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AHL Morning Skate: April 28

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 – Binghamton 3, PORTLAND 2 (BNG leads series, 1-0)

1. Zack Smith scored the game-winning goal at 7:35 of the third period to give Binghamton a 3-2 victory in Game 1 of the Atlantic Division Finals at Portland.

2. Binghamton’s Ryan Potulny picked up two assists on the night, upping his league-leading total to 16 playoff points.

3. Maxime Legault opened the Game 1 scoring with his first postseason goal for Portland.

Game 2 – Binghamton at Portland, 7:00 (BNG leads series, 1-0)
Game 1 – Charlotte at W-B/Scranton, 7:05
Game 1 – Manitoba at Hamilton, 7:30

Playoff Bracket || Scoring Leaders || Goaltending Leaders

Atlantic Division Finals – Series “I” (best-of-7)
A1-Portland Pirates vs. E5-Binghamton Senators
Game 1 – Wed., Apr. 27 – Binghamton 3, PORTLAND 2
Game 2 – Thu., Apr. 28 – Binghamton at Portland, 7:00
Game 3 – Sat., Apr. 30 – Portland at Binghamton, 7:05
Game 4 – Mon., May 2 – Portland at Binghamton, 7:05
*Game 5 – Tue., May 3 – Portland at Binghamton, 7:05
*Game 6 – Fri., May 6 – Binghamton at Portland, 7:00
*Game 7 – Sat., May 7 – Binghamton at Portland, 7:00

East Division Finals – Series “J” (best-of-7)
E1-Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins vs. E3-Charlotte Checkers
Game 1 – Thu., Apr. 28 – Charlotte at W-B/Scranton, 7:05
Game 2 – Sat., Apr. 30 – Charlotte at W-B/Scranton, 7:05
Game 3 – Mon., May 2 – W-B/Scranton at Charlotte, 7:00
Game 4 – Wed., May 4 – W-B/Scranton at Charlotte, 7:00
*Game 5 – Fri., May 6 – W-B/Scranton at Charlotte, 7:00
*Game 6 – Sat., May 7 – Charlotte at W-B/Scranton, 7:05
*Game 7 – Mon., May 9 – Charlotte at W-B/Scranton, 7:05

North Division Finals – Series “K” (best-of-7)
N1-Hamilton Bulldogs vs. N3-Manitoba Moose

Game 1 – Thu., Apr. 28 – Manitoba at Hamilton, 7:30
Game 2 – Sun., May 1 – Manitoba at Hamilton, 4:00
Game 3 – Tue., May 3 – Hamilton at Manitoba, 8:30
Game 4 – Wed., May 4 – Hamilton at Manitoba, 8:30
*Game 5 – Fri., May 6 – Hamilton at Manitoba, 8:30
*Game 6 – Sun., May 8 – Manitoba at Hamilton, 7:30
*Game 7 – Mon., May 9 – Manitoba at Hamilton, 7:30

West Division Finals – Series “L” (best-of-7)
W1-Milwaukee Admirals vs. W2-Houston Aeros
Game 1 – Fri., Apr. 29 – Houston at Milwaukee, 8:00
Game 2 – Sun., May 1 – Houston at Milwaukee, 6:00
Game 3 – Tue., May 3 – Milwaukee at Houston, 8:05
Game 4 – Thu., May 5 – Milwaukee at Houston, 8:05
*Game 5 – Fri., May 6 – Milwaukee at Houston, 8:35
*Game 6 – Sun., May 8 – Houston at Milwaukee, 6:00
*Game 7 – Tue., May 10 – Houston at Milwaukee, 8:00

*if necessary… All times Eastern

GAME NOTES (all times ET):
Game 2 – Binghamton at Portland, 7:00 (BNG leads series, 1-0)
Twenty-four hours after opening the Atlantic Division Finals, Binghamton and Portland go back at it tonight for Game 2 of the series at the Cumberland County Civic Center… The Senators began the series with a 3-2 victory on Wednesday, their fourth consecutive win since falling into a 3-1 hole in their opening-round match-up against Manchester… Binghamton has also won four straight road games since dropping their postseason opener to the Monarchs by a 2-1 count on Apr. 14… B-Sens forward Zack Smith, who had gone without a goal in the first round, scored at 7:35 of the third period on Wednesday to break a 2-2 deadlock and send his club to the win… It marked the first career Calder Cup Playoff goal for Smith, a former third-round draft pick who made his pro debut in the 2008 AHL postseason with Manitoba and appeared in six NHL playoff contests with Ottawa last spring… Rookie Bobby Butler and captain Ryan Keller netted the Senators’ other goals in Game 1… Butler has now found the back of the net in four straight games (4-0-4) and five of his last six (5-1-6), while Keller shows three goals and five points in his last two outings… AHL leading postseason scorer Ryan Potulny (8-8-16) chipped in two assists and has now recorded multiple points in five of his first eight playoff outings… Second Team AHL All-Star defenseman Andre Benoit posted two assists after going scoreless in Games 6 and 7 of the Manchester series… Binghamton goaltender Robin Lehner, a second-round draft pick (46th overall) by Ottawa in 2009, made 33 saves and improved to 4-0 since taking over the starting role… The Pirates, who lost on home ice for the first time in these playoffs (3-1), received goals from rookie Maxime Legault and veteran Colin Stuart, the latter of whom won a Calder Cup with Chicago in 2008… Legault registered his first career AHL postseason goal, and Stuart’s marked his first since Game 1 vs. Connecticut in the division semifinals… Portland forward Mark Mancari, who had five points (2-3-5) in three first-round games and also played Game 7 of parent-club Buffalo’s opening-round series a night earlier, was held off the scoresheet on Thursday.

Game 1 – Charlotte at W-B/Scranton, 7:05
The East Division Finals get underway tonight at Mohegan Sun Arena as Wilkes-Barre/Scranton hosts Charlotte… Both teams overcame first-round adversity to get here; the regular-season champion Penguins won four straight over Norfolk after dropping the first two on home ice, and the Checkers roared back from a 2-1 series deficit and a 3-0 hole in Game 5 to oust two-time defending Calder Cup champion Hershey in six contests… Wilkes-Barre had totaled nine goals the first five games of its division semifinal series before closing out the Admirals with a 6-3 triumph in Game 6 last Saturday… Defenseman Corey Potter led all Penguins scorers with six points (1-5-6) in the first round after producing a career-best 37 points (7-30-37) to go along with a plus-25 rating in 75 regular-season contests… Penguins defenseman Steve Wagner notched a hat trick in the Game 6 clincher over the Admirals, bringing him three-fifths of the way to the five goals he scored in 69 games during the regular year… Wagner (3-1-3) and forwards Joe Vitale (2-2-4), Nick Petersen (2-0-2), and Keven Veilleux (2-0-2) all registered multiple points for Wilkes-Barre in round one… AHL goaltender of the year Brad Thiessen posted a 1.67 goals-against average and a .940 save percentage against Norfolk, both good for fourth in the AHL… Carolina’s AHL affiliate swept Wilkes-Barre/Scranton from the first round of last spring’s Calder Cup Playoffs when it was known as the Albany River Rats… Charlotte averaged 3.17 goals per game during its first-round triumph over Hershey… AHL All-Rookie forward Zac Dalpe led the charge with eight points (3-5-8), and the former second-round draft pick brings a three-game scoring run (0-3-3) into this series… Checkers winger Nick Dodge scored three times (3-2-5) in the first round after totaling five goals (5-8-13) in 57 regular-season outings… Charlotte’s Zach Boychuk led all scorers with 10 points (5-5-10) in the eight-game regular-season series between these teams… The Penguins captured seven of those eight contests (7-1-0-0), but the Pens and Checkers have square off just twice since the All-Star break.

Game 1 – Manitoba at Hamilton, 7:30
For the second straight spring and fourth time in nine years, Hamilton and Manitoba collide in the Calder Cup Playoffs as the North Division Finals begin tonight at Copps Coliseum… The Bulldogs have won each of their previous three playoff encounters with the Moose, including a six-game division semifinal triumph in 2010… Hamilton knocked off Oklahoma City in six games in the opening round this year, while Manitoba orchestrated a comeback from a 3-1 series deficit to send Lake Erie home for the summer… Hamilton’s top line of Nigel Dawes (5-3-8), Aaron Palushaj (2-5-7), and Dustin Boyd (0-5-5) accounted for 20 of the Bulldogs’ 42 total points in the division semifinals… A Second Team AHL All-Star, Dawes netted a goal in four of the six first-round contests, including all three on home ice… Palushaj posted three assists in Hamilton’s series-clinching 4-1 victory on Sunday… Bulldogs goaltender Drew MacIntyre is in the second round for the fifth time in the last six years with five different teams, including Manitoba in 2007… MacIntyre, obtained just prior to the NHL trade deadline, posted a league-best .945 save percentage in the first round and stopped a combined 44 of 45 shots (.978) in the Bulldogs’ Game 5 and Game 6 triumphs… MacIntyre will be opposed by Moose All-Rookie netminder Eddie Lack, who also closed out the first round impressively… Lack surrendered five goals in Game 1 vs. Lake Erie and was replaced by Tyler Weiman for Games 2, 3, and 4, but returned to the crease in Game 5 and turned aside 86 of 88 shots (.977) from there on out as Manitoba rallied for the series win… His 1.60 goals-against average is tops among all AHL goaltenders thus far… Manitoba was paced offensively by Marco Rosa, whose 12 points (4-8-12) rank second in the league… Rosa produced four multiple-point efforts against the Monsters, and two-time AHL All-Star Sergei Shirokov recorded a point in all seven games (5-2-7), including a goal in five of the seven… Hamilton killed off 29 of 30 shorthanded situations in the division semifinals (96.7 percent), and Manitoba was just 2-for-30 (6.7 percent) on the power play.


The Binghamton Senators carried momentum from their come-from-behind first-round playoff victory into Game 1 of the Atlantic Division Finals Wednesday night, and they made the most of it by defeating the Portland Pirates, 3-2. It was their fourth straight victory. And this time they did it in a regulation 60 minutes.

PIRATES LOSE EDGE AT HOME – Portland Press Herald
The Binghamton Senators got a chance to play their run-and-gun offense just enough make a difference Wednesday night. Center Zack Smith scored his first playoff goal on a rebound seven minutes into the third period to lift the Senators to a 3-2 win against the Portland Pirates in the opening game of their best-of-seven Calder Cup series at the Cumberland County Civic Center.

The reinforcements are back for more. After the Philadelphia Flyers eliminated the Buffalo Sabres from the NHL playoffs Tuesday night in Philadelphia, a handful of players headed back to Portland to rejoin the Pirates, who opened their Atlantic Division final series against the Binghamton Senators with a 3-2 loss Wednesday night at the Cumberland County Civic Center. Goalie Jhonas Enroth, center Matt Ellis and right wing Mark Mancari dressed for the Pirates in the opener of the best-of-seven series. Game 2 is at 7 tonight at the Civic Center.

Ryan Potulny entered the second round of the AHL playoffs as the league’s leading scorer. He left the Cumberland County Civic Center on Wednesday night still perched atop the league’s leaders. With a pair of assists in a 3-2 win over the Portland Pirates – the only AHL playoff game Wednesday night – Potulny, a center for the Binghamton Senators, leads all AHL scorers with eight goals and eight assists in eight playoff games.

ON BRINK OF BIG BREAKOUT – Wilkes-Barre Times Leader
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins forward Brett Sterling feels like it could happen at any moment. With several of their top forwards being held scoreless or to a single goal during the first round of the playoffs, it could be a matter of time before the Penguins offense starts firing on all cylinders. And if it does happen, it could lead to some high-scoring affairs against the potent Charlotte Checkers offense.

TRUE GRIT – Citizens’ Voice
University of Pennsylvania researcher Angela Duckworth studied would-be cadets at West Point, not hockey players. But there’s no doubt her findings would be the same in that field too. Who’s going to win the East Division finals series between the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and Charlotte Checkers that begins tonight at the Mohegan Sun Arena? Probably the team that plays with the most grit.

The Charlotte Checkers’ climb through the American Hockey League playoffs only gets steeper tonight in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. The Checkers just swept aside the defending AHL champion Hershey Bears in six games, a difficult enough task. Now they’ve got an even tougher job in taking on Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in the best-of-seven series in the East Division finals.

LENDING A HELPING HAND – Kingston Whig-Standard
As fine a season as Mike Murphy is having with the American Hockey League’s Charlotte Checkers, his off-ice offerings have been just as impressive if not more. At the rink, he recorded a 2.53 GAA and a .919 save percentage in 39 regular-season games, posted two shutouts, won 21 of 35 decisions and backstopped Charlotte to a series win over the two-time defending champions. Yet those accomplishments pale, in a very real sense, in comparison to the hope and incentive Murphy, 22, has helped to provide for an 11-year-old from Albany, N.Y.

There’s a scene in every horror movie when the teenage hero who has been chased by some terrible psychopath for the past half-hour finally gets a reprieve. The scary music stops, the lighting brightens and the crowd in the theatre exhales, finally releasing its white-knuckle grip on the hand rests. Which is exactly the moment the killer jumps out. Welcome to the Hamilton Bulldogs’ next series.

Can the Manitoba Moose find an answer for Nigel Dawes, Dustin Boyd and Aaron Palushaj? That’s the million-dollar question going into the North Division final between the Moose and Hamilton Bulldogs, which opens Thursday at Copps Coliseum in Hamilton. “It’ll be one of the biggest keys – if not the biggest key – in the series,” Moose head coach Claude Noel said Wednesday.

Alexandre Bolduc went into the Calder Cup playoffs looking to make an impact. As it turns out, Bolduc endured plenty of aggravation — some of which was self-inflicted — but delivered the series-clinching goal in Game 7 as the Moose overcame a 3-1 series deficit with a 4-1 triumph over the Lake Erie Monsters on Tuesday night. Up until the midway point of the third period, it had been a mostly frustrating series for Bolduc, who took three minor penalties in Game 6 and another one in Game 7 before showcasing his world-class speed and scoring a clutch goal.

Regardless of Manitoba’s gutsy comeback, winning Games 6 and 7 right from under the Monsters’ bed, the only reward for the Moose is a single night off before playing a first-place team that beat them six out of eight times this year, including the final two games of the regular season. "We have to wrap our heads around Hamilton and get Lake Erie out of our system," head coach Claude Noel said. "And we have to do that in one day. There’s joy, elation, celebration, we’re great… then we’re playing again."

As far as Hamilton’s head coach Randy Cunneyworth is concerned, the Bulldogs’ regular season record against the Manitoba Moose is meaningless. Hamilton did not lose in regulation in eight games against Manitoba, wining six times and losing twice in the shootout. But when the teams meet in Game 1 of the North Division Final Thursday those victories will be of no significance, says Cunneyworth. "It’s a new season. Those regular season situations apply only in your memory."

If it feels like déjà vu all over again, Aeros fans, you’re not alone. Three times in the last six years, the Aeros have faced Peoria in the first round of the playoffs, beaten them and advanced to the division finals to play Milwaukee. The Admirals earned the right to play the Aeros when they dispatched of the pesky Texas Stars on Monday night in Wisconsin. The Admirals lost two of the first three games before winning three in a row.

During the regular season, the Monsters went 24-11-2-3 at The Q to help them finish second in the North Division and secure home-ice advantage for a first-round playoff series against Manitoba. When it mattered most, though, the Monsters failed to make the comfort zone work for them. After winning Game 1 — the first playoff game in the four-season history of the franchise — Lake Erie lost Game 2, Game 6 and Game 7 at home.

They seemed bound for glory. Midway through the 2010-11 season, the Peoria Rivermen had the top goaltending tandem in the American Hockey League, a franchise-record four members in the AHL All-Star Game, power-play and penalty-kill units ranked in the league’s top 10 and a defense ranked No. 1. They had their strongest veteran class, including captain Dean Arsene and winger Graham Mink, who had played together on Hershey’s Calder Cup champions. They sat atop the West Division and Western Conference.

In last night’s Stanley Cup Playoff action, Johnny Boychuk netted his first goal of the playoffs and Nathan Horton scored the game-winner in overtime as Boston earned a 4-3 win over Montreal in Game 7 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal… In another Game 7, Sean Bergenheim scored the lone goal and former AHL goaltender of the year Dwayne Roloson posted a 36-save shutout as Tampa Bay got past Pittsburgh, 1-0.

4 – Winners of the Louis A.R. Pieri Award as AHL coach of the year who have guided their teams to the second round of this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs: Tampa Bay’s Guy Boucher (2010), Boston’s Claude Julien (2003), Philadelphia’s Peter Laviolette (1999) and Nashville’s Barry Trotz (1994).

April 28, 2008 – In Game 7 of a North Division semifinal, Bates Battaglia breaks a tie with 58.1 seconds left in regulation to lift Toronto to a dramatic 2-1 victory over San Antonio… Trevor Frischmon scores at 8:35 of overtime as Syracuse eliminates Manitoba with a 3-2 win in Game 6 – Syracuse’s fourth OT victory of the series.

April 28, 2007Brian Boyle’s goal at 9:37 of the second overtime gives Manchester its first-ever series victory with a 3-2 decision in Game 6 at Worcester.

April 28, 2006Matt Ellis scores 11 seconds into the second overtime to give Grand Rapids a series-clinching 2-1 win in Game 5 at Toronto.

April 28, 1976 – Paul Woods’ goal at 2:20 of overtime gives Nova Scotia a 5-4 win over Hershey and its second Calder Cup championship in five years.

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