A week of American League playoff hockey is finished and the post-season is unfolding pretty much as expected.
But surprises can be found and the Portland Pirates' collapse is at the forefront. The Manchester Monarchs finished a sweep of the Pirates, allowing only five goals over four games. The Pirates, already missing offense with Tyler Ennis on recall to Buffalo, stumbled offensively. Leading scorer Mark Mancari, who assembled a 28-goal regular season, found himself limited to just one goal against Monarchs goalie Jonathan Bernier.
As a result, the affiliates of two NHL Pacific Division rivals are lining up for an AHL east coast playoff battle. Worcester, a San Jose affiliate, could knock out Lowell Wednesday night, setting up a second round meeting with the Monarchs in what would be a rematch of the 2007 playoff series between the clubs. The Los Angeles-affiliated Monarchs took that series in six games, a victory that sent them to the conference final.
Out west, Rochester's Tyler Plante is continuing his career makeover in net for the Amerks in their first round series with Abbotsford. A 2005 second round pick of the Florida Panthers, Plante's first two pro seasons saw him struggle considerably. Plante spent most of this season as Alexander Salak's backup, but the Manitoban took over the Amerks' top net job in Game 1 after a bad opening period for Salak. Since then, Plante has fashioned a 1.89 goals-against average and could carry the Amerks to a 3-1 series lead with a win Wednesday.
Heading back east, even if the Lowell Devils do finish their season Wednesday, they have at least broken an ugly streak that had plagued New Jersey AHL affiliates for most of the past decade amid a series of disastrous seasons. Lowell's Game 1 win over Worcester arrived three days shy of the 10th anniversary of the last playoff game that a New Jersey AHL affiliate had won.
Prior to the Devils' win last week, the last playoff win by a New Jersey AHL affiliate was on April 17, 2000, when the Albany River Rats defeated Rochester. A New Jersey AHL affiliate still has not won a playoff series since 1998, when an Albany entry that included John Madden, Colin White, Brendan Morrison and current Hershey captain Bryan Helmer swept Hamilton in four games.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton found itself in a similar predicament to the Pirates and exited the playoffs in a sweep at the hands of Albany. Tim Wallace (27 goals) and Dustin Jeffrey (24 goals) ranked first and second on Penguins coach Todd Reirden's scoring chart this season, but the pair went fatally silent against an Albany club that received seven players on loan from the Carolina Hurricanes at the end of the regular season.
Albany won three of the four games in the series by a one-goal margin. Game 4 was also a one-goal contest until a late empty-netter doomed the Penguins.
The River Rats are likely to meet a Hershey club that has controlled its series with Bridgeport. After a Game 1 scare that the Bears won in overtime, Hershey has taken over the series. The Bears took Games 2 and 3, with Game 3 featuring a six-goal second period for Hershey. A Game 4 loss set up Game 5 Wednesday night on Hershey home ice, where the Bears can finish off the Sound Tigers.
Elsewhere, Manitoba rallied behind a hat trick by Jordan Schroeder, Vancouver's 2009 first round selection, to take a 7-2 Game 3 decision over Hamilton at home after a disastrous first two games on the road against the Bulldogs. Game 4 goes Wednesday in Winnipeg. Other Wednesday night action will see Chicago try to take out Milwaukee in Game 5, while Texas can seize a 3-0 stranglehold on Rockford.
THIS & THAT
• According to eurohockey.net, Lake Erie's Marty Sertich will head to Europe to play for ECH Olten in Austria. Sertich never really got on track in the Colorado organization. After a 27-goal AHL season with the Dallas organization in 2007-08, the 27-year-old center managed only 16 goals in 77 games with Lake Erie over the past two seasons.
• Springfield (Columbus) and Syracuse (Anaheim) will be adopting the color schemes of their new NHL parent clubs next season.
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 profiling prospects destined for the next level. It appears every weekend only on TheHockeyNews.com.