Cedar Park, Texas – A week of American League playoff hockey has been recorded and the surprises have already arrived.
The Peoria Rivermen, a club with three Calder Cup winners in Dean Arsene, Graham Mink and Nathan Oystrick and a stout goaltending tandem of Jake Allen and Ben Bishop, are no more. In a series expected to be a long and drawn-out fight, the Houston Aeros took out the Rivermen in a methodical four-game sweep.
The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins finished atop the AHL standings in the regular season, but the Norfolk Admirals, a club that struggled down the stretch, barreled into Penguins home ice and took Games 1 and 2.
But the Penguins scratched out victories in Games 3 and 4 on the road and set up a best-of-three scenario that figures to be spectacular.
Hershey is defending its back-to-back Calder Cup championships, but the Bears have their hands full with the Charlotte Checkers in a series that is now tied at two games apiece.
Portland took a 2-0 series lead to Connecticut in its series with the Whale, but the Hartford-based team took Games 3 and 4 to set up Thursday’s Game 5 in Portland.
Binghamton continues to lurk in its series with Manchester. The Senators faced elimination Wednesday night at home, but stayed alive with a 5-4 overtime win after tying the game late in the third period. Ryan Potulny tied it and now leads the league in playoff goals with seven after posting 21 in the regular season.
Out west, Milwaukee and Texas, a pair of grind-it-out, defensive-oriented clubs, are engaged in a particularly chippy battle that is now tied 2-2 heading into Friday’s game in suburban Austin.
Rookie Gabriel Bourque has blossomed in the post-season after a solid 18-goal campaign. Bourque has teamed with Chris Mueller through much of the series to torture Texas; the pair rank second and fourth in playoff scoring.
Most observers expected the Lake Erie-Manitoba series to center around Moose rookie goaltender Eddie Lack, but the Monsters knocked Lack out with a 6-4 Game 1 win in Cleveland. The clubs split the next two games, with Game 4 scheduled to go Thursday in downtown Winnipeg.
Hamilton took Games 1 and 2 in its series with the Edmonton Oilers-infused Oklahoma City Barons and the Barons looked to be in tough heading back home to face Bulldogs netminder Drew MacIntyre. However, MacIntyre, who has been an absolute workhorse in the Hamilton net since his trade deadline acquisition from the Atlanta organization, may be wearing down as the Barons shooters answered by registering 46 shots in a 2-0 Game 3 win and then buried four goals on 27 shots in Wednesday night’s Game 4 win that evened up the series.
Spring is the time when the thought process of NHL GMs turn to top prospects who are eligible for AHL play after their Canadian League or college seasons have ended.
Brayden Schenn and Scott Glennie, once teammates with the Brandon Wheat Kings, headline the top young talent that has migrated to the Calder Cup playoffs.
Schenn is with Manchester after his Saskatoon Blades bowed out in a surprising WHL second round loss. Glennie is skating with Texas in its series with Milwaukee, a club that features 2010 first-rounder Austin Watson. Connecticut has bruising 2010 top-round selection Dylan McIlrath in its lineup.
Schenn had an earlier regular season stint with the Monarchs and the big center has stepped back into AHL play quite nicely, posting a goal and three assists in his first three playoff games with the Monarchs.
Glennie, a 6-foot-1, 188-pound right winger, played four regular season games with Texas in its push towards the post-season and will be eligible for professional play next season. Coach Glen Gulutzan allowed the 20-year-old Winnipegger to remain in the Texas lineup for the playoffs and Glennie repaid the organization’s faith with a goal on Wednesday night against Milwaukee.
“When (Brandon, WHL) got knocked out, I was pretty excited I was coming here to a good group of guys,” Glennie said. “I’ve been looking forward to this for a while now.
“I don’t think there is too much time to have too many nerves. My linemates and the guys in the room have helped me out a lot.”
Glennie said the speed and quick decisions demanded at the AHL level, as well as his opponents’ size and strength, have been his biggest adjustments, but Gulutzan is happy with his young charge.
“He’s getting his feet wet in the American League,” the coach said. “It’s a big jump to come from junior into the American League playoffs.
“I think that whenever you get a goal, it kind of gives you that confidence. These guys can be filled with self-doubt, they’re coming in playing against men instead of boys. I think it’s good for them to have success and I think you will see good things from him going forward.”
From THN.com American League correspondent Patrick Williams, Around The AHL keeps tabs on the world’s second best circuit, details all the news and notes and profiles prospects destined for the next level. It appears every Thursday only on TheHockeyNews.com.