Sunday, 10 May 2009

Some AHL Calder Cup News

There's been a number of great playoff series going on down in the AHL, and I'm sure there are a few people who have been following. However, for those that have not, we'll take a look today at who is still standing and where the battles are taking place. There are actually only seven teams left right now as one series was decided in a four-game sweep. However, the other series are proving to be highly-entertaining for fans, and good for the AHL as fans in those cities are coming out to watch future NHL stars battle for the biggest prize in the AHL. Here are some updates from around the AHL.

  • The Hershey Bears are on the brink of elimination after squandering a 2-0 series lead to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. Much like the series being played between their parent clubs - the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins - the home team has won every game. Yes, I know Pittsburgh won in Washington last night, but the similarities were eerily close until last night. These two teams were separated by two points in the regular season as Hershey finished with 106 points to WBS's 104 points. As the series shifts back to Hershey, it will be interesting to see if the Penguins can close this out with a win on the road.
  • Providence opened a 2-0 lead in Rhode Island, but it has been all Sharks since the series moved to Worcester. The Sharks defeated the Bruins 1-0 last night to even their series at 2-2. What made this series so weird is that the two games in Providence were separated by a seven-day break. Game One of this series went on April 28, and Game Two was played on May 6. The reason? The Ringling Brothers Circus took over the Dunkin' Donuts Center for four of those seven days, meaning the ice had to come out.
  • Over in the Western Conference, the West Division Final between the Milwaukee Admirals and Houston Aeros sees the Aeros up 3-2 on the Admirals. Statistically-speaking, the Aeros are the worst team still in the playoffs as their 38-31-2-9 regular season record was only good for 87 points. However, the Aeros have shown resiliency and determination in getting by the Peoria Rivermen in the first round, and now pushing the high-powered Admirals to the brink. The Admirals finished second overall in the AHL this season with a 49-22-3-6 record for 107 points. As the series goes back to Milwaukee, the Aeros will have to win one more road game to move onto the Western Conference Final.
  • The only team at home resting right now are the North Division Champions in the Manitoba Moose. After playing one of the most physical series I have seen in a long time against the Toronto Marlies, the Moose advanced by a 4-2 series margin to the North Division Final against the Grand Rapids Griffins. These two long-time IHL and AHL rivals met last year when the Griffins got past the Moose in seven games. However, the Moose used the lessons learned in the first series against the Marlies, and kept their cool as they defeated the Griffins in four-striaght games. Some credit has to go to the Griffins for not just rolling over for the best team in the AHL this season, though. Three of the four games were decided by just one goal.
  • The Moose will have a little more firepower as they enter the Western Conference Final as it was announced by the NHL's Vancouver Canucks that Cody Hodgson will be joining the Manitoba Moose. Hodgson was the Brampton Battalion's leading scorer this season, posting 43 goals and 49 assists in 53 games, and had an OHL-best 11 game-winning goals this season. The 19 year-old Markham, Ontario native was also named as the OHL's Most Outstanding Player this year.
  • The WBS Penguins will be without the services of Alex Goligoski today as he will remain with the NHL's Penguins while Sergei Gonchar nurses his knee injury. Goligoski is a huge reason why the Baby Penguins are playing so well, so someone will have to step up in his absence.
  • Hershey, on the other hand, will have one of their best defencemen back in the lineup as Karl Alzner was returned to the Bears by the Washington Capitals. Alzner, who had 20 points in 48 games for the Bears this season, will look to keep the Bears alive. His defensive zone coverage is impressive, and should be a boost to the depleted ranks of the Bears.
  • Justin Abdelkader, fresh off his run with the Griffins in the AHL Calder Cup Playoffs, will get a chance to suit up against the Anaheim Ducks tonight in Game Five of the Detroit-Anaheim series. He is replacing Tomas Kopecky who is out with what is suspected to be a serious facial injury after getting pummeled by Ducks' defenceman Francois Beauchemin in Game Four. Abdelkader will be relied on for some forechecking and bodychecking playing alongside Kirk Maltby and Mikael Samuelsson as the Red Wings look to take control of that series.
The AHL Playoffs are really heating up, and it's worth your while to catch some of the action if you can. Seeing these young players putting everything on the line really shows you their determination and desire to move up to the NHL, and it's incredibly satisfying to see that kind of passion in every single playoff game.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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