The American Hockey League presented their All-Star Classic in Allentown, Pennsylvania’s PPL Center. It consisted of a round robin tournament between the AHL’s four divisions in ten minute mini-games in the preliminary rounds and a six minute final between the teams with the best records coming out of the prelims. All games were played three-on-three.
Although the Albany Devils had three players named to the All-Stars, none of them actually participated in the games or the Skills Competition on Sunday night. But that does not mean that there was no Devils or New Jersey influence on the game. Kenny Agostino of the Chicago Wolves (Central Division) is a native of Morristown, New Jersey and attended college at Yale University.
Also, there were some former members of the Devils organization on the ice for the game. Former Albany Devil Matt Taormina of the Syracuse Crunch (North Division), David Warsofsky (who had some time with the NHL Devils) of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (Atlantic Division) and Matt Lorito, formerly of the Albany Devils and now on the Grand Rapids Griffins (Central Division).
The honorary captains for the game had a decidedly Flyers/Lehigh Valley Phantoms flavor to it, as Terry Murray – the Phantoms first head coach after moving from Glens Falls, New York to Allentown – was the captain of the Western Conference All-Stars and Daniel Briere – former Philadelphia Flyer – was the captain for the Eastern Conference.
In the round robin prelim stage, the Atlantic defeated the Central, 2-1; the North defeated the Pacific, 6-3; the Central beat the North, 2-1; the Atlantic downed the Pacific, 6-1; the Central beat the Atlantic, 1-0; the Central knocked off the Pacific, 5-3 and the Atlantic beat the North, 2-0. This set up a Central versus Atlantic final.
The final was six minutes of action, including the goalies changing on the fly halfway through! However, nobody was able to sneak one by any of the four goaltenders in the game. Central Division goalies Michael Leighton (Charlotte Checkers) and Anton Forsberg (Cleveland Monsters) and Atlantic Division goaltenders Tristan Jarry (Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins) and Zane McIntyre (Providence Bruins) dealt with the frantic pace coolly and did not give anything up. After the six minutes expired, it was still tied 0-0 and necessitated a shootout.
Even that came down to the wire. The Atlantic sent out Jordan Weal (Phantoms), Chris Bourque (Hershey Bears) and Travis Boyd (Hershey) and none of them could score. The Central countered with Agostino, Spencer Abbott (Rockford IceHogs), Oliver Bjorkstrand (Cleveland) all of whom could not score. It would come down to sudden death in the shootout. When Lehigh Valley’s Taylor Leier could not score, the game was on Lorito’s stick. He finally deposited the puck behind McIntyre to give the Central Division the crown in a pretty good All-Star tournament.
Leier was named the game’s most valuable player much to the delight of the Phantoms fans in attendance, meaning that the Philadelphia organization swept this year’s All-Star MVP awards, as Wayne Simmonds won the MVP at yesterday’s NHL All-Star Game. Leier had three goals through the mini-tournament in netting MVP honors.
This was another fun night of hockey. Although no future Devils were actually playing in the game (John Quenneville, Joseph Blandisi and Vojtech Mozik were all named to the North Division All-Star team) it was nice to see the AHL’s best and some of the future stars of the NHL in action.