AHL Morning Skate: Houston looking for home cooking

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 2, Providence 1 (Series tied, 1-1)

1. Goaltender Michal Neuvirth made 25 saves on 26 shots as Hershey evened the Eastern Conference Finals with a 2-1 win over Providence.

2. Andrew Joudrey broke a scoreless tie with his first career Calder Cup Playoff goal for the Bears.

3. Chris Bourque assisted on the game-winning goal and put seven shots on net in the winning effort.

Game 3 – Manitoba at Houston, 8:05 (MTB leads series, 2-0)

CC09rd3_160x600.jpg2009 CALDER CUP PLAYOFFS:
Complete Results || Scoring Leaders || Goaltending Leaders

Eastern Conference Finals – Series “M” (best-of-7)
E1-Hershey Bears vs. A2-Providence Bruins
Game 1 – Sat., May 16 – Providence 3, HERSHEY 2
Game 2 – Sun., May 17 – HERSHEY 2, Providence 1
Game 3 – Fri., May 22 – Hershey at Providence, 7:05
Game 4 – Sun., May 24 – Hershey at Providence, 7:05
Game 5 – Mon., May 25 – Hershey at Providence, 4:05
*Game 6 – Wed., May 27 – Providence at Hershey, 7:00
*Game 7 – Thu., May 28 – Providence at Hershey, 7:00

Western Conference Finals – Series “N” (best-of-7)
N1-Manitoba Moose vs. W3-Houston Aeros

Game 1 – Fri., May 15 – MANITOBA 2, Houston 1
Game 2 – Sat., May 16 – MANITOBA 5, Houston 2
Game 3 – Mon., May 18 – Manitoba at Houston, 8:05
Game 4 – Wed., May 20 – Manitoba at Houston, 8:05
*Game 5 – Fri., May 22 – Manitoba at Houston, 8:35
*Game 6 – Mon., May 25 – Houston at Manitoba, 8:30
*Game 7 – Wed., May 27 – Houston at Manitoba, 8:30

*if necessary… All times Eastern

GAME NOTES (all times ET):
Game 3 – Manitoba at Houston, 8:05 (MTB leads series, 2-0)
Manitoba brings its nine-game winning streak to the Lone Star State tonight as the Moose square off with Houston at Toyota Center in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals… The Moose raced out to a 2-0 series lead with a pair of home-ice wins over the weekend, most recently a 5-2 triumph in Game 2 on Saturday… Michael Grabner tallied a pair of goals in that contest for Manitoba to snap a personal seven-game drought… Jason Krog added a goal and an assist, and the reigning Calder Cup Playoffs MVP leads Manitoba with 13 points (5-8-13) in 12 postseason games… Raymond Sawada scored his third goal of the playoffs on Saturday, and rookie Cody Hodgson added his first professional goal… Hodgson, drafted 10th overall by Vancouver in 2008, now has two points (1-1-2) through his first two games with the Moose… Manitoba went 2-for-8 on the power play in Game 2 after an 0-for-4 showing in Friday night’s series opener… Moose goaltender Cory Schneider (10-2) stopped 28 of 30 shots on Saturday and leads the AHL in wins this postseason while ranking second in goals-against average (1.66) and third in save percentage (.939)… Schneider has now gone 11 straight games without surrendering more than two goals since Manitoba’s 3-2 loss to Toronto in its playoff opener on Apr. 15… Marco Rosa posted a goal and an assist for the Aeros in Game 2, and rookie defenseman J.P. Testwuide notched his first professional goal… Aeros forward Corey Locke leads the AHL with nine playoff goals and 16 points, but he shows just one assist and is minus-4 through the first two games of the conference finals… Houston, which has not led in either of the first two contests, is trying to avoid dropping three straight games for the first time this postseason… The Aeros’ power play went just 1-for-10 in the two games in Winnipeg but has converted 11 of 32 opportunities (34.4 percent) at Toyota Center during the playoffs, helping Houston to a 4-2 home record… Houston is facing an 0-2 series deficit for just the second time in its AHL era; the Aeros were swept by Milwaukee in the 2006 West Division Finals… The Moose have allowed a total of eight goals in their five playoff road games… Manitoba is bidding to become just the seventh team in AHL history to win as many as 10 consecutive games in a single postseason.


Andrew J. Ferraro, Houston Chronicle
The Aeros’ 5-2 loss in Winnipeg on Saturday night was the team’s 95th game of the season. That’s a lot of hockey for a team that was inconsistent during the regular season. But more than a month after the regular season ended, the Aeros, easily the biggest surprise of the 2009 AHL playoffs, are on the ropes. The team had to take multiple flights out of Canada on Sunday, and many players did not arrive until after 8 p.m. Despite the less than ideal travel arrangements, Aeros coach Kevin Constantine says he and his troops are ready to compete at home after playing the last four games on the road.

David Barron, Houston Chronicle
Bummed out? Buck up. There’s still a playoff game tonight at Toyota Center. If you were following the Rockets against the Lakers, you’ll feel right at home. The Aeros are home tonight after a week on the road that included a series-clinching Game 7 win at Milwaukee and two losses at Winnipeg in the conference finals. Much of the noise will emanate from the Attack Zone, in Toyota Center’s north end zone. That’s the hangout for many of the 2,000 or so Aeros season-ticket holders and some of Houston’s most committed hockey fans. “I think a lot of people who go to Rockets games are there for socializing,” said Cliff Maxwell of Houston. “Here, it’s an appreciation of the players and the sport and the game and the whole atmosphere of it.”

Ken Wiebe, Winnipeg Sun
This is one of those situations in sports that comes with a warning sign. You know the one – Objects May Be Closer Than They Appear. The Manitoba Moose deserve full marks for jumping out to a 2-0 advantage in the Western Conference final over the Houston Aeros, thanks to a weekend sweep on home ice at the MTS Centre. It was an up-and-down (down-and-mostly-up, actually) weekend for the Moose. As the series resumes tonight at the Toyota Center, the Moose understand the road ahead.

Ken Wiebe, Winnipeg Sun
For Travis Ramsey, his first pro season was supposed to be all about learning the ropes. When it came time for the Moose to release its clear-day roster, there was some question as to whether Ramsey would make the grade. But after some debate, the Moose brass opted to put Ramsey on the 22-man list. Ramsey rewarded the Moose down the stretch by showing improvement, but when the Calder Cup playoffs began, it was back to the press box for the first three games. But since an injury to Nathan McIver opened the door, Ramsey had been a solid contributor on Manitoba’s third pairing.

Ed Gruver, Lancaster Journal Intelligencer
The shift in momentum came long before Andrew Joudrey broke the scoreless tie with a re-direction past Providence goalie Tuukka Rask early in the third period, long before Alexandre Giroux beat Rask on a power-play goal that proved to be the game-winner, and long before Michal Neuvirth made a sweeping glove save on Vladimir Sobotka with 4.9 seconds left to preserve a needed win for Hershey. By all accounts, Sunday’s Game 2 between the Bears and Bruins became irrevocably altered in the second period. "I thought in the second period we did everything but score," Bears boss Bob Woods said in the aftermath of a 2-1 win that ties the best-of-7 series at a game apiece. "I knew (a change in momentum) was starting to come."

Tim Leone, Harrisburg Patriot-News
Having weathered a lopsided second period and five Hershey Bears power plays, the Providence Bruins were in position Sunday night to snatch Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals and head home with a 2-0 lead. But the Bears kept coming and finally busted through for a pair of goals at Giant Center in a critical 2-1 victory that tied the best-of-seven series 1-1. Andrew Joudrey broke a scoreless tie at 3:21 of the third period. And Alexandre Giroux scored a power-play goal at 6:01 on Hershey’s sixth chance for a 2-0 lead. The Bears weathered a scary final minute in which Brad Marchand scored a 6-on-4 power-play goal, with goalie Tuukka Rask pulled for an extra attacker, with 35.2 seconds left to spoil goalie Michal Neuvirth‘s shutout bid.

Jeremy Elliott, Harrisburg Patriot-News
When Providence winger Brad Marchand roofed a shot past Michal Neuvirth for a power-play goal with 36 seconds left, it prevented the Hershey goaltender from closing in on a couple of records. Neuvirth, who already has three shutout victories in the playoffs, could have closed to within one of the Bears record set by Gordon Henry (5) in 1947. Another bagel, and the 21-year-old from the Czech Republic could have pulled to within two more of tying the American Hockey League mark set by Rochester’s Mika Noronen (6) during the 2000 Calder Cup playoffs. But in the end, it didn’t matter.

Dan Sernoffsky, Lebanon Daily News
The Hershey Bears finally “powered up,” and at just the right time. Alexandre Giroux scored a power-play goal six minutes into the third period, breaking an 0-for-12 man-advantage drought. That goal also turned out to be the game-winner as the Bears pulled out a 2-1 victory over the Providence Bruins last night at Giant Center. With the win, the Bears evened the best-of-seven Eastern Conference finals series at a game apiece as the series heads to Providence for the next three games. Giroux wasn’t even trying to score. He spotted Keith Aucoin at the far post, but his shot from the left side deflected past goalie Tuukka Rask to give the Bears a 2-0 lead.

Dan Sernoffsky, Lebanon Daily News
It won’t be déjà vu all over again, and Rob Murray is probably reasonably happy about that. A dozen years ago, Murray was a defenseman for the Springfield Falcons, and following wins in the first two rounds of the Calder Cup playoffs, the Falcons headed to Hersheypark Arena to take on the Hershey Bears. Hershey was coming off a grueling seven-game series with the Philadelphia Phantoms, a series that exacted both a physical and emotional toll. The Falcons totally overwhelmed the Bears in the first two games of that series to take a 2-0 lead back to Springfield for the next three games.

Providence Journal
The rope-a-dope helped Muhammad Ali beat George Foreman, but all it got the Providence Bruins on Sunday was a bloody nose. The Hershey Bears outplayed, outshot and, in the end, outscored the Bruins and earned a 2-1 victory before 7,460 fans at the Giant Center, tying the Eastern Conference finals at 1. In a game that was as one-sided as a one-goal game can be, the Bruins simply absorbed too many punches, and threw too few in return. With Tuukka Rask again playing superbly in goal, the Bruins might have been able to overcome their defensive shortcomings, except for the fact that they mustered hardly any offensive chances themselves.

– Consecutive seasons in which the two Game 1 winners in the conference finals went on to meet in the Calder Cup Finals… The last team to lose Game 1 and rally to claim the conference championship was Chicago, vs. Houston in 2002.

8 – Different players who have scored a game-winning goal during Manitoba’s current nine-game winning streak… Only Ray Sawada shows two game-winners during the stretch, including the decisive tally in the Moose’s 5-2 victory over Houston on Saturday night.

May 18, 2007Kyle Chipchura records two goals and two assists in Hamilton’s 6-5 double-overtime win at Chicago in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals.

May 18, 2006 – Hershey improves its postseason record to 10-0 as Graham Mink’s goal 1:52 into overtime gives the Bears a 2-1 win at Portland in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

May 18, 1997Brad Isbister and Chad Kilger pick up a goal and an assist each and Manny Legace makes 43 saves as Springfield opens the Southern Conference Finals with a 6-2 win at Hershey in Game 1.

May 18, 1996Andrew Brunette registers a goal and two assists in Portland’s 7-1 win at Saint John in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

May 18, 1993 – Led by Mike Sillinger with two goals and an assist, Adirondack earns a 6-3 win in Game 1 of the Calder Cup Finals at St. John’s.

May 18, 1990 – Jeff Rohlicek scores 23 seconds into overtime as the Springfield Indians win the Calder Cup with a 4-3 win over Rochester in Game 6.

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.