AHL Division Finals Preview

The Amerks season ended about two and a half weeks ago but the season continues for eight other teams in the American Hockey League.  The Division Finals started on Tuesday night with the Providence Bruins defeating the Worcester Sharks by the final score of 3-2 in OT.

The question to be asked though is, outside of the eight cities competing for the Calder Cup, does anyone else really care or know the games are going on?

The first round of the Stanley Cup finals have been very exciting to watch, the second round is even more highly anticipated.

How was the first round in the American Hockey League?  No idea. Highlights are available for free on the AHL Live site.  A lot of players currently in the NHL playoffs have played in the AHL at some point (even this season), why can’t the league get highlights mixed in with NHL highlights anywhere of future stars?

Here’s a preview of the Division Finals from the league:

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … The original field of 16 has been reduced to eight as the Division Finals round of the 2009 Calder Cup Playoffs got underway on Tuesday night.

The division semifinals wrapped up on Monday night when Houston eliminated Peoria with a 5-2 road win in the only Game 7 of the opening round. Defenseman Maxim Noreau notched his second game-winner of the series in the third period for the Aeros, who advance to a West Division Finals date with first-place Milwaukee. The Admirals have been idle since completing a four-game sweep of Rockford on Apr. 21.

The AHL’s regular-season champion received a scare in the first round, but Manitoba recovered from a pair of early series deficits to oust Toronto in six games and advance to the North Division Finals. The Moose’s victory sets up their third postseason meeting in the last four years with Grand Rapids, which knocked off second-place Hamilton in six games behind league leaders Ville Leino (13 points) and Justin Abdelkader (six goals).

It’s an all-Pennsylvania East Division Finals for the sixth consecutive year as defending conference champion Wilkes-Barre/Scranton battles division winner Hershey, which won the Calder Cup in 2006 and returned to the Finals in 2007. Chris Minard netted a goal in all five games as the Penguins dispatched Bridgeport in the opening round for the third time in six years, while the Bears took care of longtime rival Philadelphia in a sweep.

The Atlantic Division Finals begin tonight with Providence hosting fourth-place Worcester at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center. The Bruins secured a five-game opening-round victory over Portland behind a balanced offensive attack and the stellar play of second-year goaltender Tuukka Rask (4-1, 1.20, .959). The third-year Sharks advanced after rallying for a first-round upset of division-champion Hartford, becoming the 20th team in AHL history to win a best-of-7 series despite dropping the first two games.

P-Bruins defeated the Sharks in OT in Game 1 (click for story)

DIVISION SEMIFINAL NOTES … A lower-seeded team advanced in each of the AHL’s four divisions – fourth-place Worcester (Atlantic) and third-place Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (East), Grand Rapids (North), and Houston (West)… Of the 43 games played in the first round, only six extended to overtime, with road teams capturing four of those six contests… Road teams were 23-20 overall in the first round… Teams were 34-9 when scoring the first goal… Providence outscored Portland, 8-0, during the second period in their series… Hershey’s penalty kill, which ranked 29th in the AHL during the regular season, was a perfect 22-for-22 against Philadelphia… With 10 points in the first round, Grand Rapids’ Darren Haydar extended his AHL playoff career record totals to 59 goals, 75 assists and 134 points… None of the four division finalists in the Western Conference advanced to the second round in 2008… Worcester and Grand Rapids are in the division finals after missing last year’s playoffs entirely.

Atlantic Division Finals – Series “I” (best-of-7)
A2-Providence Bruins vs. A4-Worcester Sharks || Series Preview
Game 1 – Tue., Apr. 28 – Worcester at Providence, 7:05
Game 2 – Wed., May 6 – Providence at Worcester, 7:05
Game 3 – Fri., May 8 – Worcester at Providence, 7:05
Game 4 – Sat., May 9 – Providence at Worcester, 7:05
*Game 5 – Mon., May 11 – Worcester at Providence, 7:05
*Game 6 – Wed., May 13 – Providence at Worcester, 7:05
*Game 7 – Thu., May 14 – Worcester at Providence, 7:05

East Division Finals – Series “J” (best-of-7)
E1-Hershey Bears vs. E3-Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins || Series Preview
Game 1 – Sat., May 2 – W-B/Scranton at Hershey, 7:00
Game 2 – Sun., May 3 – W-B/Scranton at Hershey, 5:00
Game 3 – Wed., May 6 – Hershey at W-B/Scranton, 7:05
Game 4 – Fri., May 8 – Hershey at W-B/Scranton, 7:05
*Game 5 – Sat., May 9 – Hershey at W-B/Scranton, 7:05
*Game 6 – Sun., May 10 – W-B/Scranton at Hershey, 5:00
*Game 7 – Tue., May 12 – W-B/Scranton at Hershey, 7:00

North Division Finals – Series “K” (best-of-7)
N1-Manitoba Moose vs. N3-Grand Rapids Griffins || Series Preview
Game 1 – Fri., May 1 – Grand Rapids at Manitoba, 8:30
Game 2 – Sat., May 2 – Grand Rapids at Manitoba, 8:30
Game 3 – Mon., May 4 – Manitoba at Grand Rapids, 7:00
Game 4 – Wed., May 6 – Manitoba at Grand Rapids, 7:00
*Game 5 – Fri., May 8 – Manitoba at Grand Rapids, 7:00
*Game 6 – Sun., May 10 – Grand Rapids at Manitoba, 8:30
*Game 7 – Tue., May 12 – Grand Rapids at Manitoba, 8:30

West Division Finals – Series “L” (best-of-7)
W1-Milwaukee Admirals vs. W3-Houston Aeros || Series Preview
Game 1 – Thu., Apr. 30 – Houston at Milwaukee, 8:00
Game 2 – Sat., May 2 – Houston at Milwaukee, 8:00
Game 3 – Tue., May 5 – Milwaukee at Houston, 8:05
Game 4 – Thu., May 7 – Milwaukee at Houston, 8:05
*Game 5 – Fri. or Sat., May 8 or 9 – Milwaukee at Houston, 8:35
*Game 6 – Mon., May 11 – Houston at Milwaukee, 8:00
*Game 7 – Wed., May 13 – Houston at Milwaukee, 8:00