Back-to-back losses puts pressure on Marlies, Penguins

By Jared Clinton (@JPDClinton)

After streaking to the Western Conference Final, the Toronto Marlies are hoping they’re not going to start sliding their way out.

With eight straight wins to start the Calder Cup Playoffs, it seemed like everything was clicking for the Baby Buds. While they were bombarded in game one, they pulled out a victory over the Texas Stars to take the series lead, but their porous defense came back to bite them in game two.

The hope was, especially with a team that had been on such an amazing run into the Conference Final, the Marlies would bounce back in game three at the friendly confines of Ricoh Coliseum. However, following a trend from the first two rounds, the team with the ever-important third goal pulled out the victory — that goal coming off the stick of the Texas Stars’ Travis Morin.

Morin, the regular season points leader and league MVP, struck with the game-winner just under a minute after the Marlies drew even on a TJ Brennan tally. It was just Morin’s fourth marker of the playoffs, but it couldn’t have come at a bigger time for the Stars, who’ve now taken the series lead back from the Marlies.

After a rough outing in game two, Marlies goaltender Drew MacIntyre withstood all eight of the Stars’ shots in the first period before allowing a second period marker to Radek Faksa. After allowing 50-plus shots in each of the first two games, the Marlies tightened up defensively, allowing 30 attempts on MacIntyre in game three.

Across the ice, Stars’ goaltender Christopher Nilstorp held off the Marlies’ extra-man attack and sealed the victory for his squad.

For the Marlies, it will be absolutely pivotal to knock off the Stars in game four if they’ve got any hopes of staying in the series. The problem, however, lies in stopping a balanced Stars attack, and trying to create zone time and shot attempts. Through the first three games, Nilstorp has only seen 69 shots. MacIntyre, on the other hand, has faced 131.

Game four goes tonight at Ricoh Coliseum, with puck drop slated for 7 p.m. ET.

After two tight games, with each St. John’s and Wilkes-Barre pulling out a victory, the IceCaps offense finally exploded, while their defense held, with Michael Hutchinson earning the 30-save shutout.

Only down by two goals heading into the second period, the Penguins defense couldn’t hold fast. St. John’s capitalized, scoring early and often in the second frame, with goals coming from Eric O’Dell and Kael Mouillierat in the first seven minutes. Mouillierat’s marker, a goal coming on a 5-on-3 powerplay, gave the IceCaps an insurmountable 4-0 lead heading into the final frame.

With just a second left in the second period, Zach Redmond buried a Will O’Neill pass past Pens’ goaltender Peter Mannino, which signalled the end of Mannino’s night.

The fourth game of the Eastern Conference Final starts tonight at 7:05 p.m. ET, with the Penguins trying to take advantage of home ice and even the series at two games apiece.

AHL Today: St. John’s goes for seven, Albany and Springfield battle for Northeast Division

AHL Today is a roundup of the night that was, the day ahead, and anything you may have missed. Your quick look at what’s going on around the league.

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To Watch:

  • PROVIDENCE at ST. JOHN’S: The IceCaps host the Baby B’s in an attempt to win their seventh straight. The Bruins and ‘Caps, only separated by three points in the standings, are fighting for positioning in the Eastern Conference. Michael Hutchinson, formerly of the Bruins, hasn’t relinquished the goaltending duties since this run began, and posted a .932 SV% through January. Brenden Kichton is coming off Rookie of the Month honours, and looks to carry the hot hand into the game. Niklas Svedberg has started the last three games for Providence, but Malcolm Subban could see a spot start.
  • ALBANY at SPRINGFIELD: In a divisional battle, the Devils roll into Springfield to take on the Falcons. Albany walked away with a shutout win the last time the two met, but aside from the win/loss columns, the two teams are almost eerily evenly matched. Goals for? Springfield 136, Albany 139. Goals against? Springfield 119, Albany 120. Springfield comes in losing four of its last five in regulation, so Albany can gain some ground in the division if they take advantage of the sliding Falcons.

Last Night:

  • No games on the schedule.

Moves:

Abbotsford Heat
Joni Ortio (G) To: Calgary Flames
Ben Street (F) From: Calgary Flames
Thomas Heemskerk (G) From: Quad City Mallards
Chicago Wolves
Dmitrij Jaskin (F) To: St. Louis Blues
Hamilton Bulldogs
Christian Thomas (F) To: Montréal Canadiens
Norfolk Admirals
Chad Painchaud (F) From: South Carolina Stingrays
Sami Vatanen (D) From: Anaheim Ducks
Toronto Marlies
Gregg McKegg (F) From: Toronto Maple Leafs
Jerred Smithson (F) To: Toronto Maple Leafs
Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins
Nick D’Agostino (D) From: Wheeling Nailers
Harrison Ruopp (D) From: Wheeling Nailers
Worcester Sharks
J.P. Anderson (G) To: San Francisco Bulls

News & Notes:

  • AHL linesman Chris Woodworth is taking his craft global: working the lines in Sochi. [Democrat & Chronicle]
  • The Texas Stars posted an amazing time-lapse clip of the changeover in Cedar Park as they go from basketball court to ice surface. [Texas Stars]
  • An interesting opinion piece by Clare Austin at Puckology supporting Riku Helenius and positing that the situation may have been the result of some mismanagement. [Puckology]

Morin, Kichton, and Hartzell get Player of Month honours

Travis Morin, Brenden Kichton, and Eric Hartzell have taken home AHL Player of the Month nods for their performance in January.

Morin, the AHL’s leading scorer with 65 points (26-39), had his best month of the season to date, putting up ten goals and 11 assists en route to Player of the Month. The 30-year-old Morin has appeared in three games for the Dallas Stars this season, just the fifth, sixth, and seven games of his career in the bigs. A ninth-round pick of the Capitals in 2004 — back when the draft went that long — played his way up to the AHL after completing four years with the NCAA’s MSU-Mankato and two years in the ECHL with the South Carolina Stingrays.

An AHL veteran, Morin has racked up 272 points in regular season action in the AHL. Currently on a two-way deal with a cap hit of $550,000, Morin’s career has consistently seen the forward get to the next level, so he could be given some time to see if he can put it together in the NHL with Dallas next season.

St. John’s IceCaps defenceman Kichton, who received the Rookie of the Month honour, also set a career high for points in a month with 14 in January. The rookie defenceman’s three goals and 11 assists came on the strength of five multi-point contests, with a career-high three-point (1-2) game coming against Providence on Jan. 26.

Drafted in the fifth-round of the 2011 draft by the New York Islanders, Kichton went unsigned and re-entered the draft where he was selected in the seventh-round by the Winnipeg Jets. So far, the selection is paying dividends for the Jets, as Kichton made a good month better by earning a selection to the AHL All-Star team that will take on Farjestad in St. John’s next week.

Finally, Goaltender of the Month was awarded to Eric Hartzell of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. Hartzell was signed by the Penguins organization after completing four years at Quinnipiac University. In his final season in the NCAA, Hartzell was awarded ECAC Player of the Year, Goaltender of the Year, and was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award.

January was one to remember for Hartzell, as he went 5-2 with a 1.33 GAA and .944 SV%. As for the season, in 18 games with the Baby Pens, the rookie goaltender has posted a 1.85 GAA and a .925 SV%.

AHL Today: Evans, Grant, Desbiens suspended, Griffins back on top

AHL Today is a roundup of the night that was, the day ahead, and anything you may have missed. Your quick look at what’s going on around the league.

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To Watch:

  • ST. JOHN’S (23-16-1-2) at PROVIDENCE (22-15-1-5): In a rematch of a Friday matchup, the Bruins host the IceCaps. Friday night, the two teams combined for nine goals as the IceCaps skated away with a one-goal victory. Jerome Samson had the winner on the powerplay with 10 minutes remaining in the final frame. Michael Hutchinson, who has had the call in three straight, made 32 saves in the win. IceCaps goaltender Eddie Pasquale hasn’t seen the net since giving up six goals on 34 shots to the Manchester Monarchs.

Last Night: 

  • GRAND RAPIDS 4, TEXAS 1: In the rematch between the top two teams in the West, Grand Rapids exacted revenge for their 6-4 Friday night loss. A four goal second period, including two from Landon Ferraro, helped the Griffins to the victory. With the win, Grand Rapids move back atop the Western Conference.
  • MANCHESTER 3, PORTLAND 2 (OT): The Monarchs wore the throwback threads, and Linden Vey made sure the team skated away in style. With two second left in overtime, Vey, who was just recently reassigned to Manchester, took the puck off the half wall, moved to the middle of the ice, and fired a wrister through Pirates goaltender Louis Domingue.
    01:25:2013 Vey OT Goal MANvPRT

Moves:
Pat Nagle (G) From: Texas Stars To: Idaho Steelheads
Mikael Samuelsson (F) From: Detroit Red Wings To: Grand Rapids Griffins
Cody Bass (F) From: Columbus Blue Jackets To: Springfield Falcons
Dustin Jeffrey (F) From: Dallas Stars To: Texas Stars

News & Notes:

  • The AHL has announced suspensions for the Griffins D Brennan Evans, and LW Triston Grant have both been suspended resulting from incidents on Friday. Evans will sit three games for an elbow, Grant for a slew-foot.
  • Guillaume Desbiens has also been suspended one game for instigating a fight in the final five minutes of Lake Erie’s game last night vs. Hamilton.
  • Bob Howard posted some great photos of Denis Hamel’s induction ceremony in Binghamton last night. Go to his Twitter account to see them all.

(Cover image via Manchester Monarchs Official Instagram account)

Andrews: “Can’t lose franchises as solid as St. John’s”

It’s still not a done deal, and a Thunder Bay news outlet’s poll showed citizens who voted are against a new event centre, but should the Winnipeg Jets move their affiliate west, the American Hockey League will do whatever they need to keep a team in Newfoundland’s capital.

In an interview with TimesUnion.com sports reporter Pete Dougherty, AHL President Dave Andrews said the league would be looking for a solution should the IceCaps move on.

“That’s another one of those markets that there’s a tremendous amount of interest,” Andrews told Dougherty in the interview posted today.

“That Thunder Bay story is preliminary to say the least,” Andrews added. “There’s no biulding there, and the financing of the building is not yet in place. So the intent (of the Jets) is to move the team into a more approximate location like Thunder Bay.”

The potential move to Thunder Bay from St. John’s is a situation where the AHL and its teams are beholden to the desires of the clubs in the NHL, something Andrews briefly touched on in his talk with Dougherty.

“We certainly need to support the desire on part of the NHL clubs to have their AHL affiliates closer,” said Andrews.

However, he added that the AHL can’t afford to “lose franchises that are as solid as St. John’s”, speaking at length about the incredible fan support the team has had since the return of the AHL to the Rock.

Andrews also answered some questions about Glens Falls, where the city will be losing Adirondack Phantoms as they move on to Lehigh Valley.

“We definitely got one more year out of the Phantoms up there than we expected,” said Andrews, adding that the league and Glens Falls mayor Jack Diamond have a search for a new team well under way.

“We think there are perhaps a couple of options,” Andrews told Dougherty. “I would give it some reasonable prospect of success.” Andrews added that it’s “not out of the realm of possibilty” that there will be a team in Glens Falls as soon as next season.

The full interview is below.

Dave Andrews one-on-one with TimesUnion.com’s Pete Dougherty