AHL Morning Skate: For all the marbles in Milwaukee

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.


HERSHEY 3, W-B/Scranton 0 (HER wins series, 4-3)

1. Michal Neuvirth made 24 saves for his second consecutive shutout as Hershey took a 3-0 win over Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in Game 7 of the East Division Finals.

2. Keith Aucoin opened the scoring 50 seconds into the game and added an assist for the Bears, who advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals for the third time in the last four years.

3. Defenseman and team captain Bryan Helmer was plus-1 and turned in a solid defensive effort for Hershey.

Game 6 – Providence at Worcester, 7:05 (PRO leads series, 3-2)
Game 7 – Houston at Milwaukee, 8:00 (Series tied, 3-3)

CC09rd2_160x600.jpg2009 CALDER CUP PLAYOFFS:
Atlantic Division Finals – Series “I” (best-of-7)
A2-Providence Bruins vs. A4-Worcester Sharks

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 – PROVIDENCE 4, Worcester 3
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

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 – HERSHEY 3, W-B/Scranton 0
Game 7 – Tue., May 12 – HERSHEY 3, W-B/Scranton 0

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

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
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 – MILWAUKEE 7, Houston 0
Game 7 – Wed., May 13 – Houston at Milwaukee, 8:00

Eastern Conference Finals – Series “M” (best-of-7)
E1-Hershey Bears vs. PRO-WOR winner
Game 1 – Sat., May 16 at Hershey, 7:00
Game 2 – Sun., May 17 at Hershey, 5:00
Game 3 – TBD
Game 4 – TBD
*Game 5 – TBD
*Game 6 – TBD at Hershey
*Game 7 – TBD at Hershey

Western Conference Finals – Series “N” (best-of-7)
N1-Manitoba Moose vs. MIL-HOU winner
Game 1 – Fri., May 15 at Manitoba, 8:30
Game 2 – Sat., May 16 at Manitoba, 8:30
Game 3 – TBD
Game 4 – TBD
*Game 5 – TBD
*Game 6 – TBD at Manitoba
*Game 7 – TBD at Manitoba

*if necessary… All times Eastern

GAME NOTES (all times ET):
Game 6 – Providence at Worcester, 7:05 (PRO leads series, 3-2)
Providence and Worcester square off for Game 6 of the Atlantic Division Finals tonight at the DCU Center… Providence, which earned a 4-3 win in Game 5 on Monday, is one victory away from its fifth trip to the Eastern Conference finals in 11 years but its first since 2005… All five games of this series have been decided either by one goal or by one goal plus an empty-netter… The Bruins became the first team to win a game in the series after surrendering the game’s first goal on Monday… Martin St. Pierre and Brad Marchand each scored in Game 5 and lead the Bruins with three goals and six points apiece against Worcester… Providence also received Game 5 tallies from captain Jeremy Reich and rookie Levi Nelson, who was playing his first game of this postseason… Three of the Bruins’ four goals came during a second period in which they outshot the Sharks, 19-7… B’s goaltender Tuukka Rask made 30 saves to improve to 7-3 (1.79, .940) this postseason… Patrick Traverse, Jamie McGinn and Riley Armstrong all scored for the Sharks in Game 5… Traverse, who showed 4-13-17 in 53 career Calder Cup Playoff games entering this spring, leads all AHL defensemen with four goals and eight points in 11 postseason tilts… McGinn has a team-high four goals against Providence this round, and Armstrong is tied for the league playoff scoring lead with 13 points (3-10-13) in 11 games… Dan DaSilva chipped in two assists on Monday, and his 10 playoff points (3-7-10) are tied with captain Ryan Vesce (3-7-10) for second on the team… The Sharks are just 1-for-15 on the power play at home this postseason… Worcester is facing elimination for the first time this year; the Sharks are 2-1 all-time in do-or-die situations… The Bruins have won seven straight games with a chance to eliminate an opponent since their Game 7 loss to Hartford in the 2000 conference finals.

Game 7 – Houston at Milwaukee, 8:00 (Series tied, 3-3)
The West Division Finals reach their climax at the Bradley Center tonight as Milwaukee and Houston battle it out in Game 7… The winner will advance to take on Manitoba in the Western Conference Finals beginning Friday in Winnipeg… The Admirals, coming off two straight wins, are looking to become the 15th team in AHL history to win a best-of-7 series after trailing 3-1… Milwaukee forced tonight’s contest with a convincing 7-0 victory in Game 6 on Monday… Seven different Admirals scored and defenseman Robert Dietrich, who entered with three points in nine playoff games this year, racked up a goal and three assists to lead the way… Patric Hornqvist had registered just one assist in his previous seven contests before contributing 1-1-2 on Monday… Ryan Maki netted his first goal of the postseason in Game 6 and Hugh Jessiman snapped a six-game scoring drought with the game’s first goal… Ads goaltender Drew MacIntyre made 21 saves for his first shutout of these playoffs on Monday… MacIntyre has not surrendered an even-strength goal since the 18:09 mark of the third period of Game 3, a span of 178:51 played… Bryan Smolinski, who shows three goals and four points in his last two contests, has skated in eight Game 7’s in his NHL career, winning three of them… Milwaukee boasts the AHL’s top four playoff plus/minus leaders in Cody Franson (plus-11), Ryan Jones (plus-9), Jed Ortmeyer (plus-9) and Dietrich (plus-9)… Aeros forward Corey Locke paces the AHL with seven goals and is tied for the lead with 13 points in 13 playoff games… Anton Khudobin (7-6, 2.52, .909) made his 13th consecutive playoff start for Houston in Game 6 but was relieved 12:52 into the first period by Nolan Schaefer, in his first appearance since being injured in a Mar. 31 game at Iowa… Maxim Noreau was the Aeros’ Game 7 hero last round against Peoria with the game-winning goal, an assist and a plus-3 rating… Houston is 4-1 this postseason following a defeat, with Monday’s Game 6 as the lone setback… The Aeros’ power play ranks second in the AHL (25.8 percent) but went 0-for-8 on Monday… Houston head coach Kevin Constantine is 4-0 in Game 7’s as a head coach in the AHL and NHL, all on the road… The Aeros are 4-0 in winner-take-all games since joining the AHL, including 3-0 in Game 7’s… Milwaukee shows a 3-1 mark – all at home – in AHL winner-take-all contests… Home teams are 42-32 (.568) in Game 7’s throughout Calder Cup Playoff history, including 1-1 this year and 12-2 since 2006… The team scoring first in a Game 7 is 20-1 since the conference final round in 2003.


Andrew J. Ferraro, Houston Chronicle
Tonight at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee, the Aeros’ 2009 playoff run will either come to a disappointing end or propel the team to its first trip to the Western Conference Finals since 2003. After taking a 3-1 series lead with two wins at home last week, the Aeros are on the brink of blowing the series. The Aeros were blown out of the building in Saturday’s 7-0, Game 6 loss, the franchise’s worst playoff loss since the team moved to the American Hockey League in 2001. Lose tonight, and the Aeros will be the team that coughed up a big lead in the West Division finals. Win, and they’ll get a day to rest, travel to Canada and start a best-of-seven series against the Manitoba Moose.

Lindsay Kramer, NHL.com
Houston goalie Anton Khudobin, a native of Kazakhstan, speaks very good English but delivers it in a fashion that usually leaves his teammates chuckling. The combination of a good sense of humor plus the occasional odd word or phrase out of order is an endearing trait, one that has made the second-year pro’s adjustment to the Aeros a lot easier. Khudobin’s play in the AHL postseason is speaking loud and clear. But just in case any further clarification is necessary, here is the only message he needs to get across to his teammates: Follow me.

Bill Ballou, Worcester Telegram & Gazette
The Sharks’ approach to playoff success this season has been a little unorthodox – lose two in a row, then start winning. But that formula is no longer an option. If Worcester turns this one-game losing streak into two, its season is over. The Sharks play the most important home game in their three-year history tonight at the DCU Center. They trail the Providence Bruins, 3-2, in their second-round Calder Cup series. A victory would send them to a Game 7 in Providence tomorrow night, with all the accompanying drama, emotion and intensity. A defeat would end what has been a great ride for Worcester and its fans, but end it in a disappointing fashion.

Tim Leone, Harrisburg Patriot-News
Hershey’s big dogs came to hunt Tuesday night at Giant Center, powering a 3-0 victory over the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins to claim the series 4-3. Hershey’s top line of Alex Giroux, Keith Aucoin and Graham Mink accounted for the first goal 50 seconds into the game and five points in all. “I think our better players were better than theirs,” Bears head coach Bob Woods said. A crowd of 8,376 didn’t have to wait long to cheer as Aucoin, taking a feed from Giroux, produced a quick lead in a game Hershey dominated en route to a second straight shutout.

Dan Sernoffsky, Lebanon Daily News
The Hershey Bears held service once again, and in so doing, earned themselves a spot in the AHL’s Eastern Conference finals. Another brilliant performance in goal by rookie Michal Neuvirth and a solid, all-around defensive effort paved the way for the Bears, who shut out the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins 3-0 last night at Giant Center before 8,376 fans. The win gave the Bears a 4-3 victory in the best-of-seven East Division final series – a series in which the home team won every game – and at least one day off as they await the conclusion of the Atlantic Division final series between Providence and Worcester. The Bears will host the winner in Game 1 of the conference final Saturday.

Jonathan Bombulie, Citizens’ Voice
As fans filed out of the Wachovia Arena last Saturday night, they were happy. Overjoyed, actually. They cheered and banged inflatable plastic noisemakers together, celebrating after the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins beat the Hershey Bears for the third straight time in the East Division finals. Those fans will probably want to remember the 2008-09 Penguins as they saw them that night, so vibrant and full of life, rather than the shell of themselves they became in the final two games of the series. It would be easy to argue that the Penguins expended every last bit of energy in their reserves to win Games 3, 4 and 5 at home, because in Games 6 and 7, they fatally fizzled.

Tom Venesky, Wilkes-Barre Times Leader
Exhausted, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins winger Chris Minard leaned back against the concrete block wall in the visitor’s locker room of the Giant Center and searched for an answer. What caused his team to be shut out in back-to-back games to the Hershey Bears and lose the East Division Finals by a score of 3-0 on Tuesday night? Was it the schedule – one that demanded both teams play five games in seven nights? Was it the loss of key players such as John Curry, Paul Bissonnette and Tim Wallace? Could it have been Hershey’s first goal, which came just 50 seconds into Game 7? Or was it simply the fact that Hershey played with a little more momentum in front of its home crowd and seemed to have two extra steps to the Penguins’ one?

Kevin Freeman, Lancaster Intelligencer Journal
Keith Aucoin was not oblivious to the reports that he and his Hershey Bears linemates had been shut down in Wilkes-Barre when the Calder Cup series shifted north up I-81 for three games. In a nutshell, some wondered why Aucoin and Alexandre Giroux couldn’t score after finishing first and second in scoring during the regular season, and whether they were to blame for pushing the Bears to the brink of elimination. Aucoin scored a goal, added an assist and Giroux help set up two goals to lead the Bears to a 3-0 victory over the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in front of 8,376 fans in Game 7 of their Calder Cup divisional final series Tuesday night at the Giant Center.

Tim Campbell, Winnipeg Free Press
Two important matters were settled on Tuesday as the Manitoba Moose finally welcomed 19-year-old Cody Hodgson into the fold. Hodgson’s peers — his new teammates and coaches — see why he’s been a much-decorated junior player and the Ontario Hockey League’s most outstanding player this season would prefer to let his play do the talking. Short, staccato answers, most of them given with a smile, were fed to the media horde that’s as curious as fans to see how he will fit with the Moose. “I’m just here for good experience,” Hodgson said, asked if he’s worried about anything this week. “I’m trying to learn as much as I can from these guys — (a guy) like Mike Keane, who has three Stanley Cups, so there’s definitely a wealth of knowledge I can tap.”

Ken Wiebe, Winnipeg Sun
Cody Hodgson is getting a rare second chance to win a second championship this spring. Hodgson has joined the Manitoba Moose for their quest to claim the Calder Cup. That would go nicely with the gold medal Hodgson won at the World Junior Hockey Championship in Ottawa in January. “There’s a great chance here,” said Hodgson, who was recently named Most Outstanding Player of the OHL and also its Most Sportsmanlike Player. “The team has been playing great here and there’s a real shot at the Calder Cup. I’m looking forward to that and to trying to help the team win.” Hodgson, a first-round pick (10th overall) of the Vancouver Canucks in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, was on the ice with the Moose for the first time yesterday and is eagerly anticipating his first professional game.

Former AHL All-Star Marc Savard tallied the game-winning goal and 2001 Calder Cup champion Steve Montador also scored as Boston forced Game 7 in its Eastern Conference semifinal with a 4-2 win at Carolina last night… Anaheim received a goal and an assist each from former AHL’ers Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry en route to a 2-1 win over Detroit, which extends the teams’ Western semifinal to a seventh game.

– Teams in AHL history who have won two Game 7’s on the road in the same postseason – the 2004 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (at Bridgeport and Hartford) and the 2003 Houston Aeros (at Grand Rapids and Hamilton)… The Aeros are looking to duplicate that feat with a win in Milwaukee tonight.

143:35 – Shutout streak being taken by Hershey’s Michal Neuvirth into the Eastern Conference finals… Neuvirth last night became the first goaltender in AHL history to record shutouts in both Games 6 and 7 of a playoff series.

May 13, 2008Ondrej Pavelec makes 38 saves in Chicago’s 4-1 win over Rockford in Game 7 of the West Division finals.

May 13, 2005 – Jeff Carter scores two of Philadelphia’s six goals in the final 11:23 of the game, turning a 4-1 deficit into a 7-4 victory and eliminating Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in Game 5 of their division final series.

May 13, 1995Steve Sullivan nets a goal and an assist as Albany advances to the Calder Cup Finals with a 6-3 win over Providence.

May 13, 1990 – Dave Pasin’s overtime goal gives the Springfield Indians a 2-1 win at Rochester and a 3-2 series lead in the Calder Cup Finals.

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.