The American Hockey League presented their All-Star Skills Competition earlier tonight from the Massmutual Center in Springfield, Massachusetts with the Western Conference coming away with the victory 17-14 over seven events. The Binghamton Devils were represented by goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood and forward John Quenneville.
The first event of the evening was the Puck Control Relays as players skated a puck through cones set out on the ice. The first two races were team-based while the final two were one-on-one between two skaters.
First up, the Western Conference team of Jordan Kyrou (San Antonio Rampage), Sheldon Rempal (Ontario Reign) and Kyle Capobianco (Tucson Roadrunners) faced off with the Eastern Conference’s Drake Batherson (Belleville Senators), Sebastian Aho (Bridgeport Sound Tigers) and Christian Wolanin (Belleville – he is the son of former Devil Craig Wolanin). The West was awarded a goal on this one, winning the heat.
The East took the second race, with Andrew Poturalski (Charlotte Checkers), Ethan Prow (Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins) and Trevor Moore (Toronto Marlies) defeating the West’s Francis Perron (San Jose Barracuda), Cooper Marody (Bakersfield Condors) and Andrew Agozzino (Colorado Eagles).
The next two heats were one-on-one with the East taking both. Nathan Gerbe (Cleveland Monsters) defeated Erik Brannstrom (Chicago Wolves) in Race #3 and Anthony Greco (Springfield Thunderbirds) beat Cal O’Reilly (Iowa Wild) in Race #4.
The East had taken three of the first four goals and were up 3-1 after one event. Next up was the Fastest Skater, with two goals on the line (player with the fastest time and fastest average time for the team).
The East took the fastest individual skater, as Greco won in a AHL-record time of 13.251. However, the West took the best average time as Sean Walker of Ontario recorded a time of 14.057, Denis Gurlanov of the Texas Stars completed the course in 13.703 and Kyrou got a time of 13.520. Brendan Guhle (Rochester Americans) with 13.648 and John Gilmour (Hartford Wolf Pack) with 14.428 rounded out the East’s times.
The East was up 4-2 heading into the Rapid Fire event. The object here was for two shooters to fire ten pucks (five for each shooter) at a goalie and score as many as they could.
The first goalie up was Josef Korenar (San Jose) who faced the Lehigh Valley Phantoms’ Colin McDonald and Charlotte’s Trevor Carrick. He stopped six of ten. Blackwood was up first for the East, facing Curtis Lazar (Stockton Heat) and Daniel Carr (Chicago). He stopped four of ten. Iowa’s Kaapo Kahkonen took the net from there, facing former Devil Reid Boucher of the Utica Comets and Jordan Szwarz of the Providence Bruins. He made eight saves. Vitek Vanecek (Hershey Bears) faced Joel L’Esperance (Texas) and Chris Terry (Grand Rapids Griffins), making six saves. Kevin Boyle of the San Diego Gulls was next, stopping six against the Syracuse Crunch’s Cory Conacher and Alex Belzile of the Laval Rocket. Connor Ingram of Syracuse faced Logan Shaw of the Manitoba Moose and Michael Bunting of Tucson and stopped four shots. Troy Grosenick of the Milwaukee Adirmals stepped into the shooting gallery, making eight saves against Michael Dal Colle of Bridgeport and Calle Rosen of Toronto. And finally was Sam Montembeault of the hometown Thunderbirds who stopped six of Joe Gambardella (Bakersfield) and Rempal’s shots.
After all of that, the West took home a point, having scored 28 goals to the East’s 20. This set us up for the Hardest Shot contest next.
Greg Carey of Lehigh Valley won this one with a best shot of 100.4 MPH. Again, the player whose team wins gets a goal as well as the team with the highest averge speed. The East won both as Quenneville nailed a 98.1, Guhle hit 99.4 and Carrick hit 99.4. The West had Andrew Campbell of the Rockford IceHogs (99.5 MPH), Matt Donovan of Milwaukee (96.0), Lazar (92.9) and Jacob Middleton of San Jose (96.4). It was now 6-3 in the total score in favor of the East.
The Accuracy Shooting event was next with teams earning a point for the player with the fewest attempts to break all four targets as well as the most hit targets in the fewest attempts. Individaully, Perron (4-for-6) and Boucher (4-for-6) tied to earn a point for both the East and the West. The East won the overall event, hitting 12 targets in just 19 attempts total. Poturalski was 4-for-7, Moore was 2-for-8 and Prow was 2-for-8. For the West, Carr was 3-for-8, L’Esperance was 2-for-8 and Terry was 3-for-8.
With the East up 8-4 and only two events to go, the West needed to kick things into high gear to pull out a win. Next up was the pass and score, which saw players breaking in on 3-on-0’s on the goaltender and trying to score as much as they could in three attempts.
Blackwood went first, facing O’Reilly, Agozzino and Capobianco. He blanked them on all three attempts. Korenar faced Batherson, Aho and Gerbe and made a single save. But those two goals were the only ones the East would record in this event. Vanecek let in two against Brannstrom, Marody and Walker and Kahkonen shut the door on Wolanin, Gilmour and Dal Colle. Ingram also shut out Gurianov, Bunting and Gambardella while Conacher, Szwarz and Rosen failed to score on Boyle. The West’s shooters of Donovan, Middleton and Shaw got one through on Montembeault to put the West up 3-2 and Grosenick shut the door in the final round on McDonald, Carey and Quenneville to give the West the 3-2 win. Since each individual goal scored in this event counted for a total point, the East was now up 10-7.
The final event was the Breakaway Relay. Here too, each individual goal scored counted. Mackenzie Blackwood made three saves on five shots as he faced Kyrou (who scored), Lazar (save), L’Esperance (goal), Rempal (save) and Perron (save). Vanecek made two saves in the third round for the East, Ingram made two in round five and Montembeault made two saves in round seven. For the West, Korenar made four saves in round two and Kahkonen pitched a shutout in round four. Round six featured Boyle in net and John Quenneville shooting. Quenneville’s shot was saved and Boyle made two saves. Finally, in round eight, Grosenick made four saves against the East to put the West on top 10-4.
With that, the West pulled in front on the big board with 17 goals to the East’s four. And that was it. The AHL All-Star Classic is tomorrow night on the NHL Network. The Devils are playing and I will, of course, have that here. But I am recording the AHL game and should have a recap of that up (with info on how Quenneville and Blackwood do) on Tuesday night.