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Hard to believe, but the All Star weekend in Utica is over.
This was my first time going to any All Star event at any level, and it was an awesome experience. Always fun to visit with friends from around the league and see players I never get to see live (translation: anyone in the Western Conference not a Comet or a Flame). Without further delay, let’s recap the last two days!
The slate of events began on Sunday evening, as both teams took to the ice at The Aud for the Skills Competition.
Both teams split the four rounds of the Puck Control Relay. Joe Whitney was part of the second heat, which the West won.
In the second event for Fastest Skater, Manchester’s Colin Miller won the individual title with a time of 13.805 seconds. The West won the team average title at 13.9 seconds.
The West goaltending dominated during the Rapid Fire competition, as goaltenders Richard Bachman (Oklahoma City), Jacob Markstrom (Utica) and Magnus Hellberg (Milwaukee) combined for 23 saves over 30 chances. In the final heat, Utica’s Bobby Sanguinetti owned St. John’s goaltender Connor Hellebuyck, burying 4 out of 5 shots on net to the delight of the hometown crowd.
The East took the Hardest Shot round, thanks to a new AHL All Star record off the stick of Miller, who registered a shot of 105.5 MPH. His three shots on net all broke 103 easily.
Paul Thompson took part in the Accuracy Shooting, getting all 4 targets on 8 attempts. Hartford’s Chris Bourque and Texas’s Maxime Fortunus tied with 4 targets out of 6 attempts. The West took the team point by hitting 14 targets out of 30 chances.
In the Pass and Score Competition, Whitney and Thompson teamed up with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s Derrick Pouliot, but were unable to get the puck past Bachman. The East took the round by scoring 4 times over 6 heats.
The East clinched the competition during the Breakaway Relay, scoring 5 goals over three rounds. Thompson and Whitney were shut out on their attempts. Hellebuyck and Manchester’s J.F. Berube stopped all 6 of their attempts to clinch the win.
Before the actual game on Monday, the State of the League address took place at Turning Stone. Full audio from the Power Play Post Show can be found here. The Times Union has a brief summary of topics, such as the rumored Pacific Division and schedule adjustments.
And now, for the actual game.
Things got off to a good start for the East, as Portland’s Brendan Shinnimin got the first goal of the evening. But the West would rattle off three straight tallies, off the sticks of Rockford’s Mark McNeill, Milwaukee’s Brendan Leipsic, and Hamilton’s Charles Hudon. Shinnimin would add his second to get back to within one, only to have Chicago’s Ty Rattie restore the two goal lead as the period ended. But the star was the hometown goalie, Jacob Markstrom, as he stopped 16 of 18 shots, with some just point blank robbery.
Second period was all about the offense, as both teams combined for 12 goals. The East would score the first four to take a 6-4 lead, as Springfield’s Austin Madaisky, Joe Whitney, Providence’s Alexander Khokhlachev, and Bourque all connected. But not to be outdone, the West would score six straight to go up 10-6. Hudon would get the hat trick, McNeill and Leipsic each had their second, and Rockford’s T.J. Brennan and Grand Rapids’ Teemu Pulkkinen scored one each. But the East wasn’t done quite yet, as Binghamton’s Shane Prince and Manchester’s Jordan Weal got on the board to make it a 2 goal West lead going into the third. Rochester’s Phil Varone was awarded a penalty shot late, but was denied.
In the third, Prince (with his second) and Adirondack’s Emile Poirier traded goals early on. Then, a second penalty shot was called, and Norfolk’s Chris Wagner connected to bring the East back to within one goal. But Leipsic and McNeill would each complete their hat tricks to make it a 13-10 contest. The other Adirondack representative, Drew Shore, would score the 14th goal for the West. Prince would complete the hat trick late in the period and Syracuse’s Jonathan Marchessault would get the final goal to finish off a very offensive game (but aren’t all All Star games like that?). The East outshot the West by an astonishing 59-40 margin.
Whitney finished with a goal on one shot and a -3. Thompson had one assist, two shots and a -3 rating, as both he and Whitney were on the same line (why break up a good thing?). Shinnimin lead all skaters with 10 shots on goal, he just could not get that third goal after a strong first period. The 26 combined goals were an All Star record.
Thanks to the Utica Comets, the AHL, and everyone else involved for an awesome two days and a great first time experience for me! Even got in my first ever visit to Turning Stone (on Sunday night for the Post Skills party). Hopefully it’s a close location next season so I can travel there and do it again.
And a few more photos from the two days: