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  AHL Playoffs: First Round Review
by Tricia McMillan, AHL Correspondent


Empire Division

#1 Rochester Americans v. #4 Adirondack Red Wings

Game One:   4/21  Rochester 3, Adirondack 2 (OT)
Game Two:   4/23  Rochester 5, Adirondack 2
Game Three: 4/24  Rochester 2, Adirondack 1

(I predicted: Rochester in three) Nailed it.

#2 Albany River Rats v. #3 Hamilton Bulldogs

Game One:   4/22 Hamilton 4, Albany 3
Game Two:   4/24 Albany 3, Hamilton 2
Game Three: 4/28 Hamilton 4, Albany 3
*Game Four: 4/30 Albany 3, Hamilton 2
*Game Five: 5/01 Hamilton 3, Albany 2 (2OT)

(I predicted: Albany in five) Look at the scores and you know. Right length, not the right team, but close.

Joe Hulbig
Joe Hulbig
by Meredith Martini

Game Three
Hamilton's Joe Hulbig scored two goals in the first period to chase Mike Buzak, while busy Steve Passmore stopped 45 of 48 Rat shots as the Bulldogs edged Albany to take a lead in the series. Jim Dowd set up three for the Bulldogs and Terry Marchant scored the game-winner, while Albany's John Madden further extended his points streak to 18 games with what had been the tying goal.

Game Four
This absolute last second thing continues, as the Rats' Eric Bertrand scored the game- winning goal with 1.3 seconds remaining in regulation. Apparently he has a real objection to overtime. It was Bertrand's second goal of the third period. Daniel Lacroix scored both goals for Hamilton, who didn't lead at any point in the game.

David Cunniff
David Cunniff
by Meredith Martini

Game Five
It took almost two full overtimes before the man who sent the game into the extra frame finally ended the game. Hamilton's Chris Ferraro, the same guy who finally ended the All-Star Game, ended this one too at 17:55 in the second overtime. Albany, who were playing short a defenseman, Jeff Williams and David Cunniff for most of the game, still managed to keep it going late.

The reason the Rats played shorthanded was Daniel Lacroix. Lacroix was involved in a pregame skate incident with Albany's Mike Buzak in which Lacroix had some trouble staying on his end of the ice, prompting Albany to sit a defenseman in favor of enforcer Rob Skrlac. Then Lacroix slew-footed David Cunniff, taking him out of the game and nearly taking coach John Cunniff out when the elder Cunniff tried to follow Lacroix down the tunnel and take him to task.

Mid-Atlantic Division

#1 Philadelphia Phantoms v. #4 Cincinnati Mighty Ducks

Game One:   4/22 Philadelphia 4, Cincinnati 3
Game Two:   4/24 Philadelphia 5, Cincinnati 2  
Game Three: 4/25 Philadelphia 5, Cincinnati 2

(I predicted: Philadelphia in four) Philadelphia in three. Right team, close on the games.

#2 Kentucky Thoroughblades v. #3 Hershey Bears

Game One:   4/23 Hershey 3, Kentucky 2
Game Two:   4/24 Kentucky 5, Hershey 3
Game Three: 4/28 Kentucky 2, Hershey 0
*Game Four: 4/30 Hershey 4, Kentucky 2
*Game Five: 5/02 Kentucky 2, Hershey 0

(I predicted: Hershey in five) Right length, wrong team again. Unfortunately the series wasn't as close as its length.

Game Three
Hershey's power outage continued at home, as they have yet to score on the power play in the entire series. Kentucky, meanwhile, scored both of theirs with an extra man, with Mike Craig getting the first, deciding goal when he was left alone in front of Marc Denis. Kentucky also had a few five-on-threes, including one at the end of the game after the Bears unsuccessfully challenged John Nabokov's stick. Nabokov stopped 28 shots for the shutout.

Worcester had complained bitterly about Bernie DeGrace's lopsided calling in Game Two of their series; while not quite as obvious as that game, DeGrace's act was largely the same in Hershey. The T-Blades received quite a bit of leeway that the Bears did not, and DeGrace was again suckered by an acting job into granting a major.

But most interesting may have been the post-game exchange between the teams' coaches in a public hallway. I caught the second half of the bout as Kentucky assistant Nick Fotiu went for the neck of Hershey assistant Jay Wells while streaming profanities such as to make a drill sergeant proud. Kentucky's scratched players and the T-Blades equipment manager were barely able to keep the two apart, then Mike Foligno came back from the Bears' locker room to join in the fray. This set-to was finally ended at that point by arena security, but Fotiu continued his tirade all the way into the locker room.

David Aebischer
David Aebischer
by Kevin Fischer

Game Four
Marc Denis has been playing terrific for the Bears, but as was often the case during the regular season, the Bears weren't playing great for him. Case in point, Game Three. So David Aebischer got the call in Game Four and the Bears turned in a comeback, getting two goals from Christian Matte in the third period to force a Game Five. Kentucky's veterans gave them a two goal lead, but the T-Blades failed to hang on to it.

Game Five
Apparently Game Five was much like Game Three for the Bears, except with even less life involved. The Bears managed exactly three shots on John Nabokov in each of the first two periods before getting in 13 in the last period. Still, Nabokov only had to stop 19 shots for another playoff shutout and get a goal from Shawn Burr to finish off the Bears for the first playoff series win in Kentucky history.


New England Division

#1 Providence Bruins v. #4 Worcester IceCats

Game One:   4/23 Providence 4, Worcester 1
Game Two:   4/24 Providence 3, Worcester 1
Game Three: 4/30 Worcester 5, Providence 3
*Game Four: 5/01 Providence 6, Worcester 3

(I predicted: Providence in four) El perfecto.

Game Three
Worcester did have some kick left in them, as Tyson Nash scored two goals minutes apart early in the game and then Marty Reasoner added a pair to make sure the Bruins would not have a sweep in this series. Juniors callup Ladislav Nagy also had a pair of points for his first professional goal and points. The Bruins did manage 39 shots against the IceCats.

Game Four
The Worcester IceCats hung in there for 50 minutes, as the game reached the mid-point of the third period in a 3-3 tie. But then Antti Laaksonen managed a breakaway goal and the Bruins added two more empty net goals to end the series. Providence's Eric Nickulas had a hat trick, plus an assist; Nagy added two more points to his ledger for Worcester.

#2 Hartford WolfPack v. #3 Springfield Falcons

Game One:   4/23 Hartford 2, Springfield 1
Game Two:   4/24 Hartford 5, Springfield 2
Game Three: 4/30 Hartford 6, Springfield 2

(I predicted: Hartford in five) Right team, but a lot easier for them than I expected.

Game Three
Hartford completed beating up on the Falcons with a rout in Game Three. Brad Smyth scored two goals and Derek Armstrong had a three point game, while JF Labbe finished the series with a .930 save percentage. Springfield briefly held a 2-1 lead, which was their only lead of the entire series. All in all, a rout.

Atlantic Division

#1 Lowell Lock Monsters v. #4 Saint John Flames

Game One:   4/23 Saint John 4, Lowell 2
Game Two:   4/24 Saint John 4, Lowell 3  (OT)
Game Three: 4/28 Saint John 6, Lowell 4

(I predicted: Lowell in five) Way off. Wrong team, and actually thought the series would be competitive.

Game Three
The Flames showed the Lock Monsters the door with a pair of goals a minute apart early in the third period. Martin St. Louis and Allan Egeland were good for three points each, while Steve Begin supplied the game-winner. Lowell, for their part, wasted the two goals Vladimir Orszagh scored on the same power play and blew the lead for a second straight game.

#2 St. John's Maple Leafs v. #3 Fredericton Canadiens

Game One:   4/23 Fredericton 7, St. John's 4
Game Two:   4/25 Fredericton 4, St. John's 2
Game Three: 4/27 St. John's 3, Fredericton 2 (OT)
*Game Four: 4/29 St. John's 2, Fredericton 1
*Game Five: 5/01 Fredericton 3, St. John's 2

(I predicted: St. John's in five) Right length, wrong team. And given the rotten behavior exhibited by Fredericton, oh boy did the wrong team win.

Game Three
As seems to be habit in the AHL these days, a team scores late to tie up the game and then wins in overtime. This time St. John's got a late goal from Kevyn Adams to send the game into overtime, then Ryan Pepperall scored just minutes into the extra frame to give the Leafs their first win of the series.

As we certainly remember, back in November Lowell defenseman Jeff Libby lost his right eye to the skate blade of St. John's Mark Deyell. In Game Three, it was Deyell who may have lost his eye. A high stick from Fredericton's Miroslav Guren caught Deyell in the face and badly damaged his right eye. The present assessment is that Deyell will not lose the eye, but the extent of the damage to his sight is unknown and probably won't be known for a couple months. Guren visited Deyell in the hospital to apologize - and was criticized by his coach for doing so.

Game Four
St. John's decided to go with Jeff Reese in Game Four, but he wasn't physically up to snuff and Marc Robitaille found himself in the game in the second period and stopping 25 shots for the win. St. John's got both goals in the first period, from Yuri Khmylev and Kevyn Adams, and then held on tight to send the game back to the Rock.

Jose Theodore
Jose Theodore
by Meredith Martini

Game Five
Fredericton is in its last season, and they don't want it to end. Unfortunately they don't care to be sportsmanlike about it either (we'll get to that.) When attending to business properly, the young Habs got 32 saves from Jose Theodore and came back after giving up the first goal to take a lead and hang onto it. Lonny Bohonos started the scoring by sending a shot all the way through the net and out the back. It took some discussion before a goal was called. Marc Beaucage scored the goal that eventually stood as the game-winner. Every game in this series was won by the road team.

But the Canadiens refused to participate in the post-game handshake until they were embarrassed into it by St. John's trainer Nick Addey-Jibb, who scurried about trying to get someone, anyone from the Habs to shake his hand. Even then, only six players returned for the handshakes even though nearly every Leaf did. Then again, the Canadiens are coached by a man whose idea of sportsmanship is spitting on opposing players, so we shouldn't be surprised by their failure to uphold a respectful tradition. Fredericton players then complained to the media that St. John's was the dirty team, even though it's Fredericton's players who have the established track record for obscene gestures at the fans.

For that matter, Fredericton is coached by a man who likes to start fights in public places, while St. John's is led by a player who can't walk away when he really should. St. John's leading scorer Lonny Bohonos was arrested after Game Five and charged with assault after the St. John's police received a complaint from Fredericton coach Michel Therrien about an incident in the local bar district the night previous.

Evidently Therrien decided to cruise the 20-something bar scene, despite being way too old for that, and went to a pub known to be frequented by the young Leafs, including Bohonos. Therrien, knowing that Bohonos is best friends and roommates with Mark Deyell, apparently said something to Bohonos to the effect that Deyell "got what he deserved." The pub kicked them both out. And you can guess what Bohonos did to Therrien once outside the pub. Therrien then filed the complaint with the local police - and had a hissy fit when the police declined to arrest Bohonos prior to the start of Game Five. Gee, wonder why he picked a fight with the opposition's leading scorer?

Other Notes:

Not a surprise, but the St. Louis Blues renewed their agreement with the Worcester IceCats for five years. The teams will be cahoots for the next five years. A similar agreement between the IceCats and the Centrum is expected shortly...

LCS Hockey

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