Saturday's Morning Skate 4/23

Saturday, April 23, 2016
The Portland Pirates look to take a 2-0 series lead tonight against Hershey. Photo: Nina Weiss/The Home News
The first round of the 2016 Calder Cup Playoffs is upon us and tonight all eight divisional semifinals series are in action.

So far in the Eastern Conference, home ice advantage has been prime. The home teams are a combined 4-0 with three of those four wins coming by teams playing a higher seeded opponent.

The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, who entered their series against the Providence Bruins as underdogs, won both of their home games and have the PBruins on the brink of elimination tonight as the series shifts to Providence for Game Three of the best-of-five series.

At this time of the year, throw the regular season records and stats out the window. They mean just about nothing, except for the seeding in the postseason. Several incoming prospects who were eliminated from their respective Canadian junior league playoffs have joined AHL clubs and look to help put their team over the top.

Top prospects like Pavel Zacha (Albany/New Jersey), Lawson Crouse (Portland/Florida) and Daniel Sprong (W-B/Scranton/Pittsburgh) have all joined the 2016 Calder Cup Playoffs looking to make an immediate impact.

Eastern Conference Playoff Action

Hershey - 4 at Portland - 6 (POR leads series 1-0)

In Game One of the Atlantic Division Semifinals series, the Portland Pirates took advantage of home ice scoring early and often in a 6-4 win over the top seeded Hershey Bears.

The Pirates never trailed, but it seemed anytime the Pirates extended their lead to two goals that Hershey was not far behind in answering to make it a one-goal game. Rocco Grimaldi led the way with a game-high three points (0G-3A), while Rob Schremp and Shane Harper tallied two goals apiece to pace Portland's attack. Mike McKenna surrendered four goals on 32 shots, but his 28 saves were enough to give the Pirates a 1-0 series lead.

Hershey was playing catch up from the first six minutes of the game, going behind 2-0 late in the first period before getting on the board in the final seconds of the opening frame. In the end, the Bears were only able to bring it to a one-goal deficit before a late power play tally in the final seconds of the third period sealed their fate. Tyler Lewington tallied two goals, while Travis Boyd, Chris Bourque and Chandler Stephenson recorded two assists each. Dan Ellis surrendered six goals on 36 shots in the loss.

The two teams are right back at it tonight in Game Two in Portland at 7:05 p.m. ET before the series shifts to Giant Center in Hershey, Pa. for the final three games of the best-of-five series.

Utica - 2 at Albany - 3 (ALB leads series 1-0)

The Albany Devils jumped out to a 2-0 lead early in the second period, and clamped things down on the Utica Comets from there to earn the 3-2 victory in Game One. In fact, the Devils held the Comets without a shot on goal in the entire middle frame - limiting Utica to just 14 shots on their way to a 1-0 series lead in the North Division Semifinals.

Ben Thomson, Reid Boucher and Joseph Blandisi tallied goals in the win for Albany, who got offense from three different lines in a balanced attack. Scott Wedgewood only stopped 12 shots, but earned the win behind a stalwart defensive effort at the Times Union Center Friday night.

Darren Archibal and Jordan Subban tallied goals for the Comets in the loss, with Subban's tally making it a one-goal game in the final 4:19 of regulation. Utica was simply unable to generate enough offensive pressure to find an equalizer to force overtime. Richard Bachman stopped 26 of 29 in the loss for Utica.

Game Two of this series is tonight at 5:00 p.m. ET before the two teams head to Utica for Games Three and Four. Game Five, if necessary, will finish the series back in Albany.

Western Conference Playoff Scores

Grand Rapids - 3 at Milwaukee - 1 (GRG leads series 1-0)
Ontario - 2 at San Jose - 1 (ONT leads series 1-0)

Saturday's Playoff Schedule

Utica at Albany - 5:00 p.m. ET (ALB leads series 1-0)
Hershey at Portland - 7:00 p.m. ET (POR leads series 1-0)
Toronto at Bridgeport - 7:00 p.m. ET (Game One)
Rockford at Lake Erie - 7:00 p.m. ET (LEM leads series 2-0)
W-B/Scranton at Providence - 7:05 p.m. ET (WBS leads series 2-0)
Grand Rapids at Milwaukee - 8:00 p.m. ET (GRG leads series 1-0)
San Diego at Texas - 8:00 p.m. ET (SDG leads series 1-0)
Ontario at San Jose - 10:30 p.m. ET (ONT leads series 1-0)


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