AHL Morning Skate: Bounce-back games

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 6, Hartford 0 (Series tied, 2-2)
HERSHEY 3, Philadelphia 2 (HER leads series, 3-0)
W-B/Scranton 2, BRIDGEPORT 1 (WBS leads series, 3-1)
Hamilton 4, GRAND RAPIDS 3 (OT) (Series tied, 2-2)
HOUSTON 3, Peoria 2 (OT) (HOU leads series, 3-2)

1. Ryan White netted the game-winning goal early in overtime as Hamilton rallied past Grand Rapids by a 4-3 count to even its North Division semifinal at two games apiece.

2. Defenseman Maxim Noreau notched an overtime power-play goal to give Houston a 3-2 victory over Peoria and a 3-2 series lead.

3. Worcester goaltender Thomas Greiss pitched a 30-save shutout as the Sharks posted a 6-0 win over Hartford to even its series at 2-2.

Game 5 – Worcester at Hartford, 7:00 (Series tied, 2-2)
Game 4 – Providence at Portland, 7:00 (PRO leads series, 2-1)
Game 5 – Manitoba at Toronto, 7:00 (Series tied, 2-2)

CC09ad_300x250.jpg2009 CALDER CUP PLAYOFFS:
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 at Hartford, 7:00
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 at Portland, 7:00
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 at Toronto, 7:00
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 – Worcester at Hartford, 7:00 (Series tied, 2-2)
Hartford hosts Worcester in Game 5 of their Atlantic Division semifinal this evening, 24 hours after the Sharks evened the series at 2-2 with a 6-0 win in central Massachusetts last night… Worcester scored five times in the third period en route to their second straight victory… Thomas Greiss, who played 140 games before recording his first career AHL shutout in the Sharks’ regular-season finale on Apr. 11, made 30 saves for his first playoff whitewash… Ryan Vesce got his third goal in two games after scoring once in 20 previous career games against Hartford… Logan Couture, the ninth overall pick in the 2007 NHL draft, scored his first pro goal in Game 4… Fourth-year pro Lukas Kaspar, a 2004 first-rounder, added his first pro playoff goal, and Kyle McLaren, whose only goal in 70 career Stanley Cup Playoff matches came back in 1998, was credited with his first in the AHL postseason… Matt Zaba allowed all six goals for the Wolf Pack and has now lost back-to-back decisions for the first time all year… The 6-0 loss matches Hartford’s largest postseason margin of defeat; the Pack dropped a 7-1 decision to the Worcester IceCats on the same DCU Center ice on May 5, 1998… Hartford enters Game 5 having won 10 of its last 11 at home.

Game 4 – Providence at Portland, 7:00 (PRO leads series, 2-1)
Portland finally gets a chance to avenge Sunday’s 5-1 loss to Providence when the teams resume their series at the Cumberland County Civic Center tonight… Last year, the Pirates had five days to think about a 7-1 loss to the Bruins; they responded with four straight wins to advance to the conference finals… Vladimir Sobotka and Martin St. Pierre each recorded four points in Game 3… Sobotka has two goals and three assists in the series to lead Providence… Johnny Boychuk scored two power-play goals, notched an assist and took a game-high 10 shots for the B’s on Sunday… Tuukka Rask has stopped 82 of 86 Portland shots, good for a 1.34 GAA and a .953 save percentage… Pirates rookie standouts Nathan Gerbe and Tim Kennedy are both looking for their first points of the series, as is Mathieu Darche, who had nine goals and 13 points vs. Providence in the regular season… Marek Zagrapan has scored two of Portland’s five goals… The Pirates are 0-for-13 on the power play in the series… Portland is 14-6 in home playoff games under Kevin Dineen, including 9-2 in its last 11.

Game 5 – Manitoba at Toronto, 7:00 (Series tied, 2-2)
Having alternated victories through the first four games of their North Division semifinal, Manitoba and Toronto clash tonight at Ricoh Coliseum for the pivotal Game 5… The Moose had totaled seven goals in the first three contests before breaking out for a 5-1 win in Game 4 on Monday… Jason Jaffray and defensemen Mark Fistric and Maxime Fortunus each posted a goal and an assist in that contest for Manitoba, while Greg Rallo and Mark Cullen also scored… Monday marked Manitoba’s first victory at Ricoh Coliseum this season after five straight setbacks… Jaffray (3-1-4), Michael Grabner (1-3-4) and Jason Krog (0-4-4) are pacing the Moose with four points apiece in the series… Manitoba is 6-for-12 on the power play through the first four games… Bates Battaglia (2-2-4) notched the Marlies’ lone goal in Game 4 and is the only Toronto skater with more than one goal in the series… Only three of the 20 goals in the series have been scored in the first period; the teams have combined for 11 second-period markers… The Moose have dropped four consecutive Game 5’s since a 3-2 overtime win over Syracuse on Apr. 28, 2006.


Rachel Lenzi, Portland Press Herald
The Portland Pirates aren’t thinking ahead to their travel plans for this week. Some of them aren’t even aware of the bus schedule, and don’t want to worry about it until after tonight. The Pirates are focused on Game 4 against Providence in an Atlantic Division semifinal series at 7 tonight at the Cumberland County Civic Center. The Pirates trail two games to one in the best-of-seven series against the Bruins. “You just put it behind you,” forward Nathan Gerbe said of Sunday’s 5-1 home loss to the Bruins. “It’s a new game and it’s crucial for us. We need that.”

Tim Campbell, Winnipeg Free Press
Will it be the momentum that swings the series or will it be the momentum that just sets up the next turn in the road? Tonight’s Game 5 between the Manitoba Moose and Toronto Marlies will reveal plenty and the Moose want it to be that their discipline and power play from Game 4’s 5-1 victory has helped them catch their stride. “That’s the type of momentum swings you want to evolve in the series,” Moose coach Scott Arniel said. The Moose have been behind twice in the best-of-seven series, but it’s now 2-2 and home-ice advantage is back on their side. Game 6 will be Saturday night in Winnipeg. Relying solely on that, Arniel said, is not the Moose plan.

Ken Wiebe, Winnipeg Sun
They’ve gone from being one loss away from landing on the brink of elimination to one win away from being in control. The Manitoba Moose finally got to Justin Pogge on Tuesday night, exploding for five goals in a 5-1 victory over the Toronto Marlies that evened the best-of-7 North Division semifinal series at two games apiece. Showcasing plenty of urgency, the Moose got three on the power play and kicked in a pair of goals at even strength, for good measure. A one-sided victory was good for the confidence, but at the end of the day it counts the same as a squeaker.

Bill Ballou, Worcester Telegram & Gazette
How long has it been since the Worcester Sharks treated their fans to a night like this at the DCU Center? That depends on how you define “never.” They beat the Hartford Wolf Pack last night, 6-0, to square their opening-round Calder Cup series at 2 games apiece. Game 5 will be at 7 tonight in Hartford with Game 6 back here at 7:05 Saturday night. It was the largest margin of victory on home ice in Sharks history. Worcester got goals from six different players — Kyle McLaren, Logan Couture, Lukas Kaspar, Ryan Vesce, Tom Cavanagh and T.J. Fox — and Thomas Greiss made 30 saves to record the shutout.

Garry McKay, Hamilton Spectator
The Hamilton Bulldogs pulled off one the most remarkable comebacks in their history last night. Trailing 3-0 in the third period the Dogs scored three times to tie it and then got a winner in overtime to beat the Grand Rapids Griffins 4-3. Ryan White scored it at 2:42 of sudden death when his pass to Kyle Chipchura in front of the net deflected off a Grand Rapids player and past goaltender Jimmy Howard. The result means the Bulldogs who were facing the prospect of elimination tomorrow night, have tied the best-of-seven AHL North Division semi-final 2-2.

Michael Zuidema, Grand Rapids Press
For 2-1/2 periods, it looked like the Grand Rapids Griffins would cruise to a 3-1 series lead in their first-round playoff matchup with the Hamilton Bulldogs. Now, the Griffins have to make sure the series doesn’t slip away from them. The Griffins held a 3-0 lead with 12 minutes to play, but the Bulldogs came back with three goals in 3-1/2 minutes, and Ryan White scored 2:42 into overtime to give Hamilton a 4-3 win Wednesday night at Van Andel Arena. The series is tied at 2-2 heading into Friday night’s pivotal Game 5. “We’ve got to find a way here. We’ve got to look at ourselves in the mirror tonight before we go to sleep and say, ‘Do we really want this?’” Griffins goaltender Jimmy Howard said.

Andrew J. Ferraro, Houston Chronicle
Max Noreau capped a wild finish for the Aeros, who overcame a two-goal deficit and beat the Peoria Rivermen 3-2 in overtime Wednesday night at Toyota Center. The Aeros lead the series 3-2 and have two chances in Peoria to advance to the next round against the Milwaukee Admirals, who swept the Rockford IceHogs. “Our power play has really been working well for us and Beauds (Matt Beaudoin) made a really good pass,” said Noreau, who helped the Aeros win their sixth straight overtime playoff game dating back to 2003. The Rivermen were 4:17 away from taking a 3-2 series lead back to their home arena before the Aeros started their comeback on a power-play goal by Beaudoin.

Dave Eminian, Peoria Journal Star
The Peoria Rivermen had Game 5 of the West Division semifinals all wrapped up on Wednesday. Then they gave it as a gift to the Houston Aeros. The Rivermen had a two-goal lead with under five minutes to play, took a costly penalty that opened the door for an improbable Houston comeback, and ended up losing 3-2 in sudden-death overtime. That let the Aeros escape with a 3-2 lead in the best-of-7 series, which returns to Peoria for Game 6 on Saturday. The Rivermen drew a glorious chance in sudden-death, when Houston’s Robbie Earl and Corey Locke were boxed and Peoria earned a 5-on-3 power play for 1:05. Peoria got no shots on the two-man advantage, and picked up one chance at the end of the 5-on-4.

Michael Fornabaio, Connecticut Post
When the Bridgeport Sound Tigers had to play desperate hockey Wednesday night, they were at their best. There’s no reason left not to break that out from the start Friday night. Bridgeport faces elimination and needs three victories in three nights to stay alive after Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s 2-1 win at the Arena at Harbor Yard in Game 4 of the East Division semifinal. Chris Lee’s power-play point shot was deflected in with 4:30 remaining, but John Curry stopped Bridgeport’s other 16 third-period shots. “We just didn’t come out like we should have. That’s kind of been the story all series,” said Ben Walter. “They’ve come out harder than we have. If we play like we played in the third, it’ll be hard for them to stick with us.”

Dan Sernoffsky, Lebanon Daily News
The top-scoring team in the American Hockey League during the regular season is the top-scoring team in the playoffs. There is a difference between the regular season and the playoffs for the Bears, however. As the Bears headed into Game 3 of their best-of-seven East Division semifinal series against the Philadelphia Phantoms, individually, they had no one among the league’s top scorers. In fact, 10 different players have accounted for Hershey’s 10 postseason goals, and of the 18 skaters who had played for the Bears, all but two had at least one point.

Kevin Allen, USA Today
Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock isn’t surprised by rookie Jonathan Ericsson’s effectiveness because he has been working as the defenseman’s chief lobbyist almost from the day he first saw him. “I’ve seen him for three years and pushed to have him on the team for two years, but I didn’t have votes,” Babcock jokes. Babcock simply couldn’t talk general manager Ken Holland into straying from the team’s philosophy of keeping prospects in the American Hockey League until they are ready to contribute significantly at the NHL level. Holland says “coaches always want a new toy,” but he feels strongly that patience is crucial to a player’s development.

Tim Wharnsby, Globe and Mail
Manitoba Moose general manager Craig Heisinger had a good night all around on Tuesday. First, he watched his AHL team knot its playoff series with a 5-1 victory over the Toronto Marlies at Ricoh Coliseum. Then, two hours later, one of his former Moose players, Alexandre Burrows, was the overtime hero for the Vancouver Canucks, scoring late in the first overtime to propel the Canucks to a four-game sweep over the St. Louis Blues and a spot in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. But even though Heisinger is responsible for unearthing Burrows six years ago, he refused any acclaim. “I’m not Alex, he’s done it himself,” Heisinger said yesterday. “It’s time to start giving him all the credit. He’s the one who has worked so hard to get to where he is. He’s the one who made the most of his opportunity.”

Michael Ryder, a 2003 Calder Cup finalist with Hamilton playing for Claude Julien and Geoff Ward, scored two goals and assisted on another to help Boston complete a four-game sweep with a 4-1 win at Montreal last night… Eric Nystrom scored the winning goal and chipped in two assists as Calgary beat Chicago, 6-4, in Game 4 of their conference quarterfinal series.

– Record of road teams so far during the 2009 Calder Cup Playoffs… Two series (Bridgeport vs. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Hamilton vs. Grand Rapids) have yet to see a home team win a game.

20 – Consecutive starts made in net by Worcester’s Thomas Greiss following his Game 4 vi