February 01, 2019
By: Kristi Fulkerson
The 2019 AHL All-Star Classic came to an end Monday evening after an eventful two days in Springfield, MA. The city played host to the event for the first time since 1959, welcoming all-stars and fans from all 31 AHL squads. Both Lehigh Valley All-Star representatives have a history in Springfield, Colin McDonald playing 3 seasons with the Falcons to start his pro career in 2007 and Greg Carey playing there in 2015-16, his final season before joining Lehigh Valley.
This weekend marked my first trip to Springfield but 5th straight time covering AHL All-Star weekend since the LV Phantoms came to town. The streak began in 2015 in Utica, NY (Brandon Manning), in 2016 it moved Syracuse, NY (Nick Cousins, Anthony Stolarz) and 2017 in Allentown (Jordan Weal, T.J. Brennan, Taylor Leier) before the event returned to Utica last season (Oskar Lindblom, T.J. Brennan).
Each trip has been a little different but one constant has been the solid representation from the Phantoms All-Stars. Colin McDonald served as the Eastern Conference captain, taking part in his third All-Star event (first since 2012) while Greg Carey made his All-Star debut this year. One of my favorite parts of covering the event each January is seeing our players kick back and enjoy themselves. Life as a hockey player can be a grind but when the pressure is (mostly) off, the players can have fun. Let’s be honest, their competitive edge never really goes away and impressing the crowd is a definite goal but it’s still different. Seeing other players across the conference and league is also a treat, I had a chance to interview Vitek Vanecek (Hershey goalie), Andrew Poturalski (Charlotte forward), Samuel Montembeault (Springfield goalie), and Anthony Greco (Springfield forward) and hear about their reaction to the All-Star experience as well.
The Skills Competition kicked things off Sunday night as the East and West All-Stars battled in 7 different events. Those of us that have seen Carey play in Allentown for three seasons predicted he would win the CCM Hardest Shot Competition and sure enough, the 5th year pro was the only competitor to break 100, clocking in at 100.7 MPH for the title. McDonald was one of only four East All-Stars to convert in the Breakaway Relay to wrap up the evening, beating Milwaukee’s Troy Grosenick to conclude the evening.
The West All-Stars would edge the East in the Skills Competition but would be 3rd and 4th place finishers in Monday’s All-Star Challenge event. The 3v3 round robin tournament pitted each of the AHL’s four divisions against each other, the Atlantic and North meeting in the championship. After a scoreless six minutes between the two sides, the title game would be decided in a shootout. Bridgeport’s Michael Dal Colle converts the lone goal for the Atlantic while Drake Batherson (Belleville) and Trevor Moore (Toronto) were the heroes for the North, who won their second straight Challenge title.
Kudos to our two Phantoms All-Stars, Greg & Colin, on a solid weekend repping the orange and black and putting up with a busy weekend of interviews courtesy of yours truly — all with a smile! Look for All-Star story recaps on our Phantoms page!