie Monsters, the Moose hit the road trailing the best-of-7 North Division semifinal three games to two — with Game 6 set for Sunday in Cleveland. The road back from a 3-1 series deficit remains a long and potentially bumpy one, but it certainly beats the alternative.

Michal Neuvirth has defeated an impressive list of goaltenders in postseason series in his brief professional career, but Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers moves to the top of the list. It was the ninth postseason series Neuvirth has been a No. 1 goaltender for since leaving junior hockey and he’s now 9-for-9. The first eight came with the Hershey Bears in the American Hockey League, as Neuvirth backstopped the club to back-to-back Calder Cup championships.

In yesterday’s Stanley Cup Playoff action, Jonathan Quick made 51 saves as Los Angeles kept its playoff hopes alive with a 3-1 win over San Jose in Game 5 of their series… Nathan Horton scored at 9:03 of the second overtime and Tim Thomas made 44 saves in Boston’s 2-1 victory over Montreal… Michal Neuvirth, who backstopped Hershey to consecutive Calder Cup championships in 2009 and 2010, stopped 26 shots as Washington defeated the N.Y. Rangers, 3-1, to win their series in five games… Pavel Kubina scores twice and Dominic Moore had a goal and an assist as Tampa Bay defeated Pittsburgh, 8-2.

2-7 – Manchester’s overtime record in its last two playoff series… The Monarchs lost three of four OT games in last year’s conference final loss to Hershey, and dropped four of five in the extra session to Binghamton in this year’s division semifinal.

6 – Teams in AHL history that have won Games 6 and 7 of a playoff series on the road, including three in the last two postseasons: Abbotsford (2010 vs. Rochester), Texas (2010 vs. Hamilton) and Binghamton (2011 vs. Manchester).

April 24, 2008Ryan Potulny scores at 2:58 of the fifth overtime period to give Philadelphia a 3-2 win at Albany in the longest game in AHL history… Scott Munroe makes 65 saves for the Phantoms, while Michael Leighton stops 98 of 101 shots in the loss.

April 24, 1999Martin St. Louis scores twice and J.S. Giguere makes 21 saves as Saint John defeats Lowell, 4-3 in overtime, to take a 2-0 lead in their best-of-five series.

April 24, 1993 – Olaf Kolzig makes 26 saves as Rochester finishes off a five-game series victory over Martin Brodeur (22 saves) and the Utica Devils, 3-2.

April 24, 1992 – Yanic Perreault records a goal and an assist and Felix Potvin makes 21 saves as St. John’s defeats Moncton, 8-4, in Game 1 of their second-round series.

April 24, 1973 – The Nova Scotia Voyageurs run their playoff winning streak to 12 games spanning two postseasons, completing a four-game sweep of the Boston Braves with a 7-1 victory at Boston Garden.

April 24, 1966 – The Cleveland Barons defeat the Springfield Indians, 3-2, for their 15th consecutive playoff win, a record that still stands today.


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