The opening round of the 2016 Calder Cup witnessed four sweeps, two upsets and just one series go to a deciding game five.
Ontario Reign 3-1 San Jose Barracuda
The Ontario Reign continued in the playoffs as they finished the regular season.
They ground down a determined San Jose Barracuda team who battled hard but just could not produce the amount of offense required. The Barracuda netted three times in their only victory but managed just a single goal in the other games as they fell 3-1 in the series.
Nic Dowd led the way with four points but encouragingly for the Reign, their rookies came up big.
Jonny Brodzinski, Adrian Kempe and Kurtis MacDermid all netting twice.
Grand Rapids Griffins 3-0 Milwaukee Admirals
The biggest upset in the first round was Grand Rapids Griffins sweeping the Milwaukee Admirals.
Milwaukee were the second ranked team in the West and the only one to hit the 100 point mark.
Winners of 48 games, only behind Toronto (54) they were huge favourites to despatch the Griffins.
Grand Rapids are an experienced team however, who have lots of playoff experience in recent campaigns. They certainly put that to good use as Milwaukee were limited to a single goal in each of the three games.
Anthony Mantha and Martin Frk both registered four points while rookie Tyler Bertuzzi netted three times
Tom McCollum was a key man, recording a 0.968 save percentage and looks set to be the Griffins number through their playoff run.
Lake Erie Monsters 3-0 Rockford IceHogs
The second sweep in the Western Conference saw Lake Erie Monster power past Rockford IceHogs.
There may have been little in the standings between the two teams during the regular season but Lake Erie proved just too strong. Out-scoring Rockford 15-6, a third of those goals came via the power play and Lake Erie had 16 players record at least a point.
Josh Anderson tallied four goals and led the team with five points.
He was ability assisted by rookie Oliver Bjorkstrand and third year professional Alex Broadhurst, both registering four points. Rookie netminder Joonas Korpisalo was solid enough with a 0.924 save percentage through three games, with the more experienced Anton Forsberg left to back-up.
San Diego Gulls 3-1 Texas Stars
Dallas Eakins knew that for his San Diego team to progress, they would have to shut down the potent Texas offense. The Stars would hit five goals in game two at home, taking the victory to even the series.
It would prove the only time Texas would break out as they were held to four goals in the rest of the series, while the Gulls found their shooting boots, twice hitting the Stars for six.
Ten different players hit the net for the Gulls but it was Centremen Chris Mueller and Mike Sgarbossa who lead the team in scoring with five points a piece.
Nick Ritchie and Stefan Noesen are next with four points, as is rookie defenseman Shea Theodore.
San Diego were the only team to use two goaltenders in progressing to the second round.
Matt Hackett allowed two goals in his lone start for victory in the deciding game.
Anton Khudobin recorded a 0.934 save percentage during his three games and both goaltenders may be required during a tough second round encounter with Ontario.
Toronto Marlies 3-0 Bridgeport Sound Tigers
It was little surprise that the best team in the AHL disposed of the 8th seeds in just three games.
Strong defense was the name of the game in the opening two encounters, as Toronto allowed Bridgeport just one goal.
The Sound Tigers would find themselves up 4-1 in game three however, after some defensive fragility and bad penalties taken by the Marlies. Toronto showcased their offensive capabilities by roaring back to win 6-4 and clinch the sweep.
Defenseman Connor Carrick scored a hat-trick in the comeback victory and leads Toronto with seven points.
Connor Brown (3 goals) and Josh Leivo (3 assists) are the leading forward producer while T.J Brennan has scored twice on the power play.
Antoine Bibeau and Garret Sparks split the starts in goal, with the latter coming in as relief in game three when Marlies trailed 4-1.
Albany Devils 3-1 Utica Comets
Albany were made to work hard by Utica on a couple of occasions but their strong defensive structure resulted in the Comets only able to score seven goals.
Three of those came in game four but proved to be in vain after Albany had powered their way into an early advantage and cruised to a 6-3 win.
The only game to require overtime in the series was Utica’s lone victory, a 2-1 win which saw both goals during regulation scored in the opening period.
Albany have received a lot of help from their parent club and many of those players featured highly on the score sheet. In fact eight players contributed three points or more during the Utica series.
Reid Boucher leading the way with six points (3G/3A) with defenseman Damon Serverson just one behind with five assists.
Scott Wedgwood has been given the reigns and registered a .922 save percentage through the four games.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins 3-0 Providence Bruins
Perhaps the biggest upset of the first round was this series.
WBS Pens lost their coach to their parent club earlier this season and then many of the top players followed suit. That was still the case heading into encounter with the Providence Bruins.
With Boston not making it into the NHL post-season, Providence were fully stocked on their roster and the expectation was they might edge a close series.
All three games would head to overtime as it happens, with the Penguins victorious in all to claim an unlikely sweep.
Rookie Jake Guentzel was exceptional for WBS, racking up seven points including the series winner in game three.
Daniel Sprong was another rookie to make a huge impact – scoring a pair of goals including the winner in game two. He also recorded a pair of points in game three.
Defenseman Tim Erixon notched four points from the blue line and RW Carter Rowney put up five as the more experienced players also contributed to the success.
To keep the rookie theme going, Casey DeSmith took the net with Matt Murray and Christian Jarry initially unavailable. The goaltender made 120 saves through the series to finish with an impressive .930 save percentage.
Hershey Bears 3-2 Portland Pirates
Most pundits would have expected Hershey to ease by Portland with little problem.
This wasn’t to be the case however, as the Bears trailed twice in the only series to go all the way to five games.
Portland took game one in a crazy 6-4 victory but Hershey evened the series with a 3-1 win.
Game three in Hershey would take three periods of overtime to decide the outcome with Portland putting their noses in front for the second occasion.
Hershey responded by shutting out the visitors in game four en route to a 2-0 final.
The Bears would jump up to a 2-0 lead in the decided but Portland pulled a goal back in the third period and proceeded to throw everything they had at the Bears to stay alive in the series. They only failed due to a lack of puck luck and brilliance from Justin Peters in net.
Hershey shared the load when it came to finding a way to win. Nine different goal scorers and 18 players registering at least a point. It’s surprising that their AHL MVP didn’t lead the team in scoring, as Chris Borque tallied just a goal and two assists.
Rookie Jakub Vrana led the way with five points and Aaron Ness contributed four assists from the blue line. In fact three of Hershey’s top five points producers in this series were rookies.
Goaltender Dan Ellis played in game one for Hershey and wouldn’t see anymore action after allowing six goals against.
Justin Peters was given the nod and was superb through his four games between the pipes.
Just four goals against and a save percentage of 0.966 including the lone shutout of the series.
Second Round Match-ups
Lake Erie Monsters vs Grand Rapids Griffins
Ontario Reign vs San Diego Gulls
Hershey Bears vs Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins
Toronto Marlies vs Albany Devils