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An Atlantic Division All-Star stops to sign a young fan's jersey. Photo credit: Andrew Fielder/Field Pass Hockey

2023 AHL All-Star Classic

Skills Competition Heats Up AHL All-Star Weekend

#AHLAllStar | It took two long years, but @theAHL finally held the opening events of their All-Star Classic in Laval Sunday evening. Our team, led by @FPHAHL, has the details from the skills competition, here:

Skills Competition Heats Up AHL All-Star Weekend

LAVAL, QC. – After two years’ worth of delays, the American Hockey League and the city of Laval finally had their All-Star moment. With all of the planning, fanfare, and anticipation, The American Hockey League’s 2023 All-Star Skills Classic kicked off at Place Bell on Saturday night with a fast-paced and highly entertaining Skills Competition.

With representatives from all 32 teams on-hand to participate in seven different skill events, there was a personality and story for everyone to enjoy. Divided by conference, the two sides dueled each other for points, but ultimately the Eastern Conference prevailed by a 16-10 count.  For all of the waiting these loyal fans in Laval had to endure, they were rewarded with a record-setting night.

Bonjour, AHL

Before the on-ice festivities, there were joy, laughter, and mascots in the air.

AHL mascots Cosmo, Belly, and Mick E. Moose ride a Ferris Wheel as part of the AHL All-Star Classic Fan Jam on February 5, 2023. Photo credit: Andrew Fielder/Field Pass Hockey

AHL mascots Cosmo, Belly, and Mick E. Moose ride a Ferris Wheel as part of the AHL All-Star Classic Fan Jam on February 5, 2023. Photo credit: Andrew Fielder/Field Pass Hockey

This year’s AHL All-Stars were treated to a King’s Welcome in front of Place Bell braved the snow and bitterly cold temperatures to maybe get a photo, autograph, or first bump with their favorite players.

An Atlantic Division All-Star stops to sign a young fan's jersey. Photo credit: Andrew Fielder/Field Pass Hockey

An Atlantic Division All-Star stops to sign a young fan’s jersey. Photo credit: Andrew Fielder/Field Pass Hockey

Despite the cold outside, there was a certain “Je ne sais quo” inside. You just knew the night would be special.

After an (almost) full set of introductions and a party-like opening sequence, it was time to let the players shine.

But don’t worry Wolves fans; Max Lajoie was introduced at the conclusion of the opening ceremonies.

Puck Control Relay

Leading off the quick-paced Skills Competition was the Inglasco Puck Control Relay, which saw teams of three, followed by one-on-one duels, decide the first four points on the board. Ultimately, this event was split equally between the East and the West.

Syracuse’s Alex Barre-Boulet and Bakersfield’s Seth Griffith each won a single duel to even up the score.

Fastest Skater

Hershey’s Ethen Frank made league history in the CCM Fastest Skater event as he was the first to ever finish the event in under 13 seconds. Clocking in at 12.915, he harnessed some massive power in his crossovers in the back quarter of his attempt.

Frank, who was celebrating his 25th birthday, is one of a handful of rookie players to be selected to participate in the event as one of the league’s top rookie goal scorers.

Given the speed he put on display, it’s no wonder why he’s been so productive in his rookie season.

Humor. Record-breaking attempts. This event had it all!

Rapid Fire

Now, it was time for the goalies to get involved.

The AHLTV Rapid Fire event paired up skaters to take quick, alternating shots against an opposing netminder. At the end, the team with the most saves in the event earned the point.

Joel Hofer of the Springfield Thunderbirds [seven saves], Brandon Bussi of the Providence Bruins [eight saves], and Joseph Woll of the Toronto Marlies [eight saves] were the top netminders to deliver the win for the East.

Despite an amazing performance, the Laval crowd playfully booed Woll, one of their regional (and divisional) rivals. He took it all in stride and enjoyed the energy around the event.

“Just being in this environment, there’s a lot of energy- and just seeing how excited the fans are getting in the production within the Skills Competition set was pretty awesome. So, I think that gives us extra boost.”- Woll

One of the most entertaining parts of All-Star weekends is seeing fan and player interactions. The banter between Woll and the Rocket faithful was lighthearted and highly entertaining.

Hardest Shot

The CCM Hardest Shot was up next, where the player with the hardest shot earned a point for his team while another point would be awarded for the highest group average shot. The East cleaned up on this event as Darren Raddysh was the only player to break triple digits with a 102.0 MPH shot and their shooters all shot at speeds of 95.5 MPH or higher as Toronto’s Noel Hoefenmayer [99.2 MPH], Cleveland’s Jake Christiansen [95.5 MPH], and Lehigh Valley’s Ronnie Attard [97.2 MPH] were brilliant in the event.

The West couldn’t compete with Brayden Pachal [97.2], putting up the highest score that tied Attard for the third-highest score in the competition. The East grabbed both points for the highest score and average, and was beginning to run away with the competition with a 7-2 score leading into the next event.

Accuracy Shooting

The fifth event was the RONA Accuracy Shooting contest, where one point would be awarded to the player who had the most hits in the fewest attempts, while another would be given to the team with the most hits in the fewest cumulative attempts. The Western Conference was led by Rockford IceHogs forward David Gust, who went a perfect four-for-four in the competition set up by his Rockford linemates.

The West got some momentum back, and with 14 targets hit to the East’s 11 grabbed both points in the precision event. Things were starting to look their way with plenty of points up for grabs in the next few events.

Pass and Score

The penultimate event was the RONA Pass and Score competition. Each side had the opportunity to break the event wide-open as groups of three skaters would rush in on three-on-zero passing attempts with each goal counting towards the overall team score. Despite the nature of the event, the goaltenders had far more success than one may have believed, looking at the event on paper. Most noteworthy was the trio of Hershey’s Frank, Charlotte’s Riley Nash, and host Laval’s Alex Belzile, who were the only group to cash in on all three opportunities they had.

Once again, the East took a stranglehold on the score with a 5-2 performance that put some of that distance between the two conferences, with just one event left for the West to make up some ground.

Breakaway Relay

The Upper Deck Breakaway Relay brought us home in this event as groups of five skaters from each conference took turns skating in on breakaways as every player got a shot over the course of eight rounds. Most notably, Syracuse’s Gabriel Dumont had the most adorable chance of the bunch as his son took the opportunity for him and cashed in on San Diego netminder Lukas Dostal as each side tallied four goals in the event.

Gabriel Dumont of the Syracuse Crunch congratulates his son, Mateo, after scoring on Lukas Dostal. Photo credit: Andrew Fielder/Field Pass Hockey

Gabriel Dumont of the Syracuse Crunch congratulates his son, Mateo, after scoring on Lukas Dostal. Photo credit: Andrew Fielder/Field Pass Hockey

Among players to cash in from the West were Texas Stars forward Riley Barber and San Jose Barracuda forward Thomas Bordeleau, while Eastern Conference players to light the lamp were Lehigh Valley Phantoms forward Tyson Foerster and Hartford Wolf Pack skater Zac Jones. The Eastern Conference took the skills competition by an overall score of 16-10.

Award Tour

At the conclusion of the competition, the players who finished at the top of each event were given special awards for their performance. Gust’s perfect shooting, Raddysh’s rockets, Woll’s brick wall performance, and Dumont’s breakaway “attempt” all earned a special trophy courtesy of the AHL.

One interesting note from the event is the trio of rookies in Frank, Attard, and Bussi, who all skated together with the Western Michigan University Broncos prior to turning pro. The three players are all in their rookie seasons and earned All-Star honors as a tremendous nod to their former club, with the three pictured together during the game.

The competition was nothing short of electric. The fans poured their passion onto the ice that had been bottled up for years, while the players put on a show while having fun – and don’t you dare forget what these mascots did to add a little flair to the event. An incredible production that began and ended with the Laval faithful helping set up the next stage.

The main event is on the table tonight at 7:00 PM EST, free to stream on AHL TV.

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