2001 AHL All-Star Game – Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, PA

By Jen McCarthy

AHL All-Star Skills Competition

Before a boisterous hometown crowd of 8,314, Planet USA doubled up on the Canadian All-Stars to claim the skills competition 16-8. The night was underway with the In Glas Co Puck Control Relay. Planet USA grabbed the quick lead gaining two of possible two points. The relay, consisting of two races, started with three skaters for each team, with Planet USA’s Petersen, Mottau and Kraft leading the Canadians. The individual race between Butsayev and Manlow followed with Butsayev finding the finish line first.

The VIC Ambush followed with player vs. netminder. Each netminder is faced with two different skaters. On the whistle, the first shooter starts from the blue line and picks up any one of five pucks at the hash marks and attempts to score. Shooters have 12 seconds to score as many as five goals…rebounds are allowed. In the end it was the Canadian All-Stars that edged Planet USA for the event and gained the point.

In the KOHO Fastest Skater contest, three players per squad start on opposite sides of the rink from each other and race counter-clockwise one lap around the rink. The Canadian All-Stars swept the event and gained the two possible points, edging Planet USA and taking the lead, 3-2

Undoubtedly one of the most popular events is the CCM Hardest Shot. The title of “Winner of the Hardest Slapshot” is one that any player would love to have added to his name. It could be dubbed “Coolest Event to Win”, in this writer’s opinion. There are two possible points to be won, one for the individual with the hardest shot and one for the team with the highest mph average. Planet USA had the highest team average and Portland’s Mark Murphy took the individual event with his 96.8-mph blaster. “The trick to a really solid slap shot is to have the bottom hand lower than normal, it gives more stability to have the hands further apart” Murphy says of his technique, “I’m honored to win this event here tonight.”

The fifth event of the evening was the ITECH Rapid Fire. In this event the goalie is bombarded by two alternating shooters positioned 21 feet from the corners of the goal crease. There are a total of 10 pucks, five per player. Shooters alternate from side to side and all must be completed in 12 seconds. Planet USA goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff (Kentucky), fended off all 10 shots he faced making him the first goaltender in the AHL’s skills competition history to do so, helping Planet USA retain their lead.

The JOFA Accuracy Shooting event followed. Four foam targets are placed in the four outer corners of the goal. With two players on opposite sides next to the goal they pass to the shooter 25 feet in front of the net. The shooter has a maximum time of 18 seconds to shoot eight pucks and try to knock each of the four targets out. Peter Ferraro of Providence won this portion of the event to give Planet USA an insurmountable lead.

In the CCM Breakaway Relay there are three groups of six shooters and three goaltenders per team. Six pucks are positioned 10 feet outside the blue line. The six shooters are positioned behind each puck spread four feet apart. On the whistle, Player A picks up the puck, skates in on goal and attempts to score, he then skates back outside the blue line. Player B begins until all six players have completed one attempt. Each goal is counted as a point and Planet USA racked them up leaving the Canadian All-Stars in their wake with a final score of 16-8.

Kentucky’s Miikka Kiprusoff was the recipient of the ITECH Top Goaltender Trophy allowing only 2 goals on 26 shots for Planet USA. Kiprusoff repeated his reign as Top Goaltender, breaking his own record of 22 saves on 26 shots from last year’s event.

2001 AHL All-Star Game

Oh, Canada ! Canadian All-Stars Edge out Planet USA 11-10

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins fans. Hometown hero, fan favorite and league leading scorer John Slaney was traded to Philadelphia only hours before the start of the AHL All-Star skills competition on Sunday in a deal for Philadelphia’s Kevin Stevens. Once the word hit the stands, it spread like wild fire. The relocation was going to be held off until the All-Star weekend commenced on Monday. Dave Andrews, president and CEO of the AHL, said that in this ironic turn of events that “it was decided it was in the best interest of the hometown crowd and Slaney himself, that Slaney remain a Penguin through the remainder of the weekend.”. And that he did, until the MVP award was given to an emotional Slaney on the ice in front of the thunderous applause and standing ovation…that was the last time he would be on the ice as a Penguin. “I can’t remember the last time I was that emotional,” said Slaney. “The last time might have been the world juniors. I was kind of shaking. You can’t lie. It was kind of tough.’”

During this time of year for stars to shine, it is usually common to have to replace some players appearing on the original roster, due to NHL call-ups and injuries. This year an unprecedented 14 players had to be replaced before game time. Dave Andrews said on the amount of call-ups, “It only reinforces the fact that the AHL is the top developmental league and how important our players are to the NHL.”.

Lights dimmed, music blaring, fans cheering…the game was about to begin.

Fans at this particular game looked as if they were in the stands at Wimbleton, score to the right, score to the left, score to the right and so on. It happened so fast and furious it was all the announcer could do to announce the goals and assists. By the time he was announcing one, two more goals had occurred, and trying to keep track was virtually impossible.

Records are made to be broken, right ? Well, they were. The records were broken fast and frequently.

·**Most Assists (4) – Louisville’s Denis Shvidki
·**Most Points (5) – Louisville’s Denis Shvidki
·**Fastest two goals by one player (0:17 apart) – Lowell’s Rich Brennan
·***Fastest two goals by both teams – 0:16 apart (Kraft, Gratton; CAN)
·**Fastest two goals by both teams – 0:11 apart (Brennan, Mann; Planet USA)
·**Fastest three goals by both teams – in 0:28
·**Fastest four goals by both teams – in 1:43
·***Fastest two goals by one team – 0:21 apart (CAN; House, Healey)
·**Fastest two goals by one team – 0:17 apart (Brennan, Planet USA)
·**Fastest three goals by one team – in 1:32 (Planet USA)
·(T) Highest scoring contest by both teams – 21
·(T) Most goals by one team – 11 (CAN)
·(T) Most goals by both teams in one period – 10 (Syracuse 1998)
·(T) Most goals scored in one period – 6 (CAN)

** Denotes new AHL All-Star Game record
*** Denotes broken twice during the game

In addition to the 21 goal game, there was a staggering amount of shots that hit the posts making that echoing ping that can be either wonderful or terrible sounding depending on who you’re rooting for, but inevitably means no goal. But, close doesn’t count in this sport.

The goaltenders and their slinky-like spines saw more rubber than a cat on the expressway at rush hour. With defensemen not battling for the puck around the boards and in the corners, the result is a goalie’s worst nightmare…no protection. Beating up on the league’s best goalies would not be an easy task on any other night. All-Star hockey is clean and pure, free of tripping, slashing, boarding, name-calling or any other offense that makes hockey…well, hockey. It almost gives an eerie tinge to the arena…no blood, no guts…all glory.

Planet USA opened up the scoring when Eric Chouinard and Marko Tuomainen each found the back of the net to put USA up 2-0. The Canadian All-Stars would have none of that and retaliated with back-to-back goals by Nathan Dempsey and Brad Smyth. The Canadian boys would score four more times in the next five minutes and Planet USA twice. The Canadian All-Stars would have a 6-4 lead over Planet USA at the end of the first.

Naturally, the play was not quite as fast and furious as in the first, but there would be seven more goals before the period came to a close. Wilkes-Barre’s Crozier scored unassisted for the Canadians at 3:48 which brought the locals, along with everyone in a 10 mile radius to it’s feet. Toby Peterson followed up with a goal for Planet USA three minutes later to bring the score to 7-5.

The end of the second marked a time for records to fall. Peter Ferraro scored at 18:00 and Rich Brennan followed suit with two goals of his own in a record 0:17 seconds apart. The goals by Brennan set the record for fastest two-goals by a team and fastest two goals by an individual. The score was less lopsided with Canada leading 9-8. Retaliating quickly, Canada’s Cameron Mann scored 0:11 seconds later, setting a new record for four goals scored in 1:42 by combined teams.

Starting the third period off at a snail’s pace, compared to the first two, it was more than seven minutes before Ryan Kraft found the back of the net for Planet USA bringing them within a point of Team Canada. Rich Brennan wasn’t done yet as he lit the lamp two minutes later, tying the score, beating Dwayne Roloson and giving himself the hat trick. Eric Manlow would later score the game winning goal pushing the Canadians out over Planet USA for the win.