Morning Skate: Western Finals set to begin

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 1 – HERSHEY 4, Manchester 2 (HER leads series, 1-0)

1. Steve Pinizzotto tallied the eventual game-winning goal as Hershey defeated Manchester, 4-2, in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

2. Bears goaltender Michal Neuvirth stopped 24 of 26 shots between the pipes, helping Hershey to their sixth consecutive victory.

3. Chris Bourque registered an assist and five shots on goal for Hershey in the winning effort.

Game 1 – Texas at Hamilton, 7:30

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 – Manchester at Hershey, 7:00
Game 3 – Mon., May 17 – Hershey at Manchester, 7:00
Game 4 – Tue., May 18 – Hershey at Manchester, 7:00
*Game 5 – Thu., May 20 – Hershey at Manchester, 7:00
*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 – Texas at Hamilton, 7:30
Game 2 – Sun., May 16 – Texas at Hamilton, 2:00
Game 3 – Wed., May 19 – Hamilton at Texas, 8:30
Game 4 – Fri., May 21 – Hamilton at Texas, 8:30
*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 1 – Texas at Hamilton, 7:30
Video Webcast: AHL Live
TV: Cable 14 Hamilton

Hamilton and Texas are set to kick off the Western Conference Finals tonight at Copps Coliseum… The Bulldogs are in the conference finals for the fourth time in nine years and the fifth time in the franchise’s 14-year history; they advanced to the Calder Cup Finals in 1997, 2003 and 2007… The Stars are the first team since the 2002-03 Binghamton Senators to make the conference finals in their inaugural season… Texas is coming off a thrilling 6-5 overtime win at Chicago on Tuesday, the AHL’s first Game 7 OT since Hershey beat Portland in the 2006 Eastern Conference Finals… Rookie Jamie Benn tallied the game-winning goal for the Stars on Tuesday and enters this round atop Texas’ scoring list and tied for fifth in the AHL with 15 points (8-7-15) in 11 postseason contests… Benn has already recorded a five-point (3-2-5) and a four-point (2-2-4) effort in games during these playoffs after no member of the Stars registered as many as four points in a game during the regular season… Defenseman Maxime Fortunus, who had totaled 1-3-4 through his first 10 playoff outings, put up a goal and two assists in the series-clincher over Chicago… Rookie Travis Morin sits second on the Stars with 11 points (3-8-11) overall, while defenseman and former Calder Cup and Stanley Cup champion Andrew Hutchinson is third with 4-5-9… In his first start of the playoffs, Stars goaltender Matt Climie made 24 saves in the Game 7 victory… Hamilton enters this round following a six-game victory over Abbotsford in the North Division Finals… Aaron Palushaj tallied a goal and two assists in the series-clinching 4-0 win on Monday, his second three-point effort of the postseason… David Desharnais leads the Bulldogs with 13 points (6-7-13) in 12 games and has found the scoresheet in 10 of those 12 contests… Hamilton forward Mike Glumac shows a team-high eight goals (8-2-10) and is tied with Brock Trotter (5-5-10) for third on the team with 10 points… Goaltender Curtis Sanford went 2-0 (1.00, .968) with one shutout in the last two games of the Abbotsford series after Second Team AHL All-Star Cedrick Desjardins (6-4, 2.62, .902) had started each of the Bulldogs’ first 10 playoff games… Texas is 2-0 in Game 1’s this spring; Hamilton is 1-1.


1. Darren Haydar, 135
2. Willie Marshall, 119
3. Jason Krog, 118
4. Jody Gage, 110
5. Fred Glover, 104
6. Bob Solinger, 92
7(t). Alexandre Giroux, 91

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

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

Games Played
1. Bryan Helmer, 127
2. Ken Gernander, 123
3. Fred Glover, 120
4. Jody Gage, 115

14(t). Alexandre Giroux, 101
Boyd Kane, 101


If the AHL’s Western Conference final between the Hamilton Bulldogs and Texas Stars, which opens tonight at Copps Coliseum, is anything but a low-scoring affair, you can count both team’s coaches among those who will be shocked. “We’re hoping to play tight defense and I’m sure they’re hoping the same thing, and I think that’s the way it’s going to be,” said Texas coach Glen Gulutzan. “It’s going to be the team that plays closest to their identity that’s going to come out of here.”

The greatest thing about the Texas Stars’ season, as far as coach Glen Gulutzan is concerned, is the teamwork. Yes, Brent Krahn has had an amazing run in goal. Yes, Jamie Benn has added a monster presence in the playoffs after playing 82 games in the NHL this season. But for the Stars to get through a seven-game series with the Chicago Wolves, it took a lot of effort from a lot of people.

The Hamilton Bulldogs are entering the next round of the American Hockey League playoffs still missing some key players who are currently enjoying the Montreal Canadiens post-season run. But the Bulldogs are doing just fine without them. As the puck drops in the Western Conference final Friday night at Copps Coliseum, several players who were instrumental in their regular season success will not be in the lineup.

P.K. Subban’s old teammates are not surprised by how well the 21-year-old is playing. And they’re not bitter either. The 6-foot, 206-pound defenseman added a spark to Montreal’s injury depleted blue line while helping the club upset the Capitals and then the Pittsburgh Penguins. Subban has logged a lot of ice time (more than 20 minutes per game) and chipped in offensively for the Canadiens while becoming a fan favorite at the Bell Centre.

BEARS HAVE WON GAME 1 IN EACH ROUND – Harrisburg Patriot-News
Having home-ice advantage through the entire playoffs is obviously a plus for the Hershey Bears. But it does place an added onus on Games 1 and 2, particularly in a series that has a 2-3-2 format like the Eastern Conference finals against the Manchester Monarchs. “I think we feel it,” Bears head coach Mark French said Thursday. “I think we feel a sense of urgency with Game 1 to maintain that home-ice advantage.”

MONARCHS HOPE TO REBOUND – New Hampshire Union Leader
Just 16 seconds into the Eastern Conference Finals, things were suddenly even more difficult for the Manchester Monarchs. It’s bad enough that Manchester had to open the best-of-seven series on Wednesday night against well-rested defending champion Hershey in front of nearly 8,000 amped-up fans. But Sean Collins’ goal 16 seconds into play boosted the Bears to an eventual 4-2 win and 1-0 series lead.

Michael Leighton is finally getting his chance to shine in the playoff limelight. And the former Albany River Rats goalie has seized the moment for the Philadelphia Flyers. Stepping in for the injured Brian Boucher after not having played for two months because of injury, Leighton has helped energize the Flyers’ comeback bid in their Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Boston Bruins.

Aaron Palushaj was a forward on the rise for the Hamilton Bulldogs near the end of the regular season, and he had a vision of where he was going to peak on the night of May 10. That’s when the Bulldogs hosted Abbotsford in Game 6 of the North Division finals. Palushaj approached linemate David Desharnais and shared his sense of the way things were going to unfold.

The American League and its swift-moving playoff bracket is already into the conference finals, with Wednesday night marking the end of a long lay-off for the powerhouse Hershey Bears. The Bears end a 12-day respite on home ice when they meet the Manchester Monarchs in a repeat of the 2007 conference final matchup that was won by the Bears.

In Wednesday’s Stanley Cup Playoff action, Brian Gionta scored twice and 2005 AHL All-Star Mike Cammalleri added a goal as Montreal eliminated defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh with a 5-2 win in Game 7 of their Eastern Conference semifinal… 2005 Calder Cup champion Mike Richards and 1998 AHL Rookie of the Year Daniel Briere each tallied a goal, and 2008 Baz Bastien Award winner Michael Leighton made 30 saves in his first NHL playoff start, helping Philadelphia force Game 7 with a 2-1 win over Boston.

Artem Anisimov registered a goal and Semyon Varlamov made 19 saves as Russia captured a 3-1 win over Belarus on Thursday at the IIHF World Championships in Germany… Patrick Thoresen recorded a goal and an assist to help Norway past France, 5-1… Tomas Tatar, who spent the 2009-10 season in the AHL with Grand Rapids, scored a goal as Slovakia rolled past Kazakhstan, 5-1.

1-2-3-4 – Regular-season AHL rank of the four division winners in team offense (Hershey 4.28 gpg, Worcester 3.44, Hamilton 3.39, Chicago 3.30).

1-2-3-4 – Regular-season AHL rank of the four conference finalists in team defense (Hamilton 2.28 gpg, Texas 2.48, Hershey 2.48, Manchester 2.50).

3 – 2010 division finals series that ended on an overtime goal… Hershey (Mathieu Perreault), Manchester (Viatcheslav Voynov) and Texas (Jamie Benn) all advanced to the conference finals on series-clinchers in OT.

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, 2006Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau scores 3:06 into overtime as Portland advances to the Eastern Conference Finals with a 5-4 win over Hartford in Game 6.

May 14, 2004
Mathieu Darche scores at 15:54 of the second OT, sending Milwaukee to the Western Conference championship series with a 4-3 win at Chicago.

May 14, 1996Scott Walker records a goal and two assists as Syracuse reaches the Western Conference Finals with a 5-4 victory in Game 7 at Baltimore.

May 14, 1993 – Rochester scores six goals in the third period and staves off elimination with a 7-5 win over Binghamton in Game 6.

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