Not Limited to Hockey January 30, 2013 Thomas Chace Jr
biggest thing I took out of this recent weekend of hockey at the AHL All Star Classic in
Providence, Rhode Island was the great camaraderie shown for each other by the
players, coaches, administration, and legends of the game.The atmosphere was always upbeat and the
players deserve most of the credit, for being generous with their time and
delivering in both the Skills Contest and the All-Star Game itself.
Being on the Eastern Conference bench for the 2013 Pepsi AHL All-Star Skills
Competition to photograph some of the action was very insightful.I have spent some significant time with
professional hockey players since 2004, and am always encouraged when I see the
players spend quality time with one another and smile and laugh despite being
bitter rivals during the regular season. This jovial activity never ended
throughout the whole AHL All-Star Skills Contest.They really paid attention to each other yet
razzed each other at the same time, the heated rivalries used in jest.Good kids who get it, who love the game, and show
respect for each other as well.Good
stuff.The Eastern Conference led the
contest early on, and had a big lead, but the ice was tilting as the contest
went on and the West was gaining.
At the end it came down to the last play and the last
shot.It was the final event, Event 7, of
the H&R Block Breakaway Relay.
The final shot would be taken by Providence and Eastern Conference Captain Trent Whitfield, who was the last
player to go in the East’s final group of six.The contest consisted of three rounds with six shooters from each
conference having a breakaway opportunity.36 shooters in total along with 6 goaltenders participated in this
event.The first five All-Stars in Whitfield’s
group were all stoned by Charlotte goaltender, Justin Peters.The West led
12-11; “Whit” could tie it up, and then what would the AHL do in the case of a
tie? The script for the Skills Contest
could not have been written any better, with one major exception.Whitfield let go a great shot that was
thwarted by a save or the post.In the
end, the miss probably kept the roof from rising at The Dunkin’ Donuts Center,
as the 10,846 fans screamed with enthusiasm.
Event 1 featured the Sher-Wood
Puck Control Rally in which player’s race against one another through a
series of pylons while in possession of the puck.The Eastern Conference prevailed in winning 3
of 4 heats for a 3-1 overall lead after the first event.
The 2nd Event was the CCM Fastest Skater contest.Each conference had three skaters who would race in three separate heats
around the ice along the boards and have their time recorded.Representing the Western Conference were Gabriel Dumont (HAM), Jason Zucker (HOU), and Kevin Porter (RCH).The Eastern Conference skaters were Jonathan Audy-Marchessault (SPR), Chris Summers (POR), and TylerJohnson (SYR).Summers,
who donned a great mustache, was the individual winner and the East had
a faster team average and now led the contest 5-1.
EA Sports NHL
13 Rapid Fire was Event 3 and is a nightmare for the goaltenders.Each player shoots five times in a rapid fire
succession with pucks pre-placed on ice.The East got one point for having the most total saves.The East was backstopped by Robin Lehner(BNG), who stopped 9 of 10
shots in Heat #1.Curtis McElhinney (SPR) was sharp with 8 saves, and Niklas Svedberg (PRO) made 6 saves for
a team total of 23 saves.The West’s Barry Brust (ABB)stopped just 4 of 10
shots which proved to be too big of a hole for the West to climb back
from.Petr Mrzek (GR) made 9 saves and Justin Peters (CHA) made 8 for a good showing in this rapid fire
event.The East gained another point
here for a 6-1 lead.
Fan favorite, the CCM
Hardest Shot, was next and featured two of the largest boys on the
who at 6’4”, 205 lbs. was dwarfed by huge 21 year old Jamie Oleksiak (TEX), who stands 6’7”,
and 254 lbs.On this night it was McNabb
who bested the other seven contestants with a shot recorded at 101.8 mph.Oleksiak missed the net on both his shots and
was good natured about his plight despite the misses.East gets a point for highest average speed
and West gains a point on McNabb’s hardest shot winner.East 7 West 2.
Event 5 was the Pepsi
Accuracy Shooting contest in which the players are fed pucks in front
of the net and try and break targets in the four corners of the net. The player
and team with the most hits in the fewest attempts win the contest.Matt
Fraser (TEX) got all four targets in just five shots to win the individual
award and a point for his West team.The
West gained another point by nipping the East by one single attempt; the West
was 14 for 27 while the East hit 14 targets in 28 attempts.The West now trailed 7-4 and is rallying.
Another goalie favorite is Event 6, the Pepsi Pass and Score
contest.Three skaters all skate in on
the goalie and must each touch the puck before attempting to score.Each goal counts toward the overall
score.Six heats took place with all 6
AHL All-Star goalies participating.Only
three goals were scored in fifteen attempts.The West scored twice, the East once, and the West gained another point
too now trail 8-6 with the last event coming up.
Block Breakaway Relay would conclude the dynamic AHL All-Star Skills
Contest, with each individual goal counting toward the overall team score.The West was first on the board with goals by
Brayden McNabb (RCH) and Michal Jordan (CHA) that got past
netminder Robin Lehner (BNG).The East took the lead though on goalie Barry Brust (ABB), getting tallies from
Chad Kolarik (WBS), RadkoGudas (SYR), and Tyler
Toffoli(MCH).East now leads 11-8
after the first of three rounds.
The 2nd Round began with Matt Fraser (TEX) scoring on goaltender Curtis McElhinney(SPR) and finished with Toronto Captain Ryan Hamilton scoring on the West’s
last shot of the round.The Western
Conference goaltenders then began to shut down the Eastern Conference scorers.Petr
Mrazek (GR) stopped all six Eastern shooters to end Round #2 with the
overall score now at 11-10.
The 3rd and final round would feature
Providence Bruin rookie goaltender Niklas
Svedberg stopping the first four shooters before allowing two goals in a
row to Mark Arcobello(OKC) and
former PBruin, Martin St. Pierre (RFD).St. Pierre had put the West ahead for the
first time all night and now they led 12-11.
You already know how it ended.An end not soon to be forgotten by any of the
people involved, from the players, coaches, fans, media, AHL officials and all
the families involved.After the Skills
Contest all the players stayed on the ice and signed autographs for as many
fans as they could. It was one of many great gestures by these young men who
are the bright stars of the future.A
future that sure looks bright.