ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. – Ben Bishop may have been a late addition to the American Hockey League all-star game, but he had no problem showing he belonged with the league’s best.
Bishop stopped all four skaters he faced in the shootout Monday and was named the game’s most valuable player as the Western Conference came back to beat the Eastern Conference 8-7.
“You get out there, and it’s pretty competitive,” said Bishop, who made 10 saves on 11 shots in the third period as his team completed a comeback from a first-period 6-2 deficit.
“I was pretty (upset) to give up that one goal.”
The six-foot-seven Peoria Rivermen goaltender was a late addition to the all-star game last week after Lake Erie goaltender Cedrick Desjardins suffered an injury. But he was easily a match for some of the league’s most dangerous snipers.
In the shootout, Bishop denied Syracuse’s Kyle Palmieri and Norfolk’s Cory Conacher, who share the league lead with 25 goals each. He also stopped Hershey’s Keith Aucoin, who with Binghamton’s Corey Locke has now played in a record six AHL all-star games, and Colin McDonald of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
“There was a little bit of luck,” said Bishop, a four-year pro in the St. Louis Blues’ organization. “I didn’t see any of those guys except McDonald, and I thought he might go high-glove.”
Bishop’s teammate, T.J. Hensick, and Matt Fraser of the Texas Stars scored in the shootout for West.
Tyson Sexsmith of the Worcester Sharks stopped several point-blank Western Conference chances in the third before Vancouver Canucks prospect defenceman Kevin Connauton scored with 4:07 remaining to tie it.
Chris Terry led West with two goals and an assist. Darren Haydar, Tyson Barrie, Hensick and Toronto Marlies forward Ryan Hamilton also scored.
Conacher had two goals and an assist for East. Jonathan Audy-Marchessault and Mats Zuccarello had a goal and two assists, while Palmieri, Casey Cizikas and Andy Miele also scored.
This was the second year of the East-West format, replacing a format in which Canadian-born players faced players from the rest of the world.
That allowed Connecticut Whale teammates Zuccarello and Audy-Marchessault to play together. They both had all three of their points in the first period.
Zuccarello had played only three games since Dec. 9 while recovering from an ankle injury.
“(To play here) helps a little bit, with puck-handling,” said Zuccarello, who played for Norway at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
“I’ve been out seven weeks, so it’s nice to get back. Everything helps. I need to get back to the level I was before.”
The West scored the only three goals of the second period, outshooting the East 20-11, to cut its deficit to a goal.
Terry scored his second of the game at 2:41 of the period. Barrie of the Lake Erie Monsters and the Ryan scored 43 seconds apart late in the period.
Oklahoma City Barons goalie Danis, meanwhile, was shutting down the East, stopping all 11 shots he faced.
“The guys played really well,” Danis said. “Guys were backchecking. I didn’t face any two-on-ones, breakaways.”
Danis played last season in Russia after playing the previous three seasons for three different organizations: Montreal, the New York Islanders and New Jersey.
He signed with the Edmonton Oilers last summer, and his 2.11 goals-against average is fourth in the AHL.
The Eastern Conference scored four goals in a row to close the first period.
Bridgeport’s Cizikas and Portland’s Miele, last year’s Hobey Baker Award winner as the top player in NCAA hockey, scored 26 seconds apart after the West tied it at 202. Conacher and Zuccarello tacked on goals to make it 6-2.
After Audy-Marchessault and Palmieri gave the East a 2-0 lead, Terry and Haydar, the Chicago Wolves veteran and Western Conference captain, scored to tie it.
The league held the event outside a member city for the first time.
“I had a blast,” Bishop said. “I think Atlantic City did a great job. … The hospitality, it was a lot of fun. I hadn’t been out this way.”