AHL Morning Skate: May 15, 2024

Photo: Mike Zitek

A1-Hershey Bears vs. A5-Hartford Wolf Pack
Game 1 – Thursday, 7:00 ET,

Game 1 – Thu., May 16 – Hartford at Hershey, 7:00
Game 2 – Sat., May 18 – Hartford at Hershey, 7:00
Game 3 – Wed., May 22 – Hershey at Hartford, 7:00
*Game 4 – Fri., May 24 – Hershey at Hartford, 7:00
*Game 5 – Sun., May 26 – Hartford at Hershey, 5:00
*if necessary… All times Eastern

N1-Cleveland Monsters vs. N3-Syracuse Crunch
Game 1 – Thursday, 7:00 ET,

Game 1 – Thu., May 16 – Syracuse at Cleveland, 7:00
Game 2 – Sat., May 18 – Syracuse at Cleveland, 1:00
Game 3 – Wed., May 22 – Cleveland at Syracuse, 7:00
*Game 4 – Fri., May 24 – Cleveland at Syracuse, 7:00
*Game 5 – Sun., May 26 – Syracuse at Cleveland, 3:00
*if necessary… All times Eastern

C1-Milwaukee Admirals vs. C2-Grand Rapids Griffins
Game 1 – Tonight, 8:00 ET,

Game 1 – Wed., May 15 – Grand Rapids at Milwaukee, 8:00
Game 2 – Mon., May 20 – Grand Rapids at Milwaukee, 8:00
Game 3 – Wed., May 22 – Milwaukee at Grand Rapids, 7:00
*Game 4 – Fri., May 24 – Milwaukee at Grand Rapids, 7:00
*Game 5 – Sun., May 26 – Grand Rapids at Milwaukee, 6:00
*if necessary… All times Eastern

Milwaukee and Grand Rapids get the division final round of the 2024 Calder Cup Playoffs started with Game 1 at UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena tonight... The Admirals closed out Texas in Game 5 on Sunday evening, becoming the 13th team in AHL history to win a best-of-five series after losing the first two games... The Griffins have been idle since wrapping up their division semifinal against Rockford with a Game 4 victory 10 days ago... Rookie Zach L’Heureux (5-4-9) led the Admirals in scoring during the last round, including five goals and three assists in the three wins... Juuso Parssinen (1-5-6) had six points in the last three games, and Troy Grosenick (3-0, 2.34, .920) stopped 81 of 88 shots after backing up Yaroslav Askarov in Games 1 and 2... Jonatan Berggren (3-2-5) scored the decisive goal in all three Grand Rapids victories in the division semis, including overtime winners in Games 1 and 3... Austin Czarnik (3-1-4) and Marco Kasper (2-0-2) also scored multiple goals, and Carter Mazur (1-3-4) led the Griffins with three assists... Milwaukee went 5-for-16 on the power play against Texas – including 5-for-13 over the last three games – while Grand Rapids was 0-for-8 against Rockford... Milwaukee is 30-9-0-0 on home ice this season, including seven straight wins... The teams split their eight-game season series in 2023-24, with each going 4-3-1-0.

P1-Coachella Valley Firebirds vs. P3-Ontario Reign
Game 1 – Tonight, 10:00 ET,

Game 1 – Wed., May 15 – Ontario at Coachella Valley, 10:00
Game 2 – Fri., May 17 – Ontario at Coachella Valley, 10:00
Game 3 – Sun., May 19 – Coachella Valley at Ontario, 10:00
*Game 4 – Fri., May 24 – Coachella Valley at Ontario, 10:00
*Game 5 – Sun., May 26 – Ontario at Coachella Valley, 6:00
*if necessary… All times Eastern

Coachella Valley hosts Ontario tonight, opening a best-of-five Pacific Division finals series between two teams separated by 80 miles of Interstate 10 in southern California... The teams’ eight-game regular-season series began with the Reign registering a pair of shutout wins at Acrisure Arena on Oct. 25 and Nov. 21, but the Firebirds went 4-0-2-0 against Ontario over the last six meetings... Seventeen different skaters recorded at least one point for Coachella Valley in its four-game series win over Calgary in the last round, with Max McCormick (3-1-4) and Devin Shore (3-1-4) leading the way with four points each... Chris Driedger (3-1, 2.43, .920) had a 1.53 GAA and a .944 save percentage in six appearances against the Reign in 2023-24... Rookie goaltender Erik Portillo (5-0, 1.20, .956) has turned aside 130 of 136 shots in his first five playoff starts, leading Ontario to sweeps of Bakersfield (2-0) and Abbotsford (3-0)... Tyler Madden leads the Reign in postseason scoring with 4-2-6... Coachella Valley is 14-4 at home over the last two playoffs, outscoring their opponents 72-38... Ontario had the third-best road record in the AHL during the regular season at 23-12-1-0.


“They’re stepping up their game as much as we are.”

Those were the words of Milwaukee forward Zach L’Heureux, speaking about the importance of the Admirals having their home fans behind them as their Central Division finals series against Grand Rapids opens tonight.

UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena has been very good to the Admirals this season. They went 27-9-0-0 on home ice in the regular season, the second-best record in the league. Then after dropping the first two games of their division semifinal series in Texas, the Admirals rescued their season back home with three consecutive wins against the Stars.

L’Heureux, who turns 21 today, helped create a lot of that noise, putting up five goals and eight points in the last three games with his team facing elimination. He had a strong rookie season with Milwaukee, finishing with 48 points (19 goals, 29 assists) in 66 games while serving as an abrasive, disruptive presence for opponents.

Milwaukee finished 11 points ahead of second-place Grand Rapids in the Central Division, giving them home-ice advantage in this series.

“I feel like a big part of playing at home is having that crowd behind you,” L’Heureux said. “They motivate you. They get you wanting to play better when you score a goal, and they’re screaming. Or when you need a goal, and they’re on their feet, and they’re cheering you on, it’s a special feeling that you get as a player.

“Being at home is huge...to start and set the tone early. I think it’s going to be a good series.”

The Ontario Reign were one of the few teams to have success going into Acrisure Arena this season, taking three of their four trips to Coachella Valley against the Pacific Division champions.

The Firebirds will host Game 1 of the teams’ best-of-five Pacific Division final series tonight.

So far through two rounds of playoff hockey, the Reign have gone 5-0. Two of those wins have come on the road. They also went 23-12-1-0 on the road, a performance that ranked third in the AHL during the regular season. Both teams have fans bases that travel well, and there are sure to be plenty of visiting fans in both clubs’ buildings with only 80 miles separating the two markets.

“We’re excited,” two-time AHL most valuable player and Reign captain T.J. Tynan said. “Playing in [that] building is always fun. They have a great set-up there. The fans are great. So are ours. We have the best fans in the league. I know they’re going to be supporting us, so it will be a lot of fun.”

Tynan knows what postseason hockey feels like. He won the Calder Cup with Lake Erie in 2016 and was a finalist in 2019 with Chicago. He has been through the playoff grind and anticipates more of that against the Firebirds.

“They have a great team, and so do we, so it should make for a great series.”

The Firebirds have much bigger plans than just one series win.

“The mood right now is more just a reset,” forward Devin Shore said this week. “Everyone is back down to zeroes. They’re a really good team over there, too. It will be a great challenge. I think both teams deserve to be here, and it should be a fun battle.”

It will also be a difficult test. For their part, the Firebirds are counting on their exceptional roster depth against a heavy, physical opponent like the Reign, a team that also possesses a top-tier power play.

“I think when we’re playing our best, the depth of our team is a huge strength,” Shore said. “In stretches of a game where we’re playing our best, we seem to just be rolling line after line in the offensive zone and just continuing that pressure and creating chances. Some of them go in, some of them don’t, but it’s just that flow of taking it to the opponent and playing fast.

“We’re going to try to do that.”

The Firebirds have also added another young talent to their roster in advance of the series, as the Seattle Kraken reassigned defenseman Ty Nelson from North Bay of the Ontario Hockey League to Coachella Valley. The 20-year-old Nelson, a 2022 third-round draft pick by Seattle, had 52 points (16 goals, 36 assists) in 54 games for North Bay during the regular season before tacking on 14 more points (five goals, nine assists) in 16 playoff games. He also represented Canada at the IIHF World Junior Championship this season.

― with files from Patrick Williams

In Monday’s Stanley Cup Playoff action, 2019 Calder Cup champion Martin Necas notched a goal and an assist and 2022 Calder Cup champion Jack Drury added two assists as Carolina defeated the New York Rangers, 4-1, in Game 5 of their series... Jake Oettinger made 24 saves to help Dallas to a 5-1 win over Colorado in Game 4... On Sunday, Elias Lindholm scored twice, J.T. Miller recorded two assists and Artūrs Šilovs made 42 saves as Vancouver took a 2-1 series lead with a 4-3 win at Edmonton.

Watch the Calder Cup Playoffs on AHLTV
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