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.

Palmieri, Metro Division Win 2019 All-Star Game

The 2019 NHL All-Star mini tournament was played last night at the SAP Center in San Jose. It featured another good showing from the Metropolitan Division in the divisional-based tournament-style game. The Metro won, defeating the Central Division in the final 10-5.

To refresh some memories, the game now consists of three mini games all within the context of a period in a larger game. So the first period/game (Central versus Pacific) set up one half of the final (the third period/game) while the second period/game (Metro versus Atlantic) gave us the second participant in the finals. Each period was split into two ten minute “mini periods” with the teams switching ends and goalies going into the new period. It was all contested three-on-three.

The first game, won by the Central 10-4, saw the Colorado Avalanche attendees dominate. Mikko Rantanen scored the opener and Gabriel Landeskog the second goal. Rantanen would go on to pot two in the first game while Landeskog had a hat trick. Other goal scorers for the Central were Roman Josi, Patrick Kane (with two), Mark Scheifele and Ryan O’Reilly. The Pacific got goals from hometown favorites Erik Karlsson (twice) and Brent Burns as well as Johnny Gaudreau. With that, the Central moved on to its first-ever All-Star Game final since the current format was adopted. The Pacific, much to the chagrin of the San Jose fans in the building, went home.

In goal for the Central, Pekka Rinne stopped eight of nine shots while Devan Dubnyk made 19 saves on 22 shots. The Pacific had 31 total shots. In goal for the Pacific, John Gibson made two saves on nine shots while Marc-Andre Fleury stopped six of nine. The Central ended with 18 shots on goal.

Overall, there were nine players on the Central with a multi-point game here.

In the second game, the Metro defeated the Atlantic in the Eastern Conference showdown. The Metropolitan Division won this one, 7-4, advancing to the finals to face the Central.

Sidney Crosby scored the first goal of the game (his first of two) and Seth Jones also had two (with Kyle Palmieri getting a helper on his first one) in the Metro’s win. This was a see-saw matchup that saw the lead change hands a few times before the Metro really settled in. The other goal scorers for the Metro were Crosby’s Pittsburgh teammate, Kris Letang, Sebastian Aho and Cam Atkinson (Palmieri was playing on the third unit with a pair of Columbus players in Atkinson and Jones). The Atlantic got goals from Jack Eichel, Steven Stamkos, Jeff Skinner and John Tavares in a losing effort.

In goal, Henrik Lundqvist made five saves on seven shots while Braden Holtby stopped 11 of 13 for the Metro. The Atlantic finished up with 20 shots on net. Jimmy Howard and Andrei Vasilevskiy faced a combined 26 Metro shots and Howard made nine saves on 13 shots against while Vasilevskiy made ten saves on 13 shots as well.

It was on to the finals for the Central Division and the Metropolitan Division. Here, the Metro team switched their jerseys to the white aways.

Speaking of the jerseys, while they did not look all that nice, in my opinion, being mostly black and white with some “slate grey” thrown in as an accent, they did have some cool innovation. The Adidas-made jerseys were created in conjunction with Parley Ocean Plastic, which used recycled and upcycled marine waste plastic (waste such as plastic bottles that made their way to the oceans) to create the materials for the jerseys according to SportsLogos.net. It is a cool thing and really fits with the California/Silicon Valley theme of this All-Star Game. To use technology to help turn waste that could potentially damage our planet into something useful.

Anyway, on to our final. This one saw the Metropolitan come away with the $1 million in prize money that was to be divided among the members of the winning team. The Metro won this one 10-5. Mat Barzal kicked off the scoring followed by Claude Giroux, Letang, Palmieri and Crosby to build up a 5-0 lead for the Metro.

Landeskog would get the Central on the board and Rantanen would make it 5-2. Crosby would add another to make it 6-2 and O’Reilly would cut the lead in half to 6-3. But then the Metro would get three unanswered from Aho, Atkinson and another from Barzal (into an empty net) to make it 9-3. The Central would add two in a mini rally (another from Rantanen to make it 9-4 and one from Blake Wheeler to make it 9-5) and Atkinson would finish off the scoring with a goal from Jones to make it 10-5.

This game was unique in that it featured only the third penalty shot in All-Star Game history. Seth Jones took it when he was hauled down by Patrick Kane with 4:09 to go in the game. He would not score and, in fact, no one has ever converted on a penalty shot in All-Star play.

In goal, Rinne and Dubnyk faced 22 shots combined from the Metro, with Rinne stopping six of ten and Dubnyk six of 11. For the Metro, Lunqvist stopped all six shots he saw and Holtby made 12 saves on 17 shots as the Central Division threw 23 shots at Metro goaltending total.

Crosby took home the Most Valuable Player honors with two goals and three assists for five points in this game plus two goals and an assist in the Atlantic game. He finished with five goals and eight points in the game as a whole. Palmieri finished the game with a goal and an assist for two points in his first ever All-Star showing.

Those two will get it on Monday as the Devils head to Pittsburgh to take on the Penguins then. We will have that for you right here. Until then, enjoy your weekend everyone!