Morning Skate: East, West both in action

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 4 – TEXAS 2, Hamilton 1 (OT) (Series tied, 2-2)

1. Rookie sensation Jamie Benn notched both of his team’s goals – including the game-winner in overtime – as Texas evened the Western Conference Finals with a 2-1 win over Hamilton.

2. David Desharnais registered a goal and four shots for the Bulldogs in the losing effort.

3. Stars goaltender Matt Climie preserved the victory with 26 saves on 27 shots in net.

Game 6 – Manchester at Hershey, 7:00 (HER leads series, 3-2)
Game 5 – Hamilton at Texas, 8:00 (Series tied, 2-2)

Complete Results II Scoring Leaders II Goaltending Leaders

Eastern Conference Finals – Series “M” (best-of-7)
E1-Hershey Bears vs. A3-Manchester Monarchs

Game 1 – Wed., May 12 – HERSHEY 4, Manchester 2
Game 2 – Sat., May 15 – HERSHEY 3, Manchester 2 (OT)
Game 3 – Mon., May 17 – MANCHESTER 3, Hershey 2 (OT)
Game 4 – Tue., May 18 – MANCHESTER 1, Hershey 0
Game 5 – Thu., May 20 – Hershey 3, MANCHESTER 2 (OT)
Game 6 – Sat., May 22 – Manchester at Hershey, 7:00
*Game 7 – Sun., May 23 – Manchester at Hershey, 5:00

Western Conference Finals – Series “N” (best-of-7)
N1-Hamilton Bulldogs vs. W2-Texas Stars
Game 1 – Fri., May 14 – HAMILTON 3, Texas 2
Game 2 – Sun., May 16 – HAMILTON 3, Texas 1
Game 3 – Wed., May 19 – TEXAS 5, Hamilton 4 (OT)
Game 4 – Fri., May 21 – TEXAS 2, Hamilton 1 (OT)
Game 5 – Sat., May 22 – Hamilton at Texas, 8:00
Game 6 – Mon., May 24 – Texas at Hamilton, 7:30
*Game 7 – Wed., May 26 – Texas at Hamilton, 7:30

*if necessary… All times Eastern

GAME NOTES (all times ET):
Game 6 – Manchester at Hershey, 7:00 (HER leads series, 3-2)
Video Webcast: AHL Live
Satellite Radio: XM 204, Sirius 208

Hershey hosts Manchester for Game 6 of the Eastern Conference championship series tonight, and a win will put the Bears back in the Calder Cup Finals for the second consecutive spring and fourth time in the last five years… In order to advance, the Monarchs will need to beat Hershey twice in two days at Giant Center, a building in which the Bears have lost only six times all season (41-4-0-2), including a perfect 7-0 mark during the playoffs… Hershey has won 36 of its last 37 home games dating back to a 5-4 shootout loss to Adirondack on Nov. 28, 2009… The Chocolate and White take a 3-2 series lead into tonight’s contest courtesy of a dramatic 3-2 overtime victory at Manchester in Game 5 on Thursday… The Bears rallied from 1-0 and 2-1 deficits in the third period – the second game-tying tally coming off the stick of Chris Bourque with just 50.4 seconds left in regulation – and won it on a goal by Francois Bouchard at 10:38 of the extra session… Prior to Thursday, Bouchard had gone 12 straight games without a goal since scoring in Hershey’s postseason opener vs. Bridgeport back on Apr. 14… Bourque earned an assist on the game-winner, and the two-point effort gives him a team-high seven points (3-4-7) in this series and an AHL-best 22 points (7-15-22) in 14 playoff games overall… Bourque has already eclipsed the 21 points (5-16-21) that he totaled in 22 postseason outings last year en route to the Calder Cup title… Kyle Wilson tallied the Bears’ other goal in Game 5, snapping a five-game points drought and seven-game goal drought in the process, and Hershey goaltender Michal Neuvirth made 27 saves to improve to 9-2 (2.16, .914)… Neuvirth is 15-2 with a 1.50 GAA, a .942 save percentage and four shutouts in 17 career playoff appearances at Giant Center… Bears sniper Alexandre Giroux entered this round with 17 points (10-7-17) in nine playoff games, but the Monarchs have limited him to just a goal and two assists through the first five contests… Monarchs forward Bud Holloway notched his team-leading seventh goal of the playoffs in Game 5, but his first of this series… Holloway’s previous six postseason goals all turned out to be game-winners… 20-year-old rookie defenseman Jacob Muzzin added his first professional tally, which temporarily put Manchester on top 2-1 with 2:34 left in regulation… Goaltender Jonathan Bernier took the loss with 32 saves and dropped to 0-5 this postseason when he surrenders more than two goals in a game… Of Hershey’s 11 wins this postseason, eight have come after the Bears trailed in the third period and six have come in overtime, tying an AHL record for a single playoff year… Manchester is 0-7 all-time when facing playoff elimination.

Game 5 – Hamilton at Texas, 8:00 (Series tied, 2-2)
Video Webcast: AHL Live
A night after tying up the Western Conference Finals with a 2-1 overtime victory in Game 4, Texas welcomes Hamilton back to Cedar Park Center tonight for the series’ pivotal Game 5… The home team has won each of the first four games, with the Stars rallying from a 2-0 deficit after dropping the first two contests in Hamilton… Stars rookie Jamie Benn played the hero again on Friday, tying the game at 1-1 just 24 seconds into the third period and then scoring the game-winning goal at 5:52 of overtime… Benn, who recorded his fourth multiple-goal performance of the playoffs, now leads the AHL with 13 goals this postseason and ranks second in both points (21) and game-winning goals (4) through 15 outings… Benn is responsible for five of Texas’ 10 total goals through the first four games of this series… Defenseman Andrew Hutchinson earned an assist on Benn’s tying goal in Game 4, and the former Calder Cup champion now has a helper in each of his last three contests (0-5-5)… Warren Peters extended his own scoring streak to three games (2-1-3) with an assist on the overtime game-winner, while Mathieu Beaudoin picked up the other helper on that tally for just his fourth point of the playoffs (2-2-4)… Texas goaltender Matt Climie (3-2, 2.89, .906) turned aside 26 of 27 shots in the winning effort on Friday, helping the Stars improve to 6-1 on home ice this postseason… Hamilton, which is now just 3-5 on the road, has scored first in all four games of this series, while Texas has allowed the game’s first goal in seven straight outings… Hamilton got on the board first on Friday when David Desharnais notched a power play goal midway through the second period… Desharnais, who paces the Bulldogs with 19 points (8-11-19) in 16 games, has now scored six of his eight postseason goals on the man advantage, and he brings a six-game scoring streak (4-5-9) into tonight’s tilt… Brock Trotter assisted on the goal for Hamilton to extend his own scoring streak to five contests (4-4-8)… Bulldogs forward Ryan Russell, who earned the other helper, now has a point in four straight games (2-3-5) and seven of his last eight (4-4-8)… Hamilton goaltender Curtis Sanford (4-2, 1.96, .930), who made his sixth straight start in net, took the loss despite matching his postseason high with 30 saves… The Bulldogs held Texas scoreless on seven power play chances on Friday after the Stars went 3-for-4 on the man advantage in Game 3 Wednesday… In the AHL’s 112 previous best-of-seven series tied at 2-2, the Game 5 victor has won the series 89 times (79.4 percent).


1. Darren Haydar, 135
2. Willie Marshall, 119
3. Jason Krog, 118
4. Jody Gage, 110
5. Fred Glover, 104
6. Alexandre Giroux, 93

1. Darren Haydar, 59
2. Jody Gage, 51
3(t). Willie Marshall, 48
3(t). Fred Glover, 48
5. Alexandre Giroux, 47
6. Brad Smyth, 46
7(t). Jason Krog, 42

1(t). Darren Haydar, 76
1(t). Jason Krog, 76
3. Willie Marshall, 71
4. Mike Nykoluk, 62
5. Domenic Pittis, 61

7(t). Keith Aucoin, 56
7(t). Fred Glover, 56

Games Played
1. Bryan Helmer, 131
2. Ken Gernander, 123
3. Fred Glover, 120
4. Jody Gage, 115

11(t). Alexandre Giroux, 105
Boyd Kane, 105
11(t). Darren Haydar, 105

STARS STICK IT TO BULLDOGS – Austin American-Statesman

He may be a soft-spoken baby face, but Jamie Benn carries a big stick. The reserved 20-year-old who picked up 22 goals in his rookie season with the Dallas Stars continued to make noise with Texas on Friday, netting his league-leading 12th postseason goal before nailing the game-winner in overtime as the Stars pulled out a 2-1 win in Game 4 of the AHL Western Conference Finals.

DOGS UNDER PRESSURE – Hamilton Spectator
The Hamilton Bulldogs and Texas Stars will spend Victoria Day playing hockey. The Stars scored a come-from-behind 2-1 win in overtime over the Bulldogs last night at the Cedar Park Center. Rookie sensation Jamie Benn scored the winner, his second goal of the game, at 5:51 of overtime and that ties up the AHL Western Conference best-of-seven final at 2-2. It guarantees that there will be a Game 6 Monday at 7:30 p.m. at Copps Coliseum.

Hershey Bears captain Bryan Helmer, born in 1972, adjusted his age in the wake of his club’s classic and draining overtime victory in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals. “Forty-nine?” Helmer joked. “Fifty?” The upstart Manchester Monarchs have given top-seeded Hershey a gray-hair-inducing challenge. But a gut-check 3-2 triumph Thursday night in Game 5, a contest in which Manchester was less than a minute from taking the series lead, allowed the Bears to claim the last game of the three played at Verizon Wireless Arena.

MONARCHS STAY UPBEAT FOR GAME 6 – New Hampshire Union-Leader
The task ahead for the Manchester Monarchs is daunting, but not impossible. Manchester trails Hershey, 3-2, in the AHL Eastern Conference finals heading into tonight’s Game 6 in Hershey (7 p.m.). The Monarchs need to win tonight and tomorrow (again in Hershey, 5 p.m.) in order to advance to the Calder Cup championship round.

Leigh-ton … Leigh-ton … Leigh-ton … The Bell Center crowd got louder Thursday night. Leigh-TON … Leigh-TON … Leigh-TON … The taunt grew and grew, coming in waves from the steep third level and spilling into the others below. LEIGH-TON … LEIGH-TON … LEIGH-TON … The rabid, towel-waving Montreal Canadiens fans had come to abuse the Philadelphia Flyers goalie Michael Leighton. In the process, they were paying him the highest of compliments. We’ve got to get inside le dude’s head. Leighton knew it was coming; fans tried the same thing in Boston. He shrugged if off. "They were chanting it after I made a save," he said. "Maybe they liked the save."

The Anaheim Ducks are painting a fresh new face on the Syracuse Crunch by giving control of the team to an AHL coaching rookie. Mark Holick has been named the first head coach of the team in the Ducks-Crunch affiliation era. Holick, 41, was head coach of the Kootenay Ice of the Western Hockey League for the past three seasons and will be making his pro coaching debut when the Crunch’s 17th season begins this fall.

Mark Holick used to have a room full of job rejection letters. He gathered them from teams in the Western Hockey League, the major junior level to which he aspired before landing the head coaching job with the WHL’s Kootenay Ice four years ago. “It got frustrating at times, there’s no doubt,” Holick said. “I’m a coach. I kept trying.” Holick’s leap to the AHL this week was considerably easier. The process didn’t net him one cold-hearted slip of paper. It’s hard to be rejected for something you’re not even overtly seeking.

Several key prospects in the Coyotes organization significantly enhanced their skills in 2009-10 while playing for the team’s top affiliate, the San Antonio Rampage of the American Hockey League. “Ultimately, you want to see consistent development in your younger players throughout the course of the season in the AHL and prepare those players to play in the NHL,” Coyotes Assistant General Manager Brad Treliving said.|PHX|home

2007 AHL All-Star Dustin Byfuglien tallied the game-winning goal 12:24 into overtime as Chicago took a commanding 3-0 series lead in the Western Conference Finals with a 3-2 win over San Jose on Friday… 2005 Calder Cup champion Patrick Sharp also scored for the Blackhawks, and goaltender Antti Niemi stopped 44 of 46 shots between the pipes… 1999 AHL All-Star Dan Boyle registered a pair of assists for the Sharks in the loss.

300 – All-time Calder Cup Playoff wins by the Hershey Bears in their 72-year history… The Bears’ postseason record stands at 300-254 heading into tonight’s Game 6 vs. Manchester.

4 – Teams in AHL history that have won both Game 6 and Game 7 of a series on the road… Manchester is looking to match the feat accomplished by Abbotsford (vs. Rochester) in the first round of this spring’s Calder Cup Playoffs, and previously by the 1983 Maine Mariners (vs. Nova Scotia), the 1996 Portland Pirates (vs. Saint John), and the 2007 Providence Bruins (vs. Hartford).

May 22, 2009 – After Manitoba scores twice in the final 21 seconds of regulation to tie the game, Houston gets a goal from Tony Hrkac at 4:19 of double overtime to stave off elimination with a 4-3 win in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals.

May 22, 2004Jed Ortmeyer’s third-period goal helps Hartford to a 3-2 win over Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and a 2-1 series lead in the Eastern Conference finals.

May 22, 2003 – Jarret Stoll sets an AHL playoff record with a goal just four seconds into the third period, helping Hamilton to an 8-3 win over Binghamton and a berth in the Calder Cup Finals… Marc Cavosie scores twice as Houston wins the Western Conference title with a 2-1 win in Game 7 at Grand Rapids.

May 22, 2002 – Raffi Torres breaks a scoreless tie with 1:27 left in regulation and Rick DiPietro posts the fifth Game 7 shutout in AHL history as Bridgeport advances to the Calder Cup Finals with a 3-0 win over Hamilton.

May 22, 1998 – Mike Maneluk (3g, 1a) and Jim Montgomery (1g, 4a) lead Philadelphia to a 7-3 win over Albany and a 3-1 lead in their conference final series.

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