Things like the Skills Competition are all about fun. That is exactly the sort of show that got put together tonight in Utica. The Eastern Conference squad got the 15-11 win over the Western Conference at the end of the day but it was great entertainment. Magnus Hellberg looked good in net. And Brendan Leipsic had a make-shift junior hockey reunion.
The first event with an Admiral involved was the Sher-Wood Puck Control Relay. Leipsic acted as the closer for the Western Conference’s second race. By the time it came for him to finish off the Eastern Conference’s Chris Wideman – he already had a good enough gap to secure the win. It was a smooth skate for Leipsic.
Then it was Hellberg’s turn and his first challenge was the Rapid Fire segment. Firing pucks from both sides of the net were Chris Bourque and Brendan Shinnimin. They each fired five pucks on net, Hellberg slipped a bit when going to his right, fell back to his left and made a great glove save, and -in total- only allowed two goals from ten shots. You can watch that highlight here.
It’s worth giving a shoutout to a non-Admiral. Colin Miller of the Manchester Monarchs won both the Fastest Skater and Hardest Shot challenges tonight. The 22-year old defenseman set an AHL record by pounding a 105.5 mph slap shot in for the Hardest Shot challenge.
Hellberg’s next time out was probably the most difficult challenge of them all. The Pass & Shoot challenge is effectively a goalie having to stop a three-on-naught breakaway. The fact that more goals didn’t go in for this challenge was a bit sad. Everyone outside of the group that Hellberg faced went a bit pass happy and ran out of room before getting a shot off. Helberg only stopped one of three chances in this event.
The Breakaway Relay finished off the night and had both Admirals involved. Hellberg again was the first goalie to start the event for the West and nearly shut the door on all six shooters he faced. The Swede has always excelled in shootouts. It took a crafty shot by Tim Kennedy to put one past him. As for Leipsic, he skated in straight and went with a late forehand to whirling backhander that was pushed off by Jean-François Bérubé.
Leipsic might not be too thrilled about his shootout miss but that probably takes a backseat to the little Portland Winterhawks reunion he found himself in. Former teammates of his in juniors were all smiles as they celebrated their time at the AHL All Star Skills Competition tonight. That group consisted of Derrick Pouliot, Matt Dumba, and Ty Rattie.
Enjoy the AHL Skills Competition tonight? Was it more entertaining that the NHL’s? Do you feel like tomorrow’s game will be any better or worse than today’s NHL All Star Game?