As the NHL All-Stars were leaving Los Angeles, the stars of the American Hockey League were just getting ready to put on a show. They kicked off proceedings with an entertaining skills competition on Sunday evening.
Event 1: Puck Control Relay
How it Works
At the referee’s whistle, a player from each squad skates in a straight line from the goal line to the face-off circle at the the far end of the rink. Once there, the skater picks up a puck and manoeuvres through a series of pylons on the way back. In the first two races, the team that has all three skaters finish first is awarded one point. The final two races are contested one-on-one, with the winning team claiming a point for their conference.
Individual winners: Jordan Oesterle (West, Race 3), Jordan Weal (East, Race 4)
Event Score: West: 3 East: 1
Event 2: Fastest Skater
How it Works
Each player, starting from a standing position, must complete a full lap around the ice, with the fastest overall time in a heat earning a point for their conference. The fastest overall skater also will earn a point for his team as well.
Devon Toews: 13.478
Jack Roslovic: 13.674
Jonny Brodzinski: 13.787
Daniel O’Regan: 13.845
Yanni Gourde: 14.114
Winning Team: Western Conference (lowest average time)
Event Score: West: 4 East 2
Event 3: Rapid Fire
How it Works
Each goaltender will face two alternating shooters at a time from the opposite conference. The shooters will fire five shots (10 total) in an alternating fashion while the goalie attempts to save as many as possible. The conference with the lowest amount of goals against will be awarded one point, and in case of a tie, both teams will be awarded one point.
Saves (out of 10)
Linus Ullmark: 8
Michael Leighton: 8
Anton Forsberg: 7
Charlie Lindgren: 5
Zane McIntyre: 5
Tristan Jarry: 5
Troy Grosenick: 4
Jack Campbell: 4
Winning Team: Tie! 23 saves each
Event Score: West: 5 East: 3
Event 4: Hardest Shot
How it Works
Each player will be given two chances to shoot the puck as hard as possible into the net from 30 feet away. The highest recorded speed is kept out of the two tries. The conference with the higher overall speed earns one point, while the hardest shot overall will earn a point as well.
Kyle Wood: 99.3
A.J. Greer: 99.2
Kerby Rychel: 99.1
David Warsofsky: 98.4
Robbie Russo: 97.8
Casey Bailey: 97.4
Vincent LoVerde: 96.1
Jordan Subban: 94.0
I was able to ask Kyle about his winning shot after the competition.
“There’s not really a special technique, you just wind up and try to get a little speed going in there. The first two shots didn’t register so I just tried to keep it low and good things happened.”
Winning Team: Western Conference
Event Score: West: 7 East: 3
Event 5: Accuracy Shooting
How it Works
Four foam targets are hung in the four corners of the net. The goal for the shooter is to hit all four of them in the least amount of shots. The player is given only eight total pucks to complete this challenge. The winning team earns one point for their conference, and the most accurate shooter earns one point as well.
Cole Schneider: 4/5
Christian Fischer: 4/6
Travis Boyd: 4/6
Matt Taormina: 4/6
Ryan Craig: 4/7
Alex Tuch: 4/7
Kenny Agostino: 4/7
T.J. Brennan: 3/8
Winning Team: Eastern Conference
Event Score: West: 7 East: 5
Event 6: Pass and Score
How it Works
Three pucks are placed across the the center red line. At the whistle a heat of three players will attempt to score on the opposing goalie. But before they can shoot, all three players must touch the puck, using a minimum of two passes, and remain onside. Teams have 30 seconds to shoot all three times, and every goal scored counts towards their conference total. Every save a goalie makes counts towards the goaltenders’ individual competition.
Saves (out of three)
Overall Team Winner: Eastern Conference
Event Score: West: 10 East: 11
Event 7: Breakaway Relay
How it Works
Five pucks are positioned 10 feet outside the blue line. The five shooters are positioned in a line at center ice. On the whistle, Player A skates in on goal and attempts to score. Regardless of the result the player must then clear the zone so the next skater can shoot on the goalie. This continues until all five players have gone in that round. Every goal counts towards that conference’s overall score, and each save counts towards the goaltenders’ individual competition.
Goals (out of 20)
Saves (out of 20)
Final Score: West: 15 East: 11
Top Goaltender: Linus Ullmark
With outstanding performances in the Rapid Fire, Pass and Score, and Breakaway Relay, Rochester’s Linus Ullmark took home the goaltenders’ award for the skills competition. He stopped eight out of 10 shots in the rapid fire contest, and stopped two out of three in the pass and score as well. He finished the night with a flawless performance in the breakaway challenge when he stopped Alex Tuch, Robbie Russo, Kyle Wood, Vincent LoVerde and Christian Fischer.
He was in good spirits when I got the chance to ask him about it the next day.
“It was great fun. It’s always fun to put on a great show for the fans, and compete against some of the best players in the league; it was great fun out there. It’s a nice little bonus to get the award there in the end. I didn’t see it coming because I had a tough start.”
I also asked him about his crazy save to end the event.
“At first you’re out there just trying to take all the pucks you can, and then I was trying to do a two-pad stack on the last breakaway, but he came in on the wrong angle so I had to stop, drop, and roll, and it worked out.”
All-Star Tournament Recap
There are four teams — one for each division represented in the tournament — and they will play a three-on three round robin tournament. Each team will play each other at least once and the team with the best overall records will face off in the championship game. All round robin games are ten minutes long, the championship game is six minutes.
Game 1: Central 1 Atlantic 2
It was a bit of a slow go to start the game with no shots in the opening few minutes. But it would be the Atlantic Division who struck first, with Jordan Weal setting up Mackenzie Weegar for the opening goal.
Weegar opens up the scoring for the Atlantic! pic.twitter.com/ut6ISPf62J— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) January 31, 2017
The Atlantic found success on their next shot as well, with T.J. Brennan feeding Travis Boyd for the 2-0 goal. The Central Division battled back with Michael Leighton making several incredible saves before Olivier Bjorkstrand cut the score in half. Their late push wouldn’t be enough as the Atlantic Division claimed two points in the victory.
Game 2: North 6 Pacific 3
Charlie Lindgren got the start in net for the North Division as they squared off with the Pacific, and unlike the previous game it was a quick start. Daniel O’Reagan opened the scoring just 26 seconds in for the Pacific. Cole Schneider knotted things up almost immediately with a nifty move in on Troy Groesnick, but the Pacific stormed right down the ice and beat Lindgren to make it 2-1 on an A.J. Greer shot. That lead would also evaporate quickly as Kerby Rychel absorbed a pass and beat the Pacific netminder to tie the game 2-2.
The goals kept coming fast and furious, with Chris Terry netting one, Justin Bailey scoring a pair, and Casey Bailey adding the sixth goal for the North. Kyle Wood brought the Pacific close on a late goal, but the North held on for a 6-3 victory and two points.
Game 3: North 1 Central 2
The two undefeated sides squared off in the third game and the North struck first. Casey Bailey fired a puck past Anton Forsberg for the opening goal. Alex Tuch beat Charlie Lindgren in the second period in a great display of hands to knot the game at one. The teams stayed deadlocked and headed to a shootout, where Spencer Abbott gave the Central Division the 2-1 victory.
Game 4: Atlantic 6 Pacific 1
This game was dominated entirely by the hometown Lehigh Valley Phantoms players. T.J. Brennan opened the scoring with an nifty move. Jordan Weal followed that up with a goal, and Taylor Leier added a pair as well. Travis Boyd of the Hershey Bears scored on a slick breakaway as well for the Atlantic. Daniel O’Reagan scored the lone goal for the Pacific who were eliminated from finals contention.
Game 5: Pacific 3 Central 5
With a trip to the finals on the line, the Central Division came out on fire. They got goals from Matt Lorito, Kenny Agostino, Alex Tuch, and Oliver Bjorkstrand in the first period to jump out to a huge lead. Christian Fischer scored the lone goal in the first period for the Pacific Division. The second period would be far tamer with just three total goals. Matt Lorito potted his second of the game while Kyle Wood and Daniel O’Regan scored for the Pacific.
Game 6: North 0 Atlantic 2
The North Division needed a regulation win to advance to the finals, and the Atlantic had already clinched a spot with their flawless record. It was the Atlantic that got on the board first with Nicklas Jensen converting a Mackenzie Weegar pass to beat Linus Ullmark. Despite a strong showing from Charlie Lindgren, the Atlantic added an empty-net goal to put the game out of reach. The North’s loss means that the Atlantic would face the Central in the Championship Game.
Championship Game: Atlantic 0 Central 1
The final match was all about the goalies, with Michael Leighton, Zane McIntyre, Anton Forsberg, and Tristan Jarry putting on shutout performances for their teams. It came down to a shootout, where Matt Lorito scored the winner, beating Zane McIntyre in the fourth round.
Taylor Leier took home MVP honours on the back of three goals on the night, and the hometown crowd gave him a loud ovation as he collected his award.