West sweeps AHL All-Star weekend in Atlantic City
History was made for the AHL this past weekend.
Atlantic City’s historic Boardwalk Hall played the host to the AHL All-Star Game. It was an attempt to revive hockey in the city, which hasn’t held a professional ice hockey team since the Boardwalk Bullies of the ECHL played in the Hall from 2001-05.
It was the first time ever the AHL held its annual All-Star game in a city that didn’t play host to a team in the league.
On Sunday, the Eastern and Western conferences battled it out in the skills competition. The West took the competition, 18-10.
On Monday, the West pulled off a come-from-behind win on the East, winning 8-7 in a shootout.
Ben Bishop of the Peoria Rivermen (St. Louis Blues) stole the show, dominating on both nights to give the West a sweep on the road.
Bishop, the 6’7” mammoth in pads, earned the Reebok Top Goaltender in the skills competition. He was 8-for-10 in the RBC Rapid Fire event, stopped two of the three attempts he saw in the Visit Atlantic City Pass and Score, and didn’t allow a single goal on all six shooters in the Panasonic Breakaway Relay.
Bishop was also the first star in the All-Star Game, stopping 10 of 11 shots faced in the 3rd period and stoning all four shooters in the shootout to preserve an 8-7 victory for the West.
For the East, forward Cory Conacher was their star of the weekend. Conacher, of the Norfolk Admirals (Tampa Bay Lightning) scored two goals and tallied an assist in the All-Star Game.
In the skills competition, he helped earn the East one point in the Sherwood Puck-Control Relay as well as finished with the second fastest time in the Reebok Fastest Skater event. He lost to Brian Connelly of the Abbotsford Heat (Calgary Flames), who was in the trade that sent Brendan Morrison from the Flames to Chicago.
Other individuals who won in the skills competition included Chicago Wolves (Vancouver Canucks) defenseman Kevin Connauton, who registered a 99.4 MPH slap shot to win the Reebok Hardest Shot competition.
Ryan Keller of the Oklahoma City Barons (Edmonton Oilers) and Trevor Smith of the Norfolk Admirals shared the Caesars Atlantic City Accuracy Shooting crown, each hitting four targets in five attempts.
The game on Monday brought more excitement than the skills competition, both during and in between the periods.
In the first period, Western Conference goalie Matt Hackett of the Houston Aeros (Minnesota Wild), was beaten six times by the East to give the Eastern All-Stars a commanding 6-2 lead heading into the first intermission.
But the Yann Danis of Oklahoma City and Bishop combined to stop 21 of 22 shots while the West outscored the East 5-1 in the last two periods to force the best-of-five shoot out.
Danis' shut out in the second period made him the first goalie since Ryan Miller, Antero Nittymaki and Jason LaBarbera all put up goose eggs in the 2005 All-Star Game.
The West’s scoring was led by Chris Terry of the Charlotte Checkers (Carolina Hurricanes), who lit the lamp twice and added an assist on the game-tying goal with just over four minutes to play.
In the shoot out, Bishop stoned the East four times while T.J. Hensick of Peoria and Matt Fraser of the Texas Stars (Dallas Stars) beat East goalie Tyson Sexsmith of the Worcester Sharks (San Jose Sharks).
For the East, Connecticut Whale (New York Rangers) teammates Mats Zuccarello and Jonathan Audy-Marchessault notched a goal and two assists apiece.
Top photo by Ben Fogletto of the Press of Atlantic City. Photos of Ben Bishop and Michael Leighton by TCL's John Russo.