PORTLAND, Maine – If history is any indication, Tuesday’s American Hockey League all-star game will have plenty of scoring, little body contact and at least a few intriguing storylines.
With a format that sees players from Canada take on the international PlanetUSA team, linemates will be pitted against linemates and shooters will be looking to beat friendly goalies.
The Canadian team has won nine of the last 15 contests, but neither side has repeated since Canada won its second straight encounter in 2004.
Last year’s game in Worcester, Mass., saw PlanetUSA score four unanswered goals in the third period of a 14-11 victory.
The players in the Canadian dressing room would like nothing more than to turn the tables.
“I hope so,” said Hershey Bears’ left-winger Alexandre Giroux, who is making his third AHL all-star appearance. “It would be fun to win this year. The guys are going to work hard to try and get the win.”
Giroux was a 60-goal scorer last year with the Calder Cup champion Bears and many of them were set up by Hersey teammate and PlanetUSA forward Keith Aucoin.
Giroux and Aucoin might find themselves on the ice at the same time in the all-star game and there will no doubt be some banter back and forth.
“I think we’ll get something going,” said Aucoin, who is making his fifth consecutive all-star appearance. “I know how (Giroux) plays. So I’m going to make sure if I’m out there against him, I’m not letting him get open in the slot.”
Even so, Giroux said he doesn’t need a feed from Aucoin to find the net.
“I think that everybody in this room is as good as anybody else,” he said. “I’ll try to get some goals without him, and not let him score against me.”
Hershey coach Mark French, who will behind the bench for Canada on Tuesday, said he’s just going to stand back and watch the two go at it.
“I don’t know if we can orchestrate a trade,” said French, who has guided the Bears (32-9-2) to the AHL’s best record this season. “I don’t know if we can convert (Aucoin) to be Canadian. They have a good friendship off the ice, and great chemistry on the ice.
“I think the hardest part will be not passing the puck to each other.”
That sentiment was echoed by PlanetUSA goaltender Alex Stalock, who is both regular-season teammate and roommate with fellow Worcester Sharks’ rookie centre Logan Couture, who will suit up for Canada.
“I’m sure (Couture) is going to try to take as many shots as he can while I’m in the net,” said Stalock. “It will be fun. But at the same time, hopefully we’ll have the bragging rights going back to Worcester.”
Added Couture, “I’m sure he’s ready. We drove up together, and we were joking (about it). I told him I’ve got something special for him.”
Portland is the first city to repeat as hosts for the AHL’s All-Star Classic, after having held it in 2003.
Face off time at the Cumberland County Civic Center on Tuesday is set for 6 p.m. ET.
In the AHL skills competition Monday, Canada beat PlanetUSA 18-12, four it its first win in four years.
Canadian team member and Norfolk Admirals centre Blair Jones unleashed a blast of 100.7 miles per hour in the hardest shot event.
“I just basically tried to keep it as low as I could,” said Jones, who now owns the third-hardest shot in the competition’s history.
Jones also had the second hardest drive of the evening, having registered a 99.9 m.p.h. reading with his first try.
In the fastest skater event, Hartford’s Bobby Sanguinetti finished with a record time of 16.677 seconds, giving PlanetUSA it’s only win of the seven events.
Canada won four events, and two ended in ties.
The all-star festivities continue Tuesday with the league inducting four new members to its Hall of Fame.