CALDER CUP UPDATE:
The conference finals get underway tonight, beginning at the Arena at Harbor Yard where Bridgeport hosts Hamilton in Game 1 (7:35 ET). The teams come in with identical 7-1 records through their first eight playoff games, and both are well-rested after finishing off their conference semifinal series last week. The Bulldogs’ contributions have been spread among 15 players who have scored a goal this postseason; the Sound Tigers’ top trio of Jason Krog, Juraj Kolnik and Trent Hunter have combined for 13+21=34 pts.
The teams split a pair of exciting games in the regular season. On Nov. 21, Jani Rita scored twice in the third period to erase a two-goal Bulldogs deficit, but Jason Podollan’s goal with 3:41 left gave Bridgeport a 5-4 win. Then on Jan. 18, in a contest that featured 84 shots on goal, the Sound Tigers led by two again before Sven Butenschon and Brian Swanson tied the game in the final 2:27 of regulation, and Ales Pisa won it in overtime for Hamilton, 4-3.
Chicago and Houston face off in the Western Conference at the Compaq Center tonight (7:30 CT). The Aeros bring a six-game winning streak and a six-day layoff into Game 1, having outscored their playoff opponents 29-12. The Wolves are riding high after a Game 7 win in Syracuse. Chicago’s six goals on Tuesday were more than the road team had scored in the first six games combined (five), and allowed the Wolves to become the 13th club in league history to come back from an 0-2 deficit to win a best-of-seven series.
Each team was 5-4-2-1 in a high-scoring regular-season series which featured an average of seven goals per game (AHL avg. 5.6 gpg). Houston’s Jamie McLennan has been outstanding so far in the playoffs (1.25, .955), but proved mortal (3.26, .895) in nine meetings against the Wolves. The Aeros only faced Pasi Nurminen once, in a 4-3 loss on Dec. 30. Mark Beaufait, who scored two game-winning goals in Houston’s series against Hershey, led all scorers with 12 points in 10 games against Chicago. The Wolves’ Steve Maltais scored five of his league-leading 15 power play goals against the Aeros, as Chicago went 13-for-50 (26.0%) with the man advantage in the season series.
Game 1 – Hamilton at Bridgeport, 7:35
Game 1 – Chicago at Houston, 7:30
Western Conference Final
4-Houston vs. 7-Chicago Game 1 - Fri 5/10 at Houston, 7:30 Game 2 - Sat 5/11 at Houston, 7:30 Game 3 - Wed 4/15 at Chicago, 7:00 Game 4 - Fri 5/17 at Chicago, 7:30 *Game 5 - Sun 5/19 at Chicago, 2:00 *Game 6 - Mon 5/20 at Houston, 7:00 *Game 7 - Wed 5/22 at Houston, 7:00
Eastern Conference Final
1-Bridgeport vs. 6-Hamilton Game 1 - Fri 5/10 at Bridgeport, 7:35 Game 2 - Sat 5/11 at Bridgeport, 7:05 Game 3 - Wed 5/15 at Hamilton, 7:30 Game 4 - Fri 5/17 at Hamilton, 7:30 *Game 5 - Sat 5/18 at Hamilton, 7:30 *Game 6 - Mon 5/20 at Bridgeport, 7:05 *Game 7 - Wed 5/22 at Bridgeport, 7:05
FROM CALDER TO STANLEY:
Alyn McCauley scored twice on Wednesday night to lead Toronto to a 2-1 victory over Ottawa in Game 4 of their NHL Eastern Conference semifinal series. A veteran of 52 AHL contests with St. John’s, McCauley made his professional debut at age 19 during the 1997 Calder Cup Playoffs.
Former Springfield Falcon Richard Lintner scored the clinching goal in a shootout as Slovakia upset host Sweden on Thursday, 3-2, to advance to the gold-medal game at the 2002 World Championships. Milwaukee Admirals goaltender Jan Lasak made 38 saves in the win. Slovakia will face Russia for the gold on Saturday; Sweden battles Finland for the bronze today.
ON THE AIR:
Friday – Chicago at Houston – AT&T Broadband (Chicago) – 7:30 CT
Saturday – Chicago at Houston – AT&T Broadband (Chicago) – 7:30 CT
Leafs TV, 2:00 pm ET
WXSP-TV (Grand Rapids), 2:00 pm ET
CN8 (Comcast), 5:30 pm ET
New England Sports Network, 12:30 pm ET
Fox Sports Net Pittsburgh, 12:30 pm ET
CN8 (Comcast), 12:30 pm ET
Empire Sports Network, 6:30 pm ET