AHL Morning Skate: Sharks, Moose, Aeros on the verge

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.

PROVIDENCE 2, Portland 1 (PRO wins series, 4-1)
HERSHEY 1, Philadelphia 0 (HER wins series, 4-0)
W-B/SCRANTON 4, Bridgeport 2 (WBS wins series, 4-1)
GRAND RAPIDS 4, Hamilton 1 (GR leads series, 3-2)

1. Chris Minard recorded a goal and two assists as Wilkes-Barre/Scranton eliminated Bridgeport with a 4-2 win in Game 5.

2. Michal Neuvirth made 23 saves to help Hershey complete a sweep of Philadelphia with a 1-0 victory.

3. Tuukka Rask stopped 29 of 30 shots as Providence finished off Portland in five games.

Game 6 – Hartford at Worcester, 7:05 (WOR leads series, 3-2)
Game 6 – Houston at Peoria, 8:00 (HOU leads series, 3-2)
Game 6 – Toronto at Manitoba, 8:30 (MTB leads series, 3-2)

CC09ad_300x250.jpg2009 CALDER CUP PLAYOFFS:
Atlantic Division Semifinal – Series “A” (best-of-7)
A1-Hartford Wolf Pack vs. A4-Worcester Sharks || Preview
Game 1 – Thu., Apr. 16 – HARTFORD 2, Worcester 0
Game 2 – Sat., Apr. 18 – HARTFORD 5, Worcester 3
Game 3 – Mon., Apr. 20 – WORCESTER 3, Hartford 2 (2OT)
Game 4 – Wed., Apr. 22 – WORCESTER 6, Hartford 0
Game 5 – Thu., Apr. 23 – Worcester 3, HARTFORD 1
Game 6 – Sat., Apr. 25 – Hartford at Worcester, 7:05
*Game 7 – Mon., Apr. 27 – Worcester at Hartford, 7:00

Atlantic Division Semifinal – Series “B” (best-of-7)
A2-Providence Bruins vs. A3-Portland Pirates || Preview
Game 1 – Wed., Apr. 15 – Portland 3, PROVIDENCE 0
Game 2 – Fri., Apr. 17 – PROVIDENCE 2, Portland 1
Game 3 – Sun., Apr. 19 – Providence 5, PORTLAND 1
Game 4 – Thu., Apr. 23 – Providence 2, PORTLAND 1
Game 5 – Fri., Apr. 24 – PROVIDENCE 2, Portland 1

East Division Semifinal – Series “C” (best-of-7)
E1-Hershey Bears vs. E4-Philadelphia Phantoms ||
Game 1 – Thu., Apr. 16 – Hershey 4, PHILADELPHIA 2
Game 2 – Sat., Apr. 18 – Hershey 6, PHILADELPHIA 2
Game 3 – Wed., Apr. 22 – HERSHEY 3, Philadelphia 2
Game 4 – Fri., Apr. 24 – HERSHEY 1, Philadelphia 0

East Division Semifinal – Series “D” (best-of-7)
E2-Bridgeport Sound Tigers vs. E3-W-B/Scranton Penguins ||
Game 1 – Fri., Apr. 17 – W-B/Scranton 3, BRIDGEPORT 2 (U)
Game 2 – Sat., Apr. 18 – W-B/Scranton 5, BRIDGEPORT 4 (OT) (U)
Game 3 – Sun., Apr. 19 – Bridgeport 5, W-B/SCRANTON 4 (OT)
Game 4 – Wed., Apr. 22 – W-B/Scranton 2, BRIDGEPORT 1
Game 5 – Fri., Apr. 24 – W-B/SCRANTON 4, Bridgeport 2

North Division Semifinal – Series “E” (best-of-7)
N1-Manitoba Moose vs. N4-Toronto Marlies ||
Game 1 – Wed., Apr. 15 – Toronto 3, MANITOBA 2 (OT)
Game 2 – Fri., Apr. 17 – MANITOBA 4, Toronto 2
Game 3 – Sun., Apr. 19 – TORONTO 2, Manitoba 1
Game 4 – Tue., Apr. 21 – Manitoba 5, TORONTO 1
Game 5 – Thu., Apr. 23 – Manitoba 5, TORONTO 2
Game 6 – Sat., Apr. 25 – Toronto at Manitoba, 8:30
*Game 7 – Tue., Apr. 28 – Toronto at Manitoba, 8:30

North Division Semifinal – Series “F” (best-of-7)
N2-Hamilton Bulldogs vs. N3-Grand Rapids Griffins ||
Game 1 – Fri., Apr. 17 – Grand Rapids 4, HAMILTON 3
Game 2 – Sat., Apr. 18 – Grand Rapids 3, HAMILTON 1
Game 3 – Mon., Apr. 20 – Hamilton 5, GRAND RAPIDS 4
Game 4 – Wed., Apr. 22 – Hamilton 4, GRAND RAPIDS 3 (OT)
Game 5 – Fri., Apr. 24 – GRAND RAPIDS 4, Hamilton 1
Game 6 – Sun., Apr. 26 – Grand Rapids at Hamilton, 6:00
*Game 7 – Mon., Apr. 27 – Grand Rapids at Hamilton, 7:30

West Division Semifinal – Series “G” (best-of-7)
W1-Milwaukee Admirals vs. W4-Rockford IceHogs ||
Game 1 – Thu., Apr. 16 – MILWAUKEE 3, Rockford 1
Game 2 – Sat., Apr. 18 – MILWAUKEE 3, Rockford 1
Game 3 – Sun., Apr. 19 – Milwaukee 3, ROCKFORD 1
Game 4 – Tue., Apr. 21 – Milwaukee 4, ROCKFORD 1

West Division Semifinal – Series “H” (best-of-7)
W2-Peoria Rivermen vs. W3-Houston Aeros ||
Game 1 – Wed., Apr. 15 – PEORIA 6, Houston 4
Game 2 – Fri., Apr. 17 – Houston 2, PEORIA 0
Game 3 – Sat., Apr. 18 – HOUSTON 2, Peoria 1
Game 4 – Mon., Apr. 20 – Peoria 4, HOUSTON 3
Game 5 – Wed., Apr. 22 – HOUSTON 3, Peoria 2 (OT)
Game 6 – Sat., Apr. 25 – Houston at Peoria, 8:00
*Game 7 – Mon., Apr. 27 – Houston at Peoria, 8:00

*if necessary… All times Eastern
(U) at Uniondale, N.Y.

GAME NOTES (all times ET):
Game 6 – Hartford at Worcester, 7:05 (WOR leads series, 3-2)
Winners of three straight games after falling into an 0-2 series hole, Worcester can complete its turnaround with one more victory over Hartford tonight at the DCU Center in Game 6 of the teams’ Atlantic Division semifinal… The Sharks are looking to advance to the second round for the first time in team history and become the first Worcester team to ever win four consecutive AHL postseason contests… The Sharks have outscored Hartford by a 15-5 margin since they trailed 3-0 in Game 2 last Saturday… Defenseman Patrick Traverse had a hand in all three Worcester goals in their 3-1 Game 5 victory on Thursday, scoring twice and assisting on a marker by T.J. Fox; all three scores came in the opening period… Sharks forward Riley Armstrong has a team-high six points – all assists – and Traverse now shows five points (2-3-5) for the series… Worcester goaltender Thomas Greiss saw his personal shutout streak end at 169:12 when Hartford’s Dane Byers scored with 6:27 to play in regulation on Thursday… Defenseman Corey Potter is pacing the Wolf Pack with four points (1-3-4) in the series… Artem Anisimov has a goal in both of Hartford’s victories (2-0-2) but has been held without a point in the three losses… This is the sixth time Hartford has played a Game 6 on the road while facing elimination; the Wolf Pack are 4-1 in those situations, with wins in Manchester (2006), Wilkes-Barre (2004), Providence (2000) and Worcester (1998).

Game 6 – Houston at Peoria, 8:00 (HOU leads series, 3-2)
Holding a 3-2 series lead, Houston looks to eliminate Peoria tonight when their West Division semifinal returns to Carver Arena for Game 6… The Aeros trailed 2-0 with less than five minutes to play in Game 5 on Wednesday before receiving tallies from Matt Beaudoin and Robbie Earl to tie it and a game-winning power-play goal from defenseman Maxim Noreau at 12:14 of overtime… Beaudoin (1-5-6) is tied with Corey Locke (3-3-6) for the Houston team scoring lead, while Tony Hrkac and Krys Kolanos each shows a goal and four assists… The Aeros captured Game 2 in Peoria on Apr. 17 and are trying to win consecutive road games for the first time since winning four in a row from Feb. 8-28… The Rivermen haven’t lost two straight home games since ending a six-game Carver slide on Feb. 18… Houston is 8-for-25 on the power play (32.0 percent) in the series… Peoria, which led 1-0 after two periods of Game 5 on a Jeff Cowan goal and made it 2-0 when Steve Regier scored midway through the third, had combined to win 32 of 35 games during the regular season and playoffs in which it took a lead into the final 20 minutes… Yan Stastny has a team-high four points (2-2-4) in the series for the Rivermen… Houston is seeking its first playoff series win since clinching a first-round ouster of Peoria at Carver Arena on Apr. 26, 2006.

Game 6 – Toronto at Manitoba, 8:30 (MTB leads series, 3-2)
Manitoba can advance to the second round for the third time in the last four years with a home-ice win over Toronto tonight in Game 6 of their North Division semifinal… After totaling seven goals in the first three games (and losing two of them), the Moose have outscored Toronto 10-3 over the last two contests… Moose forwards Jason Krog had four points (2-2-4) in Game 5, Guillaume Desbiens registered a goal and two assists and Jason Jaffray scored twice… Krog now has 19 points (7-12-19) in 10 playoff games vs. Toronto over the last two postseasons… Manitoba goaltender Cory Schneider made a series-high 38 saves in the 5-2 triumph and has won consecutive playoff games for the first time in his career… Bates Battaglia (2-2-4) and Alex Foster (1-3-4) each has a team-high four points for the Marlies… Darryl Boyce tallied his second goal of the series (2-0-2) in the Game 5 loss, and defenseman Anton Stralman netted his first career postseason marker… The team that scores the game’s first goal has gone on to win each of the first five contests in this series… Toronto won five games when facing elimination last spring before falling to Chicago in the conference finals… Only three teams in AHL history have won both Games 6 and 7 of a series on the road.


Tim Leone, Harrisburg Patriot-News
The ceremonial post-series handshake line didn’t just signal the end of the Philadelphia Phantoms’ season Friday night at Giant Center. It also signaled the end of the franchise. The Hershey Bears’ 1-0 victory meant Game 4 was the final contest in Phantoms’ history. Hershey swept the best-of-seven first-round series and advanced to face Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in the East Division finals, scheduled to begin May 2. “I think everybody in this area is sad to see them go,” Bears head coach Bob Woods said. “They’re such a great rivalry, such great hockey games to be a part of. We’re happy it’s over, but sad in the same aspect. We’ll miss that rivalry.”

Dan Sernoffsky, Lebanon Daily News
In fact, the whole series was “special,” but never more than last night when the Hershey Bears eked out a 1-0 victory over the Philadelphia Phantoms at Giant Center. The win enabled the Bears to complete a four-game sweep of the Phantoms in the East Division semifinal series, and sends them into the division final against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in a series that begins next Saturday. But getting by the Phantoms wasn’t easy, and for the Bears, that meant another night of yeoman’s work on the penalty kill. The Bears killed off all five Philadelphia power-plays, including 1:41 worth of a 5-on-3 in the second period, and scored their lone goal on a power play.

Paul Betit, Portland Press Herald
The Providence Bruins brought the Portland Pirates’ season to a halt Friday night. The Bruins eked out a 2-1 victory to close out their first-round series at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center. After the Pirates opened the best-of-seven series with a 3-0 victory in Providence, the Bruins reeled off four consecutive victories to move into the division final for the third time in four seasons. “They came out hard every game,” Portland forward Mathieu Darche said. “I guess their better players were better than our better players. It stings. It doesn’t really matter how you lost it. It stings.”

Michael Fornabaio, Connecticut Post
More than 20 men sat in a ring in their dressing room at Wachovia Arena, staring straight ahead, expressionless. The Bridgeport Sound Tigers’ season ended with a five-game playoff-series loss to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, capped by a 4-2 Penguins win Friday in Game 5. High hopes, even for a comeback from 3-1 down in the series this weekend, had given way to stunned silence for a few minutes. “It’s just a feeling of opportunity lost,” fourth-year centerman Jeremy Colliton said. “We had a great group. We had an excellent team. And we couldn’t seem to put it together.”

Garry McKay, Hamilton Spectator
The Hamilton Bulldogs have been digging themselves out of big holes in this year’s AHL playoffs. They better do it again tomorrow – or it’s all over. The Grand Rapids Griffins beat the Dogs 4-1 last night at Van Andel Arena to take a 3-2 lead in their best-of-seven North Division semifinal. After dropping the first two games at home, the Bulldogs rallied to tie the series 2-2, including coming back from being down 3-0 midway through the third period in Game 4. But last night’s loss pushes the Dogs to the brink of elimination.

Michael Zuidema, Grand Rapids Press
The Grand Rapids Griffins made sure there would be no third-period comeback by the Hamilton Bulldogs this time. As a result, Griffins now are one win away from advancing to the second round of the playoffs after their 4-1 victory in Game 5 on Friday night. There were no lingering effects from the Griffins’ Game 4 collapse Wednesday night, when they surrendered a 3-0 lead with 12 minutes to play and eventually lost in overtime. Instead, Grand Rapids jumped out to a quick 2-0 first-period lead and played the complete, 60-minute game coach Curt Fraser wanted.

Jonathan Bombulie, Scranton Times-Tribune
From scoring goals in the NHL to playing in AHL all-star games, there isn’t much Jeff Taffe hasn’t done in his seven years of pro hockey. But he experienced a first Friday night. When his slap shot found the back of the net with less than a minute left in Game 5 of the East Division semifinals, Taffe heard, for the first time, a real, full-throated playoff roar from the Wachovia Arena stands. “I had no idea it went in for a few seconds, but it was huge,” Taffe said. “It was a great feeling. We lose this game and you never know what might happen. They get a ton of energy going into (tonight). It was big to put them away.”

Bill Ballou, Worcester Telegram & Gazette
Eventually, every playoff series comes to this – the will to succeed vs. the will to survive – and the Sharks and Hartford Wolf Pack are there now. Nothing is stronger, it seems, than survival instinct, and Sharks coach Roy Sommer acknowledges that, saying, “It’s what makes it so hard to put teams away.” Somewhat unexpectedly, Worcester can do that to Hartford tonight by winning Game 6 of their first-round Calder Cup series. Worcester has won the last three games by combined scores of 12-3 and at times, especially in the two more recent games, Hartford has looked overmatched and overwhelmed. That is probably irrelevant in regards to tonight. Things can change instantaneously in the Calder Cup playoffs.

Dave Eminian, Peoria Journal Star
The Peoria Rivermen don’t act like a team on the ropes in the AHL West Division semifinals against the Houston Aeros. The sting of losing Game 5 in overtime – despite a 2-0 lead with under five minutes left in regulation – has evolved into an underlying current of anger. “This isn’t over,” veteran winger Steve Regier steamed after Game 5. Houston leads the best-of-7 series, 3-2. But the series could just as easily be in Peoria’s hands right now. The Aeros skate onto the Carver Arena ice Saturday night for Game 6 looking for the kill. And they’ve proven they are not an easy team to finish against.

Ken Wiebe, Winnipeg Sun
We’re about to find out if an old playoff axiom holds true. It’s often been said that the fourth victory in a best-of-seven series is the toughest to achieve. “It’s pretty simple, you’re trying to end another team’s season,” said Moose goalie Cory Schneider, who made 38 saves in Game 5. “Teams don’t go down without a fight. They don’t want to end their season or go home and start playing golf. It’s really tough because they’re going to go down swinging.” “The other team is pushed to the limit,” added center Jason Krog. “It’s lose and go home for them. We feel good about where we are, but we know this series is a long way from over.”

Tim Campbell, Winnipeg Free Press
Having pulled away in the most recent two third periods, the Manitoba Moose have the first chance tonight to put an end to their AHL North Division semifinal with the Toronto Marlies. “We went in there and in the last two games had success, gained confidence and gained momentum,” said Moose coach Scott Arniel after returning from Ontario on Friday. “Now coming home, the biggest thing is not taking our foot off the gas. We want to make sure to come out strong and use all those things we did out there, and not be just satisfied that we’re ahead. We can’t let these guys up off the mat.”

Simeon Varlamov made 20 saves for his second shutout of the series as Washington staved off elimination with a 4-0 win over the N.Y. Rangers last night… Matt Bradley, who tallied eight goals and seven assists in 20 Calder Cup Playoff games with Kentucky from 1999-2001, scored his first two career Stanley Cup Playoff goals in the win.

– Consecutive goals scored by Worcester spanning Games 3, 4 and 5, helping turn a 2-0 series deficit into a 3-2 lead.

4 – Consecutive postseasons in which Hershey and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton will be meeting as they prepare for the East Division Finals… The Penguins won their first-round meeting in 2008, and the Bears won in the division finals in 2007 and 2006.

April 25, 2005 – With the Penguins down 0-2 in the series, Colby Armstrong’s goal at 12:26 of the third overtime lifts Wilkes-Barre/Scranton past Binghamton, 3-2, in Game 3 of their division semifinal.

April 25, 2004Konstantin Koltsov scores 11:44 into overtime to give Wilkes-Barre/Scranton a 3-2 win at Bridgeport in Game 7 of their East Division semifinal… Five of the seven games in the series required OT.

April 25, 1992 – Bruce Boudreau scores what would be the last goal of his professional career, helping Adirondack to a 5-3 win at Springfield in Game 1 of their second-round series.

April 25, 1964 – The Cleveland Barons cap a perfect 9-0 playoff run with a 5-2 win over the Quebec Aces, capturing the franchise’s ninth and final Calder Cup championship.

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.