AHL Central News: Stars Split, Wild & Monsters Stay Hot

Another week and another game pushed back due to COVID-19 protocol. The Texas Stars continued their extended road trip by starting the first of four straight games at the San Jose Barracuda. The improved Iowa Wild picked up another win over the Rockford IceHogs. Let’s take a quick spin around the American Hockey League’s Central Division and get you all caught up.

Off-Ice Business

The Chicago Wolves lost one of their talented rookies as Phil Tomasino was recalled by the Nashville Predators on Wednesday. The 19-year-old has seven goals and is second on the team in scoring with 20 points. Not bad for a kid that would have been playing for Oshawa Generals in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) under “normal” circumstances. Tommy Novak was reassigned to Chicago in a corresponding move. He had three goals and 16 points in 14 games for the Wolves before an extended stint on the Predators’ taxi squad.

Tommy Novak Chicago Wolves
Novak is back in Chicago.(Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

On Thursday morning, the game between the Wolves and the Grand Rapids Griffins scheduled for later that night was postponed. This game had already by pushed back twice due to COVID-19 protocol, so maybe the fourth time will be the charm. They will try to play this game again on April 29.  

The Cleveland Monsters added a couple of defensemen to their roster this week. The New York Rangers loaned them Brandon Crawley on Tuesday, and then they signed Will Lochead to a professional tryout (PTO) contract on Thursday.

Had the Griffins played on Thursday, they would have had forward Givani Smith back in the lineup who was reassigned by the Detroit Red Wings. He has a goal and four points in 15 NHL games this season.

The IceHogs signed UMass forward Carson Gicewicz just a couple of days after winning the NCAA championship. He led the Minutemen with 17 goals this past season. His AHL contract is good through the 2022-23 season.  

Mid-Week Recap

Tuesday April, 13

Wild 4, IceHogs 1

The IceHogs have just seven wins on the season, and three of them came at the expense of the Wild. Things got off to a great start for Rockford as Josiah Slavin opened the scoring with a shorthanded goal less than four minutes into the game. The rookie power forward now has three goals and five points in his first four professional games. This marked the first time in the last eight games where the Wild didn’t score first.

Less than six minutes later, Damien Giroux scored off a rebound to tie the game with his seventh goal of the season. The Wild added two more goals in the second period from Will Bitten and Mason Shaw to build a 3-1 lead heading into the final frame. Gerry Mayhew scored an empty-net goal late in the third period to cap off the scoring.

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Goaltender Dereck Baribeau made 27 saves to improve to 5-1-2-0 on the season with a .921 save percentage (SV%) and 2.35 goals-against average. Iowa now has points in each of the last eight games going 6-0-2-0 during this hot streak.

“I just think we are executing quite well right now,” said head coach Tim Army. “We’re getting excellent goaltending. That’s always the backbone of your team. We are executing as a group of five. Our entries and our offensive zone. It’s establishing tempo to our game. It’s establishing possession and goals. Those areas have been a big trigger for us in this eight-game stretch.”

Stars 7, San Jose Barracuda 2

After wrapping up a four-game series at the Colorado Eagles last week, the Stars played the first of straight in San Jose on Tuesday night.

The Stars dominated the second half of the opening period starting with Nick Baptiste’s 11th goal of the season. Five minutes later, Anthony Louis doubled the lead with his seventh goal on the campaign. Captain Cole Schneider and Riley Tufte scored 29 seconds apart late in the period as Texas took a 4-0 lead into the first intermission.

Cole Schneider Texas Stars
Schneider scored in the series opener. (Andy Nietupski / Texas Stars)

San Jose looked poised to get back into the game early in the second period. Robbie Russo scored on a 5-on-3 power play to get them on the board. Just over a minute later, they got another power-play tally from Maxim Letunov to get within two. That would be the closest they would get as Adam Masherin, and Josh Melnick scored before the end of the period to restore their four-goal advantage. Mascherin added a power-play goal late in the third period to finish off the scoring.

Goaltender Adam Scheel made 30 saves to earn his first professional win. Louis picked up three assists for the first four-point game of his AHL career.

Wednesday, April 14

Monsters 5, Rochester Americans 3

Cleveland has played the fewest games out of the Central Division teams but they have the second-best points percentage. They won their fifth straight game and improved to 4-0-0-0 against the Americans with a come-from-behind win on Wednesday.

Rochester jumped out to an early lead as Michael Mersch scored just over a minute into the game. Ryan Jones doubled the lead later in the period with just his second goal of the season. The lead wasn’t safe as Dillon Simpson cut it in half with two minutes left in the opening frame while on the power play.

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After a scoreless middle frame, Tyler Sikura tied the game with a shorthanded goal just 42 seconds into the third period. This was followed up by Ole Bjorgvik-Holm’s first North American goal and Tristan Mullin’s first professional goal to give the Monsters a 4-2 lead. Steven Fogarty’s power-play tally got the Americans to within a goal with just over five minutes to play. Simpson iced the game with his second goal of the game with just over a minute to play, this one of the empty-net variety. Goaltender Daniil Tarasov made 17 saves to win his second AHL game in as many starts.

Barracuda 4, Stars 2

These two teams were right back on the ice on Wednesday night. Although this game was being played in San Jose, the Stars were considered the home team because this game was originally scheduled for Feb. 16 in Texas but was postponed due to a dangerous winter storm.

The Stars scored first for the second straight night when Jerad Rosburg scored his first goal of the season with just 22 seconds left in the opening period.

The Barracuda built a 2-1 lead with goals by Ivan Chekhovich and Joachim Blichfeld midway through the second period. Defenseman Ben Gleason scored a power-play goal by going bardown from the right circle to tie the game before the second intermission.

The third period belonged to Barracuda forward Maxim Letunov. He broke the tie with his eighth goal of the season midway through the final frame and added an empty-net goal for some late insurance. Scheel was the hard-luck loser with 36 saves, including 19 in the second period. This was his fourth straight start with at least 30 saves. These two teams will play two more times this weekend before the Stars head back to Texas.

Mid-Week’s Top Performer

The Stars scored nine goals in their two games at the Barracuda, and Louis factored into six of them. After a goal and three assists on Tuesday, he picked up helpers on both of Texas’ goals on Wednesday. The offensive explosion was welcomed as the five-year AHL veteran had just one point in his previous eight games before arriving in San Jose. He has seven goals and 18 points in 24 games this season.

Central Division Standings

Wolves – 15-4-0-1, 31 pts (.775 pts %)

Monsters – 10-5-1-0, 21 pts (.656 pts %)

Griffins – 8-6-2-0, 18 pts (.563 pts %)

Wild – 10-9-4-0, 24 pts (.522 pts %)

Stars – 12-13-2-0, 26 pts (.481 pts %)

IceHogs – 7-13-1-0, 15 pts (.357 pts %)

Weekend Schedule

Friday, April 16: Wild @ Griffins, Stars @ Barracuda

Saturday, April 17: Americans @ Monsters, Wild @ Griffins, Wolves @ IceHogs, Stars @ Barracuda

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