By Mike Miccoli
While the format may be a bit different from years past, the AHL All-Star Classic will bring together 20 of the league’s top players to match up against Swedish Hockey League team, Farjestad BK. The two-day event played in St. John’s, Newfoundland, on Feb. 11 and 12 will have some familiar faces to New Englanders.
Brian Gibbons (Braintree, Mass.) of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins is the only New England-born player on the roster, though as he’s currently with parent club Pittsburgh, his attendance may be in question. The same goes for Ryan Spooner (Providence) and Ryan Strome (Bridgeport) who were also named to the team but are in the NHL with the Bruins and Islanders, respectfully.
The trio of Linden Vey (Manchester), Frederic St. Denis (Springfield), and Martin Jones (Manchester) round out the other representatives from the New England AHL teams and are marked to be playing in the All-Star Classic.
The Hartford Wolfpack, Portland Pirates, and Worcester Sharks did not have any players selected.
In a press release, AHL President and Chief Executive Officer, David Andrews commended the achievement of the 20 players selected.
“More than 850 players have appeared in American Hockey League games this season,” he said. “It is a tremendous achievement for these 20 to have been selected to represent the AHL in this unique showcase.”
The All-Star Classic will mark the first time a team from the Swedish Hockey League has played in North America. The event will feature the All-Star Game and Skills Competition the day prior.
1) Manchester Monarchs (25-10-2-4): Martin Jones came back just in time to a Monarchs team that was beginning to lose some ground in the Eastern Conference to the streaking Springfield Falcons. Jones made 31 saves against the Sound Tigers and then another 32 against the Bruins picking up two wins in his first two starts back with the AHL club. (Last week: 2-1, #3)
2) Springfield Falcons (25-8-1-3): So, about those five regulation losses that the Falcons were boasting last week. It was certainly a rough stretch for Springfield who backtracked a bit this week, only winning one game and then losing three straight to end the week. Their upcoming schedule gives them a chance to redeem themselves with games against Portland and Providence. (Last week: 1-3, #1)
3) Providence Bruins (20-13-1-5): It might not be good news for the players sent down, but the return of Matt Fraser and Justin Florek is coming just in time for a Bruins team suddenly struggling for offense. In their three games, the Bruins only scored one regulation goal in a loss against the Monarchs. Their one win was clinched in the shootout after Seth Griffith put one past Syracuse Crunch goaltender Kristers Gudlevskis. (Last week: 1-2, #2)
4) Worcester Sharks (17-15-2-1): An undefeated week for the Sharks suddenly puts Worcester into the playoff picture in a crowded Eastern Conference. Now five points out of the final playoff spot in the East, the Sharks will look for more production from Daniil Tarasov who had two goals and two assists in three games this week, in addition to the recently returned Freddie Hamilton. The big question for Worcester: can they remain consistent? (Last week: 3-0, #5)
5) Portland Pirates (15-14-1-5): Another status quo week for the, Pirates who continue to play subpar hockey. The good news for Portland is that backup goaltender Louis Domingue is turning into an important cog for the team. Domingue recorded his first shutout against the Sound Tigers while only responsible for one regulation loss in his eight starts for the Pirates. His 6-1-0-1 record looks even better next to his .930 save percentage and 2.24 GAA. (Last week: 2-2-0-1, #4)
6) Bridgeport Sound Tigers (14-20-1-4): A moral victory is what we'll call the Sound Tigers' sole win of the week against their interstate rival the Hartford Wolfpack. Still, a win is a win, and it could be worse for the Sound Tigers – they could be the Wolfpack. (Last week: 1-2, #6)
7) Hartford Wolfpack (11-20-0-5): Things are bad here. No sugar-coating, no bright sides, this is not a good team. The Wolfpack are struggling for wins, still searching for their first in 2014 while riding a six-game losing streak. They will get a chance to seek retribution for their loss last week against the Sound Tigers with another game in Bridgeport on Sunday. (Last week: 0-3, #7)
Games of the Week:
Friday, January 17:
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguin vs Providence Bruins (7:05 p.m.)
Saturday, January 18:
Manchester Monarchs @ St. John's IceCaps (7:30 p.m.)
Sunday, January 19:
Hartford Wolfpack @ Bridgeport Sound Tigers (3 p.m.)