Leighton, Central Division All-Stars capture 1st AHL All-Star Challenge

On Monday Night, the American Hockey League held their first All-Star Challengein Syracuse, NY. Unlike your typical All-Star format where it's opposing conferences, this event mirrored the NHL's event from Sunday in Nashville.

Each of the league's four divisions — the North, Atlantic, Pacific and Central — each fielded their own team, consisting of 11 skaters and two goaltenders. All games were nine minutes long, and all games started 4-on-4. At the 4:30 mark, the horn sounded and it became 3-on-3. For the championship, it was six minutes of 3-on-3.

The Lehigh Valley Phantoms had two representatives, forward Nick Cousins and goaltender Anthony Stolarz, both playing for the Atlantic Division. The Central Division claimed the championship, defeating the Atlantic team, 4-0, in the final game.

A recap of all the games is as follows:

North 1, Pacific 0: There was no scoring in the first 4:30. In fact, the first game of the night nearly went to a shootout as it took until the 8:33 mark to get the first goal. Josh Leivo of the Toronto Marlies beat Peter Budaj of the Ontario Reign. Shots favored the North, 16-7.

Central 2, Atlantic 1/SO: Anthony Stolarz got the nod for the Atlantic, while former Phantom Michael Leighton of the Rockford IceHogs got the start for the Central in net. Stolarz went the first two minutes without facing a shot and stopped all three shots he faced in the first half of the game. Pat Cannone got the Central on the board with assists from Xavier Ouellette and Ryan Hartman. The Atlantic Division knotted the game with one second left in regulation when Chris Bourque buried a one-timer with the extra attacker. Assists went to Rob Schremp and Dustin Jeffrey.

In the shootout, Mike McKenna stopped Frederick Gaudreau but Cannone buried his attempt to give the Central the edge. On the Atlantic side, Leighton stopped Bourque, Schremp and Seth Griffith, giving the central the win. 

Central 4, North 2: Cannone notched his second of the night for the Central, Jake Dowell had two goals and an assist to lead the Central to the win. For the North, Leivo collected a goal and an assist, and Kristers Gudlevskis took the loss, stopping three of four shots he faced in the 4:30 he played.

Atlantic 2, Pacific 1: The Pacific Division needed to beat the Atlantic in order to have a stay alive for a shot at the Championship. It didn't happen. Alan Quine took a nifty cross-ice feed from Nick Cousins 54 seconds into the game as the Atlantic peppered Laurent Brossoit with 13 shots, 11 of which he stopped. As for Anthony Stolarz, he stopped seven of the eight shots faced, including a sequence late in the game where he made four stellar saves to preserve a win for the Atlantic. The Pacific finally did crack Stolarz, as Sean Backman scored with 90 seconds left.

Atlantic 4, North 1: This game was to determine who faced the Central in the Championship. It was pretty much all the Atlantic from start to finish. Schremp scored twice, Quine added a goal on a pass from Cousins and Chris Bourque also scored while McKenna and Stolarz combined to stop 5 of the 6 shots they faced. For the North, Mike Sislo scored the lone goal, while Gudlevskis again took the loss, setting up a Atlantic-Central Championship game.

Championship: Central 4, Atlantic 0: Leighton went the distance in net, stopping all nine shots he faced. The Central was paced by four different goal scorers: Jeff Hoggan, Derek Ryan, Cannone and Ouellette sealed it with an empty netter. As things for the Phantoms go, Cousins had multiple scoring chances and Stolarz stopped all four shots he faced.

Overall, Cousins finished with two assists in the four games he played while Stolarz stopped 16 of 18 shots.

Notes: Cannone was the MVP with three goals and an assist. Of the eight goaltenders at the event, Stolarz gave up the fewest number of goals at two. 

Up Next: The Phantoms' return to action Friday night when they travel to Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, CT to battle Bridgeport Sound Tigers at 7:05 p.m.

Brent Baldwin is Lehigh Valley Phantoms beat writer for Flyerdelphia. Follow him on Twitter @BBFlyerdelphia.

Go to top button