Saturday's Morning Skate 4/16

Saturday, April 16, 2016
Penguins' goaltender Casey DeSmith prepares to make a save Friday night with Phantoms' Steven Swavely setting up atop the crease. Photo: Nina Weiss/The Home News
The Eastern Conference playoff race ended Friday as the Bridgeport Sound Tigers clinched the last available postseason berth following their 3-2 triumph over Portland. While we know the eight teams competing in the Eastern Conference - Toronto, Albany, Utica, Hershey, W-B/Scranton, Providence, Portland and Bridgeport - there is still plenty still to be determined as far as seeding for the first round, especially in the Atlantic Division.

The Hershey Bears are in full control for claiming the Atlantic Division regular season title, needing two points in either of their final two games or a Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins loss to wrap it up. The Pens and PBruins meet tonight tied with 91 points in a battle for the second seed in the divisional playoffs and home ice advantage in the first round. The Pirates and Sound Tigers, meanwhile, are tied with 87 points for the final two spots in the division, the second of which is a crossover to the North Division. Whoever finishes fifth in the Atlantic will take on either AHL-leading Toronto or the ower North Division powerhouse Albany in the first round.

There's still plenty to be decided in the Eastern Conference before the quest for the 2016 Calder Cup Playoffs begins next week.

Atlantic Division Standings (through 4/15's games)

1. x - Hershey: 74GP (2 remaining), 41-21-5-7 = 94 points (.635 PCT)
2. x - W-B/Scranton: 74GP (2 remaining), 43-26-4-1 = 91 points (.615 PCT)
4. x - Portland: 74GP (2 remaining), 40-27-5-2 = 87 points (.588 PCT)
3. x - Providence: 74GP (2 remaining), 39-22-9-4 = 91 points (.615 PCT)
5. x - Bridgeport: 74GP (2 remaining), 40-27-4-3 = 87 points (.588 PCT)
6. Hartford: 75GP (1 remaining), 41-31-3-0 = 85 points (.567 PCT)
7. Lehigh Valley: 74GP (2 remaining), 33-34-4-3 = 73 points (.493 PCT)
8. Springfield: 74GP (2 remaining), 25-41-3-5 = 58 points (.392 PCT)

Around The Atlantic

W-B/Scranton - 2 at Lehigh Valley - 1

The Lehigh Valley Phantoms played an even first period with rival Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Friday night at the PPL Center but were unable to match the Penguins' pressure in the final 40 minutes before ultimately coming up short 2-1 in the final meeting between the two teams this season.

Robert Hagg gave the Phantoms a 1-0 lead early in the first period, but it was quickly countered by the Penguins to even things at 1-1 on a deflected in shot by Jean-Sebastien Dea for his 20th of the season. Anthony Stolarz stood on his head at times to get Lehigh Valley to the third period still deadlocked, but the Penguins' third period push was enough to get them a go-ahead goal by Jake Guentzel and the two points in the standings as they continue to strive for home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs next week,

Stolarz finished with 40 saves on 42 shots and by the time he was heading off the ice for the extra attacker with just over a minute left, his job was done - giving his team a chance to tie the game in the waning seconds of regulation. Unfortunately for Lehigh Valley, they just weren't able to find the back of the net.

The Penguins' win sets them up with a big home match up against the Providence Bruins, while the Phantoms play their final road game of the season Saturday at Giant Center against rival Hershey.

Bridgeport - 3 at Portland - 2

The Bridgeport Sound Tigers punched their ticket to the 2016 Calder Cup Playoffs with a win over the Portland Pirates Friday night at Cross Insurance Arena.

The Sound Tigers had seven different players record a point in a game where they trailed with 15:44 left in regulation. Back-to-back goals by Matt Finn and Bracken Kearns in the final six minutes of play in the third period combined with 25 stops from Stephon Williams was enough to give the Sound Tigers a crucial bounce back win,

Connor Brickley and Brett Olson put the Pirates ahead with a pair of early third period goals, but it wasn't enough behind 31 saves from veteran Mike McKenna in a losing effort.

Bridgeport could be seeing a playoff preview when they travel to Albany Saturday, while Portland looks to get back into the win column against lowly Springfield.

Hartford - 4 at St. John's - 1

At the time, the Wolf Pack's 4-1 win in St. John's kept their playoff hopes alive Friday night behind a game-high three assist performance from rookie Adam Tambellini. Jayson Mega also tallied three points (one goal, two assists) in the win for Hartford who scored early and often.

The IceCaps broke Mackenzie Skapski's shutout bid with 11:42 left in the third period on a power play tally by Michael McCarron but it was too little too late for St. John's behind Skapski's 23 saves.

The two teams rematch Saturday night in Newfoundland.

Hershey - 2 at Binghamton - 4

In Binghamton, the Hershey Bears took leads of 1-0 and 2-1 but the BSens had the answer - sending the game to third period tied 2-2 before an early third period goal by Ryan Rupert proved to be the difference in a surprising win for Binghamton Friday night.

Casey Bailey had a game-high three points (all assists) in the win for the BSens, while Matt Puempel, Max McCormick and Phil Varone tallied a goal and an assist each. Matt O'Connor picked up the win with 20 saves on 22 shots.

The Bears got goals from Zach Sill and Riley Barber in the loss, while Dan Ellis stopped 26 of the 29 shots he faced.

Hershey returns home to host rival Lehigh Valley Saturday night, while Binghamton ends their season Sunday in Utica.

Other Eastern Conference Scores

Syracuse - 1 at Utica - 3
Albany - 5 at Rochester - 0

Saturday's Eastern Conference Schedule

Bridgeport  at Albany - 5:00 p.m. ET
Rochester at Toronto - 5:00 p.m. ET
Hartford at St. John's - 6:00 p.m. ET
Lehigh Valley at Hershey - 7:00 p.m. ET
Portland at Springfield - 7:00 p.m. ET
Utica at Syracuse - 7:00 p.m. ET
Providence at W-B/Scranton - 7:05 p.m. ET


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