WEDNESDAY’S THREE STARS:
1. Corey Locke scored twice as Houston moved to the Eastern Conference Finals with a 5-2 win at Milwaukee in Game 7.
2. Rookie goaltender Anton Khudobin made 28 saves on 30 shots for his eighth win of the postseason.
3. Goaltender Tuukka Rask stopped 34 of 35 shots as Providence closed out Worcester with a 5-1 win in Game 6 of the Atlantic Division Finals.
FRIDAY’S SCHEDULE (all times ET):
Game 1 – Houston at Manitoba, 8:30
Eastern Conference Finals – Series “M” (best-of-7)
E1-Hershey Bears vs. A2-Providence Bruins || Preview
Game 1 – Sat., May 16 – Providence at Hershey, 7:00
Game 2 – Sun., May 17 – Providence at Hershey, 5:00
Game 3 – Fri., May 22 – Hershey at Providence, 7:05
Game 4 – Sun., May 24 – Hershey at Providence, 7:05
*Game 5 – Mon., May 25 – Hershey at Providence, 4:05
*Game 6 – Wed., May 27 – Providence at Hershey, 7:00
*Game 7 – Thu., May 28 – Providence at Hershey, 7:00
Western Conference Finals – Series “N” (best-of-7)
N1-Manitoba Moose vs. W3-Houston Aeros || Preview
Game 1 – Fri., May 15 – Houston at Manitoba, 8:30
Game 2 – Sat., May 16 – Houston at Manitoba, 8:30
Game 3 – Mon., May 18 – Manitoba at Houston, 8:05
Game 4 – Wed., May 20 – Manitoba at Houston, 8:05
*Game 5 – Fri., May 22 – Manitoba at Houston, 8:35
*Game 6 – Mon., May 25 – Houston at Manitoba, 8:30
*Game 7 – Wed., May 27 – Houston at Manitoba, 8:30
*if necessary… All times Eastern
GAME NOTES (all times ET):
Game 1 – Houston at Manitoba, 8:30
Regular-season AHL champion Manitoba looks to continue its playoff charge when it hosts Houston tonight in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals… The teams have not met since Dec. 4 in Texas, and the Aeros have not visited Winnipeg since a two-game set on Oct. 24-25; Manitoba won all four games in the regular-season series… The Moose been off since completing their second-round sweep of Grand Rapids on May 6, and have played just four games in 19 days entering the weekend… The Aeros are just two days removed from their second consecutive road Game 7 victory, this one in Milwaukee on Wednesday night… Manitoba brings a seven-game winning streak into tonight’s contest and has not lost since a 2-1 setback to Toronto on Apr. 19 in Game 3 of the division semifinals… Baz Bastien Award winner Cory Schneider (8-2) leads active goaltenders with a 1.69 goals-against average and has not allowed more than two goals in a game since surrendering three in the Moose’s playoff opener on Apr. 15… Jason Krog, appearing in his third straight conference finals, leads Manitoba offensively with 11 points (4-7-11) in 10 postseason contests… Jason Jaffray shows a team-high six goals for the Moose (6-3-9) and is one goal shy of 20 for his Calder Cup Playoff career (19-15-34 in 40 GP)… Manitoba forward Alexandre Bolduc totaled 12 goals in 63 regular-season games in 2008-09 but has registered four goals and seven points in seven playoff games thus far… Aeros forward Corey Locke leads all AHL playoff scorers with nine goals and 15 points, and the 2007 Calder Cup champion registered a pair of two-goal efforts in Houston’s second-round upset of Milwaukee… Krys Kolanos is on a four-game scoring run (3-1-4) for the Aeros and has netted a goal in five of his last seven contests (5-1-6)… Rookie goaltender Anton Khudobin entered the playoffs with five career AHL wins in 22 appearances but is 8-6 with a 2.48 goals-against average, .911 save percentage, and two shutouts this postseason… Houston’s second-ranked playoff power play (24.6 percent) will square off with Manitoba’s top-ranked penalty kill (90.9 percent)… In the conference-final round, Game 1 winners have gone on to capture 22 of 26 series since 1996, including all 12 over the last six postseasons.
Ken Wiebe, Winnipeg Sun
The team that gave Maxime Fortunus his start is now standing in his way. A berth in the Calder Cup final is on the line as the Manitoba Moose open the Western Conference final tonight at the MTS Centre against the Houston Aeros. Fortunus will always be thankful for the Aeros giving him his first taste of American Hockey League action. “It’s always fun to play against a team that you played for,” said Fortunus, who has two goals and four points in 10 post-season games this spring and has done a fantastic job on a pairing with Mark Fistric. “You know what they say, you never forget the place where you come from and that’s the place that got me started.”
AEROS FLYING HIGH
Ken Wiebe, Winnipeg Sun
Cinderella is coming to the ball with an invitation in hand and the Manitoba Moose don’t expect the clock to strike midnight anytime soon. With the upstart Houston Aeros serving as the opponent in the Western Conference final, which begins tonight at the MTS Centre, the Moose understand they’ll need to push Cinderella right out of the glass slipper if they want to advance. The Aeros showed their mettle by winning a second consecutive Game 7 on the road. Only this time, they had to regroup from a disheartening 7-0 loss in Game 6 to the Milwaukee Admirals in order to do it.
MOOSE HAVE RIGHT STUFF
Gary Lawless, Winnipeg Free Press
Despite not being able to ever call themselves champions, the Moose are easily among the top franchises in the AHL. They play in an elite building, are always among the leaders in attendance and players consider the way they’re treated second only to the NHL. Mooseland is a good place to be. “We’ve looked for a combination of things in our people. A balance of character and competence,” Moose owner Chipman said Thursday morning. “Maybe you can be successful without that balance for a short term but not in the long run. It’s not something we talk about, but we do try to find good people. Over the 13 years we’ve had this team, you can count on your two hands the number of guys that don’t fit. Generally, they stick out.”
INJURIES CRITICAL TO AEROS’ CHANCES
Andrew J. Ferraro, Houston Chronicle
With little time to rest following an upset series win over the Milwaukee Admirals, the Aeros want another quick start as they open play tonight in the franchise’s sixth conference finals. The Manitoba Moose, off for more than a week after sweeping Grand Rapids, host the Aeros tonight in Game 1 of the AHL Western Conference finals at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg, Manitoba. In the first two rounds of the playoffs, the Aeros split their first two road games, won two of three at home and then advanced with a pair of Game 7 victories.
BEARS SET TO RENEW OLD RIVALRY WITH PROVIDENCE
Dan Sernoffsky, Lebanon Daily News
The names are firmly embedded in the institutional memory in both cities, names like Zellio Toppozzini and Paul Larivee, Aldo Guidolin and Andy Branigan. And named like Dunc Fisher and Willie Marshall, Frank Mathers and Obie O’Brien. Back then, they were the Providence Reds, and the rivalry was an intense one. The last time Hershey and Providence met in the playoffs, it was 1974, and the Bears and Reds were squaring off in the Calder Cup finals. Now, for the first time in 35 years, Hershey and Providence are about to meet in the playoffs once again.
PENGUINS PLAY THROUGH THE PAIN
Jonathan Bombulie, Citizens’ Voice
While the playoffs are going on, they’re cloaked in euphemisms. When the season is over, the shroud is lifted and the true carnage is revealed. Defenseman Joey Mormina suffered a high-ankle sprain in Game 4 against the Hershey Bears last Friday night. It’s an injury that usually keeps players out of the lineup a minimum of 10 days to two weeks. Mormina dressed the next night for Game 5. “It’s playoff time,” he said. “You never know when it’s going to be your last game. You don’t want to be out.” Mormina, truth be told, was probably one of the lucky ones in the Penguins locker room.
FREE AGENTS HOPE TO STAY WITH PENS
Tom Venesky, Wilkes-Barre Times Leader
For the first time in his career, Connor James is an unrestricted free agent. Usually, such a designation means the chance for a player to shop his services to any team and sign a lucrative contract. But for James, who was the Penguins’ captain for the last half of the season, being free to shop around isn’t really what he wants. “I would just rather avoid it,” James said as he cleaned out his locker on Thursday. “I think guys who sign here realize how good we have it. You talk to guys who have gone away and they all want to come back.” James is one of 17 unrestricted free agents that finished the postseason on Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s roster and he isn’t alone in his desire to return to the organization.
AN UNHAPPY ENDING
Dave Boehler, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Sleeping on it didn’t help. “It’s no better at all,” Milwaukee Admirals coach Lane Lambert said. One day after the season came to a disappointing end with a 5-2 loss Wednesday to visiting Houston in Game 7 of the AHL West Division finals, the second-year coach was busy with meetings and preparing his players for their summer break instead of flying to Winnipeg for the conference finals Friday at Manitoba. “I’m just disappointed in the fact I think we self-destructed,” Lambert said. “That in itself is tough to accept.”
CAN’T BEAT THE HEAT? WE’LL SEE
Paul Fontaine, Abbotsford Times
The team that will be entertaining fans in the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre now has a name. Like its NHL affiliate, the Calgary Flames, the Abbotsford Heat will dress in red and use fire as its inspiration when it hits the ice this fall. The new franchise staged a contest to name the team and after in-depth consultation within the region, four names were chosen as potential winners. Mission’s Mark Arthur sent in the winning suggestion (his was one of 2,500 suggestions) and for the enthusiastic hockey fan what came after he found out he won was a huge bonus.
FROM CALDER TO STANLEY:
Former AHL All-Stars Scott Walker and Dan Cleary scored the decisive goals in a pair of NHL Game 7’s last night… Walker batted in a rebound at 18:46 of overtime as Carolina ousted top-seeded Boston, 3-2, his first postseason goal since May 22, 1996, when he skated for the AHL’s Syracuse Crunch… Byron Bitz, who played 37 games in Providence this season, scored for the Bruins… Cleary’s tiebreaking goal with 3:00 remaining followed Detroit goals from two-time AHL All-Star Jiri Hudler, Darren Helm and Mikael Samuelsson and sent the Red Wings to a 4-3 win over Anaheim… Corey Perry and 2007-08 AHL All-Rookie forward Bobby Ryan scored for the Ducks.
BY THE NUMBERS:
12 – Most consecutive wins by a team in a single AHL postseason, a mark set by the 1988 Hershey Bears… Manitoba brings a seven-game winning streak into tonight’s Game 1 vs. Houston.
87 – Points earned in the regular season by Houston (38-31-2-9), the fewest by an eventual conference finalist since Wilkes-Barre reached the Calder Cup Finals after finishing with 86 points in 2003-04.
May 15, 2003 – Raffi Torres and Jason Ward score as Hamilton beats Binghamton, 2-1, in Game 2 of their conference final series at Copps Coliseum.
May 15, 1992 – Mike Sillinger tallies a goal and two assists as Adirondack advances to the Calder Cup Finals with a 5-3 win in Rochester.
May 15, 1978 – The first-year Maine Mariners win the Calder Cup with a 5-4 victory over the New Haven Nighthawks at the Cumberland County Civic Center.
May 15, 1973 – Before 15,019 fans at Buffalo’s Memorial Auditorium, the Cincinnati Swords win the Calder Cup with a 5-1 win over Nova Scotia.
May 15, 1972 – Nova Scotia concludes a dominating postseason with a 4-1 win over Baltimore, claiming its first Calder Cup championship… The Voyageurs outscored their opponents, 64-19, in their 15 playoff games (12-3).
Don’t miss a step on the road to the 2009 Calder Cup championship. AHL Live continues to bring AHL action to your computer all postseason 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.