AHL Morning Skate: May 12, 2023

A2-Hershey Bears vs. A5-Hartford Wolf Pack
Game 2 – Saturday, 7:00 ET,
(Hershey leads series, 1-0)

Game 1 – Thu., May 11 – HERSHEY 3, Hartford 2 (OT) | Recap
Game 2 – Sat., May 13 – Hartford at Hershey, 7:00
Game 3 – Wed., May 17 – Hershey at Hartford, 7:00
*Game 4 – Fri., May 19 – Hershey at Hartford, 7:00
*Game 5 – Tue., May 23 – Hartford at Hershey, 7:00
*if necessary... All times Eastern

N1-Toronto Marlies vs. N3-Rochester Americans
Game 2 – Saturday, 4:00 ET,
(Rochester leads series, 1-0)

Game 1 – Thu., May 11 – Rochester 4, TORONTO 3 | Recap
Game 2 – Sat., May 13 – Rochester at Toronto, 4:00
Game 3 – Wed., May 17 – Toronto at Rochester, 7:05
*Game 4 – Fri., May 19 – Toronto at Rochester, 7:05
*Game 5 – Sun., May 21 – Rochester at Toronto, 4:00
*if necessary... All times Eastern

C1-Texas Stars vs. C2-Milwaukee Admirals
Game 1 – Tonight, 8:00 ET,

Game 1 - Fri., May 12 - Texas at Milwaukee, 8:00
Game 2 - Sat., May 13 - Texas at Milwaukee, 7:00
Game 3 - Wed., May 17 - Milwaukee at Texas, 8:00
*Game 4 - Fri., May 19 - Milwaukee at Texas, 8:00
*Game 5 - Sun., May 21 - Milwaukee at Texas, 8:00
*if necessary... All times Eastern

The curtain goes up on the Central Division finals tonight as Milwaukee hosts Texas in Game 1... The Stars edged out the Admirals by three points to finish in first place in the regular season, and is coming off a three-game sweep of Rockford in the division semis... Milwaukee came back from 2-1 down to eliminate Manitoba in five games, capping the series with a 2-1 win on Saturday behind Spencer Stastney’s goal in the final minute of regulation... Rhett Gardner (2-3-5) leads Texas in playoff scoring, with Marian Studenic (2-2-4), Riley Barber (2-1-3) and Nick Caamano (2-1-3) also contributing multiple goals in the series against Rockford... Defenseman Jordan Gross (2-5-7) is Milwaukee’s top scorer in the playoffs, followed by Kiefer Sherwood (2-4-6) and Luke Evangelista (2-3-5)... Yaroslav Askarov (3-2, 2.35, .915) made 20 saves in the Game 5 win over Manitoba... The teams split their eight meetings during the regular season, with each winning three of four on their home ice... Matt Murray (3-0, 2.00, .929) had a .964 save percentage in three appearances against the Admirals this season... Milwaukee, which ranked first in the AHL on the power play in the regular season (24.6 percent), is 5-for-16 so far in the playoffs... This is the third postseason meeting between these clubs; Milwaukee won in 2011, and Texas prevailed in 2013.

P1-Calgary Wranglers vs. P2-Coachella Valley Firebirds
Game 2 – Tonight, 9:05 ET,
(Coachella Valley leads series, 1-0)

Game 1 – Thu., May 11 – Coachella Valley 6, CALGARY 3 | Recap
Game 2 – Fri., May 12 – Coachella Valley at Calgary, 9:05
Game 3 – Mon., May 15 – Calgary at Coachella Valley, 10:00
*Game 4 – Wed., May 17 – Calgary at Coachella Valley, 10:00
*Game 5 – Fri., May 19 – Calgary at Coachella Valley, 10:00
*if necessary... All times Eastern

Coachella Valley drew first blood in the best-of-five Pacific Division finals with a 6-3 win in Calgary last night, setting up a critical Game 2 for the hosts at Scotiabank Saddledome tonight... Kole Lind (6-8-14), Max McCormick (6-7-13) and Cameron Hughes (0-10-10) combined for 10 points in Game 1 as the Firebirds continued to have success against the Wranglers’ league-leading defense... Coachella Valley scored five times on 21 shots to chase AHL MVP Dustin Wolf (3-2, 3.14, .894) midway through the second period; the only other time Wolf was pulled from a start this season was in a 6-5 loss to the Firebirds on opening night, Oct. 16... Coachella Valley has touched Wolf for 26 goals in his eight appearances against them this season (4-3-0, 3.75, .883)... Luke Henman (2-2-4) and Jeremy McKenna (4-5-9) added a goal and an assist each for the Firebirds in Game 1... Joey Daccord (6-3, 2.01, .939) made 32 saves and improved to 3-0 in series openers this postseason... Dryden Hunt (3-1-4) notched a goal and an assist for the Wranglers, and Matthew Phillips (1-4-5) tallied an assist for the fourth consecutive game... Calgary was 1-for-3 on the power play; Coachella Valley was 2-for-3... Five of the Firebirds’ six wins this postseason have been by a margin of three goals or more.

The Hartford Wolf Pack went into their dressing room after the first period last night in Hershey with a far bigger concern than anything on the scoreboard.

Forward Anton Blidh required medical attention after returning to the bench following a hit from Hershey defenseman Logan Day with 2:39 remaining in the period. Officials called for an early intermission and sent both teams to their respective rooms.

“The guys were a little worried coming to the dressing room,” Wolf Pack head coach Kris Knoblauch said afterward, “because they didn’t know what they were going to see. Fortunately when we were able to go in the room, he was recovering. He was good. I think just the players seeing him, that he was in good spirits, and he was going to be able to rejoin us pretty much calmed the team down.”

Blidh returned after the intermission and finished the game for Hartford.

“Be ready” is not just an idle phrase thrown around by head coaches.

Hershey forward Henrik Borgstrom had not played since April 14, the Bears’ second-to-last regular season game. But with leading scorer Mike Sgarbossa out of the lineup, head coach Todd Nelson had a major decision to make going into last night’s opener with Hartford.

“I didn’t want to touch the other three lines,” Nelson explained. “The other three lines are playing really well and have good chemistry.”

So in went Borgstrom to center a top line with Mike Vecchione and Ethen Frank. The line had a strong game, Borgstrom eventually delivered the overtime winner.

“Borgy has the skill set to play on that line, plus he’s a big body. Hopefully it gives him some confidence moving forward,” Nelson said of Borgstrom, a 25-year-old forward who was a 2016 first-round pick by Florida. “You can only dress 20 players, and we have many good hockey players that are not playing right now.”

Going back into the lineup brought a range of emotions for Borgstrom, who had 21 points (eight goals, 13 assists) in 55 games during the regular season.

“I felt way more nervous before the game,” Borgstrom said. “But once the game starts, it’s all about the adrenaline running right through the veins, and it just takes over the whole game.

“Our team, just the team spirit, the way all the guys hang out, I think it’s huge. I just love being at the rink, and you enjoy being with each other. I feel like that brings a lot of joy, and that keeps us ready, too, the guys who are not in the lineup at the moment.”

Calgary Wranglers head coach Mitch Love made the stakes of Game 2 quite clear for his club.

“We had a good conversation after the game,” Love told reporters following his team’s 6-3 loss to Coachella Valley last night. “It was brief. We can be much better. I’m sure they’re going to want to step on our throats a little bit here headed home, so we’re going to have to play one of our better games.”

The challenge for the Wranglers is that they will only have 24 hours to settle themselves down. A loss tonight in Game 2 would force the Wranglers to win three straight on the road in order to take the series.

The good news for Love and his club is that their standard can be much higher than that shown in Game 1.

“I thought they were pretty good,” Love said of the Firebirds. “I didn’t like our game at all. Scoreboard aside, they executed on their game plan, and we didn’t. A lot of stuff we talked about over the last two, three days that they would present to us, they executed on, and nothing really changed. I wasn’t surprised by anything over there.

“I think they just wanted it a little more than our guys, and I thought maybe our guys thought it was going to be a little bit easier than it was. This time of the year you can’t afford to have those nights.”

Riley Barber’s rookie season in 2015-16 featured a trip to the Calder Cup Finals.

Barber and the Hershey Bears fell short that year, but he figured then that there would be many more of those chances.

“I thought that I’d be back every year in the Finals,” Barber said this week, “because I was a rookie, and I was kind of wide-eyed. To be honest, I wasn’t really ready for the intensity.”

Seven years later, the Texas Stars forward is still trying to go that far — and more — again. The Stars open the Central Division finals in Milwaukee tonight, a tough challenge against a team that the Stars battled for first place in the Central Division before ultimately prevailing.

“They’re a really hard-nosed team” Barber said of Milwaukee. “And they got some guys down from Nashville, which always helps. But we’re ready to play. They’re a good team, and we have to realize that we’re a really good team as well. It’s going to take everything from the goalie to the forwards, but I think we match up really well.”

― Patrick Williams

In action around the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs last night, Jesper Fast scored 7:09 into overtime to send Carolina into the conference finals with a 3-2 win over New Jersey in Game 5... Roope Hintz notched two goals and an assist and Jason Robertson added three assists to help Dallas to a 5-2 win over Seattle to take a 3-2 lead in their series.

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