Central Division Defeats Atlantic Division in 2017 AHL All-Star Challenge Finals

Monday, January 30, 2017
Taylor Leier accepts the AHL All-Star MVP award from the AHL's President/CEO David Andrews
Taylor Leier Wins AHL All-Star MVP

Written by: Tony Androckitis - Twitter/Facebook

ALLENTOWN - The Lehigh Valley Phantoms organization put together a great event for fans across the American Hockey League (AHL) this weekend, and the Phantoms' All-Star representatives put on a show in front 8,451 fans at the PPL Center Monday night in the 2017 AHL All-Star Challenge.

T.J. Brennan (one goal, one assist), Jordan Weal (one goal, one assist) and Taylor Leier (three goals) helped the Atlantic Division All-Stars to a perfect 3-0 record in the preliminary rounds of the three-on-three tournament before eventually falling to the Central Division All-Stars in an extended shootout in the championship game.

Despite being the runner-up, the league awarded Phantoms' forward Taylor Leier with the 2017 AHL All-Star MVP - making it a clean sweep for the Philadelphia Flyers organization on All-Star weekend as Wayne Simmonds won NHL All-Star MVP Sunday in Los Angeles.

After the jump, a recap of the 3-on-3 games with quick hits on notable plays/players and goals.

Game 1: Central - 1 vs. Atlantic - 2

After a bit of a slow start in the opening four minutes, the goals started to pick up with Lehigh Valley Phantoms' All-Stars Jordan Weal and T.J. Brennan setting up their Atlantic Division teammates with goals.

First it was David Warsofsky getting a puck to Jordan Weal at the center point. Weal weaved around the perimeter before cutting to the net and hitting Mackenzie Weegar on the back door for a quick shot past Charlotte Checkers' goaltender Michael Leighton to put the Atlantic Division ahead 1-0.

Less than a minute later, it was Phantoms' defenseman Brennan setting up Hershey Bears' forward Travis Boyd to give Atlantic a 2-0 lead. Brennan swung out from behind the net and sent a cross-ice pass to Boyd for another tap in goal that Leighton didn't have much of a chance on.

Weal nearly netted a goal in the second half of the ten-minute game, going back and forth on a 2-on-0 before getting a pass back and getting absolutely robbed by Leighton. 
The Central Division pushed back in the final minutes and got it within one at 2-1 with 47.4 seconds left when Cleveland's Oliver Bjorkstrand beat Zane McIntyre, but the Atlantic Division was able to hang on for the win.


1st Half

3:53: ATL - Weegar (1) - Weal, Warsofsky
4:39: ATL - Boyd (1) - Brennan, Bourque

2nd Half

4:12: CEN - Bjorkstrand (1) - Tuch, Russo


ATL - Tristan Jarry - 0 saves on 0 shots
           Zane McIntyre - 6 saves on 7 shots

CEN - Michael Leighton - 3 saves on 5 shots

Game 2: Pacific - 3 vs. North - 6

There was no slow start or shortage of goals in the second game of the night as the Pacific and North Divisions showed everyone how it's done - combining for nine goals in the 10-minute contest.

It started on the opening shift when Ontario's Jonny Brodzinski sent a pass from just inside the blue line to a cutting Daniel O'Regan 24 seconds in to put Pacific up 1-0.

On the next shift, Rochester's Cole Schneider took a pass from his Americans teammate Justin Bailey and used his silky mits to go five-hole on San Jose's goaltender Troy Grosenick to even the game at 1-1.
The teams traded goals to end the first five minute segment of the game, with San Antonio's A.J. Greer making a defender miss at the blue line before firing one past St. John's Charlie Lindgren. Toronto's Kerby Rychel finished off a feed from Syracuse's Cory Conacher, sending the two teams into the second five minutes tied at 2-2.

The North Division exploded in the second half, getting four goals in the opening 3:09 of the period to blow the game open.

St. John's Chris Terry took a pass from Rychel as he was cutting to the net for a tap in past Ontario's Jack Campbell, then Rochester's Justin Bailey tallied two goals in 14 seconds and just like that it was 5-2 North.
Binghamton's Casey Bailey (no relation to Justin Bailey on Rochester) made it 6-2 late.

In the final seconds, Campbell was the first goalie to record a point - flipping a breakout pass to the far blue line to Greer and although Greer's shot was stopped the rebound came out to Kyle Wood for a tap in before the buzzer.


1st Half

0:24: PAC - O'Regan (1) - Brodzinski, LoVerde
1:09: NOR - Schneider (1) - J. Bailey, Subban
2:04: PAC - Greer (1) - unassisted
2:56: NOR - Rychel (1) - Conacher, Tormina

2nd Half

0:37: NOR - Terry (1) - Rychel, Taormina
2:08: NOR - J. Bailey (1) - unassisted
2:22: NOR - J. Bailey (2) - Grenier
3:09: NOR - C. Bailey (1) - Grenier, Terry
4:59: PAC - Wood (1) - Greer, Campbell


NOR: Charlie Lindgren - 1 save on 3 shots
Linus Ullmark - 5 saves on 6 shots

PAC: Troy Grosenick - 1 save on 3 shots
Jack Campbell - 5 saves on 9 shots

Game 3: Central - 2 vs. North - 1 (SO)

There were plenty of chances in the first half of Game 3 between the Central and North Division All-Stars, but a few near misses and some good stops by goaltenders Anton Forseberg (CEN) and Linus Ullmark (NOR) kept the game scoreless into the final minute of the first half.

It was Casey Bailey and Justin Bailey back and forth on a 2-on-1, with Casey getting the last pass from Justin atop the crease for the game's 1st goal.
The Central Division All-Stars evened things up early in the second half on a nice set of dekes on a breakaway by Iowa's Alex Tuch - beating Lindgren low to the glove side.
The two teams ended the 10-minute period tied at 1-1, so a three round shootout commenced.

Central Division's Spencer Abbott won the game in the shootout with this slick set of moves.

1st Half

4:32: NOR - C. Bailey (2) - J. Bailey, Subban

2nd Half

0:59: CEN - Tuch (1) - Russo


North: Schneider (yes), Terry (no) and Grenier (no)
Central: Agostino (yes) and Abbott (yes)


North: Linus Ullmark - 4 saves on 4 shots
Charlie Lindgren - 3 saves on 4 shots (2-2 in shootout)

Central: Anton Forseberg - 9 saves on 10 shots (1-2 in shootout)

Game 4: Pacific - 1 vs. Atlantic - 6

The Lehigh Valley Phantoms' All-Stars gave their hometown fans something to cheer about in their second game of the night as all three representatives - T.J. Brennan, Jordan Weal and Taylor Leier - tallied a goal to help push the Atlantic Division to a 2-0 record.

In fact, Leier tallied back-to-back goals to close out the Atlantic's 6-1 win in Game 4.

Here's T.J. Brennan's goal that opened the scoring.
Jordan Weal followed Brennan's goal up a little over a minute later before Daniel O'Regan made it a one-goal game in the final minute of the first half.

Just as you thought Pacific was making a comeback bid, Hershey captain Chris Bourque sniped one on the next shift to keep the Atlantic ahead for good. Bourque's Bears' teammate Travis Boyd opened the scoring 35 seconds into the second segment with a great forehand to backhand move.

Leier tallied back-to-back goals - one 15 seconds after Boyd's goal and one in the final minute, with his second of the game coming from the left-wing faceoff circle.


1st Half

3:16: ATL - Brennan (1) - Heinen
4:28: ATL - Weal (1) - Jensen, Weegar
4:40: PAC - O'Regan (2) - Fischer, Oesterle
4:50: ATL - Bourque (1) - Boyd

2nd Half

0:35: ATL - Boyd (2) - Weegar, Bourque
0:50: ATL - Leier (1) - Jensen
4:02: ATL - Leier (2) - Bourque, Warsofsky


Atlantic: Tristan Jarry - 2 saves on 3 shots
Zane McIntyre - 0 saves on 0 shots

Pacific: Jack Campbell - 4 saves on 7 shots
Troy Grosenick - 2 saves on 5 shots

Game 5: Pacific - 3 vs. Central - 5

The Central Division was hot out of the gates in the second to last game of the night, scoring three goals in the opening 43 seconds on Troy Grosenick to hop out to a 3-0 lead.

Matt Lorito, who tallied two goals and added an assist in Game 5 alone, led the way for the Central Division along with AHL leading scorer Kenny Agostino (one goal, two assists).
Daniel O'Regan was a bright spot for the Pacific All-Stars, finishing the tournament with three goals.


1st Half

0:07: CEN - Lorito (1) - Agostino
0:21: CEN - Agostino (1) - Lorito, Roslovic
0:43: CEN - Tuch (2) - Bjorkstrand
3:54: PAC - Fischer (1) - Stransky, Wood
4:42: CEN - Bjorkstrand (2) - Roslovic, Dunn

2nd Half

1:52: CEN - Lorito (2) - Agostino
2:10: PAC - Wood (2) - Fischer, Montour
4:56: PAC - O'Regan (3) - Stransky


CEN - Michael Leighton - 4 saves on 5 shots
Anton Forseberg - 5 saves on 7 shots

PAC - Troy Grosenick - 1 save on 5 shots
Jack Campbell - 1 save on 2 shots

Game 6: North - 0 vs. Atlantic - 2

The Atlantic Division clinched a spot in the championship round before their final match of the night began, but it didn't keep them from going for the clean sweep in the round robin portion of the tournament.

Mackenzie Weegar, from behind the North Division's net, fed a pass in front to Nicklas Jensen for the lone goal of the first half. The Atlantic All-Stars thought they scored as time expired, but it was deemed no-goal.

Down a goal and needing a regulation win to advance to the championship, the North Division pulled their goalie for the extra attacker with 2:00 left.

Taylor Leier stole a puck and sent it ahead to Chris Bourque who had a breakaway and the empty net to shoot at, but the Bears' forward passed it back to the hometown Leier for the empty netter to seal the deal in the 2-0 win and perfect 3-0 record in the round robin tournament, setting up a championship game between themselves and the Central Division.


1st Half

2:59: ATL - Jensen (1) - Weegar, Heinen

2nd Half

4:00: ATL - ENG Leier (3) - Bourque


Atlantic: Tristan Jarry - 4 saves on 4 shots
Zane McIntyre - 4 saves on 4 shots

North: Linus Ullmark - 6 saves on 7 shots
Charlie Lindgren - 5 saves on 6 shots

Championship Game: Central - 1 vs. Atlantic - 0 (SO)

Of course the finals matchup between the Central Division and Atlantic Division All-Stars needed a shootout to decide the winner. In fact, it took an extra round of the shootout to declare the 2017 AHL All-Star Challenge champion.

Perhaps the most impressive moment of the night came halfway through the championship match, as both goaltenders on the ice - Tristan Jarry for the Atlantic and Michael Leighton for the Central - headed to the bench to switch goaltenders while play was still going on in a 0-0 game. The fact that the swap was made so smoothly as to not disrupt the flow or outcome of the game was simply incredible.

After a scoreless six-minute final, goaltenders Anton Forseberg and Zane McIntyre turned aside three shooters each - sending the shootout to the fourth round.

In the fourth round, the puck went on edge as Leier was shifting from backhand to forehand and he lost control of it into the corner. Then, Matt Lorito of Grand Rapids sealed the deal with a forehand to backhand move that opened up McIntyre's five hole.


1st Half

No scoring

2nd Half

No scoring.


ATL - Weal (no), Bourque (no), Boyd (no) and Leier (no)
CEN - Agostino (no), Abbott (no), Bjorkstrand (no) and Lorito (yes)


ATL: Tristan Jarry - 0 saves on 0 shots
Zane McIntyre - 2 saves on 2 shots (3 saves on 4 shooters)

CEN: Michael Leighton - 2 saves on 2 shots
Anton Forseberg - 1 save on 1 shot (4 saves on 4 shooters)


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