Gaborik shines in Buffalo; American Conference wins third straight All-Star Game
January 30th, 2012
Boston Giants‘ forward Marian Gaborik walked away with MVP honors at the third annual AFHL All-Star Game. The superstar forward had a hat trick and an assist for four points in helping the American Conference beat the Canadian Conference by a final score of 4-3.
“I wasn’t even thinking about a hat trick,” said Gaborik after the game. “I was just pumped to be here. I just wanted to come in and enjoy the weekend.”
Although the American Conference outscored the Canadian Conference by a point total of 21 to 12, the game was close all the way through.
Steven Stamkos of the Lakehead Thunderwolves said if the American Conference didn’t get back-to-back-to-back goals from Gaborik and Evgeni Malkin to erase an early deficit midway through the first, then the Canadian Conference probably would have kept their initial momentum and won the game.
“About half way through the third period is when it really started getting intense and you could tell neither team wanted to lose,” said Stamkos who scored a goal in the game. “But win or lose, it was still awesome. Everything was just so in sync, and the skill was unbelievable. The fans were so involved with everything that was happening on the ice. It was just a great ending to a great weekend.”
The third annual AFHL All-Star Game was exciting from beginning to end and aside from the high number of players participating in their first AFHL All-Star Game, there were sure to be a lot of guys collecting their first career All-Star goal in Buffalo. John Tavares and Zdeno Chara of the Oshawa City Leafs’, Henrik Sedin of the Pittsburgh Heroes, and Marian Hossa of the Buffalo Phantoms each put their name in the AFHL All-Star record book with their first tally in the event.
Deer Park Chiefs forward Scott Hartnell, who was credited with the game’s only hit, had pledged to give $1,000 to charity for each time he fell down. By his count, he fell to the ice five or six times. During one shift, Claude Giroux of the Hamilton Firestorm, tried unsuccessfully to knock him down.
“I raised maybe $5,000 or $6,000 bucks. It’s pretty cool,” said Hartnell, whose constant falls on the ice started a #HartnellDown surge on Twitter that led to T-shirts that are sold for charitable causes.
Hartnell said Giroux was trying to trip him on every faceoff but “he got me down during warm-up”.
“I tried to trip him a whole shift and wasn’t able to,” said a smiling Giroux, who scored a goal in the game. “It was for charity, and I didn’t think he fell enough, so I was trying to help a good cause.”
Zdeno Chara and Fort Drum‘s Brian Campbell were each +7 which is pretty remarkable considering the fact that it was such a high scoring game.
“I was surprised,” said Campbell. “But I’m just happy to have been a part of it. The stage was set nicely and I really think all of the players had a great game. The fans got to see a lot of skill and it must have been fun to watch.”
As mentioned, Gaborik was given the MVP award for his electrifying performance that included scoring two goals against Deer Park Chiefs’ goalie Henrik Lundqvist and pretending his stick was a machine gun during the celebration.
Lundqvist jokingly lamented about giving up three goals on eight shots, including the two by Gaborik.
“There’s been a lot of trash talk, but it feels like it’s game over already,” said Lundqvist, who was wearing a microphone during the opening period. “But I’m happy for him.”
While many say this game is often meaningless, this game could prove to be huge for Gaborik. During the game, he looked loose and happy. He was under a lot of pressure coming into this season as he had to deal with two tragedies and wanted to rebound from a unimpressive 2010-11 season. But with Gaborik in good spirits and oozing confidence, this break could prove to be huge for him as he continues to suit up for the Giants. He’s currently on pace to eclipse his career-high of 42 goals and if he can score goals at the pace he did during the All-Star Game, good things will come for Gaborik and the Boston Giants.
After a five day hiatus for the All-Star Game, AFHL GMs and players around the league are now looking to improve this season as the second half begins.
“We all want to improve this season,” said Manhattan GM Tony Furino. “But there are a few teams that currently sit at a fork in the road including my own. We can either get ourselves into the playoffs for a third straight year or flounder and slip further back into the pack of American Conference squads. Pretty soon we’re going to make a decision because the Trade Deadline is now one month away.”
For a team like the Fort Drum Killers, who currently hold a tenuous grasp on the eighth and final playoff spot, they will begin to determine its path with important games against the third place Hamilton Firestorm this week, and the fifth place Lakehead Thunderwolves next week. That the Killers ultimately control their own fate is a luxury, players said, given how up-and-down this season has been.
“For how we’ve played, I think we’re pretty lucky — where we stand is pretty good,” Killers GM Steven Stryska said. “I don’t think we’ve played our best yet this season, but if we don’t show improvement in the next couple of weeks, then I might be pretty active at the Trade Deadline.”
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– The mascots for the Vikings, Thunderwolves, Red Devils and Knights repelled from the ceiling to begin the pregame festitivies, while the remainder of the mascots entered in a conga line at center ice.
– Tim Thomas of the Hamilton Firestorm, whose spectacular goaltending led the Power to the Stanley Cup championship last season, was considered the best goalie in this year’s game after he stopped 18 of 21 shots in the third period.
– Leading up to the day of the event, the AFHL Commissioner was unaware that the NHL had eliminated the annual Young Stars Game, so it was announced late that rookies would not factor into the scoring for this year’s All-Star Game.
– The two biggest stars, Buffalo’s Sidney Crosby and North Bay’s Alex Ovechkin, missed the All-Star Game, but that did not seem to matter. The event was its usual just-for-fun exhibition, the climax of a happy weekend for a league that continues to prosper. “You obviously want to have those guys, but there are a lot of other great young talents in the game,” said Victoria’s Phil Kessel, smiling after signing the sweater of a teammate for the day, Toronto defenseman Erik Karlsson.