AHL Morning Skate: Bears, Pens, B’s look to advance

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.


Worcester 3, HARTFORD 1 (WOR leads series, 3-2)
Providence 2, PORTLAND 1 (PRO leads series, 3-1)
Manitoba 5, TORONTO 2 (MTB leads series, 3-2)

1. Defenseman Patrick Traverse tallied two goals and assisted on the game-winner as Worcester took a 3-1 victory at Hartford in Game 5.

2. Jason Jaffray scored a pair of goals, including the game-winner, to help Manitoba come away with a 5-2 win at Toronto.

3. Goaltender Tuukka Rask made 31 saves on 32 shots in Providence’s 2-1 win at Portland.

Game 5 – Hamilton at Grand Rapids, 7:00 (Series tied, 2-2)
Game 4 – Philadelphia at Hershey, 7:00 (HER leads series, 3-0)
Game 5 – Portland at Providence, 7:05 (PRO leads series, 3-1)
Game 5 – Bridgeport at W-B/Scranton, 7:05 (WBS leads series, 3-1)

Atlantic Division Semifinal – Series “A” (best-of-7)
A1-Hartford Wolf Pack vs. A4-Worcester Sharks || Preview
Game 1 – Thu., Apr. 16 – HARTFORD 2, Worcester 0
Game 2 – Sat., Apr. 18 – HARTFORD 5, Worcester 3
Game 3 – Mon., Apr. 20 – WORCESTER 3, Hartford 2 (2OT)
Game 4 – Wed., Apr. 22 – WORCESTER 6, Hartford 0
Game 5 – Thu., Apr. 23 – Worcester 3, HARTFORD 1
Game 6 – Sat., Apr. 25 – Hartford at Worcester, 7:05
*Game 7 – Mon., Apr. 27 – Worcester at Hartford, 7:00

Atlantic Division Semifinal – Series “B” (best-of-7)
A2-Providence Bruins vs. A3-Portland Pirates || Preview
Game 1 – Wed., Apr. 15 – Portland 3, PROVIDENCE 0
Game 2 – Fri., Apr. 17 – PROVIDENCE 2, Portland 1
Game 3 – Sun., Apr. 19 – Providence 5, PORTLAND 1
Game 4 – Thu., Apr. 23 – Providence 2, PORTLAND 1
Game 5 – Fri., Apr. 24 – Portland at Providence, 7:05
*Game 6 – Sun., Apr. 26 – Providence at Portland, 4:00
*Game 7 – Tue., Apr. 28 – Portland at Providence, 7:05

East Division Semifinal – Series “C” (best-of-7)
E1-Hershey Bears vs. E4-Philadelphia Phantoms ||
Game 1 – Thu., Apr. 16 – Hershey 4, PHILADELPHIA 2
Game 2 – Sat., Apr. 18 – Hershey 6, PHILADELPHIA 2
Game 3 – Wed., Apr. 22 – HERSHEY 3, Philadelphia 2
Game 4 – Fri., Apr. 24 – Philadelphia at Hershey, 7:00
*Game 5 – Sat., Apr. 25 – Philadelphia at Hershey, 7:00
*Game 6 – Sun., Apr. 26 – Hershey at Philadelphia, 5:05
*Game 7 – Tue., Apr. 28 – Philadelphia at Hershey, 7:00

East Division Semifinal – Series “D” (best-of-7)
E2-Bridgeport Sound Tigers vs. E3-W-B/Scranton Penguins ||
Game 1 – Fri., Apr. 17 – W-B/Scranton 3, BRIDGEPORT 2 (U)
Game 2 – Sat., Apr. 18 – W-B/Scranton 5, BRIDGEPORT 4 (OT) (U)
Game 3 – Sun., Apr. 19 – Bridgeport 5, W-B/SCRANTON 4 (OT)
Game 4 – Wed., Apr. 22 – W-B/Scranton 2, BRIDGEPORT 1
Game 5 – Fri., Apr. 24 – Bridgeport at W-B/Scranton, 7:05
*Game 6 – Sat., Apr. 25 – Bridgeport at W-B/Scranton, 7:05
*Game 7 – Sun., Apr. 26 – W-B/Scranton at Bridgeport, 4:00

North Division Semifinal – Series “E” (best-of-7)
N1-Manitoba Moose vs. N4-Toronto Marlies ||
Game 1 – Wed., Apr. 15 – Toronto 3, MANITOBA 2 (OT)
Game 2 – Fri., Apr. 17 – MANITOBA 4, Toronto 2
Game 3 – Sun., Apr. 19 – TORONTO 2, Manitoba 1
Game 4 – Tue., Apr. 21 – Manitoba 5, TORONTO 1
Game 5 – Thu., Apr. 23 – Manitoba 5, TORONTO 2
Game 6 – Sat., Apr. 25 – Toronto at Manitoba, 8:30
*Game 7 – Tue., Apr. 28 – Toronto at Manitoba, 8:30

North Division Semifinal – Series “F” (best-of-7)
N2-Hamilton Bulldogs vs. N3-Grand Rapids Griffins ||
Game 1 – Fri., Apr. 17 – Grand Rapids 4, HAMILTON 3
Game 2 – Sat., Apr. 18 – Grand Rapids 3, HAMILTON 1
Game 3 – Mon., Apr. 20 – Hamilton 5, GRAND RAPIDS 4
Game 4 – Wed., Apr. 22 – Hamilton 4, GRAND RAPIDS 3 (OT)
Game 5 – Fri., Apr. 24 – Hamilton at Grand Rapids, 7:00
Game 6 – Sun., Apr. 26 – Grand Rapids at Hamilton, 6:00
*Game 7 – Mon., Apr. 27 – Grand Rapids at Hamilton, 7:30

West Division Semifinal – Series “G” (best-of-7)
W1-Milwaukee Admirals vs. W4-Rockford IceHogs ||
Game 1 – Thu., Apr. 16 – MILWAUKEE 3, Rockford 1
Game 2 – Sat., Apr. 18 – MILWAUKEE 3, Rockford 1
Game 3 – Sun., Apr. 19 – Milwaukee 3, ROCKFORD 1
Game 4 – Tue., Apr. 21 – Milwaukee 4, ROCKFORD 1

West Division Semifinal – Series “H” (best-of-7)
W2-Peoria Rivermen vs. W3-Houston Aeros ||
Game 1 – Wed., Apr. 15 – PEORIA 6, Houston 4
Game 2 – Fri., Apr. 17 – Houston 2, PEORIA 0
Game 3 – Sat., Apr. 18 – HOUSTON 2, Peoria 1
Game 4 – Mon., Apr. 20 – Peoria 4, HOUSTON 3
Game 5 – Wed., Apr. 22 – HOUSTON 3, Peoria 2 (OT)
Game 6 – Sat., Apr. 25 – Houston at Peoria, 8:00
*Game 7 – Mon., Apr. 27 – Houston at Peoria, 8:00

*if necessary… All times Eastern
(U) at Uniondale, N.Y.

GAME NOTES (all times ET):
Game 5 – Hamilton at Grand Rapids, 7:00 (Series tied, 2-2)
Hamilton visits Grand Rapids for the pivotal Game 5 of their North Division semifinal tonight, with the home team still looking for its first victory of the series… The Bulldogs erased a 3-0 third-period deficit in Game 4 on Wednesday and prevailed in overtime when Ryan White potted his second straight game-winner… Kyle Chipchura netted Hamilton’s first shorthanded goal of the playoffs in Game 4 after the team bagged 15 during the regular season… Rookie Ben Maxwell then notched a pair of power-play tallies in the third frame to tie it up… The Griffins netted two of their three Game 4 goals in the opening minute of periods; Aaron Gagnon scored just 34 seconds into the game, and rookie Justin Abdelkader registered his team-leading fifth goal of the playoffs 44 seconds into the third frame… Abdelkader has now recorded all seven of his playoff points (5-2-7) in the third period and is tied with Darren Haydar (1-6-7) for the team scoring lead… The Griffins have not dropped three straight games at Van Andel Arena all season long… This marks the third time in its AHL history that Grand Rapids has been deadlocked 2-2 after four games of a playoff series; the Griffins captured Game 5 against Manitoba in both 2006 and 2007… The Bulldogs have won nine of their last 10 road playoff games.

Game 4 – Philadelphia at Hershey, 7:00 (HER leads series, 3-0)
Hershey goes for a four-game sweep of Philadelphia when it hosts the Phantoms in Game 4 of their East Division semifinal tonight at Giant Center… The Bears have outscored Philadelphia 13-6 in capturing the first three contests, including a 3-2 victory in Game 3 on Wednesday… Alexandre Giroux recorded a goal and two assists for the Bears in that contest, giving him 50 career Calder Cup Playoff points (23-27-50)… Hershey goaltender Michal Neuvirth has surrendered two goals in each of the first three games, stopping 25 of 27 shots on Wednesday… Phantoms rookie Jonathon Kalinski scored in the second period and assisted on Lasse Kukkonen’s third-period marker in the Game 3 loss… Philadelphia had the AHL’s eighth-ranked power play (18.1 percent) during the regular season but has gone 0-for-17 in the series against Hershey’s 29th-ranked penalty kill (79.1 percent)… Since 2006, the Bears are 7-3 in games with a chance to eliminate an opponent from the playoffs… The Phantoms, who are looking to snap a seven-game postseason losing streak, have been swept in a postseason series just once, a best-of-5 opening-round loss to Syracuse in 2002.

Game 5 – Portland at Providence, 7:05 (PRO leads series, 3-1)
Providence can advance to the Atlantic Division Finals for the third straight year with a win over Portland at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center tonight in Game 5 of their division semifinal… The Bruins have captured three consecutive victories since dropping the series opener, most recently a 2-1 triumph last night in Maine… Rookie Brad Marchand and Kirk MacDonald potted goals as the Bruins rebounded from a 1-0 deficit in that contest… Providence goaltender Tuukka Rask, whose 31 saves in Game 4 included denying Colin Murphy’s first-period penalty shot, ranks second among AHL playoff goaltenders in both goals-against average (1.25) and save percentage (.958), having stopped 113 of 118 shots thus far… Portland’s Mark Mancari scored his first goal of the series in Game 4, and his three points (1-2-3) are tied with Marek Zagrapan (2-1-3) for the team lead… Tim Kennedy picked up an assist on Mancari’s goal for his first playoff point, but AHL Rookie of the Year Nathan Gerbe remains without a point in the series… Head coach Kevin Dineen’s Pirates are down 3-1 in a playoff series for the first time since the 2006 conference finals vs. Hershey, when they won two straight before bowing out in overtime of Game 7… The Bruins are 6-0 with a chance to close out a playoff series since coughing up a 3-1 series lead to Hartford in the 2000 conference finals.

Game 5 – Bridgeport at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, 7:05 (WBS leads series, 3-1)
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton can advance to the East Division Finals tonight if it becomes the first home team to win a game in its first-round series against Bridgeport… The Penguins are gunning for their sixth consecutive appearance in the second round and will get two chances to clinch on home ice, as Game 6 is slated for Saturday night in Wilkes-Barre… Jeff Taffe netted a goal and assisted on a Chris Minard marker to help Wilkes-Barre emerge with a 2-1 win in Bridgeport in Game 4 on Wednesday… Minard leads the Penguins and ranks third in the AHL with four postseason goals… Pens goaltender John Curry stopped 32 of 33 shots in the victory for his fourth consecutive 30-plus save showing to begin the playoffs… Wilkes-Barre has netted at least one power-play goal in all four games thus far and paces the league with a 41.2 percent conversion rate (7-for-17) in the playoffs… Jon Sim (2-3-5) and Ben Walter (1-4-5) are pacing the Sound Tigers with five points apiece in the series… Walter had Bridgeport’s lone goal in the Game 4 loss… Sixteen of the teams’ 18 lifetime postseason meetings have been decided by a one-goal margin, including all four in this series… Bridgeport is 1-4 all-time when facing elimination, winning only a Game 7 vs. Hamilton in the 2002 conference finals.


Steve Solloway, Portland Press Herald
One day he was playing playoff hockey for the Providence Bruins and the next he was packing his bags for the trip back to Lethbridge, Alberta. The sourness in his mouth was mostly gone, but Wacey Rabbit still wanted to spit. “People expected us to win it all last year. We expected to win. Losing like that always leaves a bad taste.” After losing the first two games on the road to Providence by a combined score of 11-1, the Portland Pirates returned home. They won Game 3 in overtime, 4-3. They won a second overtime game, 3-2. Then came another 3-2 win. The best-of-seven series went back to Providence, and the Pirates won their fourth straight one-goal game.

Michael Fornabaio, Connecticut Post
Dustin Kohn is one of a few Bridgeport Sound Tigers who were around for the last playoff series the team played, another series against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton with some odd results. He was here as a young reserve defenseman during the 2006 East Division semifinal, watching as the road team won every game until Game 7 – just like the first four games of this 2009 East Division semifinal. “It’s been a little bit unpredictable that way,” Kohn said. “We’re worried about winning the first game (tonight). It’s obviously something that has been done before, coming back from 3-1. It can be done.” It can, and it even happened in a matchup of these two teams.

Jonathan Bombulie, The Citizens’ Voice
To this day, Tom Kostopoulos will tell you it’s the biggest reason the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins lost to the Milwaukee Admirals in the 2004 Calder Cup finals. In the Eastern Conference finals, the Penguins had a chance to finish off the Hartford Wolf Pack in Game 6 at the Wachovia Arena. The Penguins lost that game 4-1 and had to bus to Connecticut the next night. Even though the Penguins beat Hartford 2-1 on a Matt Murley overtime goal in Game 7, they had to fly to Milwaukee for Game 1 of the finals less than 72 hours later. They ran out of gas that night, lost 2-1 to the Admirals in overtime, and the rest is history. The moral of the story is simple. If you’ve got a chance to finish a team off in a playoff series, you’d better do it.

Michael Zuidema, Grand Rapids Press
It’s hard to blame the Grand Rapids Griffins for wanting to use a little selective amnesia. Not surprisingly, the Griffins would prefer to forget about the 3-0 third-period lead they surrendered in their 4-3 overtime loss to the Hamilton Bulldogs in Game 4 on Wednesday night. It was the first time in franchise history that the Griffins blew a three-goal lead and lost in the playoffs. It also evened the first-round playoff series at 2-2. “We took our foot off the gas for 3-1/2 minutes and that caused a huge momentum swing,” Grand Rapids coach Curt Fraser said. “We’ve got to learn from that. It’s a 60-minute game, and we’ve got to find a way to be a little bit better.”

Garry McKay, Hamilton Spectator
It was a remarkable comeback to be sure. Down 3-0 to the Grand Rapids Griffins midway through the third period Wednesday night, the Hamilton Bulldogs rallied to tie the game and then won it 4-3 in overtime to deadlock their best-of-seven series at 2-2. What tends to be overlooked in an achievement like that is the Bulldogs had dug themselves that big a hole in the first place and 999 times out of a thousand would be unlikely to get themselves out of it. It wasn’t lost on Dogs coach Ron Wilson, however. While his players were given a day off from practice yesterday, Wilson was looking at film and didn’t particularly like a lot of what he saw.

Tim Leone, Harrisburg Patriot-News
History could be made tonight at Giant Center. Or, more accurately, the end of history. If the Philadelphia Phantoms lose Game 4 to the Hershey Bears, it will mark the final game played by a franchise that began in 1996. “We’ve got to keep playing hard,” Phantoms head coach John Paddock said. “I’m not disappointed by our effort at all. I’m just disappointed in our special teams. We take care of that, we’d at least have one game in the series.” Philly, hurt by the absence of leading scorer Jared Ross, on recall to the Philadelphia Flyers, has gone 0-for-17 on the power play.

Tim Campbell, Winnipeg Free Press
Road results, and not always of the glamorous variety, have been the mark of the Manitoba Moose season. The Moose held true to that form Thursday night at Ricoh Coliseum, scoring three times in 5:11 in the third period to rip open a tight game and claim a 5-2 victory over the Toronto Marlies. “It’s been a weird series, some strange goals and I feel like I haven’t hit my peak,” said Moose goalie Cory Schneider, who was large for his team against 29 shots through two periods. “Then finally tonight, I think that’s the best I felt the whole series. It’s a good time to be feeling this way and I hope I keep it going into the next game.”

Bill Ballou, Worcester Telegram & Gazette
Not necessarily in this order, but there are three things that seem to matter most in playoff hockey – home-ice advantage, momentum and goaltending – and the Sharks have them all right now. They beat the Wolf Pack here last night, 3-1, and are on the verge of moving into the second round of the Calder Cup playoffs. Worcester leads the series, 3-2, and has won the last three straight. The Sharks can end it on home ice tomorrow night with the puck dropping at 7 at the DCU Center. Worcester scored three goals in the first period and then just kept the first-place Wolf Pack away from goalie Thomas Greiss. Defenseman Patrick Traverse had two of the goals and set up T.J. Fox for the other one.

Dave Eminian, Peoria Journal Star
The Peoria Rivermen had just skated off the ice with a big victory in Game 4 of their West Division semifinal series against Houston on Monday. The music was pumping inside the Peoria locker room, and Manny Legace, a year removed from the starting assignment in the NHL All-Star Game, was holding court in front of his locker. But not with his Rivermen teammates. Legace’s son, 10-year-old Manny III, and daughter, 13-year-old Sabrina, flew to Houston with Legace’s mother, Margaret, on Saturday to watch their father play. “They come and see me on spring break, no matter where I am, ever since my divorce six years ago,” Legace said. “I hadn’t seen them since Christmas.”

Rachel Lenzi, Portland Press Herald
Portland was chosen from among four cities vying for the right to host the 2010 American Hockey League All-Star Classic – and the payoff could be an estimated $1.4 million for local businesses next winter. Dave Andrews, the league’s president and CEO, officially awarded the event to the city and the Portland Pirates on Thursday, holding a news conference at the Cumberland County Civic Center. City officials estimate that hosting the all-star event will have an economic impact of about $1.4 million. A large portion of that will aid the tourism and hospitality industries, particularly hotels and restaurants, during what’s typically a slow winter period.

Ryan O’Halloran, Washington Times
Jim Schoenfeld has the longest job description in professional hockey. He is the New York Rangers’ assistant general manager and interim assistant coach and general manager of the AHL’s Hartford Wolf Pack. Schoenfeld developed several Rangers players and coached against future Caps players Brooks Laich, Alexander Semin and Eric Fehr. “It’s interesting to watch players develop and see that they really have a shot and see that they do make it,” he said. “Others, you think they might not make it but through sheer effort do and others you thought were locks but didn’t pay the price. For me, it’s always nice to see the hard worker rewarded with a slot on the big club.”

Lindsay Kramer, NHL.com
Regardless of whatever crowd Milwaukee goalie Drew MacIntyre had to fight through to get regular-season minutes, he’s always had a knack of separating himself come playoff time. "The bottom line is I’ve learned I can’t worry about the other goalies on my team," said MacIntyre. "I’ve sat on the bench for some playoff runs. I’ve learned that chance (to be a playoff goalie) doesn’t come along every year. I know how much playoffs can make a goalie." It’s a reality that MacIntyre understands most acutely after missing out on that chance last season. MacIntyre was the No. 1 goalie for Manitoba for most of last season before