AHL Morning Skate: May 17

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.

Game 2 – HOUSTON 3, Hamilton 2 (HOU leads series, 2-0)

1. Houston forward Colton Gillies tallied the game-winning goal in the third period as Houston grabbed a 2-0 series lead in the Western Conference Finals with a 3-2 win over Hamilton.

2. Rookie goaltender Matt Hackett stopped 27 of 29 shots in the winning effort for the Aeros.

3. Ryan Russell registered a goal and an assist for the Bulldogs.

Game 3 – Charlotte at Binghamton, 7:05 (BNG leads series, 2-0)
Game 3 – Houston at Hamilton, 7:30 (HOU leads series, 2-0)

Playoff Bracket
|| Scoring Leaders || Goaltending Leaders

Eastern Conference Finals – Series “M” (best-of-7)
E3-Charlotte Checkers vs. E5-Binghamton Senators

Game 1 – Thu., May 12 – Binghamton 7, CHARLOTTE 4
Game 2 – Fri., May 13 – Binghamton 3, CHARLOTTE 0
Game 3 – Tue., May 17 – Charlotte at Binghamton, 7:05
Game 4 – Wed., May 18 – Charlotte at Binghamton, 7:05
*Game 5 – Sat., May 21 – Charlotte at Binghamton, 7:05
*Game 6 – Mon., May 23 – Binghamton at Charlotte, 7:05
*Game 7 – Tue., May 24 – Binghamton at Charlotte, 7:05

Western Conference Finals – Series “N” (best-of-7)
W2-Houston Aeros vs. N1-Hamilton Bulldogs
Game 1 – Fri., May 13 – HOUSTON 2, Hamilton 1
Game 2 – Sun., May 15 – HOUSTON 3, Hamilton 2
Game 3 – Tue., May 17 – Houston at Hamilton, 7:30
Game 4 – Wed., May 18 – Houston at Hamilton, 7:30
*Game 5 – Fri., May 20 – Houston at Hamilton, 7:30
*Game 6 – Sun., May 22 – Hamilton at Houston, 5:05
*Game 7 – Tue., May 24 – Hamilton at Houston, 8:05

*if necessary… All times Eastern

GAME NOTES (all times ET):
Game 3 – Charlotte at Binghamton, 7:05 (BNG leads series, 2-0)
TV: Time Warner Cable 520 (Carolinas), Time Warner Cable Sports 23 & HD 813 (Central NY)
Webcast: AHLLive.com

After three straight off-days, the Eastern Conference Finals shift to the Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena in Binghamton tonight with the hometown Senators holding a 2-0 series lead over Charlotte… The Senators won the first two games in North Carolina by a combined score of 10-4 and have now captured eight straight road decisions, but Binghamton is just 2-4 on home ice, losing two of three to both Manchester and Portland… The Senators are averaging a league-high 3.73 goals per game during these playoffs; boast the top-ranked power play (20.8 percent) of the four conference finalists; and have scored an AHL-best three shorthanded goals thus far, including one by defenseman Andre Benoit in Game 1 of this series… Rookie goaltender Robin Lehner is coming off a 35-save shutout in a 3-0 triumph in Game 2 on Friday night… Lehner has been replaced by Barry Brust in two of his last four starts – allowing seven goals on 26 shots (.731) in those efforts – but rebounded both times with shutouts his next time out… Ryan Potulny scored twice for the Senators in Game 2, and continues to lead the AHL in both goals (13) and points (22) through 15 postseason contests… During the regular season, Potulny totaled 21 goals (21-28-49) in 71 games split between Binghamton and Rockford… Binghamton’s other goal on Friday came from rookie Bobby Butler, whose nine playoff goals (9-2-11) are tied with teammate Kaspars Daugavins (9-5-14) and Hamilton’s Nigel Dawes (9-6-15) for second in the AHL behind Potulny… B-Sens captain Ryan Keller has a point in three straight (0-4-4) and eight of his last nine games (5-8-13), and his 19 points overall are second in the league behind Potulny… 2010-11 AHL MVP Corey Locke has produced nine points (1-8-9) in eight games since rejoining the lineup from injury… Charlotte, which was shut out only four times during the entire regular season, has now been blanked in three of its last seven playoff games… Goaltender Mike Murphy (7-5, 2.25, .929) allowed a total of nine goals in Charlotte’s six-game division finals win over Wilkes-Barre/Scranton but has already surrendered eight goals in 88:23 of work in this series… AHL All-Rookie forward Zac Dalpe continues to pace the Checkers with 13 points (6-7-13), tied with Gabriel Bourque and Ryan Thang of the eliminated Milwaukee Admirals for the league lead among rookies… Charlotte owns a 4-2 road record this postseason, winning two of three in both Hershey and Wilkes-Barre… The Checkers have not lost more than two consecutive games since a four-game slide from Oct. 11-20, 2010… Binghamton has scored at least one goal in nine consecutive periods entering Game 3.

Game 3 – Houston at Hamilton, 7:30 (HOU leads series, 2-0)
Hamilton has been a strong home team all postseason and will need to keep that up to get back into the Western Conference Finals against Houston, beginning with Game 3 tonight at Copps Coliseum… The Aeros defended their own home ice with a pair of wins over the weekend to take a 2-0 series lead and improve to 10-3 through their first 13 playoff games this spring… The Bulldogs own a 6-1 mark at home during the playoffs with the only blemish coming in a 1-0 loss to Manitoba in Game 6 of the division finals, and they have won nine of their last 10 at Copps overall… The Aeros, now 6-1 in one-goal games this postseason after2-1 and 3-2 wins to open the series, have received single goals from five different players vs. Hamilton… Robbie Earl, Marco Scandella and Colton Gillies scored in Game 2 on Sunday, with Gillies netting the game-winner in the third period for his team-leading seventh goal of the playoffs… Jared Spurgeon chipped in two assists for Houston to run his scoring streak to three games (0-4-4)… Gillies also has a point in three straight contests (2-1-3)… Jed Ortmeyer and Chad Rau have the other goals this round for Houston, each scoring in Game 1… Since allowing five goals on 23 shots to Milwaukee in Game 6 of the division finals, Matt Hackett has stopped 95 of 100 shots (.950) in posting three straight wins for the Aeros… Hackett (10-3, .218, .909) made 27 saves on 29 shots in Game 2… Houston has gone 3-for-8 (37.5 percent) on the power play through the first two games of this series while holding Hamilton scoreless on six man-advantage chances… The Bulldogs have now gone 20 opportunities without a power-play goal since converting early in Game 5 vs. Manitoba… Ryan Russell posted a goal and an assist for Hamilton on Sunday, and rookie Gabriel Dumont also found the back of the net to snap a four-game goal-scoring drought… The Bulldogs’ top-scoring forward trio of Nigel Dawes (9-6-15), Aaron Palushaj (4-9-13) and Dustin Boyd (1-7-8) has been held to 0-2-2 through the first two games of this round… Defenseman Kyle Klubertanz is without a point in four straight games since beginning the Manitoba series on a five-game scoring run (0-6-6)… Sunday’s 3-2 loss marked just the third time in 15 postseason appearances that Bulldogs goaltender Drew MacIntyre (8-7, 1.74, .935) allowed more than two goals in a game… The Aeros have taken a 2-0 lead in a best-of-7 series three other times since joining the AHL in 2001-02, and all three series ended in four-game sweeps… This is the eighth time that Hamilton has been in a 2-0 hole in a best-of-7 set; in the other seven instances, the Bulldogs hold a record of 4-3 in Game 3 but they have yet to come all the way back and win a series.


B-SENS AIMING TO CLEAR GAME 3 HURDLE – Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin
For all the Binghamton Senators have accomplished so far in the Calder Cup playoffs, there is one thing they have not been able to do – win a Game 3. Despite holding leads through the third period of the homecoming games in their first two rounds, the B-Sens were dealt a pair of losses that eventually cost them the opportunity to win the series on home ice. The B-Sens get their third chance to overcome that obstacle as they host the Charlotte Checkers in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals Tuesday.

The Hamilton Bulldogs almost convinced themselves that they were as good – if not better – than the Aeros after a 2-1 loss in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals. The Aeros held on because of rookie goalie Matt Hackett‘s stellar performance. That set the stage for Game 2, another one-goal game at Toyota Center on Sunday afternoon. “We know that there is a lot more work to do,” said Aeros defenseman Drew Bagnall, “and these next two (wins) are going to be a whole lot harder than the first two."

The Aeros won the first game of the AHL Western Conference finals against the Hamilton Bulldogs on Friday, but the mood in the dressing room did not reflect that. The West Division champs were outplayed and needed 20 third-period saves from rookie Matt Hackett. With more effort needed to keep the home-ice advantage, the Aeros’ goals Sunday were improve, play smarter and keep Hamilton from a split. Mission accomplished.

Hanging high above the net at the south end of the Toyota Center is a banner honoring Houston Rockets legend Hakeem Olajuwon’s NBA record 3,803 career blocks. It’s been an appropriate landmark through the first couple games of the American Hockey League’s Western Conference final. Because heading into Tuesday night’s Game 3, there have already been nearly that many blocked shots in this welt-absorbing series.

So what have the Hamilton Bulldogs learned from a spring weekend in south Texas? For starters, the barbecue is good. Also, not everyone wears cowboy hats and boots. And, finally, the Toyota Center has a higher cowbell-to-fan ratio than any arena in the world not hosting a rodeo or a Blue Oyster Cult concert. And what have they learned about hockey? Well, what they should’ve learned is that they can absolutely play with the Aeros. These two teams are very close when both are at their best.

At Monday’s optional Vancouver Canucks practice, Cory Schneider stood in front of one net, while at the other end of the ice Eddie Lack guarded another. Only one of them figures to be playing at Rogers Arena next season and it might not be Schneider. That’s how highly the Canucks think of Lack, the 23-year-old Swede who just completed a sensational rookie season with the AHL’s Manitoba Moose. Lack is one of a handful of prospects who have joined the team for the remainder of its playoff run. They likely won’t get to play, but they’ll soak up the atmosphere.

The Calgary Flames announced Monday afternoon the club had removed the interim general manager’s tag from Jay Feaster and switched it with a permanent position. Having hashed the final pieces of his contract out, Feaster also announced at a press conference on Monday that the Flames will exercise the option on Abbotsford Heat head coach Jim Playfair’s contract, which was set to expire.

In the Stanley Cup Playoffs on Sunday, Kevin Bieksa and 2007 Calder Cup champion Maxim Lapierre netted goals, and Roberto Luongo stopped 27 of 29 shots as Vancouver rallied from deficits of 1-0 and 2-1 to take a 3-2 win over San Jose in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals.

6 – Former Hamilton Bulldogs coaches working the benches at the NHL’s Eastern Conference finals… Tampa Bay head coach Guy Boucher and assistants Dan Lacroix and Martin Raymond held the same positions with Hamilton in 2009-10, and Boston bench boss Claude Julien and assistants Geoff Ward and Doug Jarvis are all former Bulldogs head coaches.

23-16 – Record of the home team to date in the Western Conference playoffs this spring.

16-23 – Record of the home team to date in the Eastern Conference playoffs this spring.

May 17, 2009Tuukka Rask makes 37 saves but Andrew Joudrey and Alexandre Giroux score third-period goals to give Hershey a series-tying 2-1 win over Providence in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

May 17, 2003 – Houston takes a 3-1 series lead in the Western Conference finals with a 2-1 win over Grand Rapids in Game 4.

May 17, 2001Darcy Verot scores 19 seconds into the game and Rich Parent stops 38 shots as Wilkes-Barre/Scranton takes a 4-3 win at Saint John in Game 1 of the Calder Cup Finals.

May 17, 1993 – Olaf Kolzig makes 30 saves as Rochester advances to the Calder Cup Finals with a 3-2 win in Game 7 against the Binghamton Rangers, who had set AHL records for wins and points in the regular season (57-13-10)… Cape Breton gets a record-tying seven points (4g, 3a) from Bill McDougall in a 9-3 win over Springfield, sending the Oilers to the Finals as well.

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