North Division Wins AHL All-Star Classic as Batherson Takes Home MVP Honors

The AHL’s All-Star Challenge took place at the MassMutual Center in Springfield, Massachusetts yesterday. It was a homecoming of sorts for the AHL as they have their headquarters in the city. The All-Stars each put forth a good showing with the North Division (featuring the Binghamton Devils’ John Quenneville and Mackenzie Blackwood) taking it all in the tournament between divisions. It was the North’s second straight victory as they also took the tournament last year.

First up was the round robin. Here games were ten minutes (with a break and goalie change at five minutes) and saw each division play each other once. At the end of the round robin, the teams with the best record met in a six minute championship game.

The first game featured the Central Division taking on the Atlantic Division. The Atlantic took this one 3-1. The Atlantic got goals from Colin McDonald (the Atlantic captain), Trevor Carrick and John Gilmour (who scored into an empty net). Denis Gurianov scored for the Central and he actually scored first in the game to give the Central a quick 1-0 lead that would not last. In goal in this game, Troy Grosenick started for the Central and stopped all six shots he saw. Kaapo Kahkonen then came in and also faced six shots, letting in two. For the Atlantic, Vitek Vanecek stopped all four he saw and Samuel Montembeault – the starter – turned aside two of three.

The next game was another East-West matchup as the Pacific All-Stars faced the North All-Stars. The Pacific won this one 4-2, getting on the board first when Joe Gambardella scored. In the second “half” Sheldon Rempal gave the Pacific a 2-0 lead. The North would tie things up when Drake Batherson (who would go on to be named the game’s Most Valuable Player for his performance) scored a pair in the second but the Pacific would fight back for the win. Sean Walker scored the game winner followed by Cooper Marody into an empty net. The goaltenders were busy in this one, Kevin Boyle, starting for the Pacific stopped all four shots he saw while Josef Korenar saw 11 shots and saved nine of them. For the North, Blackwood got the save and saw two shots, stopping one of them. Connor Ingram came on in the second and saved five of seven.

The North stayed on the ice as they took on the Central Division next. The North came out victorious 4-2. John Quenneville had a good game in this one, scoring the opener in the first unassisted. Joel L’Esperance tied it early in the second but Batherson put the North back up when he scored off an assist from Quenneville. But again, the Central tied it when Daniel Carr scored a little over a minute later. The North finally took the lead for good when Reid Boucher scored the game winner. Batherson would add an empty net goal to give the North the win. In nets, Grosenick stopped six of eight while the starter, Kahkonen stopped three of four for the Central. For the North, starter Ingram stopped all three he saw while Blackwood had four saves on six shots.

It was a cross-continent matchup in the next game as the Pacific took on the Atlantic. The Atlantic took this one 5-2, taking an early lead in the first when Gilmour and Ethan Prow scored with a Pacific goal by Francis Perron sandwiched in between. In the second, Gilmour, Andrew Poturalski and Michael Dal Colle scored for the Atlantic while Walker added a late one for the Pacific. The goalies were Korenar starting for the Pacific and making three saves on five shots. Kevin Boyle came in for him and stopped one in four shots taken. For the Atlantic, Vanecek stopped four of five while Montembeault came in and made eight saves on nine shots.

An all-Western Conference battle ensued next with the Central taking on the Pacific. The Central won 5-3. The Pacific took the early lead when Michael Bunting scored just 28 seconds in. Near the closing of the second, Gurianov tied the game at one. The Central took control in the second when Matt Donovan notched two with 20 seconds of each other. Jacob Middleton of the Pacific scored before the Central scored two more: Chris Terry at 4:04 and Daniel Carr into an empty net at 4:33. Walker scored one with less than 15 seconds remaining for the Pacific. Grosenick made seven saves on eight shots while Kahkonen made ten saves on twelve shots for the Central All-Stars. For the Pacific, Boyle made three saves on four shots while Korenar stopped three of six.

Following an all-West game, the East took center stage. The North faced the Atlantic and won 4-1. Nathan Gerbe and Boucher got the North up by two early. Gerbe would score again in the second while Greg Carey notched the only Atlantic goal a few seconds after that. Batherson finished things off to give the North the victory. Blackwood started for the North and turned aside the only shot he saw. Ingram came on in the second and stopped four of five in the winning effort. For the Atlantic, hometown boy Montembeault stopped seven of nine while Vanecek, coming on in the second, made four saves on five shots.

With that, round robin play came to an end and the championship game was set. The Atlantic at 2-1 would take on the North also at 2-1. This game was just six minutes long and saw the North win 1-0 in a shootout. When the game finished with no score, it was up to Blackwood and Vanecek to take on shooters one-on-one in a shootout.

Boucher went first for the North with Vanecek stopping him. Anthony Greco was first up for the Atlantic and he was also stopped. Batherson (North) and Dal Colle (Atlantic) went next and both scored. Gerbe (North) and Poturalski (Atlantic) were stopped in the next round and we were on to round four. Trevor Moore scored on his attempt for the North Division and Carey was stopped by Blackwood on his try to give the North the 1-0 win. In the game itself, Blackwood stopped all three shots he saw and Vanecek stopped all six he saw.

So with that another All-Star game comes to an end. The Devils (both the NHL and AHL versions) fared well, with both of their divisions winning their respective games and their players contributing.

We will see you right here for Devils-Rangers coverage on Thursday. Again, if you wish, please remember to comment on this and any other post on the site. We really appreciate it.

West Wins AHL All-Star Skills Competition

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.

Binghamton Devils Reveal Training Camp Roster

The Binghamton Devils’ training camp began today at the Floyd L. Maines Veterans Memorial Arena in Binghamton and they have 22 players attending. The breakdown is 12 forwards, eight defensemen and two goaltenders according to the Binghamton website.

Among the players attending were the five placed on waivers on Sunday. They all cleared waivers and were sent to Binghamton. They include forwards Blake Pietila, Kurtis Gabriel and Eric Tangradi and defensemen John Ramage and Brian Strait.

The other players attending camp are forwards Ryan Schmelzer, Brandon Baddock, Mike Szmatula, Blake Speers, John Edwardh, Yegor Sharangovich, Brian Ward, Brandon Gignac and Nathan Bastian.

The blueliners attending are: Tariq Hammond, Jake Linhart, Colby Sissons, Colton White, Josh Jacobs and Michael Kapla.

The goaltenders are Colton Phinney and Cam Johnson.

In addition, the B-Devils announced their promos schedule. These include theme nights like Opening Night, Boxing Day, New Year’s Eve as well as Miracles on Ice, Military Appreciation Night, Teddy Bear Toss, Star Wars Night, Princess Night and Superhero Night among others. They will be giving away magnetic schedules on opening night against the Toronto Marlies.

They will also have other giveaway nights and free post-game skates with the players on October 27, January 5, February 2 and March 30. On Wednesday nights, they will be having $1 hot dogs and $4 Budweisers. They will also be offering $5 “Student Rush Nights” four times this year. Those will be available for all those “with a valid high school, technical school or college student ID.”

Binghamton Devils Name New Assistant Coach

The Binghamton Devils have named a new assistant coach to Mark Dennehy’s staff.

Ryan Parent will join the American Hockey League club along with fellow assistant Sergei Brylin to finalize Binghamton’s coaching staff for 2018-19.

Parent, 31-years-old, was a first round pick of the Nashville Predators in 2005, going 18th overall that year according to the Devils’ press release. He played in the NHL over 106 games between 2006-07 and 2010-11 with the Vancouver Canucks and Philadelphia Flyers, the majority with Philly. He totaled one goal and six assists for seven career NHL points. The former blueliner also played in 27 Stanley Cup Playoff games.

The AHL was where he made his bones. He played in 251 American League contests with the Philadelphia Phantoms, Manitoba Moose, Chicago Wolves, Milwaukee Admirals and Norfolk Admirals between 2006-07 and 2012-13. The press release mentions that he last played in 2015-16 with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.

In the AHL, he totaled four goals, 24 assists for 28 points and 261 penalty minutes. He appeared in 31 Calder Cup Playoff contests.

Prior to his pro career, Parent won gold medals at the 2006 and 2007 World Juniors with Canada. The native of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan played for the Guelph Storm of the Ontario Hockey League where he won an OHL championship in 2003-04 according to the press release.

His prior coaching experience comes during his playing career. He was head coach and general manager of the Lloydminster Bobcats of the AJHL in 2012-13 (Ty Smith’s hometown team) and head coach of the Vernon Vipers of the BCHL in 2011-12.

New Jersey assistant GM/Binghamton GM Tom Fitzgerald had this to say about Parent: “Ryan’s playing career will provide invaluable experience as he takes the next step to transition to coaching. He will be able to relate to all the players he will have to coach at this level – draft picks looking to establish themselves, young players looking to learn good habits and players who know what it takes to make it to the NHL.”

Binghamton Names New Head Coach

With the promotion of Binghamton Devils head coach Rick Kowalsky to the New Jersey Devils assistant position, the AHL club was looking for a new bench boss. And it did not take them too long. Mark Dennehy, former Merrimack College coach, was named to the position yesterday.

Dennehy had taken a job with the ECHL’s Wheeling Nailers (Pittsburgh’s affiliate) earlier this off season, but did decide to accept the Devils job when offered. The AHL is a higher level of hockey than the ECHL, so that might have factored into the decision.

New Jersey assistant GM and Binghamton GM Tom Fitzgerald thanked “Jim Rutherford, Bill Guerin, the Penguins’ organization and the Wheeling Nailers ownership group for the opportunity to speak with Mark on this position.”

Dennehy, according to the Binghamton press release, is 50 years old and coached at Merrimack for 13 seasons. He earned 161 wins with the Warriors with 2010-11 being his most successful season. They notched 25 wins that season and made it “to the Hockey East Final and the NCAA Regionals.” Dennehy also won the Bob Kullen Coach of the Year Award as Hockey East’s best that season. The press release also mentioned that he coached Devils prospect Brett Seney while at Merrimack.

The Dorchester, Massachusetts native played four years at Boston College from 1987 to 1991 as a defenseman and then played professionally one year with the Ayr Raiders of the British Hockey League in 1991-92. Following his playing career, he coached at UMass-Amherst as an assistant in 1995-96 and again from 2000 to 2005. In between, He spent two seasons at Princeton University from 1997-98 to 1998-99 as an assistant and then took a head coaching job at Fairfield University for a year in 1999-2000. He began his head coaching duties at Merrimack in 2005-06. He was relieved of his coaching duties following this past season.

He will next head to Slovakia this week as coach of Team USA Under-17 Select Team at the Five Nations Tournament according to the press release.

Fitzgerald said: “Mark has spent considerable time building, coaching and recruiting in one of college hockey’s most competitive conferences. His experience will help him connect with players coming from the collegiate and junior hockey levels. Mark is extremely excited for a new challenge and to take the next step in his coaching career.”

Binghamton Devils Edged By Phantoms in AHL Action

The NHL Network today aired a special American Hockey League game featuring the Binghamton Devils at the Lehigh Valley Phantoms (the AHL affiliate of the Philadelphia Flyers). The Devils fell by a score of 5-3 at the PPL Center in Allentown, Pennsylvania. I figured I would give a little bit of a recap here on the blog since it was Devils related.

The game was a lot closer than the score looked, as the Phantoms took a 4-3 lead with just under a minute left in the game and then added an empty netter to top things off.

Lehigh Valley got the scoring kicked off when Cole Bardreau scored at 3:19 into the first period with assists to James de Haas and Radel Fazleev. Nick Lappin tied things up from Steven Santini and Kevin Rooney at 6:08. That made it 1-1 going into the first intermission.

That first period was played penalty free, which would not be the case later in the game, as both teams beat a path to the penalty box throughout the final two periods. The thing was, both team’s power play units would respond and put the puck in the net when they had to.

It started when Philippe Myers took a tripping call at 7:42 of the second. John Quenneville converted on that one at 9:41 from Jacob MacDonald and Christoph Bertschy. That was Quenneville’s eleventh AHL goal of the year and put Binghamton up 2-1.

The Devils, however, would take a penalty when Jan Mandat went off for tripping at 10:10. Three seconds into that penalty kill, Josh Jacobs of the Devils would go off for high sticking, giving Lehigh Valley a 5-on-3 man advantage.

Will O’Neill of the Phantoms would oblige on that one, scoring from Myers and Danick Martel at 11:56. The game was now tied up at two and that is where it would stand going into the second break.

A rare, at this point, even strength goal was scored 8:02 into the third period when Lehigh Valley’s Mikhail Vorobyev notched his eighth of the year from Reece Willcox and Nicolas Aube-Kubel to put the Phantoms up 3-2.

But this game was so back-and-forth that things would not remain that way for very long. At 13:07, Aube-Kubel was called for boarding, putting the Devils on the power play. Lappin would score his second of the game on the ensuing man advantage, getting assists from MacDonald and Bertschy and tying things at three.

That was where it would stay until, with 59 seconds left in the game, and things seemingly headed to overtime, Mike Vecchione was the hero for Lehigh Valley. He scored from Colin McDonald and Willcox to put the Phantoms up 4-3.

That goal was reviewed to see if the puck was kicked in by Vecchione, but the replay confirmed the call on the ice: it was a good goal. Lehigh Valley had the lead and the Devils quickly pulled their goaltender, Eddie Lack, for the extra attacker with about 45 seconds left in the contest.

The Phantoms added an empty net goal from Phil Varone (assists to McDonald and Bardreau) at 19:53 and that was all she wrote at 5-3.

Binghamton got good goaltending from Lack, as he made 23 saves on 27 shots against. Lehigh Valley also had the empty netter, making their shot total 28 for the game. The Phantoms’ Dustin Tokarski made 23 saves on 26 shots.

On the power play, the Devils were a perfect 2-for-2 while Lehigh Valley was 1-for-4.

Lappin, with his two goals and four shots on goal (which led Binghamton) was awarded the second star of the game. Jacob MacDonald of the Devils also had two points (both assists), as did Christoph Bertschy.

This game was a battle of two teams going in two different directions. Lehigh Valley is looking for their magic number to clinch a Calder Cup Playoff berth while Binghamton has been struggling in their first season in their new surroundings. They relocated this past offseason from Albany to Binghamton, where they replaced the Binghamton Senators – who moved to Belleville, Ontario.

The Devils are in sixth place in the seven team North Division while the Phantoms stand at first place overall in the Atlantic Division. The Phantoms actually have more points than the Eastern Conference-leading Toronto Marlies, but Toronto has four games in hand and has already clinched a playoff spot in the North Division despite that.

North Division Wins AHL All-Star Classic on Home Ice

The North Division was down and out in the AHL All-Star Classic until a comeback and an improbable win in the final set them up to win the round robin formatted mini tournament.

The format is similar to the NHL’s in that it is three-on-three and is contested between the league’s four divisions. However, the AHL does things a little bit differently. Each division plays each other at least once in a round robin-style tournament with the two teams with the best record facing off in the final. The Binghamton Devils play in the North Division.

The pregame ceremonies involved a former Devil in a prominent role. Scott Pellerin, who was drafted by the Devils in 1989 and played 52 games for New Jersey between 1992-93 and 1995-96 and played in Utica for the AHL’s Utica Devils in the early-90s, was the honorary captain for the Eastern Conference. In addition, Binghamton Devil Bracken Kearns was the playing captain for the Eastern Conference.

The tournament got kicked off with the Pacific Division meeting the North Division. The Pacific won this one, 5-3. The Pacific got goals from Rudolfs Balcers, Kyle Capobianco and Nick Merkley in the first five minute half while the North saw Matt Taormina and Reid Boucher score. Capobianco and Balcers added one more each in the second half while Mitchell Stephens scored for the North. In goal, for the Pacific, Antoine Bibeau made six saves on eight shots and Cal Petersen made four saves on five shots. For the North, Linus Ullmark made two saves on four shots while Thatcher Demko was 2-for-5.

In the second game of the evening, the Central Division (who has won both of the previous two AHL All-Star Classics under this format) began the defense of their title against the Atlantic Division. The Atlantic won 5-2. Goal scorers for the Atlantic were Chris Bourque, New Jersey-native TJ Brennan (who had two), Alexandre Grenier and John Gilmour. Matt Puempel and Matthew Highmore scored for the Central. Between the pipes, Michael Hutchinson was 4-for-6 and Anders Lindback was 2-for-5 for the Central while Jordan Binnington allowed two goals on both shots he faced and Christopher Gibson saw no shots in his half of play.

The Central took on the North in the third game and the North won, 4-2. The Central actually got off to the quick 2-0 lead when Matt Lorito scored just eight seconds in and again at the 3:50 mark. But the North scored four unanswered: CJ Smith scored (with an assist to Binghamton’s Jacob MacDonald), then Gabriel Gagne. MacDonald added one of his own and Boucher put the game away as the North completed the comeback with an empty netter. For the Central, Hutchinson made six saves on seven shots while Lindback saw two shots and let in both. For the North, Ullmark let in two of the four shots he faced while Demko turned aside all seven shots he saw.

Game four saw one of the closer games of the tournament with the Pacific defeating the Atlantic 4-3. The Atlantic got a goal from Mitchell Vande Sompel just 51 seconds in to the contest, but the Pacific answered back with four straight. Dylan Strome, Andy Welinski, NIck Merkley and Strome again scored. The Atlantic added another from Vande Sompel and one from Austin Czarnik, but it was too little too late as the Pacific had done its damage. Bibeau turned away six shots on eight shots while Petersen stopped two of three for the Pacific. For the Atlantic, Binnington stopped 5-of-6 and Gibson 2-of-5.

Next up, the Pacific beat the Central 4-3. Capobianco got the scoring started at 2:50 into the first for the Pacific. The Central answered with Puempel scoring at 3:41. The Pacific then scored the next two with Rasmus Andersson and Strome scoring in succession. Cameron Schilling netted one for the Central right before time ran out in the first half. TJ Tynan then tied things briefly in the second when he scored at 2:55. But Andersson scored his second of the game at 4:48 to give the Pacific the win. For the Central, Hutchinson made one save on two shots and Lindback made two saves on five shots. Bibeau was tested six times and equal to four of them for the Pacific and Petersen stopped one of two faced.

The final game of the round robin featured an Eastern Conference battle as the Atlantic Division took on the North Division with the North winning 4-3 on an amazing comeback. There was no scoring in the first half, setting up a wild second. The Atlantic scored the first three from Vande Sompel, Czarnik and Brennan before the North came roaring back. Boucher scored at 2:09 to start the comeback, then Stephens scored, followed by the game tying goal from CJ Smith. Finally, Matt Taormina was the hero, scoring at 4:47 to give the North the win and to propel them into the final. Goaltending saw Binnington stop all three shots he saw in the first for the Atlantic while Gibson gave up four goals on eight shots. For the North, Ullmark stopped all of his four challenges in the first while Thatcher stopped two shots on five faced.

That would set up a six minute final game between the Pacific Division and the North Division with the North completing their comeback by winning 1-0 to take the tournament. CJ Smith scored the game winner at 2:40 into the first three minute half. Ullmark and Thatcher each faced two shots and turned them aside, with Thatcher, of the hometown Utica Comets, making a few amazing acrobatic saves. For the Pacific, Bibeau faced no shots while Peterson faced three and stopped two in taking the hardluck loss.

CJ Smith of the Rochester Americans was awarded the MVP of the tournament for his role in helping the North Division to victory.

Overall, it was an exciting weekend in Utica for the AHL All-Star Classic. It is always cool to see some of the up-and-coming youngsters on display with some veterans who may not have gotten much of a chance at the NHL level all being rewarded for their hard work and to see some wonderful hockey on display as well.

Eastern Conference Wins AHL All-Star Skills Competition

The American Hockey League held their All-Star Skills Competition in Utica, New York at the Adirondack Bank Center. It consisted of seven events that netted individual winners and a team winner in the Eastern Conference. This was just the second time in the last seven years that the East has won this event and the first time since 2015.

The Binghamton Devils were being represented by Bracken Kearns (who is also the captain of the Eastern Conference for tomorrow’s AHL All-Star Game) and Jacob MacDonald. There was also a former New Jersey Devil in the form of Reid Boucher (now of the Utica Comets, the AHL affiliate of the Vancouver Canucks) participating.

The first event was the Puck Control Relay, which consists of two rounds of a team of three players grabbing a puck at one end of the rink and skating through a course. The final two rounds are one-on-one with one skater representing a side.

The West won the first round, with Matt Lorito (Grand Rapids Griffins), Emil Pettersson (Milwaukee Admirals) and Mason Appleton (Manitoba Moose) giving them the lead. The East won the second three-man round as Mitchell Stephens (Syracuse Crunch), Justin Holl (Toronto Marlies) and CJ Smith (Rochester Americans) claimed victory.

The final two rounds, both one-on-one races saw Chris Terry (Laval Rocket) win for the East and Boucher win for the West. At the end of the first event, the Eastern Conference and Western Conference were each tied at a “goal” apiece. A goal being earned for a victory in each event.

Next up was the Fastest Skater event. Here, a goal was awarded to the player with the best time’s team and to the team with the best average time. John Gilmour of the Hartford Wolf Pack of the East won the individual time challenge with 13.663 seconds around the perimeter of the rink. The East also gained a point for having the fastest average time, as Warren Foegele (Charlotte Checkers) – 14.506 and Stephens – 14.072 were also faster than their Western counterparts.

Next was the Rapid Fire event where a goalie faces two shooters one-on-one. The Conference with the most saves gained a goal. The East won this one 32 saves to 30. East netminders included Jordan Binnington (Providence Bruins), Linus Ullmark (Rochester), Christopher Gibson (Bridgeport SoundTigers) and Thatcher Demko (Utica). The East was up in the overall competition 5-2.

Event four was the Hardest Shot competition. This one is like the Fastest Skater competition, as there was an individual winner and the team with the best average shot also gaining a goal. The individual winner was Alexandre Grenier of the Springfield Thunderbirds with 104.1 miles per hour, giving the East a goal. However, the West won the average as Brady Austin (Cleveland Monsters) – 101.5 MPH, Andy Welinsky (San Diego Gulls) – 97.8 MPH, Cameron Schilling (Manitoba) – 102.0 MPH and Rasmus Andersson (Stockton Heat) – 101.5 MPH had the better aggregate. MacDonald took part in this event, with 98.0 MPH being the better of his two shots.

The next event was the Accuracy Shooting. This is still similar to how the NHL used to do things, with players shooting at styrofoam targets and breaking them, the player who breaks all four targets in the fewest shots wins. The team that does so also gains a goal. There were co-winners of this one, both from the East. Chris Terry and Chris Bourque (Hershey Bears) were the individual winners, each breaking the four targets in five attempts. The East gained a team win too, taking 25 shots to break 16 targets. The other shooters for the East were Valentin Zykov of Charlotte (4/7) and Boucher (4/8).

The next event was every goalies nightmare: the Pass and Score challenge. Basically, three skaters come down on the goaltender 3-on-0 and the goalie has to stop them as many times as they can in three tries. The West won this one 6 goals to 2. Binnington made two saves on three shots for the East in round one. In round two, Anders Lindback (Milwaukee) stopped two of three shots (MacDonald was shooting for the East in this round) for the West. Ullmark gave up goals on all three shots he faced in round three for the East. Antoine Bibeau (San Jose Barracuda) stopped all three East shots he saw in round four. Round five saw the West score once on Gibson against two saves. In round six, Cal Petersen of the Ontario Reign made a stop on three shots. Round seven saw Thatcher Demko of Utica give up a goal to the West. And, finally, in round eight, Michael Hutchinson of Manitoba made all three stops against an Eastern onslaught that included Bracken Kearns of Binghamton.

After six events, it was the Eastern Conference 10 and the Western Conference 9 on the total scoreboard.

The final event was the Breakaway Relay, where every All-Star got a chance to break in on a goalie in eight rounds. The East won this event 8-3, giving them the overall title. Binghamton’s MacDonald scored a goal against Bibeau in round four that the NHL Network announcers called the goal of the night, a real compliment in a skills competition, for sure. Kearns went up against Hutchinson in round eight and was stopped.

So, the Eastern Conference came away with the overall win, 18-12. The fans in Utica and the players really seemed to be enjoying themselves in what was a fun event to witness.

We will see you back here tomorrow for the AHL All-Star Classic.

Binghamton Devils Gearing Up For AHL All-Star Game

Since the New Jersey Devils are in the middle of their five-day bye week, I figured now would be a great time to travel down on the farm and take a look at some of what is going on in Binghamton.

The AHL All-Star Classic is coming up on January 28 and 29 in Utica, New York and the Devils will be well represented at the festivities. Firstly, forward Bracken Kearns will be one of the playing captains along with Brett Sutter of the Ontario Reign.

The Binghamton press release says that Kearns is in his first season with the Devils organization, having played 12 previous pro seasons in professional hockey. He has played in 692 regular season games in the American Hockey League (at the time of the press release’s writing on December 19, 2017) and 35 regular season and seven playoff games in the National Hockey League, spread out over the Florida Panther, San Jose Shark and New York Islander organizations. He made one other AHL All-Star appearance in 2013 with the Worcester Sharks.

Kearns is 36 years-old and leads Binghamton Devils “with 15 assists and is second overall on the team with 20 points in 27 games played this season.” Again, this is from the press release from December, he now has 22 points in 35 games.

Kearns, a native of West Vancouver, British Columbia, was undrafted out of the University of Calgary and began his pro hockey career with the Toledo Storm of the ECHL. He got his first NHL call up in 2011-12 with the Panthers.

He said that he was surprised by the selection but that he is “really excited about it.” He said that it is “a fun time and always interactive with the fans” adding “I didn’t have kids last time, so hopefully they can come down to ice level and check it out.”

The Binghamton Devils’ other representative in the AHL All-Star Classic is defenseman Jacob MacDonald. He was named to the All-Star team on January 4.

According to the Devils’ press release, MacDonald leads Binghamton defensemen “with 24 points in just 34 games played after being signed to a PTO from the ECHL’s Toledo Walleye.” MacDonald, 24 years old, has also spent time with the Elmira Jackals (ECHL) and Springfield Falcons (AHL). He also leads the Devils and the AHL among defensemen in power play goals with six and is tied on the team with 15 assists. He is first amongst d-men in the AHL with eleven goals and is second overall in points with 26.

MacDonald is a 6-foot, 208-pound native of Brighton, Michigan who attended Cornell University, notching 21 points in 104 games there over four years. He is a graduate of the United States Hockey League prior to college, where he spent two years with the Waterloo Black Hawks.

Good luck to both men participating in the AHL All-Star Classic.

Binghamton Devils Sign Chris Calnan

The Devils’ AHL affiliate made a college signing yesterday, bringing in forward Chris Calnan of Boston College on a one-year, two-way AHL contract. The announcement was made via a press release on the Binghamton website.

Calnan is 23 years-old and played four years at BC. He was originally a pick of the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2012 NHL Draft, but did not sign there. He finished his college career with 24 goals and 32 assists for 56 points in 142 games.

The press release notes that the 6-foot, 2-inch, 210-pound native of Norwell, Massachusetts won a Hockey East regular season championship in 2013-14 with Boston College.

Presumably, a two-way AHL contract would be between the AHL and ECHL teams (in the Devils’ case the Adirondack Thunder), I would think. Unless he is paid an AHL base salary even at the NHL level? Not too sure how that works out, but hopefully he is given a shot in the bigs as well.

Also, I wanted to address a bit of news uncovered by Lou D’Elia on Twitter and brought to my attention through a tweet by Devils Insiders (I retweeted and it can be found in the box to the left of this post). It seems the Devils are actively courting visiting fans to come to Prudential Center to see their teams play the Devils.

Now, this is not unprecedented in sports. I seem to remember the Nets, when they played at the Meadowlands, basically selling games based on what visiting star you wanted to watch play the Nets (i.e. “come see Michael Jordan take on the New Jersey Nets!”). Also, during this past postseason, the Ottawa Senators were reportedly running online ads on places like Facebook urging Ranger fans to take the trip up to Ottawa to help fill their building during the second round. And that was during the playoffs!

It really is hard to defend this, but the Devils need to make money. They are not a charity. If there are not enough Devils fans coming out to see the team take on, say, Pittsburgh, on a Tuesday night, you might as well try to get the building full. Even if it is with Pens fans.

The problem I see here is that, should a visiting fan find their tickets through this method, they are going to be more likely to act disrespectfully while at the game. The Devils already have the stigma of “no fans” hanging overt them. Let’s not encourage visiting fans to come into the Prudential Center to act like idiots, essentially taking over the place.

It is kind of a dangerous strategy, but again, the Devils need to make money. I am not in denial either. I know the Devils are in a rough sports landscape with eight other major professional sports teams in their immediate metropolitan area to contend with at various times for the public’s dollars. Add in four Philly teams and that landscape becomes even more crowded. Add to that the team has been hamstrung by lack of proper marketing during the Lou Lamoriello years and that the team has not been very good for the last five or so years and you have a recipe for low attendance.

Attendance was dicey even during the Stanley Cup years at the Meadowlands, but I always chalked that up to the arena just being way too big. Prudential Center is a smaller, more intimate building that we should be able to get fans in to. Devils fans, preferably.

Hopefully the team gets good soon. The new management has been a lot better at marketing the team than in the past. If we ice a winner, maybe we start putting butts in seats. Time will tell on that, but in the meantime, this strategy is a little bit disheartening.