North rallies for thrilling All-Star Challenge title

Photo: Lindsay A. Mogle/AHL

UTICA, N.Y. … Rochester Americans rookie C.J. Smith scored the only goal of the championship game as the North Division captured the 2018 AHL All-Star Challenge title with a 1-0 win over the Pacific Division at the Adirondack Bank Center at the Utica Memorial Auditorium on Monday night.

The AHL All-Star Challenge is a round-robin tournament among the league’s four divisions, played at 3-on-3. The first six games are 10 minutes in length, followed by the six-minute championship final.

Down by three goals with less than three minutes remaining in the final preliminary contest, the North Division rallied for a 4-3 victory over the Atlantic Division to earn a berth in the championship.

Smith finished the night with three goals and two assists, earning 2018 AHL All-Star Challenge Most Valuable Player honors. Syracuse Crunch rookie Mitchell Stephens chipped in two goals and three assists, Belleville Senators forward Gabriel Gagne tallied a goal and three assists and Utica Comets forward Reid Boucher scored three times on the night for the North Division, which was also led by the goaltending of Rochester’s Linus Ullmark and Utica’s Thatcher Demko.

The Pacific Division was paced offensively by Tucson Roadrunners rookies Nick Merkley (2g, 5a) and Kyle Capobianco (3g, 3a), while Stockton’s Rasmus Andersson and San Antonio’s Rocco Grimaldi notched five points apiece.

Charlotte’s Valentin Zykov tallied five assists while Checkers teammate Warren Foegele and Hershey’s Chris Bourque each recorded four points for the Atlantic Division. Grand Rapids’ Matt Lorito, Chicago’s T.J. Tynan and Rockford’s Carl Dahlstrom tallied three points each for the Central Division.

The road to the 2018 Calder Cup Playoffs continues when the American Hockey League’s 82nd season resumes on Thursday.

2018 AHL All-Star Challenge Results
Game 1 – Pacific Division 5, North Division 3
Game 2 – Atlantic Division 5, Central Division 2
Game 3 – North Division 4, Central Division 2
Game 4 – Pacific Division 4, Atlantic Division 3
Game 5 – Pacific Division 4, Central Division 3
Game 6 – North Division 4, Atlantic Division 3
Championship – North Division 1, Pacific Division 0