AHL Weekly Release: Revisiting the ’99 All-Star Classic


99allstar_200.jpgSPRINGFIELD, Mass. … Nearly 10 years ago, the American Hockey League brought its annual showcase event to the City of Brotherly Love, as Philadelphia hosted the 1999 AHL All-Star Classic on Jan. 24-25, 1999. It marked first All-Star event in Philadelphia, home to the Phantoms since 1996.

The First Union Center (now known as the Wachovia Center), home of the NHL’s Flyers, served as the setting for the 1999 First Union AHL All-Star Classic, which was hosted by the defending Calder Cup champion Philadelphia Phantoms. Due to the Phantoms’ championship the prior year, head coach Bill Barber earned a spot behind the bench of the Canadian AHL All-Stars in 1999, his second consecutive All-Star Classic coaching appearance. Barber was opposed by John Cunniff, whose Albany River Rats were on their way to their fourth 100-point season in five years.

For the first time in four tries since the event was introduced in 1996, the Canadian AHL All-Stars earned victory in the AHL All-Star Skills Competition on Jan. 24, taking a 15-12 win over the PlanetUSA All-Stars.

The next night, a crowd of 14,120 fans – then an AHL All-Star record – witnessed the fourth consecutive one-goal margin in the All-Star Game. Peter White of the host Phantoms, making his third straight All-Star appearance and coming off his third career AHL scoring title in 1998, gave the Canadians a 1-0 lead after the first period. But the PlanetUSA All-Stars responded with three goals in the second, capped off by a score from current Hartford Wolf Pack head coach Ken Gernander.

The Canadians scored three times in the final frame to take a 4-3 advantage, including goals from current NHL’ers John Madden and Derek Armstrong. But PlanetUSA got the equalizer with just 1:18 to go in regulation, sending the All-Star Game to overtime and ultimately a shootout. Chris Ferraro, who tallied the winning All-Star shootout goal two years earlier, did it again this time around, lifting PlanetUSA to a 5-4 triumph. Rookie goaltender Jean-Marc Pelletier of the hometown Phantoms was named the game’s most valuable player after turning aside 17 of 18 Canadian shots in the first period.

The Canadian AHL All-Star lineup in 1999 included forward Martin St. Louis and defenseman Dan Boyle, who have since enjoyed tremendous success at the NHL level and helped the Tampa Bay Lightning win the 2004 Stanley Cup championship. Other notable AHL All-Stars to take the ice in 1999 included Cory Sarich, Randy Robitaille, Francis Bouillon and Richard Park, all of whom have gone on to record lengthy careers in the National Hockey League. Robert Esche, Marc Denis and Martin Biron, who a decade later calls the Wachovia Center home as the goaltender for the Philadelphia Flyers, were all AHL All-Stars in 1999 before combining to tend goal in nearly 1,000 NHL games.

The AHL’s annual midseason showcase is less than two weeks away, as the 2009 AHL All-Star Classic presented by Charter Communications will take place at the DCU Center in Worcester, Mass., on Jan. 25-26.

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CLOSING IN ON HISTORY … Hershey forward Alexandre Giroux extended his goal-scoring streak to 11 AHL games (16-6-22) last weekend by totaling five goals in three contests for the Bears. The streak has vaulted Giroux to the overall league lead in goals (28), and his 44 points are second only to teammate Keith Aucoin’s 51. Giroux’s streak is the longest in the AHL in nearly three years; Syracuse’s Mark Hartigan also piled up an 11-game goal-scoring run from Feb. 8-26, 2006.

The AHL record for longest goal-scoring streak is 14 games, set by Moncton Golden Flames rookie Brett Hull from Jan. 24 to Feb. 21, 1987. Hull won the Dudley “Red” Garrett Award as AHL Rookie of the Year that season and went on to score 741 goals in 1,269 career NHL games.

HOME SWEET HOME … As AHL teams reach the halfway point in their 2008-09 schedules, the advantage of playing on home ice has been noticeably heightened this season.

Through Sunday’s games, teams have combined to post a 327-189-19-37 record at home, good for a .621 points percentage, and a remarkable 26 of the league’s 29 teams are at .500 or better on familiar ice. Milwaukee (.823), Hershey (.789), Bridgeport (.777), Grand Rapids (.773), and Providence (.761) own the AHL’s best home-ice points percentages thus far.

GOALTENDERS HEATING UP… Several AHL goaltenders have been on a roll as of late, led by AHL All-Star Cory Schneider of Manitoba, who won twice over the weekend and has now captured 13 straight AHL victories. Among other AHL All-Stars, Binghamton’s Brian Elliott was 10-2-0 (1.76, .941) in his last 14 appearances prior to earning an NHL recall to Ottawa on Friday, Grand Rapids’ Daniel Larsson shows three shutouts in his last six appearances, and Lowell rookie Jeff Frazee has won seven of his last eight decisions.

Other hot goaltenders include reigning Reebok/AHL Player of the Week Corey Crawford of Rockford, who stopped 95 of 97 shots in three games last week (2-0-1, 0.67, .979) while appearing in five straight games, and Worcester’s Thomas Greiss, who shows a four-game winning streak (1.25, .953), his longest since a career-best seven-game run from Mar. 16-31, 2007.

ETC. … Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s Janne Pesonen racked up eight points (3-5-8) and a plus-4 rating in three games last weekend… Manitoba’s Michael Grabner had totaled five goals in his previous 19 games prior to scoring five times in three games over the weekend, including a hat trick on Friday at Iowa… Bridgeport rookie goaltender Nathan Lawson is unbeaten in regulation this season, collecting eight wins and an overtime loss in 10 appearances (1.62, .944)… Jesse Schultz, who helped Chicago to the 2008 Calder Cup championship, registered three points (1-2-3) against his former club on Sunday as Houston took a 4-1 win over the Wolves at Allstate Arena… On Jan. 7 at Bridgeport, for the second time in 11 days, the Aeros scored three times in the final three minutes of regulation to erase a 3-0 deficit; this time, the three goals came in an 82-second span during a major power play… Hartford has visited Springfield’s MassMutual Center twice this season, and Artem Anisimov has scored the game-winner in overtime both times… The Falcons are 9-1-5-1 in one-goal games this season, but 5-19-0-0 in games decided by two goals or more… Grand Rapids’ top-ranked penalty-killing unit (88.6 percent) has denied 30 straight opponent power plays over its last eight games… Providence’s 1-0 lead over Lowell at the first intermission on Sunday ended in a 5-2 Devils win; the Bruins had won their previous 31 regular-season games when leading after 20 minutes since a loss to Portland on Feb. 15, 2008… Lowell is now 1-4-0-0 against Worcester this season but 15-5-0-1 against its other five Atlantic Division rivals… Philadelphia’s 3-0 loss at Lake Erie on Sunday marked the Phantoms’ 1,000th regular-season game in franchise history; Hamilton, which began play in 1996-97 along with the Phantoms, will reach the 1,000-game plateau on Wednesday against Grand Rapids… Canadian AHL All-Star captain Bryan Helmer enters the AHL chat room (theahl.com) to answer fans’ questions on Thursday, Jan. 15.