UTICA, NY — After an impressive night at the AHL All-Stars Skills Competition on Sunday night, the American League’s best athletes took the ice again on Monday for the AHL All-Star Challenge.
In a round-robin mini-tournament, each division would face off against the other three divisions in 10-minute three-on-three games. The two teams with the best record after those games would meet up in a six-minute championship game to crown an overall winning division on the night.
Laval Rocket defenseman Matt Taormina opened the scoring on the night as the North Division first took on the Pacific Division. While they would eventually lose this game 5-3, Taormina and Rocket teammate Chris Terry looked strong throughout.
After the Atlantic Division downed the Central Division, the winners of the past two All-Star Challenges, the North team managed a 4-2 victory over the Central Division players. Throughout each game, some spectacular goaltending maneuvers were on display, as well as some flashy moves by the skaters.
In the final round-robin matchup, pitting the North Division against a very strong Atlantic Division, the North found themselves down 3-0 with just about three minutes remaining. The hometown Utica crowd rallied the players with chants and cheers, and netminder Thatcher Demko went to the bench to create a four-on-three.
With two quick goals on the man advantage, the North had momentum and quickly potted another goal to even the score with less than a minute remaining. The finished the job with about 30 seconds remaining and the crowd was all-in.
In the Championship game against the Pacific Division, both teams really stepped up their game and battled for the puck. The goaltenders were all business, sweeping aside every puck that came their way.
But Rochester Americans rookie C.J. Smith managed to put the puck into the Pacific net to tally the only goal in the final game and give the North Division a much-heralded victory. Smith was awarded the MVP title for the night, with three goals and two assists.
Lead Correspondent Amy Johnson spoke with both Laval Rocket players before and after the game; you can listen to their full interviews in the player below.
Chris Terry Pre-Game Interview
Chris Terry Post-Game Interview
Matt Taormina Pre-Game Interview
Matt Taormina Post-Game Interview