AHL Morning Skate: Pens, Pirates look to strike first

AHL Quick Hits is now the Morning Skate… Every morning, take 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.


CHICAGO 4, Rockford 1 (CHI wins, 4-3)


1. Rookie goaltender Ondrej Pavelec stopped 38 of 39 shots as Chicago posted a 4-1 win over Rockford in Game 7 of the West Division finals.

2. Jason Krog netted the eventual game-winning goal to lead the Wolves into the Western Conference finals.

3. Kris Versteeg tallied the IceHogs’ lone goal in the defeat.


Game 1 – Portland at W-B/Scranton, 7:05


Complete Results || Scoring Leaders || Goaltending Leaders

Eastern Conference Finals – Series “M” (best-of-7)
E1-Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins vs. A3-Portland Pirates
Game 1 – Wed., May 14 – Portland at W-B/Scranton, 7:05
Game 2 – Thu., May 15 – Portland at W-B/Scranton, 7:05
Game 3 – Sun., May 18 – W-B/Scranton at Portland, 4:05
Game 4 – Tue., May 20 – W-B/Scranton at Portland, 7:05
*Game 5 – Wed., May 21 – W-B/Scranton at Portland, 7:05
*Game 6 – Fri., May 23 – Portland at W-B/Scranton, 7:05
*Game 7 – Sat., May 24 – Portland at W-B/Scranton, 7:05


Western Conference Finals – Series “N” (best-of-7)
W1-Chicago Wolves vs. N1-Toronto Marlies
Game 1 – Fri., May 16 – Toronto at Chicago, 8:30
Game 2 – Sun., May 18 – Toronto at Chicago, 4:00
Game 3 – Tue., May 20 – Chicago at Toronto, 7:30
Game 4 – Wed., May 21 – Chicago at Toronto, 7:30
*Game 5 – Fri., May 23 – Toronto at Chicago, 8:30
*Game 6 – Sun., May 25 – Chicago at Toronto, 4:00
*Game 7 – Tue., May 27 – Toronto at Chicago, 8:00


Atlantic Division Finals – Series “I” (best-of-7)

A1-Providence Bruins vs. A3-Portland Pirates || Preview

Game 1 – Sat., Apr. 26 – PROVIDENCE 4, Portland 0

Game 2 – Sun., Apr. 27 – PROVIDENCE 7, Portland 1

Game 3 – Fri., May 2 – PORTLAND 4, Providence 3 (OT)

Game 4 – Sun., May 4 – PORTLAND 3, Providence 2 (OT)

Game 5 – Tue., May 6 – PORTLAND 3, Providence 2

Game 6 – Fri., May 9 – Portland 5, PROVIDENCE 4


East Division Finals – Series “J” (best-of-7)

E1-W-B/Scranton Penguins vs. E2-Philadelphia Phantoms || Preview

Game 1 – Thu., May 1 – Philadelphia 5, W-B/SCRANTON 2

Game 2 – Sat., May 3 – W-B/SCRANTON 5, Philadelphia 4 (OT)

Game 3 – Mon., May 5 – W-B/Scranton 3, PHILADELPHIA 2 (WC)

Game 4 – Wed., May 7 – W-B/Scranton 8, PHILADELPHIA 4 (WC)

Game 5 – Fri., May 9 – W-B/SCRANTON 3, Philadelphia 1


North Division Finals – Series “K” (best-of-7)

N1-Toronto Marlies vs. N2-Syracuse Crunch || Preview

Game 1 – Fri., May 2 – Syracuse 5, TORONTO 1

Game 2 – Sun., May 4 – Syracuse 3, TORONTO 1

Game 3 – Tue., May 6 – Toronto 8, SYRACUSE 2

Game 4 – Wed., May 7 – SYRACUSE 5, Toronto 4 (OT)

Game 5 – Fri., May 9 – TORONTO 4, Syracuse 3 (OT)

Game 6 – Sat., May 10 – Toronto 3, SYRACUSE 2

Game 7 – Mon., May 12 – TORONTO 3, Syracuse 2


West Division Finals – Series “L” (best-of-7)

W1-Chicago Wolves vs. W2-Rockford IceHogs || Preview

Game 1 – Thu., May 1 – CHICAGO 4, Rockford 1

Game 2 – Sat., May 3 – CHICAGO 7, Rockford 3

Game 3 – Sun., May 4 – ROCKFORD 3, Chicago 1

Game 4 – Wed., May 7 – ROCKFORD 3, Chicago 2

Game 5 – Fri., May 9 – Rockford 5, CHICAGO 1

Game 6 – Sun., May 11 – Chicago 4, ROCKFORD 3

Game 7 – Tue., May 13 – CHICAGO 4, Rockford 1


*if necessary… All times Eastern… (WC) – Wachovia Center

GAME NOTES (all times ET):

Game 1 – Portland at W-B/Scranton, 7:05

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and Portland kick off the Eastern Conference finals tonight at the Wachovia Arena at Casey Plaza… The Pirates dispatched Hartford and Providence en route to their second conference finals appearance in the last three years, while the Penguins eliminated in-state rivals Hershey and Philadelphia in the first two rounds… Both teams enter Game 1 on a four-game winning streak, and they are a combined 16-5 so far in the playoffs… The teams split their two-game regular-season series, with each club victorious on its home ice… Ex-Penguin goaltender Jean-Sebastien Aubin has won eight straight one-goal games in the Pirates’ net since dropping the team’s postseason opener at Hartford on Apr. 16… Aubin, who did not play in the team’s two losses to Providence in the division finals, sports a 2.38 GAA and .914 save percentage in the playoffs… Counterpart John Curry is 8-2 with a 2.48 GAA for the Penguins… Wilkes-Barre/Scranton forward Tim Brent, who reached the conference finals with Portland in 2006, paces the AHL with nine playoff goals and is tied for the lead with 17 points in 10 games… Alex Goligoski leads all AHL rookies and defensemen with 14 points (3-11-14), and Ryan Stone brings a four-game scoring streak (2-5-7) into this series… Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s power play is a league-best 25.0 percent (9-for-36) at home this postseason, and it ranks second overall at 21.0% (13-for-62)… 2008 AHL All-Stars Bobby Ryan (5-6-11) and Andrew Ebbett (2-9-11) are tied for the Pirates’ playoff scoring lead, and Ebbett is currently riding a five-game scoring streak (1-6-7)… Ryan (4-3-7) and Drew Miller (1-6-7) both have a point in their last four outings… Portland dropped Game 1 on the road in each of the previous two rounds… Game 1 winners have gone on to win just six of the first 12 series during this postseason, including only one of the four division finals last round.




Len Ziehm, Chicago Sun-Times

The Wolves are still alive in the American Hockey League playoffs, and the Blackhawks’ top farm team is going home. The Rockford IceHogs, however, earned plenty of respect in their first season. Goaltender Ondrej Pavelec was the difference Tuesday in Game 7 of the West Division championship series. He made 39 saves in the Wolves’ 4-1 victory at Allstate Arena to put his team in the Western Conference finals against the Toronto Marlies. “He played tremendous, that kid in the cage,” IceHogs coach Mike Haviland said. “Their power play came through in the last two games and won them the series.” The next round begins Friday at Allstate Arena, but it will be hard-pressed to match the spirited battle between the Wolves and IceHogs. “It was too bad someone had to lose,” said AHL most valuable player Jason Krog, who scored the winning goal Tuesday. “It was so close. It was just a battle, the whole thing. What a great team they are.”




Chris Kuc, Chicago Tribune

The last time the Wolves played a deciding Game 7 on home ice, they captured a championship. Tuesday night’s 4-1 victory over the Rockford IceHogs before a crowd of 5,218 at Allstate Arena didn’t bring home any hardware, but it did allow the Wolves to rally to a hard-fought 4-3 West Division finals series victory and advance to the Western Conference finals of the AHL’s Calder Cup playoffs. The Wolves will take on the Toronto Marlies in the conference finals beginning Friday night at Allstate Arena. The winners advance to the Calder Cup finals. “Rockford was a lot better than we thought they were,” Wolves coach John Anderson said of the Blackhawks’ affiliate. “They pushed us right to the very end. They had us reeling in the third period because they came so hard. We survived it. Our goaltender played great. Great series.”




Reed Schreck, Rockford Register Star

The same problem that plagued Rockford throughout the regular season against Chicago ultimately ended its season. When IceHogs coach Mike Haviland stressed staying out of the penalty box for Tuesday’s Game 7 at Allstate Arena, it turns out he had to be interpreted literally. Chicago capitalized on its first two power plays to eventually win 4-1, end Rockford’s first AHL season and advance to the Western Conference finals against Toronto. “We knew we were going to have to kill somewhere along the line,” Haviland said. “I don’t think there are any games that go without killing. “You have to give them credit. Their power play was tough the last two games and, I thought, won them the series.” His players agreed. “I guess it’s tough to go on the (penalty kill) against those guys,” IceHogs winger Kris Versteeg said. “It’s a tough way to lose.”




Tom Venesky, Wilkes-Barre Times Leader

Defenseman Mark Ardelan doesn’t know a lot about the Portland Pirates. You can’t really blame him considering the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins faced the Pirates only twice this season. But Ardelan and his teammates will have plenty of time to get acquainted with the Pirates when they open their AHL Eastern Conference Final playoff series at 7:05 p.m. today at the Wachovia Arena. “I know their forwards are real fast and they’re a hard-working team,” Ardelan said. “They play a lot like us.” While the Penguins’ knowledge of the Pirates may be vague right now, there are several Portland players who know plenty about Wilkes-Barre. Center Stephen Dixon, defenseman Andy Schneider and goaltender Jean-Sebastien Aubin spent time with the Penguins.




Jonathan Bombulie, Times-Shamrock Newspapers

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins center Tim Brent had some great times in a Portland Pirates uniform. He also suffered the most stinging loss of his pro career while wearing their colors. It’s the latter that drives him as the Penguins and Pirates are set to square off in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals tonight at the Wachovia Arena. Brent and the Pirates advanced to the seventh game of the conference finals two years ago only to lose to Hershey on an Eric Fehr goal in overtime. “We were so close and to watch Hershey steamroll Milwaukee in the next round, it’s something you never forget,” Brent said after practice Tuesday. “It would sure be nice to make a new memory this year.” Brent played a supporting role for that Portland team, taking a backseat to the all-star top line of Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf and Dustin Penner.




Paul Betit, Portland Press-Herald

Center Stephen Dixon and defenseman Andy Schneider know exactly what the Portland Pirates will face when they play the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins for the AHL’s Eastern Conference championship. Dixon spent his first two professional hockey seasons playing for the Pens, while Schneider spent nearly a full season with them before sitting out last season recovering from a broken right wrist. The two teams meet tonight in the opener of the best-of-seven series at the Wachovia Arena in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., with the winner advancing to the Calder Cup finals. “They’ve always been a hard-working team, and they’re going to come hard,” Dixon said. “It’s going to be a good series, probably a lot like the last two we played.”




Lindsay Kramer, Syracuse Post-Standard

Even before the final horn sounded on the Syracuse Crunch with a Game 7 loss to Toronto on Monday night, the final grade on the team’s chemistry test was already logged in the books. It was a solid A-plus. Nothing short of a brotherhood of pluckers and grinders could have lifted the team from its middling start to a 100-point season and a bounce of the puck away from the Calder Cup semifinals. Parent club Columbus deserves credit for finding the right pieces and jamming them together into a near-seamless fit. Now that they have a blueprint for what a real AHL team looks like, the Blue Jackets must figure out how to replicate it as closely as possible next season.



4 – Consecutive seasons that a team from Pennsylvania has played in the Calder Cup Finals… Wilkes-Barre/Scranton will try to extend that streak when it begins its Eastern Conference championship series vs. Portland tonight.

273 – Consecutive games played by Portland forward Stephen Dixon to begin his career, including 240 in the regular season and 33 in the playoffs… Dixon played his first two pro seasons in Wilkes-Barre before being traded to Anaheim for Tim Brent on June 23, 2007.


Ryan Whitney, who reached the 2004 Calder Cup Finals with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, scored a goal as part of Pittsburgh’s 4-1 win at Philadelphia last night, giving the Penguins a 3-0 series lead in the NHL’s Eastern Conference finals… 2005 Calder Cup champion R.J. Umberger tallied the Flyers’ lone marker.


May 14, 2007Carey Price makes 40 saves and Eric Manlow scores twice, including the overtime winner, as Hamilton advances to the Western Conference Finals with a 3-2 win at Manitoba.

May 14, 2006P.A. Parente