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.