Western Conference (17) vs Eastern Conference (14)
Last night’s AHL All-Star Skills Competition was a fun night had by all. Through six events the Eastern Conference was crushing the competition. However, it was the last event off the night, the Breakaway Relay Challenge, that propelled the Western Conference to a win.
The first even of the night was the Inglasco Puck Control Relay. Players had to maneuver their way through cones while maintaining control of the puck at break neckspeed. The East won three of the four heats in the Puck Control Relay.
The most impressive heat was a head to head matchup between Cleveland Monsters’ Nathan Gerbe and Chicago Wolves’ Erik Brannstrom. Gerbe blew away the competition with his long strides, silky smooth stick work, and nimble feet. I mean look at the way Gerbe powers through the cones with ease.
Next up was the CCM Fastest Skater contest. The challenge is simple. Be the fastest skater on the ice.
Springfield Thunderbird’s Anthony Greco came out on top with a time of 13.251. Greco broke the AHL’s record of 13.324 which was set by Chris Summers in 2013. He also skated faster than Connor McDavid in this year’s NHL All-Star Skills competition.
I noticed something which set Greco apart from all the other skaters. As Greco turned the edges, he didn’t put his hand down. Instead , he used his stick to help balance him. This seemed to cut away some of the drag and allowed him to keep a god center of gravity.
Round three was the AHLTV Rapid Fire event. Two players from each team fire 10 shots off at the opposing goaltender. The team with the most total saves earns a goal.
Kappo Kahkonen of the Iowa Wild and Troy Grosenick of the Milwaukee Admirals tied for first in the event making eight saves.
Troy Grosenick was the most impressive goaltender in this event. Look at the way he sat at the top of the crease cutting off access to the top of net. This allowed him to have a quick reaction time with smaller moves.
Despite Grosenick’s strong showing in the Rapid Fire event, the West came away with the win saving 28 shots.
Next up was the CCM Hardest Shot. The player with the hardest shot earned a goal for their team. While the team with the higher average speed earned a goal.
Players put everything they had into these shots. San Jose Barracuda’s Jacob MIddleton literally put his whole body into the shot.
In the end, it was Greg Carey of the Lehigh Valley Phantoms who won with a 100.4 mph shot beating Andrew Campbell of the Rockford IceHogs by .9 mph.
The East took this one in both categories giving them the 6-3 lead.
The fifth round was the Lexus Accuracy Shooting Contest. Players had up to ten shots to knock down four targets set up in the corners of the net. The player with the fewest attempts earned a goal for the team. While the team with the most total hits in fewest attempts earned a goal.
The Barracuda’s Francis Perron and Utica Comets’ Reid Boucher were the only two able to go four for four in the Accuracy contest. Both scored their goals on six shots.
Perron’s was pretty impressive. Once he got into the groove, he destroyed those targets like children destroy wrapping paper on Christmas Day.
Next up was the Western Mass Sports Commission Pass and Score event. Each conference had four heats of three players who had 30 seconds to score three goals. All three players had to touch the puck for the goal to count. Each goal counted toward the overall team score.
Only one line was able to score in the East.
Drake Batherson (Belleville Senators), Sebastian Aho (Bridgeport SoundTigers), and Nathan Gerbe (Cleveland Monsters). Put on a show scoring the only two goals for the East. Those two goals were the most impressive goals of the Pass and Score event.
The first held a beautiful fake shot by Gerbe before it was fired into the net by Batherson.
Their second goal was less fancy but equally as good looking. With the way they communicated, you would have thought they’ve been playing together their whole lives.
Going into the final challenge, the East led the West 10-7. If the West was going to win the Skills Competition they were going to have to do it in the MGM Springfield Breakaway Relay.
The relay is basically a rapid fire shootout where players skate one right after the other to score a goal before time runs out. Each individual goal scored counted towards the overall team score.
During the Breakaway Relay the players began to really show off their skills. Especially, Alex Belzile of the Laval Rocket who seems to be considering a career in baseball.
The Texas Stars’ Denis Gurianov really took the cake with this beautiful goal.
The West came out on top with 10 goals in the Breakaway Relay challenge propelling them to the 17-14 win over the East.
The All-Star Game takes place on Monday night at 7pm. You can watch for free on AHLTV. (www.watchtheahl.com)