AHL Morning Skate: Can the Penguins seal the deal?

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 1, Providence 0 (Series tied, 2-2)
W-B/SCRANTON 4, Hershey 1 (WBS leads series, 3-2)
Milwaukee 4, HOUSTON 3 (HOU leads series, 3-2)

1. Adam Berkhoel stopped 39 of 40 shots for his third straight win in relief of an injured John Curry, backstopping Wilkes-Barre/Scranton to a 4-1 win over Hershey.

2. Thomas Greiss made 26 saves for his second shutout of the postseason as Worcester evened its series with a 1-0 win over Providence in Game 4.

3. Bryan Smolinski’s first three career AHL points included two first-period goals and helped Milwaukee stave off elimination with a 4-3 win in Houston.

Game 6 – W-B/Scranton at Hershey, 5:00 (WBS leads series, 3-2)

CC09rd2_160x600.jpg2009 CALDER CUP PLAYOFFS:
Atlantic Division Finals – Series “I” (best-of-7)
A2-Providence Bruins vs. A4-Worcester Sharks
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Game 1 – Tue., Apr. 28 – PROVIDENCE 3, Worcester 2 (OT)
Game 2 – Wed., May 6 – Providence 4, WORCESTER 2
Game 3 – Fri., May 8 – Worcester 5, PROVIDENCE 3
Game 4 – Sat., May 9 – WORCESTER 1, Providence 0
Game 5 – Mon., May 11 – Worcester at Providence, 7:05
Game 6 – Wed., May 13 – Providence at Worcester, 7:05
*Game 7 – Thu., May 14 – Worcester at Providence, 7:05

East Division Finals – Series “J” (best-of-7)
E1-Hershey Bears vs. E3-W-B/Scranton Penguins
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Game 1 – Sat., May 2 – HERSHEY 5, W-B/Scranton 3
Game 2 – Sun., May 3 – HERSHEY 3, W-B/Scranton 1
Game 3 – Wed., May 6 – W-B/SCRANTON 3, Hershey 2 (OT)
Game 4 – Fri., May 8 – W-B/SCRANTON 6, Hershey 3
Game 5 – Sat., May 9 – W-B/SCRANTON 4, Hershey 1
Game 6 – Sun., May 10 – W-B/Scranton at Hershey, 5:00
*Game 7 – Tue., May 12 – W-B/Scranton at Hershey, 7:00

North Division Finals – Series “K” (best-of-7)
N1-Manitoba Moose vs. N3-Grand Rapids Griffins
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Game 1 – Fri., May 1 – MANITOBA 2, Grand Rapids 1
Game 2 – Sat., May 2 – MANITOBA 2, Grand Rapids 1
Game 3 – Mon., May 4 – Manitoba 3, GRAND RAPIDS 1
Game 4 – Wed., May 6 – Manitoba 3, GRAND RAPIDS 2

West Division Finals – Series
“L” (best-of-7)
W1-Milwaukee Admirals vs. W3-Houston Aeros || Preview
Game 1 – Thu., Apr. 30 – Houston 2, MILWAUKEE 1
Game 2 – Sat., May 2 – MILWAUKEE 4, Houston 1
Game 3 – Tue., May 5 – HOUSTON 3, Milwaukee 1
Game 4 – Thu., May 7 – HOUSTON 2, Milwaukee 0
Game 5 – Sat., May 9 – Milwaukee 4, HOUSTON 3
Game 6 – Mon., May 11 – Houston at Milwaukee, 8:00
*Game 7 – Wed., May 13 – Houston at Milwaukee, 8:00

*if necessary… All times Eastern

GAME NOTES (all times ET):
Game 6 – Wilkes-Barre/Scranton at Hershey, 5:00 (WBS leads series, 3-2)
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton can advance to the Eastern Conference Finals for the second year in a row with one more win over division-champion Hershey this afternoon at Giant Center… The home team has held serve in each of the first five games of this series, with the Penguins coming off three consecutive victories at the Wachovia Arena after dropping the first two contests in Hershey… Goaltender Adam Berkhoel made 39 saves in last night’s 4-1 Wilkes-Barre victory and has stopped 105 of 111 shots (.946) in four appearances this series… Chris Minard, Luca Caputi and Nick Johnson all tallied power-play goals for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, which has now converted on 17 of 49 opportunities (34.7 percent) in the playoffs… Johnson leads the Pens with eight points (4-4-8) in the series, and Minard shows a team-high six goals overall (6-3-9)… Playing in his first game of the postseason, Darren Reid notched the Bears’ lone goal last night… Chris Bourque is pacing the Bears with 10 points (1-9-10) this postseason but was held off the scoresheet for the first time on Saturday… AHL MVP Alexandre Giroux is without a point in his last two contests… Wilkes-Barre/Scranton is trying to close the East Division Finals with four straight wins for the second consecutive year; the Pens dropped Game 1 to Philadelphia in 2008 before reeling off four victories… Hershey is 8-1 all-time against Wilkes-Barre at Giant Center in the playoffs and has won nine of its last 11 home games overall, with the only losses coming at the hands of the Penguins on Mar. 29 and Apr. 12… This is the end of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s second three-in-three this postseason; the Penguins won Games 1 and 2 against Bridgeport on Apr. 17-18 before dropping Game 3 on Apr. 19… Hershey’s last playoff three-in-three came Apr. 25-27, 1980, against the New Haven Nighthawks; the Bears lost the first two of that stretch and then won the third… The Pens are 13-6 all-time with a chance to close out a series.


Jonathan Bombulie, Citizens’ Voice
Adam Berkhoel is treading on ground where only Andy Chiodo has previously walked in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins history. He’s poised to become a full-fledged playoff hero. Berkhoel made 39 saves Saturday night to lead the Penguins to a 4-1 win over the Hershey Bears in Game 5 of the East Division finals at the Wachovia Arena. “I’d like to,” Berkhoel said when asked if he’s auditioning for the playoff hero role. “One more.” Since replacing an injured John Curry after the first period in Game 2, Berkhoel has given up just six goals on 111 shots against the AHL’s most potent offense in the regular season.

Tom Venesky, Wilkes-Barre Times Leader
When Bill Thomas scored a power-play goal in the third period of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s overtime win in Game 3, little did he know that he was setting a trend. In Game 4, the Penguins went 2-for-2 on the power play en route to a 6-3 win to knot the series at two games each. And on Saturday, the Penguins scored their first three goals on the power play to beat the Bears 4-1 and jump ahead in the best-of-seven series for the first time, three games to two. Nick Johnson, who scored the Penguins’ third power-play goal and assisted on another, said the team definitely has a spark to its power play and he traced it back to Thomas’ goal in Game 3.

Harold Ziegler, Lancaster Sunday News
The Hershey Bears’ locker room late Saturday night was so quietly morbid that one could’ve thought there had been a death in the family. The way the Bears are playing, it might be only a matter of time, like less than 24 hours, until there is. And the dead body will be the Bears’ own. A once-promising season and playoff postseason will come down to one game tonight after the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins delivered a third straight body blow Saturday night at Wachovia Arena.

Tim Leone, Harrisburg Patriot-News
The Hershey Bears must finish the East Division finals the way they began to prevent their season from ending. The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins completed a sweep of their home portion of the series, winning a third straight game Saturday night at Wachovia Arena. WBS scored three power-play goals and got a 39-save effort from goalie Adam Berkhoel in a 4-1 victory in Game 5. Hershey, facing elimination, hosts Game 6 tonight at Giant Center and Game 7 (if necessary) Tuesday. “We’ve got a special group in here,” Bears winger Chris Bourque said. “This is one of the closest teams I’ve ever been on. We’re not ready to go home for summer yet.”

Bill Ballou, Worcester Telegram & Gazette
The Sharks are at it again. For the second time in two Calder Cup playoff series, they have battled back from a 2-games-to-0 deficit to even it up, doing so this time via a 1-0 victory over the Providence Bruins at the DCU Center last night in an absolutely thrilling Game 4. This game played like a Game 7 for most of the evening. Worcester scored first, on Tom Cavanagh‘s goal at 4:41 of the first period, then the goaltenders took over.

Andrew J. Ferraro, Houston Chronicle
Less than 48 hours after playing one of the best games of his professional career, Aeros goalie Anton Khudobin was on the wrong end of a 4-3 game on Saturday night at Toyota Center. Clearly the team’s MVP of this series — and maybe the entire playoffs — Khudobin did what he could to keep the Aeros in the game. But the team was soft against a desperate Milwaukee Admirals team needing three straight wins to avoid elimination. Game 6 is Monday at Bradley Center, and Khudobin, who was pulled in the second period after allowing what proved to be the game-winning goal, is expected to get his 13th straight start in the playoffs.

Gary Lawless, Winnipeg Free Press
There’s no question Cody Hodgson is one of the best players in junior hockey. Whether he can make the jump to pro hockey with an impact remains to be seen. But Winnipeg fans won’t be guessing for long. Hodgson’s Brampton Battalion were knocked out of the Ontario Hockey League final earlier in the weekend and the Vancouver Canucks’ first-round pick in the 2007 NHL entry draft is likely headed for the Manitoba Moose. Details need to be worked out and the 19-year-old Hodgson has played a lot of hockey this season between his OHL schedule and being a member of Team Canada at last winter’s world juniors, so his arrival in Winnipeg is not a slam dunk. Neither, it should be said, is his presence in the Moose lineup.

2007 AHL All-Star Dustin Byfuglien scored twice and David Bolland got the game-winner with 5:05 remaining as Chicago took a 3-2 series lead over Vancouver with a 4-2 victory last night… 2004 AHL All-Star Chris Kunitz assisted on the overtime winner and 2004 Calder Cup finalist Marc-Andre Fleury made 26 saves in Pittsburgh’s 4-3 decision in Washington.

0 – Times, in 12 seasons of four-division play in the AHL (1995-2001, 2003-09), that all four regular-season division winners advanced to the conference finals… This spring, one division winner (Hartford) is already out and two more (Hershey, Milwaukee) are on the brink of elimination.

3 – Times in Calder Cup Playoffs history that the home team has won all seven games of a single series (1981 – Maine vs. Springfield; 1953 – Cleveland vs. Pittsburgh; 1949 – Providence vs. St. Louis)… The road team has yet to win a game in the current East Division Finals between Hershey and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

May 10, 2005 – Mike Richards, R.J. Umberger, Joni Pitkanen, Patrick Sharp and Jon Sim all score for Philadelphia in a 5-3 win over Wilkes-Barre/Scranton as the Phantoms take a 3-1 series lead in the East Division finals.

May 10, 1994 – Jeff Sirkka scores 4:52 into overtime, sending Portland to the Calder Cup Finals with a 4-3 win in Game 6 at Adirondack.

May 10, 1986 – Brian Dobbin gets the overtime winner as Hershey defeats Adirondack, 5-4, in Game 1 of the Calder Cup Finals.

May 10, 1982 – The New Brunswick Hawks, led by rookies Steve Larmer and Steve Ludzik, win the Calder Cup with a 4-2 win over the Binghamton Whalers.

May 10, 1966 – At Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto, Mike Walton’s hat trick in Game 5 of the Calder Cup Finals leads Rochester to a 7-0 win over Cleveland and a 3-2 series lead.

Don’t miss a step on the road to the 2009 Calder Cup championship. AHL Live continues to bring AHL action to your computer all postseason 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.

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Jason Chaimovitch, Vice President of Communications
AJ Atchue, Coordinator of Communications
(413) 781-2030