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.
SUNDAY’S THREE STARS:
1. Nicolas Blanchard’s goal 1:30 into overtime gave Charlotte a 2-1 win over Hershey and a 4-2 series win in the East Division semifinals, ending the Bears’ two-year run as AHL champions.
2. Defenseman Frederic St. Denis nabbed the late game-winning goal as Hamilton ousted Oklahoma City with a 4-1 victory in Game 6.
3. AHL All-Rookie goaltender Eddie Lack stopped 28 of 29 shots to help Manitoba force a Game 7 with a 3-1 win at Lake Erie.
TODAY’S SCHEDULE (all times ET):
Game 6 – Texas at Milwaukee, 8:00 (MIL leads series, 3-2)
2011 CALDER CUP PLAYOFFS:
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 2, HERSHEY 1 (OT)
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 – HAMILTON 4, Oklahoma City 1
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 3, LAKE ERIE 1
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 – Texas at Milwaukee, 8:00 (MIL leads series, 3-2)
Milwaukee has its first chance tonight to close out Texas when the Admirals host the Stars for Game 6 of their West Division semifinal… The Admirals fell behind 2-1 in the series before collecting back-to-back road wins in Cedar Park, most recently a dramatic 2-1 overtime decision in Friday night’s Game 5… Milwaukee trailed 1-0 for most of that tilt, but rookie Gabriel Bourque tied it up with 4.4 seconds remaining regulation… It marked Bourque’s team-leading fifth goal of the playoffs (5-4-9) after totaling 18 goals (18-18-36) in 78 regular-season contests… The tying goal set the stage for Milwaukee’s Ryan Thang to win it 16:29 into overtime with a blast from the right face-off circle… Thang, who registered his first marker since Game 1 of the series, was assisted on the play by Mark Van Guilder… Bourque has earned a point in all five games of the series for Milwaukee, and Chris Mueller – who assisted on Bourque’s tally – has found the scoresheet in four of the first five contests (3-5-8)… Admirals rookie defenseman Roman Josi recorded an assist in each of his first four postseason games but was held without a point on Friday… Milwaukee rookie goaltender Jeremy Smith earned the win with 40 saves in net, and has stopped 70 of 73 shots (.959) in posting back-to-back victories… Overall, Smith owns the third-best save percentage (.934) among all AHL postseason netminders and ranks sixth in goals-against average (2.05)… Raymond Sawada tallied Texas’s lone goal of Game 5 – his first of the series – on the power play in the first period, with Aaron Gagnon and Philip Larsen picking up helpers… The Stars’ power play ranks first among teams still alive in the Calder Cup Playoffs at 25.0 percent (6-for-24), after Texas finished just 20th on the man-advantage during the regular season (17.1 percent)… Travis Morin still leads the Stars with six playoff points (2-4-6) but has gone scoreless in back-to-back games… Gagnon (2-2-4) and Larsen (2-2-4) both have a point in four of their first five postseason contests… During their run to the 2010 Calder Cup Finals, the Stars were 3-1 in potential elimination games – all on the road – and won Games 6 and 7 of the Western Conference Finals in Hamilton… The Admirals are 9-9 all-time with a chance to eliminate an opponent from the playoffs.
BLANCHARD POUNCES FOR CHARLOTTE CHECKERS UPSET – Charlotte Observer
Hockey is a game of opportunities, and when presented the opportunity to move on in the Calder Cup playoffs, the Charlotte Checkers’ Nicolas Blanchard grabbed it for a 2-1 overtime victory Sunday night to clinch the Eastern Division semifinal series against the two-time reigning champion Hershey Bears. "It’s something to be proud of to beat a great team like Hershey, but this isn’t our championship and we can’t be satisfied," Checkers coach Jeff Daniels said.
CHECKERS ELIMINATE BEARS WITH GAME 6 OT WIN – Harrisburg Patriot-News
The Hershey Bears celebrated a Giant Center first by clinching the Calder Cup on home ice last season. There was another first for the building Sunday night when the Charlotte Checkers defeated Hershey 2-1 in overtime in Game 6 of the East Division semifinals. It marked the first time that the Bears, who lost the best-of-seven series 4-2, were eliminated from the playoffs on Giant Center ice.
BEARS HAVE CHECKED OUT – Lebanon Daily News
The pressure was already on. Trailing by a game to Charlotte and facing elimination in the East Division semifinals, Hershey added to its stress by allowing a goal just 35 seconds into the first period during Game 6 on Sunday. Unfortunately for Hershey, the game ended like it started – with a quick goal by the Checkers.
CHARLOTTE ENDS BEARS’ SEASON WITH SERIES-CLINCHING WIN – Lancaster Intelligencer Journal
When Brian Fahey‘s point shot zipped through the leg pads of Charlotte goaltender Mike Murphy late in the third period, the Hershey Bears grabbed the momentum that they worked 50-plus minutes to acquire. No law exists, however, indicating that momentum leads directly to victory. The Bears found that out in stinging fashion early Sunday evening.
CHECKERS UP NEXT FOR PENGUINS – Citizens’ Voice
For the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, the road to a potential Calder Cup this season won’t go through Hershey after all. Nicolas Blanchard scored 1:30 into overtime as the Charlotte Checkers beat the two-time defending Calder Cup champion Bears 2-1 to close out the East Division semifinal series in six games. The Penguins will meet the Checkers in the East Division finals. The Penguins will host Game 1 Thursday and Game 2 Saturday.
BULLDOGS BEAT BARONS, MOVE TO NORTH FINAL – Hamilton Spectator
For way too long Sunday afternoon, the Hamilton Bulldogs seemed determined not to shoot the puck at Oklahoma City Barons goaltender Martin Gerber. Through almost 2-1/2 periods, the Dogs had tested him fewer than a dozen times. Fortunately for them, defenseman Frederic St. Denis had no such compunction. When he got the puck on a power play late in the game, he just teed it up and let it fly.
BARONS ELIMINATED FROM AHL PLAYOFFS – Daily Oklahoman
The power play wound up being the Oklahoma City Barons’ downfall. The Barons went scoreless with the manpower advantage yet again, and Hamilton eliminated the Barons from the American Hockey League playoffs on Sunday with a 4-1 win at Copps Coliseum. The Bulldogs won the best-of-7 series 4-2. Hamilton scored a pair of empty-net goals in the final minute to extend what had been a tight game.
MONSTERS LOSE TO MOOSE, 3-1, IN GAME 6 – Cleveland Plain Dealer
The Monsters have run out of wiggle room. The Moose scored the tie-breaking goal on a third-period power play and defeated the Monsters, 3-1, in Game 6 on Sunday at The Q. Manitoba has won two in a row to force a deciding Game 7 Tuesday night at The Q. "Game 7 — there’s nothing like it in hockey," Monsters coach David Quinn said. "Guys can make careers for themselves at this time of year. We’ll see what we’re made of."
MONSTERS LAY AN EGG AGAINST MOOSE – Morning Journal
The Monsters’ offense laid an egg so big Sunday in Game 6 of their playoff series with Manitoba the cleverest Easter bunny in the world couldn’t hide it, and now they are in danger of wasting everything they accomplished this season. The Moose skated into Quicken Loans Arena needing a victory to stay alive, and skated off 3-1 winners to make Tuesday at the Q a winner-take-all showdown in the best-of-seven series in the North Division semifinals.
MOOSE BUST OUT OF POWER-PLAY SLUMP, EXTEND SERIES – Winnipeg Free Press
The first-round AHL playoff series between the Manitoba Moose and Lake Erie Monsters has been as close as close can be. So when the Moose power play finally arrived – fashionably late, we should say – it was bound to make a difference. Keith Seabrook‘s third-period point shot on Sunday that found the back of the net was Manitoba’s first goal of the series with the man advantage after 25 prior failures. It was also the winner, powering a 3-1 Moose victory that forced the seventh and deciding game here Tuesday night.
FOLLOW THE BOUNCING PUCK – Winnipeg Free Press
While the Manitoba Moose were talking about the bounce that was way overdue – their first power-play goal of the series was the difference in Sunday’s 3-1 win over the Lake Erie – Monsters coach David Quinn was talking about the bounces his team was not earning. Since taking a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series, the Monsters have not scored a single goal at five-on-five. "We’re just not paying enough of a price," Quinn said.
MOOSE STAVE OFF ELIMINATION – Winnipeg Sun
The Manitoba Moose power play was better late than never. After going 0-for-25 through the first five-plus games in the North Division semifinal match-up with the Lake Erie Monsters, Keith Seabrook ended the drought on the 26th and propelled the Moose to a 3-1 victory Sunday in Cleveland. “It’s going to be a battle,” Bill Sweatt told Cleveland’s The Plain Dealer. “Now it’s time to see what both teams are made of.”
ADMIRALS’ BOURQUE IS FINDING HIS WAY – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Hockey isn’t the only area in which Gabriel Bourque has gotten better this season. The Milwaukee Admirals’ rookie from Rimouski, Que., has improved his English, too. "I can communicate with the guys and it’s more fun," Bourque said. "Where I’m from, nobody speaks English. It was tough for me to communicate with the other guys." Texas has had a hard time understanding ways to stop the 20-year-old Bourque in its West Division semifinal series.
DILLON MAKING IMPRESSION IN AHL – ESPN.com Dallas
Defenseman Brenden Dillon has been with the Texas Stars about one month and he’s already making an impression. “I haven’t been here very long, but I don’t think he’s going to be here very long either playing the way he is,” quipped Brad Lukowich, who was with the Dallas Stars when Dillon joined Texas in late March. “He’s an amazing player. He’s big, he skates well, he sees the ice.” And Dillon is making an impact for Texas as well, playing a key role on the blue line in the playoffs.
PIRATES BEGIN PREPARING FOR A RESILIENT FOE – Portland Press Herald
For a few seconds, Alex Biega considered the idea of practicing on Easter Sunday. But in the moments after the Portland Pirates closed out their series Saturday night against the Connecticut Whale, the Pirates defenseman didn’t have to worry about a Sunday morning skate. Instead of preparing for a seventh game tonight in Portland, the Pirates can start getting ready for a second-round series against the Binghamton Senators.
LITTLE TIME FOR SENATORS TO CELEBRATE – Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin
The Binghamton Senators did not get much time to celebrate the franchise’s first Calder Cup playoff series victory since 2003. When they left the ice Saturday night after Ryan Potulny‘s overtime winner in Game 7 against the Manchester Monarchs gave them a 6-5 victory, the B-Sens were met with the news that their second-round series against the Portland Pirates was already set, and that it would begin just four nights later.
CRAWFORD COMES UP BIG AGAIN IN HAWKS’ NET – Rockford Register-Star
Less than a week ago, goalie Corey Crawford had that “Oh no, not again” feeling as he watched his Blackhawks fall behind three games to none in the best-of-seven opening NHL series, about a year after his IceHogs were swept out of the AHL playoffs. But then came Sunday night’s 32-save performance, one that helped propel the Chicago Blackhawks to a 4-3 overtime victory over Vancouver and to Tuesday night’s Game 7. And now, Crawford’s dream of following directly in Antti Niemi’s footsteps is alive again.
DEVILS LOOK TO REPAIR IMAGE – Albany Times Union
Chris Ciceri didn’t flinch when he heard the question. "Definitely," he said when asked if he still encountered negative vibes from fans of the former Albany River Rats. As executive director of the Albany Devils, Ciceri oversees the off-ice operations of the American Hockey League franchise, which was lured to Times Union Center last summer after the River Rats relocated to Charlotte, N.C. He can’t control the on-ice product, but Ciceri can try to change the perception of Devils hockey in the Capital Region.
FROM CALDER TO STANLEY:
In yesterday’s Stanley Cup Playoff action, rookie forward Ben Smith, who posted 19-12-31 in 63 AHL games with Rockford in 2010-11, notched the game-winning goal in overtime as Chicago forced Game 7 with a 4-3 win over Vancouver; 2009 AHL goaltender of the year and Calder Cup finalist Cory Schneider earned his first career NHL postseason start for the Canucks… Nick Spaling scored twice and 2006 Calder Cup finalist Pekka Rinne made 25 saves as Nashville earned a 4-2 win over Anaheim, giving Predators head coach Barry Trotz his first playoff series win since leading Portland to the 1996 Calder Cup Finals… Behind a pair of goals from former AHL All-Star Daniel Briere and the overtime game-winner by Ville Leino, Philadelphia snagged a 5-4 win at Buffalo to stretch its opening-round series to a Game 7.
BY THE NUMBERS:
7-4 – Record of road teams in overtime games during the 2011 Calder Cup Playoffs.
5 – AHL franchises that have won consecutive Calder Cup championships (Rochester 1965-66, Nova Scotia 1976-77, Maine 1978-79, Springfield 1990-91, Hershey 2009-10) since the Springfield Indians became the only club to win three titles in a row in 1960, 1961 and 1962.
ON THIS DATE:
April 25, 2010 – Cory Schneider makes 46 saves but Grant Stevenson’s goal 8:49 into overtime sends Hamilton into the second round with a 3-2 win over Manitoba in Game 6 of their division semifinal.
April 25, 2005 – With the Penguins down 0-2 in the series, Colby Armstrong’s goal at 12:26 of the third overtime lifts Wilkes-Barre/Scranton past Binghamton, 3-2, in Game 3 of their first-round series.
April 25, 2004 – Konstantin Koltsov scores 11:44 into overtime to give Wilkes-Barre/Scranton a 3-2 win at Bridgeport in Game 7 of their East Division semifinal… Five of the seven games in the series required OT.
April 25, 1992 – Bruce Boudreau scores what would be the last goal of his professional career, helping the Adirondack Red Wings to a 5-3 win at Springfield in Game 1 of their second-round series.
April 25, 1964 – The Cleveland Barons cap a perfect 9-0 playoff run with a 5-2 win over the Quebec Aces, capturing the franchise’s ninth and final 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.