AHL Morning Skate: May 7

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 6 – Binghamton 3, PORTLAND 0 (BNG wins series, 4-2)
Game 5 – W-B/Scranton 1, CHARLOTTE 0 (CHA leads series, 3-2)
Game 5 – Hamilton 5, MANITOBA 1 (HAM leads series, 3-2)
Game 5 – HOUSTON 3, Milwaukee 2 (OT) (HOU leads series, 3-2)

1. Rookie goaltender Robin Lehner posted a 36-save shutout as Binghamton advanced to its first Eastern Conference Finals since 2003 with a 3-0 win at Portland.

2. Robbie Earl netted a pair of goals, including the game-winner in overtime, to lift Houston to a 3-2 victory over Houston and a 3-2 series lead in the West Division Finals.

3. Goaltender Brad Thiessen stopped all 23 shots sent his way as Wilkes-Barre/Scranton kept its season alive with a 1-0 win at Charlotte in Game 5.

Game 6 – Charlotte at W-B/Scranton, 7:05 (CHA leads series, 3-2)


Playoff Bracket || Scoring Leaders || Goaltending Leaders

Atlantic Division Finals – Series “I” (best-of-7)
A1-Portland Pirates vs. E5-Binghamton Senators
Game 1 – Wed., Apr. 27 – Binghamton 3, PORTLAND 2
Game 2 – Thu., Apr. 28 – Binghamton 5, PORTLAND 3
Game 3 – Sat., Apr. 30 – Portland 3, BINGHAMTON 2
Game 4 – Mon., May 2 – BINGHAMTON 6, Portland 1
Game 5 – Tue., May 3 – Portland 6, BINGHAMTON 2
Game 6 – Fri., May 6 – Binghamton 3, PORTLAND 0

East Division Finals – Series “J” (best-of-7)
E1-Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins vs. E3-Charlotte Checkers
Game 1 – Thu., Apr. 28 – Charlotte 3, W-B/SCRANTON 2
Game 2 – Sat., Apr. 30 – W-B/SCRANTON 3, Charlotte 0
Game 3 – Mon., May 2 – CHARLOTTE 2, W-B/Scranton 1 (OT)
Game 4 – Wed., May 4 – CHARLOTTE 1, W-B/Scranton 0
Game 5 – Fri., May 6 – W-B/Scranton 1, CHARLOTTE 0
Game 6 – Sat., May 7 – Charlotte at W-B/Scranton, 7:05
*Game 7 – Mon., May 9 – Charlotte at W-B/Scranton, 7:05

North Division Finals – Series “K” (best-of-7)
N1-Hamilton Bulldogs vs. N3-Manitoba Moose

Game 1 – Thu., Apr. 28 – HAMILTON 4, Manitoba 1
Game 2 – Sun., May 1 – HAMILTON 4, Manitoba 2
Game 3 – Tue., May 3 – MANITOBA 5, Hamilton 4
Game 4 – Wed., May 4 – MANITOBA 2, Hamilton 1 (2OT)
Game 5 – Fri., May 6 – Hamilton 5, MANITOBA 1
Game 6 – Sun., May 8 – Manitoba at Hamilton, 7:30
*Game 7 – Mon., May 9 – Manitoba at Hamilton, 7:30

West Division Finals – Series “L” (best-of-7)
W1-Milwaukee Admirals vs. W2-Houston Aeros
Game 1 – Fri., Apr. 29 – MILWAUKEE 3, Houston 1
Game 2 – Sun., May 1 – Houston 2, MILWAUKEE 0
Game 3 – Tue., May 3 – Milwaukee 5, HOUSTON 3
Game 4 – Thu., May 5 – HOUSTON 3, Milwaukee 2 (OT)
Game 5 – Fri., May 6 – HOUSTON 3, Milwaukee 2 (OT)
Game 6 – Sun., May 8 – Houston at Milwaukee, 6:00
*Game 7 – Tue., May 10 – Houston at Milwaukee, 8:00

*if necessary… All times Eastern

GAME NOTES (all times ET):
Game 6 – Charlotte at W-B/Scranton, 7:05 (CHA leads series, 3-2)
Twenty-four hours after keeping its season alive with a 1-0 win on the road, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton will try to do it again on home ice tonight when the Penguins host Charlotte for Game 6 of the East Division Finals…The teams, which ranked second (Charlotte) and fourth (Wilkes-Barre/Scranton) in regular-season offense, have combined for only 13 goals through the first five games of this series, an average of 2.60 per contest, and have traded 1-0 shutouts in the most recent two outings… The AHL record for fewest combined goals in a six-game series is 24, established in the 2000 Calder Cup Finals between Hartford and Rochester and matched in a 2003 clash between Binghamton and Bridgeport… The record for fewest combined goals in a series which went seven games is 23, set by the Philadelphia Phantoms and Albany River Rats in the 2008 division semifinals… Penguins goaltender Brad Thiessen posted his second shutout of the playoffs in Friday’s Game 5, stopping all 23 shots sent his way and making 14 of those 23 saves in the third period alone… Charlotte counterpart Mike Murphy made 32 saves, allowing only a third-period goal to Wilkes-Barre’s Chris Collins which stood up as the game-winner… Thiessen (6-5-0, 1.45, .946) and Murphy (6-3, 1.65, .948) are the AHL’s top two postseason goaltenders in both goals-against average and save percentage thus far… Collins’s tally gives him a goal in three of his last four games, and he has accounted for the Penguins’ only offense in both Games 3 and 5 of this series… Bryan Lerg and captain Ryan Craig picked up assist on the goal by Collins Friday night… Lerg registered his first point of the series, while Craig got on the scoresheet for the first time since posting a goal and an assist in the Penguins’ 3-0 win in Game 2… Wilkes-Barre/Scranton forward Brett Sterling tallied a goal in each of the first two games of this series on home ice but was held scoreless in the three games at Charlotte… The Checkers, who were shut out only four times during the entire regular season, have now been blanked in two of their last four games… AHL All-Rookie forward Zac Dalpe continues to lead the Checkers in scoring with 10 points (4-6-10) in 11 games but has been limited to two points (1-1-2) through the first five games of this round… Former first-round draft pick Zach Boychuk is without a point in four straight games since beginning the playoffs on a seven-game scoring run (3-5-8)… The Checkers’ penalty killing unit is a league-best 94.4 percent (51-for-54) in the postseason… A victory tonight would send Charlotte to match-up with Binghamton in the Eastern Conference Finals, while Wilkes-Barre is looking to force Game 7 on Monday night… The Penguins are an impressive 9-3 all-time when facing playoff elimination on their home ice, including a 6-1 mark in their last seven such contests.


NEW LIFE ON ICE – Citizens’ Voice
Chris Collins got his redemption and the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins get to play another day. Collins tipped in a Bryan Lerg shot midway through the third period to lead the Penguins to a 1-0 win over the Charlotte Checkers in Game 5 of the East Division finals Friday night in Charlotte. The Checkers still lead the series 3-2, so the Penguins will again be fighting for their playoff lives in Game 6 tonight at the Mohegan Sun Arena.

PENS STAY ALIVE – Wilkes-Barre Times Leader
After blaming himself for allowing the Charlotte Checkers to score the game-winning goal in Game 4 on Wednesday night, Chris Collins said he wanted to atone for the play when the two teams took to the ice for Game 5 on Friday. A game-winning goal is a pretty good way to do that. Collins scored the game’s only goal at 8:54 of the third period as the Penguins staved off elimination to beat the Checkers 1-0. The victory sends the series back to Mohegan Sun Arena for Game 6 tonight.

Carl Sneep’s first taste of professional playoff hockey didn’t come in a marquee role by any means, but it was an important step in the rookie defenseman’s development all the same. Sneep skated with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins’ black aces through the first round against Norfolk and first game of the second round against Charlotte. Then he was in the lineup for Games 2 and 3 against the Checkers as the Penguins dressed seven defensemen.

Facing elimination, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton put up a furious fight Friday night and came away with a 1-0 victory against the Charlotte Checkers at Time Warner Cable Arena to stay alive in the best-of-7 East Division finals. The win means the Penguins will get to play on home ice tonight after the Checkers missed a chance to wrap up the series in front of a home crowd of 6,848.

The Binghamton Senators chose the perfect time to play as close to a perfect game as they could get. Jim O’Brien scored on the first shift, Robin Lehner made 36 saves for his first pro playoff shutout, and the B-Sens defeated the Portland Pirates 3-0 Friday to win the Atlantic Division finals 4-2 and clinch the franchise’s first Eastern Conference Finals berth since 2003. “That was textbook hockey,” coach Kurt Kleinendorst said. “It really was.”.

THAT SHIP HAS SAILED – Portland Press Herald
The Binghamton Senators brought the Portland Pirates’ season to a screeching halt. Center Jim O’Brien scored 25 seconds into the game as the Senators ended the Pirates’ Calder Cup playoff run with a 3-0 win at the Cumberland County Civic Center Friday night. Rookie goalie Robin Lehner made 36 saves to post his first shutout in his nine playoff starts as the Senators eliminated the Pirates with their fourth win in the best-of-seven series.

The Binghamton Senators forged their postseason identity on a run-and-gun offense, their trio of threats at forward and the ability to gut out pivotal playoff games. But with a berth in the AHL’s Eastern Conference finals on the line, the Binghamton Senators counted on the rock-steady play of 19-year-old goalie Robin Lehner in Game 6 of the Atlantic Division finals.

NO ENERGY, SO LIGHTS OUT – Portland Press Herald
The puck sped into the empty net and turned out the lights. There would be no tomorrow and certainly no deciding Game 7. The Portland Pirates lost 3-0 on Friday night, ending their season too soon. A team that captured the imagination and upped the expectations of its fans couldn’t pay off. There was still 1:21 to play but the season was over. Sports fans forever will endure their love-hate relationships with their favorite teams. When you invest and don’t see the returns, you’re disappointed. To put it mildly.

Nigel Dawes took the booing from hometown fans in stride Friday, which is easy to do when you score a pair of goals in a decisive victory. The Winnipeg native scored twice for Hamilton as the Bulldogs downed the Manitoba Moose 5-1 in American Hockey League playoff action. The victory gave the Bulldogs a 3-2 lead in the North Division final best-of-seven series, which goes back to Hamilton for Game 6 on Sunday. “Obviously, I must be doing something right if they’re on me,” Dawes said. “I don’t think you get booed if you’re not playing well.”

It might simply be that the Hamilton Bulldogs enjoy symmetry. Failing that, perhaps they just have a flair for the dramatic. Or maybe they just want to have an extra home date or two to help pay the bills. Whatever it is, for the second-straight playoff series this spring, the Dogs jumped out to a 2-0 lead with wins at Copps Coliseum, only to lose the next two games on the road. Finally winning the fifth game, allowing them to head home for Game 6 with a chance to clinch the series and move on to the American Hockey League semifinals.

It’s not that Winnipeg doesn’t have its charms. The Forks is a pretty and historic part of town, the hockey team plays in a knockout arena, a beautiful minor league baseball park sits beside the Red River and the town has inspired some classic Canadian music. The snow is finally gone, too, which is a nice touch for May. Yet even with all this, the Bulldogs can’t wait to get on a plane and head back to Hamilton. Because home isn’t just where the heart is these days. It’s where the wins are.

ONE GOAL NOT ENOUGH – Winnipeg Free Press
It’s not like their Achilles heel hasn’t been on display for most of this AHL North Division final. The Manitoba Moose, though they have found ways to compensate for their one and only good offensive night in the series, now need something more. Friday night’s 5-1 loss to the hungry Hamilton Bulldogs was Manitoba’s fourth game of the series in which they produced just one goal in regulation time.

Once again, the Manitoba Moose have chosen to do things the hard way. For the second consecutive series, the Moose will need to win two road games in order to keep their season alive. After a 5-1 loss to the Hamilton Bulldogs before a crowd of 9,413 at MTS Centre on Friday night, the Moose now trail the North Division final 3-2 as the series shifts back to Copps Coliseum on Sunday. “We’re going there with a purpose,” said Moose captain Nolan Baumgartner. “Every guy that plays that game has got to bring their best.”

Before the playoffs started, the Aeros said they had a special group, one capable of making a long playoff run. Friday night at Toyota Center, they played the type of game that proved just that. The Aeros tied the game with two goals in the last 4:22 of regulation and then won it 3-2 at 8:45 of overtime when Robbie Earl banked a shot in off Milwaukee goalie Jeremy Smith (50 saves).

HOUSTON RALLIES, TAKES 3-2 SERIES LEAD – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
For a second straight night, the Milwaukee Admirals could not pull one out in overtime. After trailing for 55 minutes, Houston scored twice in the final 4 minutes, 32 seconds of regulation to tie it, and then Robbie Earl scored 8:45 into overtime to send the Aeros to a 3-2 win over the Admirals in Game 5 of the West Division finals Friday night. The Aeros take a 3-2 series lead into Sunday’s Game 6 at the Bradley Center.

Last night in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, 2009 AHL defenseman of the year Johnny Boychuk tallied the game-winner early in the third period and Nathan Horton posted two assists as Boston completed a four-game sweep of Philadelphia with a 5-1 victory… Darren Helm broke a 3-3 tie with just 1:27 left in regulation, and Detroit held on for a 4-3 win over San Jose to force Game 5 in their Western Conference semifinal.

9-0 – Since the AHL adopted a divisional playoff format in 2004, series record of East Division teams vs. Atlantic Division teams.

40 – Career AHL games played, including last night, by Binghamton defensemen Mark Borowiecki (19), Brennan Turner (14), Bob Raymond (6) and Jared Cowen (1), who made up four of the Senators’ six-man blueline corps in their series-clinching Game 6 shutout win at Portland.

May 7, 2010 – Manchester advances to the Eastern Conference finals with a 2-1 win over Worcester as Viatcheslav Voynov scores 1:55 into overtime in Game 6.

May 7, 2006Scottie Upshall records a goal and two assists in Milwaukee’s 7-4 win at Houston, giving the Admirals a 3-0 lead in their West Division final.

May 7, 2004 – Jeff Carter’s goal 15:20 into overtime gives Philadelphia a 3-2 win over Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and evens their division final series at one game apiece.

May 7, 2002 – The Chicago Wolves become the first team in AHL history to prevail in three winner-take-all games in a single postseason, advancing to the Western Conference final with a 6-2 victory at Syracuse in Game 7.

May 7, 1975 – The Springfield Indians capture the Calder Cup with a 4-0 win over New Haven.

May 7, 1969 – The Hershey Bears win their fourth Cup with a 3-0 victory over visiting Quebec.

Don’t miss a step on the road to the 2011 Calder Cup championship. AHL Live brings AHL action to your computer all season long with live video webcasts and highlights of every AHL game, as well as behind-the-scenes features and interviews in the Video On Demand section… Visit theahl.com or ahllive.com for details.