The Pittsburgh Penguins are well represented in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia but they are not the only ones making a splash on the international stage. The AHL decided to try a new format for the 2014 All-Star Game this year and rather than having two teams filled with the best and brightest across the league they fielded just one team to face off against the Swedish Hockey League's Färjestad BK.
From a Penguins perspective the only guy we really care about is Gibbons, but there were two other players with Pens connections. Ben Street of the Abbotsford Heat and Calgary Flames spent two years in the Pens system playing 38 games with the Wheeling Nailers and 127 games with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins from 2010-12. In addition Jason Jaffray, the AHL All-Stars Captain and current Captain of the St. John's IceCaps in the Winnipeg Jets system, spent a season and a half in the Pens system playing 77 games with the Nailers and 5 games with the Baby Pens from 2003-05.
AHL All-Star Skills Competition
The festivities started out on Tuesday night with the Skills competition. Gibbons competed in the Fastest Skater and Breakaway Relay events. Street competed in the Accuracy Shooting and Breakaway Relay events while Jaffray as the Captain of the host team and Captain of the All-Star team competed in nearly everything: the Puck Control Relay, Rapid Fire, Accuracy Shooting, and Breakaway Relay events.
The 1st event was the Puck Control Relay which ended with a 2-2 tie as each team won one of the 3-man relays as well as the solo race. Jaffray won the solo race for the AHL and Farjestad's 16-year old D Oliver Kylington won their solo race. Keep an eye on that kid, he is eligible for the 2015 Draft, and while everybody that year is going to be in Connor McDavid's shadow he does look like he could be a pretty highly sought after prospect. Tony Androck of Highland Park Hockey wrote a short feature on him and the Farjestad team with help from former Baby Pens player and current SHL leading Goal scorer Chad Kolarik. Kylington is the youngest player in team history and its quite an accomplishment for a 16-year old to not only keep up with the men in the adult league but even outperform many of them.
The 2nd event was the Fastest Skater and our own Gibbons finished in 14.350, which was good for #3 overall and #2 on the AHL All-Stars. The overall winner was the Binghamton Senators Captain and Ottawa property Mike Hoffman at 13.990. The leading skater for Farjestad was Los Angeles Kings draft pick Tomas Hyka at 14.262. The AHL took a 4-2 lead winning both the individual and average times.
The 3rd event was the Rapid Fire which went to Farjestad, making the score 4-3. Jaffray scored on 2 of 5, but Farjestad had 8 Goals to the AHL's 7.
The 4th event was the Hardest Shot. Farjestad took both points, highest overall and team average, to go up 5-4. Magnus Nygren, a Montreal Canadiens prospect who spent part of the season with the Hamilton Bulldogs, set an AHL record with a 104.6 mile per hour shot. He is another player to watch out for and one that Kolarik mentioned as one of the best offensive D in the entire SHL.
The 5th event was Accuracy Shooting. The individual results ended in a tie while Farjestad took the overall team Point to take a 7-5 lead. The individual leaders were Jaffray, Nygren, and the New York Islanders Ryan Strome of the Bridgeport Sound Tigers who all scored 4 for 6. Street actually lost it for the AHL by scoring just 3 for 8, the only player to not break all 4 targets.
The 6th event was the Pass and Score, a trio of players against a lone goalie, each player must touch the puck at least once and every goal scored counts towards your total. Both teams scored on 4 of 6 attempts, resulting in a 11-9 Farjestad lead.
The 7th and final event was the Breakaway relay, 10 players in waves of 5 playing against each goaltender with each goal counting towards your total. Farjestad scored on 6 of their attempts, including an amazing goal by the young Kylington, while the AHL scored on 8 to finish with a 17-17 tie. Gibbons and Street both failed to score, but Jaffray was the final skater and scored the game tying goal. There was some controversy afterwards, as one of the AHL goals, I believe it was the one by Strome, hit the post and deflected into the net off the goalie's back, so they felt that it should have counted as a miss. Since the game ended in a tie they went to a sudden death shootout with Jaffray once again scoring as the lone goal scorer to win the Skills Competition for the AHL 18-17.
AHL All-Star Game
The festivities wrapped up on Thursday night with the AHL All-Star Game. The AHL All-Stars were considered the underdogs going into this game since Farjestad plays for the top league in Sweden. The SHL may not be quite on the level of the NHL, but they are one of the most prestigious leagues in all of Europe and certainly a step above the AHL. Which makes the results quite unexpected, the game wasn't even close.
The AHL All-Stars won 7-2 after being outshot 36-30. There was just one penalty the entire night, and not even much in the way of hitting, it was a game decided on skill not physicality. The AHL went 1/1 on the PK and our own Gibbons was part of the 2nd PK unit. He was actually a pretty integral part of the team, not the top player, but he skated on the 1st line with Strome and the Tampa Bay Lightning's Brett Connolly of the Syracuse Crunch.
Gibbons finished the night with 2 Assists and a +2, and he wasn't just a passenger on that line. Both goals in which he got an Assist he managed to prevent Farjestad from making a clear and caused a turnover sending the puck to Strome for a Goal. He did quite well defensively the whole night, not being out for either of Farjestad's Goals. Our former players Street had a Goal, Assisted by Jaffray, with both finishing at +1.
The 1st Farjestad Goal was scored by Nygren with an Assist from Kylington, so they continued to play well in the actual game as well. Farjestad's Player of the Game was Christian Berglund. The AHL's Player of the Game was Hoffman with 1 Goal, 2 Assists, and a +2. And the All-Star MVP was the Chicago Blackhawks prospect Brandon Pirri of the Rockford IceHogs with 2 Goals, 1 Assist, and a +3.
All 4 goalies got to play, switching at about the halfway mark. Farjestad started with Fredrik Pettersson-Wentzel who was a former Atlanta Thrashers draft pick, he stopped 13 of 17 for a .765 Sv%. Their second goaltender was Pekka Tuokkola who stopped 10 of 13 fro a .769 Sv%. The AHL started with the St. Louis Blues Jake Allen of the Chicago Wolves who had a perfect 14 save shutout. Their second goaltender was the Montreal Canadiens Dustin Tokarski of the Hamilton Bulldogs who stopped 20 of 22 for a .909 Sv%.