Kukla's Korner

Category: AHL-Hockey

Clutch Relief Performance Brings Mike Smith Full Circle and the Lightning Into a 2-2 Series Tie

He spoke of Tampa in a consistent past tense and yearned for an opportunity elsewhere.

He looked at an AHL stint as a chance to refine his game, showcase his skills and provide leadership for those just starting their professional hockey careers.

He did not expect to be back in a Lightning uniform and he certainly couldn’t have predicted a clutch showing in game four of the Eastern Conference Final, as he put forth today.

In his mind, Mike Smith was as close to being a former Bolt as it gets in late February, when he and I spoke at length over the phone – he in Norfolk, Virginia and I, here, in Tampa – but just a day later, Smith’s Lightning career breathed new life, as he was placed on re-entry waivers after the team shipped backup goaltender Dan Ellis to Anaheim. Clearing a day later, Smith rejoined the Bolts and took his place behind Dwayne Roloson on the depth chart in the Lightning crease.

And today, Smith stepped in for Roloson, who yielded three Boston goals on nine shots in the first period, stopped all 21 Bruin shots he faced and earned the all-important win as his teammates rallied for five unanswered goals to even the series at two games apiece.

It’s amazing how things turn out sometimes, isn’t it?

“Yeah, it is,” Smith said after the game four victory, recalling the exact conversation we had back then and reiterating the gut feelings he had at the time.

“I never thought I would play for the Lightning again.”

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Filed in: AHL Hockey, Boston Bruins, Dallas Stars, Tampa Bay Lightning, | Beasts of the Southeast | Permalink
 

Checkers Stand Alone: Hershey, Norfolk Out; Charlotte Faces Wilkes-Barre in AHL East Division Final

The AHL’s Calder Cup playoffs began with three affiliates of the NHL’s Southeast Division and that number was destined to shrink by at least one with Hershey and Charlotte squaring off in the opening round.

Unfortunately, the Carolina Hurricanes are the lone remaining Southeast Division squad with an AHL affiliate still vying for the Calder Cup, as the Checkers bested the Hershey Bears four games to two, while the Norfolk Admirals also fell in six games, despite a 2-0 series lead, to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.

Here’s a stat line look at the games played since we last checked in and some heres and theres on the AHL playoffs thus far, as well as a look ahead at Charlotte’s schedule this week, as they get set to take on Wilkes-Barre in the East Division Final.

GAME RESULTS
Click for individual box scores
Tuesday, 4/19/11: Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins 2, Norfolk Admirals 1
Norfolk goal-scorers: Stefano Giliati (1)
Norfolk goaltenders (saves/shots): Dustin Tokarski (23/25)
Three stars of the game: 1 – Bryan Lerg, WBS; 2 – Stefano Giliati, NOR; 3 – Dustin Tokarski, NOR

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Filed in: AHL Hockey, Carolina Hurricanes, Pittsburgh Penguins, Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals, | Beasts of the Southeast | Permalink
 

Ads, Bears and Checkers Represent Southeast Affiliates in AHL Playoffs: A Look Back at Week One

Playoff action at the AHL level kicked off last week as well and the top affiliates for the Carolina Hurricanes, Tampa Bay Lightning and Washington Capitals are all underway in their chase for the Calder Cup.

Charlotte (Carolina) and Hershey (Washington) are battling each other in the East Quarterfinals while Norfolk (Tampa Bay) takes on regular season stalwart, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (Pittsburgh).

As we did throughout the regular season, let’s take a look at the games that have been played thus far, from a bottom-line, statistical point of view. Since this is the playoffs, however, we’ll toss in a little overview for each as well.

GAME RESULTS
Click for individual box scores

Thursday, 4/14/11: Charlotte Checkers 5, Hershey Bears 4

Drayson Bowman’s goal just past the midway point of the third period proved to be the deciding factor, putting Charlotte ahead to stay in a back-and-forth affair with Hershey in game one. After Steve Pinizzotto opened the scoring just 1:10 into the game for the Bears, Zac Dalpe and Chris Terry each scored for the Checkers to give Charlotte a 2-1 lead. Keith Aucoin knotted things up for Hershey on the power play, late in the opening frame and the teams traded goals in the second period to head to the third tied at 3-3.

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Filed in: AHL Hockey, Carolina Hurricanes, Pittsburgh Penguins, Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals, | Beasts of the Southeast | Permalink
 

Southeast AHL Affiliate Stats Pack: 4/11/11

One final update from AHL regular season action before our weekly stats pack-style showcase of the NHL’s Southeast Division affiliates gets a bit more detailed, focusing on playoff action for the three clubs that qualified for Calder Cup contention, Charlotte, Hershey and Norfolk.

Until then, however, one last look at the week gone by:

GAME RESULTS
Click for individual box scores

Monday, 4/4/11: Adirondack Phantoms 6, Rochester Americans 0
Rochester goal-scorers: none
Rochester goaltenders (saves/shots): Marc Cheverie (29/35)
Three stars of the game: 1 – Denis Hamel, ADK; 2 – Michael Leighton, ADK; 3 – Matt Read, ADK

Monday, 4/4/11: Norfolk Admirals 5, Charlotte Checkers 2
Norfolk goal-scorers: Mattias Ritola 2 (7), Pierre-Cedric Labrie (6), Blair Jones 2 (23)
Charlotte goal-scorers: Chris Terry (33), Bobby Sanguinetti (3)
Norfolk goaltenders (saves/shots): Jaroslav Janus (24/26)
Charlotte goaltenders (saves/shots): Justin Pogge (21/26), Bobby Goepfert (10/10)
Three stars of the game: 1 – Blair Jones, NOR; 2 – Mattias Ritola, NOR; 3 – Marc-Antoine Pouliot, NOR

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Filed in: AHL Hockey, Atlanta Thrashers, Carolina Hurricanes, Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals, | Beasts of the Southeast | Permalink
 

Your Easy-Viewing First Round Schedule for Tampa, Washington and Southeast AHL Affiliates

The playoffs are here and there’s much to do along with that. We’ve got predictions to be made, schedules to coordinate, stories to write and, don’t forget, beards to grow!

As far as scheduling goes, complete playoff dockets can be found all over the place but many folks have a specific focus in mind and you won’t find that readily available just anywhere. But I’ve put together a master viewing schedule for anyone with a Southeast Division focus, in particular, including AHL Calder Cup playoff matchup for Carolina, Tampa Bay and Washington fans looking to track their minor league affiliates in the postseason as well. (I would imagine that AHL Live will make a playoff package available in short order.)

Naturally, many of you (like me) will be watching as much playoff hockey as you possibly can, by whatever means necessary, making the act of planning your viewing schedule relatively pointless but, if you follow along with this, fans of teams in the Southeast (and even those who will only see playoff action through their minor league affiliates) won’t miss a second of their club’s chase for a championship. I’ll certainly aim to update this past the first round, where applicable.

Your master schedule awaits:

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Filed in: AHL Hockey, New York Rangers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals, | Beasts of the Southeast | Permalink
 

As Playoffs Near, Almost Time to Put Away the Razors: Join Me in Bearded Glory?

Usually, at this time of the season, I’m making off-season plans, soliciting reader responses for year-end fan polls and compiling the results, pondering summer changes for my primary team of focus, the Tampa Bay Lightning, and finalizing preparations to decrease the workload a bit or take some time away from writing altogether.

Can’t do any of that this year – not with the Bolts in the dance for the first time since 2007 – and the divisional focus is still alive as well, with the Washington Capitals not only Southeast champs for the fourth consecutive season but also in the driver’s seat for the Eastern Conference’s top seed, now leading Philadelphia by two points (and Pittsburgh three) after locking up the division with a shootout win in Toronto last night. Also, the Carolina Hurricanes are still clinging to life, though a home loss to Detroit tonight would kill their postseason dream outright.

So, with two Southeast clubs headed to the Stanley Cup playoffs (and maybe, maaaaayyyyybeeeeee three), I’m in business for a while longer than usual this year – at least in terms of sticking with my assigned beat and not having to look elsewhere for material, unless I so choose.

And along with remaining in work mode this year (hallelujah, by the way) comes the return of my very own playoff beard (and the tracking of progress with pictures, thereof).

If you want to play along, you have to abide by my simple rules:

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Filed in: AHL Hockey, Carolina Hurricanes, Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals, | Beasts of the Southeast | Permalink
 

Southeast AHL Affiliate Stats Pack: 4/4/11

The AHL’s regular season wraps up this coming weekend and the affiliates of the NHL’s Southeast Division teams should be well-represented when all is said and done.

The Hershey Bears and Charlotte Checkers have already clinched playoff berths and the Norfolk Admirals are on the doorstep, with five games left on the schedule and a magic number of three over Worcester. In the West, the Chicago Wolves are in a battle for a spot in the Calder Cup playoffs by way of the crossover rule, currently four points over the North Division’s Abbotsford Heat but trailing division rival Oklahoma City by a single point. Chicago and Oklahoma City each have three games remaining to Abbotsford’s five.

Only the Rochester Americans are sure to miss the AHL postseason this year, last in the North and well out of playoff contention.

With postseason berths at stake, the upcoming week is full of crucial games and once the playoff seeds are set, the focus of this weekly update will shift that way and include some more detailed recaps. Until then, let’s have a look back at the week gone by:

GAME RESULTS
Click for individual box scores

Tuesday, 3/29/11: Manitoba Moose 3, Rochester Americans 2
Rochester goal-scorers: Eric Selleck (3), Bill Thomas (14)
Rochester goaltenders (saves/shots): Marc Cheverie (43/46)
Three stars of the game: 1 – Bill Sweatt, MTB; 2 – Marc Cheverie, RCH; 3 – Jason Jaffray, MTB

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Filed in: AHL Hockey, Atlanta Thrashers, Carolina Hurricanes, Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals, | Beasts of the Southeast | Permalink
 

Southeast AHL Affiliate Stats Pack: 3/28/11

Hershey’s clinched in the East Division and both Charlotte and Norfolk are getting awful close. Chicago’s in a dogfight in the West (with an added lift from the crossover rule), while Rochester is left to play for pride. Amid some serious playoff race action, here is your weekly stats pack-style glimpse at the week gone by for the AHL affiliates of the NHL’s Southeast Division clubs:

GAME RESULTS
Click for individual box scores

Tuesday, 3/22/11: Charlotte Checkers 5, Adirondack Phantoms 2
Charlotte goal-scorers: Mike McKenzie (1), Chris Terry (29), Zach Boychuk 2 (19), Jacob Micflikier (24)
Charlotte goaltenders (saves/shots): Justin Pogge (17/19)
Three stars of the game: 1 – Zach Boychuk, CHA; 2 – Michal Jordan, CHA; 3 – Jacob Micflikier, CHA

Tuesday, 3/22/11: Lake Erie Monsters 2, Rochester Americans 1
Rochester goal-scorers: Kenndal McArdle (14)
Rochester goaltenders (saves/shots): Marc Cheverie (31/33)
Three stars of the game: 1 – Travis Gawryletz, LE; 2 – Shawn Belle, LE; 3 – Kenndal McArdle, RCH

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Filed in: AHL Hockey, Atlanta Thrashers, Carolina Hurricanes, Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals, | Beasts of the Southeast | Permalink
 

Southeast AHL Affiliate Stats Pack: 3/22/11

Another week, another look at the Southeast Division’s AHL affiliates…

Let’s get right to last week’s results:

GAME RESULTS
Click for individual box scores

Wednesday, 3/16/11: Charlotte Checkers 2, Bridgeport Sound Tigers 1 (SO)
Charlotte goal-scorers: Chris Terry (26)
Charlotte goaltenders (saves/shots): Mike Murphy (30/31)
Three stars of the game: 1 – Chris Terry, CHA; 2 – Joel Martin, BRI; 3 – Mike Murphy, CHA

Wednesday, 3/16/11: Hamilton Bulldogs 2, Rochester Americans 0
Rochester goal-scorers: none
Rochester goaltenders (saves/shots): Tyler Plante (23/24)
Three stars of the game: 1 – Andrew Conboy, HAM; 2 – Tyler Plante, RCH; 3 – Drew MacIntyre, HAM

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Filed in: AHL Hockey, Atlanta Thrashers, Carolina Hurricanes, Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals, | Beasts of the Southeast | Permalink
 

Southeast AHL Affiliate Stats Pack: 3/15/11

Changing the name of this weekly installment one last time, more than anything, to reflect exactly what it is: A stats pack. Ergo, I think Southeast AHL Affiliate Stats Pack will work just fine from now on.

Let’s get to last week’s results:

GAME RESULTS
Click for individual box scores

Tuesday, 3/8/11: Charlotte Checkers 2, Binghamton Senators 1
Charlotte goal-scorers: Zac Dalpe (19), Jon Matsumoto (17)
Charlotte goaltenders (saves/shots): Justin Pogge (38/39)
Three stars of the game: 1 – Justin Pogge, CHA; 2 – Jon Matsumoto, CHA; 3 – Ryan Keller, BNG

Tuesday, 3/8/11: Portland Pirates 3, Hershey Bears 2 (SO)
Hershey goal-scorers: Mathieu Perreault (10), Patrick McNeill (4)
Hershey goaltenders (saves/shots): Nolan Schaefer (28/30)
Three stars of the game: 1 – Corey Tropp, POR; 2 – David Leggio, POR; 3 – Nolan Schaefer, HER

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Filed in: AHL Hockey, Atlanta Thrashers, Carolina Hurricanes, Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals, | Beasts of the Southeast | Permalink
 

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