AHL Morning Skate: April 29

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 2 – Binghamton 5, PORTLAND 3 (BNG leads series, 2-0)
Game 1 – Charlotte 3, W-B/SCRANTON 2 (CHA leads series, 1-0)
Game 1 – HAMILTON 4, Manitoba 1 (HAM leads series, 1-0)

1. Jon Matsumoto netted a pair of power-play goals as Charlotte opened the East Division Finals with a 3-2 win at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

2. Kaspars Daugavins scored twice to help Binghamton to a 5-3 victory at Portland, sending the Senators home with a 2-0 series lead in the Atlantic Division Finals.

3. Dustin Boyd contributed two assists as Hamilton topped Manitoba by a 4-1 count in Game 1 of the North Division Finals.

Game 1 – Houston at Milwaukee, 8:00

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 5, PORTLAND 3
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 3, W-B/SCRANTON 2
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 – HAMILTON 4, Manitoba 1
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 1 – Houston at Milwaukee, 8:00
Houston’s nine-day layoff finally comes to an end tonight as the Aeros invade the Bradley Center to take on Milwaukee in Game 1 of the West Division Finals… The Aeros made quick work of Peoria in the first round, wrapping up a four-game sweep on Apr. 19, while Milwaukee needed six games to get past defending conference champion Texas in the division semifinals… These teams are meeting with a trip to the conference finals on the line for the third time in six years… Milwaukee swept Houston in 2006 en route to the Calder Cup Finals; in 2009, the Aeros ousted the division champion Admirals in seven games… Houston earned its first-round sweep over Peoria despite allowing the first goal in all four games… Patrick O’Sullivan (2-2-4) and Jed Ortmeyer (1-3-4) paced the Aeros offensively with four points apiece… O’Sullivan, Chad Rau (2-1-3) and Colton Gillies (2-0-2) each netted two goals in the series, and eight other players registered a single goal… O’Sullivan led Houston with five goals and seven points only four regular-season appearances against Milwaukee… 21-year-old rookie goaltender Matt Hackett earned the victory in each first-round contest and ranks second among AHL postseason netminders with a 1.67 goals-against average thus far… Milwaukee’s Jeremy Smith, completing his first full AHL season, went 4-2 with a 1.89 GAA in round one and is second in the league with a .941 save percentage… The Admirals didn’t suffer a regulation loss in their six-game regular-season series against Houston (4-0-1-1), which included a perfect 3-0-0-0 mark on home ice… Admirals rookie Gabriel Bourque, who posted an 18-18-36 line in 78 regular-season games, put up a team-best five goals and nine points in the club’s opening-round triumph over Texas… Chris Mueller placed second with eight points (3-5-8), and the duo of Mueller and Bourque combined for six goals and 12 points against Houston in the regular year… Mark Van Guilder (2-1-3) and Ryan Thang (1-2-3) each closed the first round on three-game scoring streaks for Milwaukee, which won Games 5 and 6 of the series in overtime… Houston did not allow a third-period goal in the division semifinals, outscoring Peoria 4-0 in the final 20 minutes… Since the AHL adopted its current playoff format in 2003-04, the Game 1 winner in the West Division Finals has gone on to capture the series seven straight times.


The Binghamton Senators expected a challenge on Thursday after handing the Portland Pirates their first home loss of the playoffs one night earlier, and they got it in Game 2 of the Atlantic Division Finals. But even a strong 46-shot effort from the Pirates was not enough to knock the B-Sens down as they earned a 5-3 win to take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series. Bobby Raymond scored the deciding goal with 3:51 left in regulation, and Robin Lehner made 43 saves to help the B-Sens to their fifth straight win and first multi-goal victory of the playoffs.

PORTLAND FALLS INTO A 2-0 HOLE – Portland Press Herald
At times in Thursday night’s game at the Cumberland County Civic Center, the Pirates thoroughly outplayed the Senators. Portland held a 46-26 edge in shots on goal. “We had more (scoring) opportunities, (but) they capitalized on more opportunities than we did,” Portland forwad Mark Mancari said. “That happens in hockey, but we can’t let it happen if we want to keep going.”

Don’t expect to see Marc-Andre Gragnani back in a Portland Pirates uniform. Instead, expect to see him with Team Canada. The Olean (N.Y.) Times Herald reported Thursday that Gragnani, a defenseman, will join Team Canada for the IIHF world championships today through May 15 in Slovakia.

For a team that hadn’t made the AHL postseason in six years, the Binghamton Senators sure gave their playoff-starved fans a first-round series for the ages, rallying from a 3-1 deficit to oust the Manchester Monarchs. That might be enough excitement for fans, but the Ottawa Senators organization also has to be pleased that numerous players who logged heavy minutes with the big club in 2010-11 are contributing to Binghamton’s playoff run.

The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins have started the second round of the Calder Cup playoffs the same way they started the first: In a hole. Zac Dalpe gave the Charlotte Checkers an early lead and Jon Matsumoto scored twice on the power play as the Charlotte Checkers beat the Penguins 3-2 in Game 1 of the East Division finals Thursday night at the Mohegan Sun Arena.

The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins began round two of the Calder Cup playoffs in better shape than they began round one for one significant reason. They now have veteran winger Tim Wallace in the lineup. Wallace missed the last six games of the regular season and the first two games of the Norfolk series with an undisclosed injury. After going scoreless in Games 3-5 against the Admirals, Wallace reemerged with a goal and two assists in Game 6.

CHECKERS JUMP PENGUINS – Wilkes-Barre Times Leader
Down by one goal with more than 17 minutes to play in the third period, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins were ready to even the score with the Charlotte Checkers. Consecutive penalty calls against Charlotte gave the Penguins more than three minutes of power play time, including a two-man advantage for 41 seconds. But in an instant, the Penguins’ bright prospects turned dim.

As far as Charlotte Checkers coach Jeff Daniels is concerned, his team’s 1-6-0-1 regular-season record against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins is something to throw out the window. After Thursday’s American Hockey League East Division finals opener at the Mohegan Sun Arena, the Checkers are 1-0 against the top-seeded Penguins in the postseason. Behind Jon Matsumoto’s two power play goals and 28 saves from Mike Murphy, the Checkers beat the Penguins 3-2 to take the first game of the best-of-7 series.

The Hamilton Bulldogs turned in a special performance Thursday night — a special-teams performance. The Dogs scored two power-play goals and once while they were short-handed in a 4-1 win over the Manitoba Moose at Copps Coliseum in Game 1 of the AHL North Division best-of-seven final. The Dogs broke open what had been a close game with three unanswered special-teams goals in the second period.

BULLDOGS BITE MOOSE 4-1 – Hamilton Spectator
As you may have heard, there’s been a little gritting of teeth and biting of nails in Vancouver over the play of Roberto Luongo in the Canucks’ net so far in these National Hockey League playoffs. And by a little, we mean his white-knuckle play has kept the entire town on the verge of an emotional hernia. What the folks on the left coast don’t see is the same problems don’t exist on their farm team, last night’s 4-1 Hamilton win notwithstanding.

NO BRAIN, NO GAIN – Winnipeg Free Press
There were a couple pigeons in the rafters of the vacuous Copps Coliseum who had no clue that a playoff game between the Manitoba Moose and Hamilton Bulldogs was about to begin. Neither did the Manitoba Moose, apparently. A steady diet of penalties led to a parade of Moose marching to the penalty box and an inevitable 4-1 Bulldogs victory in Game 1 of the AHL’s North Division final.

Hamilton exploded for three special teams goals in just over six minutes during the second period as the Hamilton Bulldogs beat the visiting Manitoba Moose 4-1 in the first game of the American Hockey League’s North Division Final Thursday. Nigel Dawes and Aaron Palushaj both scored on the power play midway through the second period and J.T. Wyman beat Manitoba goalie Eddie Lack short-handed.

ADMIRALS’ FOE COMING OFF LONG DELAY – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
This time, the skate is on the other foot. Houston has not played in nine days as it begins its second-round playoff series with Milwaukee at the Bradley Center. Two years ago, the Admirals waited nine days without a game before getting upset by the Aeros in the West Division finals. “I remember we were pretty amped up to play,” Milwaukee coach Lane Lambert said. “It’s tough anytime you have a nine-day layoff. The nice thing about it is you have time to rest and your body isn’t going through the grind.”

The Aeros are the only team in the Calder Cup playoffs without a loss (4-0), and they aim to keep that perfect record intact tonight when they open the AHL West Division finals against the Milwaukee Admirals at the Bradley Center. While it is unlikely the Aeros will sweep the Admirals like they did the Peoria Rivermen in the first round, the Aeros know what it takes to get by the No. 1-seeded Admirals.

In last night’s Stanley Cup Playoff action, Chris Higgins, a two-time 20-goal scorer in the AHL, notched the game’s only goal and Roberto Luongo posted a 20-save shutout as Vancouver opened its Western Conference semifinal series with a 1-0 win over Nashville… Pekka Rinne, a 2006 Calder Cup finalist with Milwaukee, stopped 29 of 30 shots in net for the Predators.

51.9 – Percentage of games so far in the 2011 Calder Cup Playoffs which have been decided by a one-goal margin (27 of 52).

7 – Games this AHL postseason in which a team has won after trailing by at least two goals.

5 – Consecutive games with a goal by Binghamton’s Bobby Butler, the longest such streak in the playoffs by an AHL rookie since Milan Kraft scored in six straight contests for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton during the 2001 postseason.

April 29, 2010Mathieu Perreault scores with 1:13 left in regulation and then again 2:23 into overtime in Hershey’s 5-4 win over Albany, as the Bears complete a series sweep despite having trailed in the third period of all four games.

April 29, 2008Scott Munroe makes 21 saves as Philadelphia defeats Albany, 2-0, in Game 7 of their first-round playoff series.

April 29, 2007Ben Walter’s hat trick and Hannu Toivonen’s 40 saves lead Providence to a 5-4 Game 7 win at Hartford.

April 29, 2006Marc-Andre Fleury makes 27 saves and Ryan Whitney posts a goal and an assist as Wilkes-Barre/Scranton takes a 5-4 victory over Bridgeport in Game 7.

April 29, 1995Garth Snow stops 35 shots, including an overtime penalty shot, in the Cornwall Aces’ 5-4 win over the Binghamton Rangers.

April 29, 1972 – The Baltimore Clippers advance to their first Calder Cup Finals with a 3-1 road win over the Cincinnati Swords in Game 6.

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.