Central Division wins AHL All Star Challenge with help from two Griffins


While most people’s focus this weekend was on the NHL’s All-Star festivities, the American Hockey League had an event of their own on Sunday and Monday. Some of their ideas, in fact, were a bit more unique than others; youth hockey players were integrated into the skills competition and the AHL’s tournament format included seven shorter games instead of three medium-lengthed ones. Like the big show, this was probably the most fun rendition of the weekend I’ve seen in quite some time, and it was one that was helped by a pair of Grand Rapids Griffins.

Xaiver Ouelett and Jeff Hoggan graced the All-Star uniforms to represent Central Division, and ended up playing big roles in the team winning the tournament.

Oulett was the better of the pair in the first game, picking up a pair of shots and assisting on Pat Cannone’s breakaway goal. When they took on the North Division, both took a step back, going pointless and shotless, but that was just a set up for a strong finish.

A minute into the last game of the round-robin, Ouelette made the most of a breakaway made possible by Gustav Olofsson, giving his division revenge for the goal they gave up on the first shift. The Pacific eventually ran away with the game, presumably because the Central had already clinched a finals berth, but that didn’t stop Griffins and Division captain Jeff Hoggan from giving it his all, leading the team with three shots, including this goal:

At this point, both could have easily left the night relatively satisfied, but there was still the matter of a rematch against the Atlantic Division for all the bragging rights. Just 24 seconds in, Hoggan got the ball rolling for the Central with another goal.

That was all the team needed to get going, as they ended up taking the finale by a score of 4-0. Ouellet grabbed himself a pair of additional points as well, assisting on Derek Ryan’s 2-0 goal and potting the empty-netter in the dying seconds.

In the end, Ouellet finished the tournament with two goals and two assists in four mini-games, was a +1, and took four shots. Hoggan, on the other hand, and a pair of goals, an assist, a +2 rating, and took a division-leading five shots. Not bad at all, especially for a guy who turned 38 years old today.

The Griffins return to the ice on Friday against Rockford.