AHL Morning Skate: May 16, 2024

Photo: Scott Thomas

A1-Hershey Bears vs. A5-Hartford Wolf Pack
Game 1 – Tonight, 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

For the second consecutive spring, the Hershey Bears and Hartford Wolf Pack square off in the Atlantic Division Finals... Just as they did a year ago, Hartford upset Providence in four games in the division semifinals to set up a meeting with the Bears... Hershey is coming off a four-game triumph over Lehigh Valley in the last round... Ethen Frank (3-2-5) leads the Bears in playoff scoring, and has already netted one more goal this postseason than he did in 16 playoff games in 2023... Ivan Miroshnichenko (2-0-2) scored twice in Hershey’s series-clinching 5-3 win over the Phantoms on Saturday night... Hunter Shepard (3-1, 1.77, .940) has allowed seven goals on 116 shots over his first four appearances this postseason... In his last nine starts against Hartford, Shepard is 9-0-0 with a 1.09 GAA and a .957 save percentage... Riley Nash (4-2-6) leads the Wolf Pack in playoff scoring, followed by rookies Brett Berard (1-4-5) and Brennan Othmann (1-4-5)... Jake Leschyshyn (3-1-4) scored both Hartford goals in the series-clinching 2-1 overtime victory against Providence last Friday... Three of Hartford’s five wins this postseason have come in OT... Dylan Garand (5-2, 2.32, .931) has a 2.03 GAA and a .933 save percentage in 15 starts over the last two postseasons for the Wolf Pack... This is the first time a Hershey team has faced the same opponent in consecutive playoffs since the Bears met Wilkes-Barre/Scranton four years in a row from 2006 to 2009.

N1-Cleveland Monsters vs. N3-Syracuse Crunch
Game 1 – Tonight, 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

Cleveland and Syracuse get the North Division Finals underway at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse tonight... The Monsters knocked out Belleville in four games last round, while the Crunch went the distance to eliminate Rochester in five... Cleveland edged Syracuse by one point in the regular-season standings to earn home-ice advantage in the series... Owen Sillinger (2-1-3) scored two game-winning goals in the division semifinals against the Senators, including the double-overtime winner in Game 3... Monsters defenseman Marcus Björk (1-1-2) tallied a goal and an assist in the series-clinching 3-1 win last Friday... Jet Greaves (3-1, 1.80, .942) made at least 32 saves in each of Cleveland’s three wins... 2024 AHL All-Star Gage Goncalves (1-5-6) led the Crunch in scoring during their series win over Rochester... Goncalves and Alex Barré-Boulet (2-3-5) bring four-game scoring streaks into Game 1 tonight... Waltteri Merelä (3-0-3) has scored a goal in three straight games for the Crunch... Brandon Halverson (3-2, 2.23, .914) went the distance in the series against Rochester; Halverson was 7-3-3 with a 2.18 GAA and a .913 save percentage in 14 appearances for Syracuse in the regular season... The Monsters and Crunch split their four meetings in 2023-24... This is the fourth all-time Calder Cup Playoff series between teams from Cleveland and Syracuse; the Monsters defeated the Crunch in 2019, the Cleveland Barons eliminated the Syracuse Warriors in 1953, and the Syracuse Stars ousted the Barons in 1938.


C1-Milwaukee Admirals vs. C2-Grand Rapids Griffins
Game 2 – Monday, 8:00 ET,
(Grand Rapids leads series, 1-0)

Game 1 – Wed., May 15 – Grand Rapids 4, MILWAUKEE 2 | Recap
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

P1-Coachella Valley Firebirds vs. P3-Ontario Reign
Game 2 – Friday, 10:00 ET,
(Coachella Valley leads series, 1-0)

Game 1 – Wed., May 15 – COACHELLA VALLEY 3, Ontario 2 | Recap
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

The Hartford Wolf Pack are a loose bunch right now.

They made the trip to Hershey on Tuesday, settled in and staged a practice at Giant Center yesterday, and are ready to take another crack at the Hershey Bears in the best-of-five Atlantic Division Finals beginning with Game 1 tonight.

It’s a bit of déjà vu for the Wolf Pack. For the second postseason in a row, Hartford defeated Providence in four games to set up a meeting with Hershey. Last year, the Bears swept the Wolf Pack in three straight.

Interim head coach Steve Smith, an assistant with the club last season, says his players are ready for what awaits them with the always-vocal, raucous Hershey crowd. The Bears were 29-7-0-0 at home during the regular season – outscoring visiting opponents, 112-60 – and won both home games against Lehigh Valley last round.

“I find it very exciting to be in a hockey environment where the fans are [intense], the fans are excited,” Smith said. “We look forward to the challenge.”

Goaltender Dylan Garand, who is 0-4 in four career starts at Giant Center, knows what it can be like to face the Bears when the home crowd gets behind them.

“They’re really loud,” Garand said. “They always sell out the building, so it’s real fun to play here. It’s good to have that experience.”

One player sure to draw attention from the partisan crowd is Wolf Pack rookie forward Brennan Othmann, who plays a disruptive, physical game and is a key part of the Hartford attack. But Othmann has the experience of having been on some of hockey’s biggest stages at the IIHF World Junior Championship and the Memorial Cup.

“I love this energy,” Othmann said. “I love the momentum, and I love when fans are with you or against you. I think it gets me going, gets me fired up. I know the guys are looking forward to it.”

Having played one game in the last 11 days, the Syracuse Crunch are ready to open the North Division Finals against Cleveland tonight.

The Crunch had six days between the final two games of their division semifinal against Rochester, regrouping from seeing a three-goal third-period lead disappear at home in Game 4 to eliminate the Amerks on the road in Game 5. It has now been six days since that victory.

“We had a really good week of practice,” head coach Joël Bouchard said of the time leading into the clincher against Rochester. “We did everything we could to get the best performance during the week, and the guys delivered.”

They did more than practice, too. Bouchard recalled there was a lot of open discussion about how his players felt following the Game 4 loss.

“It’s easy for us on video, behind the bench and in the stands to have an opinion. But I always like to see how the players…feel it or see it.”

Getting past Rochester has given the Crunch some of the necessary early-round battle scars needed as the demands of the Calder Cup Playoffs continue to intensify.

“Now we’ve got to get even more going after what’s in front of you, handling the situation, breakdowns, and all those kinds of things,” Bouchard said. “We’re a different team today.”

Jet Greaves has earned praise from head coach Trent Vogelhuber for his intensity, leadership, and off-ice preparation skills. Those abilities came in handy in a tough, demanding division semifinal series against Belleville in which three of the four games were one-goal decisions.

Next up is Syracuse.

“We’ve got a lot of respect for them,” Greaves said of the Crunch. “They play really hard. We know they forecheck well and they’ve got some really good skill players. It’s just going to be about matching that intensity, and I think it’s going to be a competitive series.”

Vogelhuber was glad to see his players tested by a stubborn Belleville team. The division champion Monsters had a first-round bye and a lengthy break before the series against the Senators started.

“They were really, really hard to play against,” Vogelhuber said. “I think just coming off [a long break], you’re not quite sure as a coach what to expect. Are we going to be there? But I think it’s as well as we’ve played as far as a commitment from everybody. It just tells me these guys are in it. They really want to win.

“They’ve grown confidence They know what they are. They know what they need to do to win, and I think they have faith that everybody’s on the same page and willing to do it.”

― with files from Patrick Williams

In Wednesday’s Stanley Cup Playoff action, Casey Mittelstadt scored the go-ahead goal early in the third period to send Colorado to a 5-3 win at Dallas in Game 5 of their second-round series... 2023-24 AHL rookie of the year Logan Stankoven netted his third goal of the series for the Stars... Connor Ingram, a two-time AHL All-Star, was announced as the winner of the National Hockey League’s Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy as the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.

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