News | 1/28/2013 10:28:03 PM | Rob Crean
The annual AHL All-Star break gives the majority of players a chance to take some much needed time off and rest up for the second half of the season when the playoff races heat up. For those chosen to take part in All-Star weekend, it’s a chance to showcase their skills, to get to know the players they battle with throughout the regular season, and to catch up with old friends.
Amerks captain Kevin Porter and second-year defenseman Brayden McNabb were selected for the 2013 AHL All-Star Classic and made their way to the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence, Rhode Island this weekend.
“It’s a huge honor to play in the All-Star Game and I’m super excited, especially to be able to represent Rochester,” McNabb said upon arriving in Providence.
The All-Star Game, played Monday night, came down to the final seconds. After trailing for most of the game, the Eastern Conference staged a third period rally and tied the game with just 2:30 remaining. But Toronto’s Ryan Hamilton, the game MVP, completed a hat trick by scoring the game-winning goal with just 11.2 seconds left to give the Western Conference a 7-6 victory.
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“It was a little slow at first because guys didn’t really know how to play, but the second period picked up and the last five minutes of the third were pretty intense,” McNabb explained after the win. “It was fun to be a part of and a great experience.”
McNabb was selected to the original Western Conference roster for the 2012 All-Star Classic as a rookie last season, but was unable to attend because he was on recall to the Buffalo Sabres at the time. This year, he got another chance at being part of the All-Star festivities and made the most of it by not only being on the triumphant side for the game, but also by winning the Hardest Shot contest during the Skills Competition on Sunday night, clocking in with a 101.8 MPH slapper.
Both Porter and McNabb were making their first trip to an AHL All-Star Classic, and they were happy to be able to share the experience.
“When you get in here and get situated, and get to know all the other guys, it’s always good to have a friendly face to do that with,” Porter said.
The fifth-year veteran added that he had been looking forward to the opportunity to meet some of the players he and his Amerk teammates have been facing off with during the last four months.
“You come here and meet guys you’ve never played with before and that you play against all year, so you get to know them a little bit and have some fun with them, so it’s a good event.”
The All-Star Game also gave players a chance to spend time with friends and former teammates that they don’t get to see often, if at all, during the season.
McNabb played all four years of his junior career with the Kootenay Ice alongside Matt Fraser, who went undrafted out of the WHL and is now representing Texas, the AHL affiliate of the Dallas Stars, in his second All-Star Game.
With McNabb playing for Rochester and Fraser in Texas, the two would only be scheduled to cross paths twice during the regular season. The All-Star Game gives them a chance to catch up without having to worry about hopping on a bus immediately following a game.
“It’s good to see him and talk about old times,” McNabb said.
Porter, who had a very successful collegiate career at the University of Michigan, was lining up across from two of his former Wolverine teammates. Chad Kolarik, who was recently traded from Connecticut to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, and Portland’s Chris Summers were part of the Eastern Conference squad. The three former college teammates were all originally drafted by the Phoenix Coyotes and began their pro careers by spending time together with the San Antonio Rampage, so the opportunity to play on opposite sides is unique for them.
“It will be a lot of fun to play against them,” Porter said prior to the Skills Competition.
Once the All-Star festivities are over, the calendar officially flips to the second half of the AHL season. The Amerks entered the break riding a three-game winning streak – and won five of their last six – and will look to keep their hot streak going when they return to action on Friday at home against the Toronto Marlies.
“We’ve had a good stretch winning five of our last six games, so we just want to continue to play well,” McNabb said. “And for myself, I just need to play solid and simple and be consistent.”
The experienced Porter knows that it will not be an easy task for the team to return to the same form after having a week off from game action, but that it’s up to them to make sure they keep their winning ways alive.
“We’ve just got to keep it rolling and keep the momentum going,” said Porter. “We have to keep playing well. The break can either really hurt your or really help you, so if we take advantage of it and rest and get ready for the second half, then we’ll be good.”