CHARLOTTE 5, HERSHEY 4
2011 AHL All-Rookie forward Zac Dalpe scored a goal and assisted on two others, continuing his postseason dominance over Hershey as Charlotte rallied for a 5-4 road win over the Bears in Game 1 of the East Division semifinal on Thursday at the Giant Center.
Dalpe, who put up 57 points (23-34-57) in 61 regular-season games for the Checkers this season, had registered three goals and three assists in four playoff outings against Hershey last postseason with the Albany River Rats, the Carolina Hurricanes’ former AHL affiliate.
The 21-year-old picked up where he left off in this one. After Steve Pinizzotto staked Hershey to a 1-0 lead 1:10 after the opening face-off, Dalpe struck for an unassisted goal at the 3:58 mark to pull the Checkers even.
Charlotte would take leads of 2-1 and 3-2 on strikes by Chris Terry and Brett Bellemore, but Hershey came back on each occasion and then grabbed a 4-3 lead of its own when Brian Willsie buried a goal less than two minutes into the third frame.
Former first-round draft pick Zach Boychuk tied it back up at 8:40 off a feed from Dalpe, and Drayson Bowman – who played 23 NHL games with Carolina this season – notched the eventual game-winning goal at 10:38. Jon Matsumoto and Bellemore earned the helpers on Bowman’s tally.
The two-time defending Calder Cup champion Bears will host Game 2 of the series on Sunday at 5:00 ET.
PORTLAND 3, CONNECTICUT 2
Portland struck for three goals in less than three minutes during the first period and then held on for a 3-2 win over visiting Connecticut on Thursday in the opener of the teams’ Atlantic Division semifinal at the Cumberland County Civic Center.
After Connecticut’s Derek Couture was whistled for goaltender interference 12:05 into the contest, AHL rookie of the year Luke Adam buried his first career postseason goal on the ensuing power play at 13:47, with Paul Byron and first-year defenseman T.J. Brennan earning helpers.
Only 58 seconds later, fellow rookie Corey Tropp made it a 2-0 game off a feed from Mark Voakes, and less than two minutes after that, Colin Stuart beat Whale goaltender Dov Grumet-Morris for a 3-0 advantage. Voakes also earned an assist on that marker.
Connecticut chipped away at the deficit, as Blake Parlett connected early in the second period and Dale Weise midway through the third, but the Whale were unable to get the equalizer and dropped their fifth consecutive Calder Cup Playoff game dating back to 2009.
Portland goaltender David Leggio stopped 23 of 25 shots in net to earn his first career AHL postseason victory, helping the Pirates halt an eight-game playoff losing skid of their own.
Game 2 of the series is set for Saturday night in Portland.
MANCHESTER 2, BINGHAMTON 1
Manchester scored once apiece in the second and third periods and eked out a 2-1 win over visiting Binghamton in Game 1 of the teams’ Atlantic Division semifinal on Thursday night.
Monarchs forward David Kolomatis netted the game-winning goal on the power play with just 3:35 left in regulation. Binghamton’s Ryan Potulny notched a 6-on-5 marker with the goaltender pulled in the closing minute, but the Senators could not tie it.
The game was scoreless through the opening 20 minutes, but Manchester’s Corey Elkins put his club on the board 2:19 into the second period with his fourth career playoff goal. Jordan Nolan earned the lone assist on the play.
Manchester goaltender Jeff Zatkoff saw his shutout bid go by the boards as a result of the late goal by Potulny, but Zatkoff still preserved the victory with 34 saves on 35 shots between the pipes.
The teams will get right back at it for Game 2 of the series on Friday night.
HAMILTON 5, OKLAHOMA CITY 2
Top sniper Nigel Dawes tallied a power play goal less than two minutes into the game, Hamilton scored twice more before the first period was out, and the Bulldogs cruised to a 5-2 win over Oklahoma City in Game 1 of the teams’ North Division semifinal on Thursday.
Barons defenseman Kevin Montgomery was sent off for interference only 46 seconds after the opening face-off, and Dawes converted 52 seconds later for his first goal of the playoffs after ranking second in the AHL with 41 regular-season markers.
Olivier Fortier and Ryan Russell also tallied first-period goals for the Bulldogs, while Aaron Palushaj and defenseman Joe Stejskal padded the advantage with scores in the second and third period, respectively.
Stejskal, coming off a four-year career at Dartmouth College, scored his first professional goal.
Game 2 of the series will be on Saturday afternoon in Hamilton.
MILWAUKEE 5, TEXAS 2
Chris Mueller and rookie Gabriel Bourque combined for nine points and a plus-8 rating as Milwaukee opened its West Division semifinal with a 5-2 win over visiting Rockford on Thursday at the Bradley Center.
Bourque racked up two goals and three assists for the Admirals, while Mueller also scored twice and added a pair of helpers. Ryan Thang potted the eventual game-winning goal and was plus-3 on the night, and rookie defenseman Roman Josi (0-1-1) also posted a plus-1 rating.
Admirals rookie goaltender Jeremy Smith made 22 saves on 24 shots to earn the victory in his AHL playoff debut.
Stars forward Aaron Gagnon started the night’s scoring on the power play midway through the first period, and after Milwaukee stormed to a 4-1 advantage, Mathieu Tousignant buried a third-period marker.
The Stars will look to pull even when the series resumes with Game 2 on Saturday in Milwaukee.