St. John’s IceCaps captain Jason Jaffray, who is also acting as captain for the All-Stars, scored in the final event to send the Skills Competition into a shootout. Jaffray then scored again in the sudden death shootout to secure an exciting win for the AHL.
There are 7 events total in the Skills Competition which the skaters alternate competing in. Of those events, three go towards determining which goalie wins the goalie competition by having the best save percentage. But before any of that could get under way, the teams were introduced. Not surprisingly, there was a huge roar when they got to the end of the AHL All-Star roster, introducing Brenden Kichton and Jason Jaffray to their hometown crowd. There was also a huge roar and a standing ovation part of the way through the AHL roster when they got to Luke Adam, a Rochester American that was born and raised in St. John’s.
First up in the skills competition was the Sher-wood Puck Control Relay. This had four heats, with a goal going to the winner of each heat. The first two heats pitted teams of three from each side against each other in a relay. The second two were individual races. Each skater had to go from one goal line to the other, retrieve a puck, then weave back around cones without losing control. The teams split the event. Jason Jaffray competed in the first, earning a loud applause as he edged out his competition. But the real story was Oliver Kylington, competing in, and winning, the second individual heat for Farjestad at only 16 years old. He was the youngest competitor.
The second event was the CCM Fastest Skater. This event featured the teams alternating back and forth for a total of four skaters per side. They had to skate a full lap around the ice, staying inside the cones. There were two goals up for grabs: one of the overall fastest time and one for the side with the fastest average. The AHL’s Mike Hoffman (of the Binghamton Senators) was the fastest skater and the only one under 14 seconds at 13.990 as he slid on his stomach across the finish line. The AHL also earned fastest team average.
With the third event, fans finally got to see goalies for the first time. The RBC Rapid Fire. This event saw each of the four goalies face two shooters from the opposite team. Each shooter had 5 pucks to shoot alternatively under a certain amount of time without using slap shots. All the goalies stopped 6 of the 10 shots, except for Farjestad’s Frederik Petterson-Wentzel, who stopped 7 shots and earned Farjestad the goal for most team saves.
The fourth event let the goalies have a break again as skaters faced off in the CCM Hardest Shot competition. The goalies probably would not want to be in front of most of these shots anyway. Each side got four skaters, alternating back and forth and each of them got 3 chances to register their hardest shot. Last year’s winner, Brayden McNabb of the Rochester Americans, appeared to defend his title. Although he beat his own time from last with a shot registering 102.6 MPH this year, he was not able to defend his title. Farjestad’s Magnus Nygren shattered the AHL record with his hardest shot coming in at 104.6 MPH. He earned his team the goal for hardest individual shot and helped his team earn the goal for fastest team average. This put Farjestad up 5-4 against the AHL at the halfway mark.
Next up for the fifth event was the Pepsi Accuracy Shooting. For this event, each team sent out four skaters to test their accuracy. Disks were placed in the four corners of the goal and skaters got 8 attempts to hit all the targets. Pucks were fed to the shooters alternatively by teammates. For the AHL it was Texas Stars teammates Travis Morin and Colton Sceviour. For Farjestad it was former Hobey Baker winner Jack Connolly and Rickard Wallin. Three players tied for 4 targets on 6 attempts, but Farjestad had the edge on more targets hit and kept their lead.
The sixth and seventh events brought the goalies back into the picture for the second and third events contributing to their overall scores. The sixth event was the Assante Wealth Management Pass and Score. Each goalie faced one heat of three skaters from the other team. Those heats had 40 second to make three attempts on the goalie with the rules that each attempt must include at least two passes, they must reset at the blue line before each attempt, and they were not allowed to take slap shots.
The goalies all came out exactly even on this event with each allowing two goals and making one save. The highlight, though, was the combination of the AHL’s Chad Billins, Brett Connolly, and Brenden Kichton. For their final attempt, they fell into I formation with the first two drop passing to the players behind them and the final member of the team taking the shot past Farjestad goalie Pekka Tuokkola.
The final event was AHL Live Breakaway Relay in which every skater participated. Skating in groups of 5, each heat would face off against an opposing goalie. As in the sixth event, every goal counted towards the final score. Through the first three heats, Farjestad still led by 2 with a score of 16-14. In the first half of the final round, AHL goaltender Dustin Tokarski allowed only one goal from the five skaters. But that meant that the AHL skaters needed three goals from their final round to tie it.
It came down to Jason Jaffray as the final skater to tie it up and he managed to, amid a roar from hometown fans. That meant the teams were tied at 17 and it went to a sudden death shootout where teams selected which goaltenders would defend and which of their shooters they were relying on. In the third round of the shootout, it came right back to Jaffray and he did not disappoint. He beat Wentzel to give the AHL All-Stars the win in one of the most exciting ends to a skills competition imaginable.
For event by event results, see here.