AHL Morning Skate: May 4, 2024

Photo: Tori Hartman

A1-Hershey Bears vs. A6-Lehigh Valley Phantoms
Game 2 – Tonight, 7:00 ET,
(Hershey leads series, 1-0)

Game 1 – Wed., May 1 – HERSHEY 2, Lehigh Valley 1 | Recap
Game 2 – Sat., May 4 – Lehigh Valley at Hershey, 7:00
Game 3 – Wed., May 8 – Hershey at Lehigh Valley, 7:05
*Game 4 – Sat., May 11 – Hershey at Lehigh Valley, 7:05
*Game 5 – Sun., May 12 – Lehigh Valley at Hershey, 7:00
*if necessary... All times Eastern

Hershey carries a 1-0 series lead into Game 2 of their Atlantic Division semifinal series with Lehigh Valley at Giant Center tonight... Hunter Shepard made 12 of his 30 saves in the third period on Wednesday night to backstop the Bears to a 2-1 win in Game 1... Shepard allowed two goals or fewer for the 14th time in his last 15 starts going back to the beginning of February (11-2-2, 1.05, .957)... Hendrix Lapierre, in the Hershey lineup for the first time since Feb. 21 after finishing the season on NHL recall to Washington, scored 3:29 into Game 1... Henrik Rybinski’s goal with 2:43 left in the second period held up as the game-winner; it was just the third goal in Rybinski’s last 36 games... Tanner Laczynski scored the only Phantoms goal of Game 1, breaking up Shepard’s shutout bid with 4:32 to play in regulation... Laczynski (3-0-3) has scored six goals in his last six games... Cal Petersen (2-1, 2.33, .910) stopped 26 of 28 shots in the loss... Neither team was awarded a power play in Game 1; the only penalties assessed were a pair of matching roughing minors at 10:01 of the second period... Conversely, on May 3, 1997, the Bears and Phantoms set an AHL record for combined PIM in a Calder Cup Playoff game with 350.

A2-Providence Bruins vs. A5-Hartford Wolf Pack
Game 3 – Wednesday, 7:00 ET,
(Series tied, 1-1)

Game 1 – Wed., May 1 – Hartford 4, PROVIDENCE 3 | Recap
Game 2 – Fri., May 3 – PROVIDENCE 6, Hartford 0 | Recap
Game 3 – Wed., May 8 – Providence at Hartford, 7:00
Game 4 – Fri., May 10 – Providence at Hartford, 7:00
*Game 5 – Sun., May 12 – Hartford at Providence, 3:05
*if necessary… All times Eastern

N1-Cleveland Monsters vs. N4-Belleville Senators
Game 3 – Wednesday, 7:00 ET,
(Series tied, 1-1)

Game 1 – Wed., May 1 – BELLEVILLE 2, Cleveland 1 | Recap
Game 2 – Fri., May 3 – Cleveland 4, BELLEVILLE 3 (OT) | Recap
Game 3 – Wed., May 8 – Belleville at Cleveland, 7:00
Game 4 – Fri., May 10 – Belleville at Cleveland, 7:00
*Game 5 – Sun., May 12 – Belleville at Cleveland, 3:00
*if necessary… All times Eastern

N2-Rochester Americans vs. N3-Syracuse Crunch
Game 4 – Tonight, 7:00 ET,
(Syracuse leads series, 2-1)

Game 1 – Fri., Apr. 26 – ROCHESTER 3, Syracuse 2 | Recap
Game 2 – Sun., Apr. 28 – Syracuse 4, ROCHESTER 3 (OT) | Recap
Game 3 – Thu., May 2 – SYRACUSE 2, Rochester 1 (2OT) | Recap
Game 4 – Sat., May 4 – Rochester at Syracuse, 7:00
*Game 5 – Fri., May 10 – Syracuse at Rochester, 7:05
*if necessary… All times Eastern

Syracuse can become the first team to reach the division finals of the 2024 Calder Cup Playoffs with a win over Rochester in Game 4 of their best-of-five series tonight... The Crunch took a 2-1 series lead by prevailing in a thrilling double-overtime contest on Thursday, with Waltteri Merelä scoring on a breakaway 10:18 into the second OT period for a 2-1 victory... Merelä’s goal hung a tough-luck loss on Amerks rookie Devon Levi (1-2, 2.17, .940), who made 60 saves on the night... Alex Barré-Boulet and Isak Rosén traded second-period goals for the only other offense in Game 3... Barré-Boulet’s goal gives him 3-14-17 in 17 career AHL playoff games... Rosén scored on a penalty shot for Rochester, his second goal of the series... Brandon Halverson (2-1, 1.93, .920) stopped 33 of 34 shots in the win... Syracuse has outshot Rochester 133-87 in the series, including 33-12 in 41 minutes of sudden-death overtime play... The Amerks were 6-for-6 on the penalty kill in Game 3 – including two opportunities in overtime – and are 10-for-10 in the series... Game 3 was the first multi-OT Calder Cup Playoff game ever played at Upstate Medical University Arena; the previous longest game in Syracuse was the Amerks’ victory over the Crunch after 17:53 of OT in Game 7 of the 2004 division semifinals, 20 years and 1 day earlier (May 1, 2004)... Rochester was 4-1 when facing elimination during last year’s playoffs, including three consecutive wins over Syracuse in the division semifinals.

C1-Milwaukee Admirals vs. C4-Texas Stars
Game 2 – Tonight, 8:00 ET,
(Texas leads series, 1-0)

Game 1 – Thu., May 2 – TEXAS 6, Milwaukee 3 | Recap
Game 2 – Sat., May 4 – Milwaukee at Texas, 8:00
Game 3 –Wed., May 8 – Texas at Milwaukee, 8:00
*Game 4 – Fri., May 10 – Texas at Milwaukee, 8:00
*Game 5 – Sun., May 12 – Texas at Milwaukee, 6:00
*if necessary… All times Eastern

Texas brings a 1-0 series lead into Game 2 of their Central Division semifinal series with division-winning Milwaukee after Thursday’s 6-3 win in the opener... Emilio Pettersen scored twice for the Stars in Game 1, and has 4-2-6 in three games against the Admirals since joining Texas in a March trade from Calgary... Matej Blümel broke a 3-3 tie at 4:27 of the third period, sending Texas to its third straight win to begin the postseason... Back from a brief recall to Dallas, Mavrik Bourque notched a goal and three assists in Game 1, giving the AHL’s regular-season MVP and scoring champion 3-5-8 in his first three games of the postseason... Curtis McKenzie (2-4-6) added a goal and two assists for his second three-point game already in these playoffs; McKenzie recorded three points once in 63 regular-season outings in 2023-24... Phil TomasinoFedor Svechkov and Cal O’Reilly scored for the Admirals, who took a 2-0 lead less than 11 minutes into Game 1 before surrendering six of the final seven goals of the night... Milwaukee is 1-12 in series after losing Game 1; their only win was in 2004 when they came back to defeat Cincinnati in seven games... Texas is 10-1 after winning a series Game 1, losing only the 2010 Calder Cup Finals to Hershey.

C2-Grand Rapids Griffins vs. C3-Rockford IceHogs
Game 4 – Sunday, 5:00 ET,
(Grand Rapids leads series, 2-1)

Game 1 – Sat., Apr. 27 – Grand Rapids 3, ROCKFORD 2 (OT) | Recap
Game 2 – Wed., May 1 – Rockford 5, GRAND RAPIDS 1 | Recap
Game 3 – Fri., May 3 – GRAND RAPIDS 4, Rockford 3 (OT) | Recap
Game 4 – Sun., May 5 – Grand Rapids at Rockford, 5:00
*Game 5 – Fri., May 10 – Rockford at Grand Rapids, 7:00
*if necessary… All times Eastern

P1-Coachella Valley Firebirds vs. P7-Calgary Wranglers
Game 2 – Sunday, 6:00 ET,
(Calgary leads series, 1-0)

Game 1 – Fri., May 3 – CALGARY 4, Coachella Valley 1 | Recap
Game 2 – Sun., May 5 – Coachella Valley at Calgary, 6:00
Game 3 – Wed., May 8 – Calgary at Coachella Valley, 10:00
*Game 4 – Fri., May 10 – Calgary at Coachella Valley, 10:00
*Game 5 – Sun., May 12 – Calgary at Coachella Valley, 6:00
*if necessary... All times Eastern

P3-Ontario Reign vs. P5-Abbotsford Canucks
Game 2 – Sunday, 6:00 ET,
(Ontario leads series, 1-0)

Game 1 – Wed., May 1 – ONTARIO 3, Abbotsford 1 | Recap
Game 2 – Sun., May 5 – Abbotsford at Ontario, 6:00
Game 3 – Wed., May 8 – Ontario at Abbotsford, 10:00
*Game 4 – Fri., May 10 – Ontario at Abbotsford, 10:00
*Game 5 – Sun., May 12 – Ontario at Abbotsford, 7:00
*if necessary… All times Eastern

The Belleville Senators need a rest.

The B-Sens have been on the go for the better part of the past two weeks. They did not clinch a Calder Cup Playoff berth until Apr. 19, in the second-to-last game of the regular season. After their regular-season finale the following night, they had to pivot immediately toward preparing for their best-of-three first-round series against Toronto, then right into their division semifinal against Cleveland.

A nail-biting final week of the regular season and then five playoff games in 10 nights – including three that went to overtime – has added up to a lot of hockey.

Head coach David Bell is giving his club today off for what he’s calling a “reset day” after a 4-3 overtime loss to Cleveland last night. A practice day will follow on Sunday before a 400-mile ride to Cleveland to gear up for Game 3 on Wednesday.

“They’ve been at the rink every day since the (regular) season ended,” Bell said after last night’s game. “Take a day, get away from the rink, shut their hockey brains off, and then have a good work day on Sunday.”

Hot, crowded, and loud.

That’s how it felt for Grand Rapids Griffins goaltender Sebastian Cossa last night at Van Andel Arena, always one of the AHL’s most intimidating arenas. Nearly 9,000 fans got a good show, albeit a nerve-wracking one, as Rockford rallied in the third period to erase the Griffins’ two-goal lead before the home team took it in overtime, 4-3.

The IceHogs like to crash the net, create havoc in front, and constantly put sticks on pucks in-close. The 21-year-old Cossa had to deal with that chaos all night.

“It was unreal,” Cossa told the media after the victory. “It was pretty hot in there. A lot of people, a lot of screaming. I loved every second of it.”

But after two Rockford goals in the final 3:38 of regulation forced overtime, Cossa and the Griffins had to regroup, and they eventually took a 2-1 series lead on Jonatan Berggren’s second OT goal of the series. Learning how to manage pressure and setbacks is part of the growth process that the Calder Cup Playoffs provide.

“One of the biggest things I’ve worked on is my mental strength,” explained Cossa, a first-round pick by Detroit in the 2021 NHL Draft.

How did he spend the intermission before overtime?

“I think I did a really good job of reminding myself what to do out there. I still had full confidence that we were going to win the game. I wasn’t going to let in a goal there.”

Even after lifting the Calder Cup twice and skating at Madison Square Garden in the Stanley Cup Playoffs just days prior, Hershey captain Dylan McIlrath still felt nerves going into Game 1 of the Bears’ Calder Cup title defense on Wednesday.

McIlrath was back in the Hershey lineup as they opened their Atlantic Division semifinal with a 2-1 win against Lehigh Valley, his first game with the Bears since Apr. 13. He had been with the Washington Capitals for a pair of games at the end of their regular season before dressing for all four of their first-round playoff games against the New York Rangers.

So he could relate to younger teammates making their Calder Cup Playoff debuts and feeling those pregame jitters. McIlrath, who won the Calder Cup with Grand Rapids in 2017 before doing so again last year with the Bears, detailed a pre-game conversation with fellow veteran Mike Vecchione.

“We both said, ‘We’ve got the butterflies again,’” McIlrath said. “We both know how special it is to play at this time of the year.”

But McIlrath also knows how to remedy those nerves by this point in his career.

“What was said in the room was just, we’ve got to go,” McIlrath said. “Just go right in. If you’re going to make a mistake, make it hard. We didn't want to dip our toe in the water, and I thought we had a pretty good start.”

Meanwhile, Phantoms head coach Ian Laperriere sounded an upbeat tone after the tightly played loss at Giant Center in Game 1.

“I liked the effort,” Laperriere said of facing the AHL’s regular-season champion. “I’m not complaining about anything here. They’re a great team. They’re going to be better in Game 2, so we need to be better.

“It’s done. You’ve got to move on. That’s playoffs.”

That’s not to say that Laperriere did not see an area of his team’s game that needs more attention. Hershey’s first goal came off a Hendrix Lapierre tip of a long point shot from Chase Priskie early in the first period. On the Bears’ second strike, their fourth line drove the net before Henrik Rybinski slipped a rebound past Phantoms goaltender Cal Petersen.

“It’s going to be a series [of] who’s going to win the net-front battle, and they won one more,” Laperriere said. “We just need to regroup and just be a little bit better in our zone and be a little bit better in front of our net. They won’t give us any goals, so we need to battle for those goals.”

“I think you always try to win the game in the first period,” Providence Bruins head coach Ryan Mougenel said after his team’s 6-0 win over Hartford in Game 2 of their Atlantic Division semifinal last night.

Mission accomplished, as the Bruins used first-period goals from Jayson Megna and Brett Harrison 24 seconds apart to build a 3-0 lead before turning the game into a rout in the second period.

Providence went 16-4-3-1 when scoring first in the regular season.

“Our mindset is play and let the momentum take over,” Mougenel explained. “Find those moments when you can create them, and when you lose it, find a way to get it back. I thought we did a good job of that.”

― with files from Patrick Williams

In Friday’s Stanley Cup Playoff action, Artūrs Šilovs made 28 saves for his first career NHL shutout, leading Vancouver to a series-clinching 1-0 win over Nashville... Šilovs was 16-11-6 (2.74, .907) with four shutouts in 34 AHL appearances for Abbotsford this season... Adin Hill stopped 23 shots as Vegas defeated Dallas, 2-0, in Game 6 of their series.

Watch the Calder Cup Playoffs on AHLTV
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