West Sweeps AHL All-Star Classic
Providence, Rhode Island was host to one of the biggest events of this year’s AHL season, the 2013 All-Star Classic. The event featured the Skills Competition Sunday night and the All-Star game on Monday night. Future NHL stars displayed their talents in front of a rocking Dunkin Donuts Center, and fans had a chance to see many young players before they become household names. Many current Boston Bruins have taken part in AHL All Star festivities over the years, including Captain Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, Andrew Ference, Johnny Boychuk, and Tuukka Rask. This year, the host Bruins had four representatives. Trent Whitfield captained the East squad, and was joined by teammates Jamie Tardif and Niklas Svedberg. Chris Bourque was chosen to represent the Bruins, but is currently with Boston.
The action kicked off on January 27th with the All-Star Skills competition. This featured seven different events with different point totals going to the winning team. The first event was the Puck Control relay. Players had to control the puck through a path of cones from one end of the ice to the other. Whitfield competed in the event, getting a head to head win against Gustav Nyquist. Overall, there were four legs of the event, and the East won 3 of them.
Second was the fastest skater, in which participants simply did a lap around the ice as fast as they could. It was a record breaking performance, as two players broke the previous record. Jason Zucker of Houston originally broke it with a time of 13.550, however Portland’s Chris Summers then beat Zucker’s time with a mark of 13.324.
Next up was the Rapid Fire, in which goalies faced ten quick shots from opponents and tried to save as many as they could. Each side used three goalies, and the team with the most saves earned a point. Svedberg represented Providence in the event, stopping 6 of 10 shots and helping the East win the event,
Fourth was the hardest shot competition. Rochester’s Brayden McNabb won the individual event with a speed of 101.8 MPH. However, the East also received a point as they posted the better team average, due in large part to Jamie Oleksiak back to back misses. After four events, the East held a 7-2 lead.
The fifth event was the Accuracy Shooting contest. Four targets were placed in the four corners of the goal, and players had to hit all four in as few attempts as possible. Tardif and Whitfield both competed, each hitting all four targets. Despite their performance, the West still won the event. Matt Frasier of Texas hit all four in just five attempts, and the West had a better shooting percentage, cutting their deficit to 7-4.
The final two events, Pass and Score and Breakaway relay, gave a point to every goal the teams could get past the goalie. One event had three skaters, and the other was a traditional breakaway. All three Bruins took part in the event. Svedberg allowed no goals in the pass and score event, and saved 3 of 5 in the breakaway relay. Tardif failed to score in either event, and Whitfield couldn’t score in the breakaway. The West goaltending was dominant, allowing just 1 goal in the Pass and Score and just 2 in the breakaway relay. They ended the event stopping 16 straight East attempts, which helped the West rally for a 12-11 win. Goaltender Jason Peters of the Charlotte Checkers won Top Goaltender award for the night, stopping 17-19 overall shots he faced.
The next night, both teams hit the ice again for the All-Star game. Svedberg was voted starter by the fans, and as such worked the first period. A game noted for lack of defense did not disappoint. The East found themselves down when Zucker netted the first goal of the game at 7:39. The Penguins Chad Kolarik knotted up the score at 1-1, as he took a good Tardif pass and deposited it into the back of the net at 11:14. Shortly thereafter, the West responded with 3 unanswered from Frasier, Brad Hunt, and Drew Shore to take a 4-1 lead at the first intermission.
The East jumped out quickly to start the second, with goals from Jonathan Audy-Marchessault and Bracken Kearns within the first 10 minutes to make the score 4-3 Western Conference. Each side would add one more goal before the period ended to make the score 5-4 West after two.
The West maintained their lead deep into the third period, and with less than three minutes to go, they held a 6-5 lead. In dramatic fashion, the East tied the score at 6 apiece. After cross ice pass from Mark Barberio, captain and home town favorite Trent Whitfield found himself with a breakaway chance. He beat the goalie in the top left corner to tie things up as the crowd erupted. However, the story book ending was not to be. Ryan Hamilton scored his third goal of the game with just 11.2 seconds left on the clock, shocking the Dunkin Donuts Center crowd and sealing a 7-6 Western Conference win.
With the seventh hat trick in AHL All-Star Game history, Hamilton was named All-Star Game Most Valuable Player, scoring the final three West goals of the night. Other notable Western Conference performances include Oklahoma City Barons Mark Arcobello (three assists), Drew Shore of the San Antonio Rampage (goal, assist), and Jason Zucker of the Houston Aeros (goal, assist). For the Eastern Conference, notables included Chad Kolarik (two goals), Manchester Monarchs’ Tyler Toffoli (goal, assist), Radko Gudas of the Syracuse Crunch (two assists), and goaltender Curtis McElhinney of the Springfield Falcons (15 of 16 shots stopped).
It was a great weekend for all involved, but now it is time to get back to business. The P-Bruins are second in the Atlantic Division with 47 points, and will kick off the second half of the season Thursday against Bridgeport.