Just one day after the NHL set the combined goal-scoring record for an All-Star Game, the AHL followed suit. The Western Conference and Eastern Conference kept the red light lit, entertaining the Utica Memorial Auditorium crowd.
The historic output by the two teams came on the back of a trio of hat tricks, all of which were scored by Western Conference players en route to a 14-12 victory over the Eastern Conference. Mark McNeill of the Rockford IceHogs (Chicago Blackhawks), Charles Hudon of the Hamilton Bulldogs (Montreal Canadiens), and Brendan Leipsic of the Milwaukee Admirals (Nashville Predators) formed the hat trick trinity, while Rockford IceHogs blueliner T.J. Brennan led the charge with a goal and five points.
Much like the NHL’s festivities, the win by the Western Conference earned them a split. The Eastern Conference won the Skills Competition 15-11 on Sunday evening.
One of the most pleasant surprises of the night was the Eastern Conference’s Brendan Shinnimin, a last-minute replacement for Portland Pirates (Arizona Coyotes) teammate Alexandre Bolduc. The 24-year-old center scored two goals in the first period, added an assist, and fired a game-high 10 shots on goal.
Though All-Star Game’s are generally more about offense, one of the best performances of the night came from Western Conference netminder Jacob Markstrom. The Utica Comets (Vancouver Canucks) goaltender stopped all but two of the 18 pucks that came his way. The two goals against in the first period were the fewest of any puck stopper to play in the game and turned out to be the difference in the game. Both teams scored six in the second frame and four in the third, but Markstrom’s Eastern counterpart from the St. John’s IceCaps (Winnipeg Jets), Connor Hellebuyck allowed four in the first.
Markstrom, 24, has the second best numbers of any goaltender in the league this season, posting a 1.92 goals-against average and .934 save percentage.
In total, 17 different players scored in the game, including Norfolk Admirals (Anaheim Ducks) center Chris Wagner registering his goal on a penalty shot.
The AHL’s regular season resumes on Thursday, Jan. 29.