American Hockey League (AHL)

Arshdeep Bains, Shakir Mukhamadullin Shine In Memorable AHL All-Star Event

Arshdeep Bains, Shakir Mukhamadullin Shine In Memorable AHL All-Star Event

With a boatload of memorable plays and moments, the AHL All-Star Challenge once again provided the entertainment value so many other similar events don't.

Feb 6, 2024 by Chris Peters

If All-Star Games are supposed to be lighter, more tepid affairs, someone forgot to tell that to the players at Monday night’s AHL All-Star Challenge. Close games, big saves, big goals and actual back-checking – really! – showed that at this stage in so many of these players careers, there’s no sense in not trying.

In the end, the Pacific All-Stars won the All-Star Challenge tournament, besting Team Atlantic in a six-minute sprint final that came right down to the wire.

Abbotsford Canucks standout Arshdeep Bains, signed by the Vancouver Canucks as an undrafted free agent two years ago, scored with 13 seconds remaining in regulation to help secure the victory for Team Pacific. The goal was his fifth point of the day, which led all players in the event.

The AHL All-Star setup is a good one, with seven total games played in a three-on-three format. The games are short and the benches are long enough where players don’t have to get worn out. 

So when they’re on the ice, they hustle and they sure made a ton of plays.

The goalies were certainly not going easy on their skater counterparts. As a result, only two of the seven games were decided by more than one goal and three went into shootouts. There was actual drama in the games and based on the reactions by the players, there was a real want-to-win attitude among everybody.

Among the best moments of the night was Yaroslav Askarov making one of the best saves of the entire AHL season just seconds before his team managed to score a goal, only enhancing the highlight moment from Askarov.

There was also a bit of serendipity as hometown hero Shakir Mukhamadullin scored a clutch goal in the dying seconds of Pacific’s semifinal game with their goalie pulled for the extra attacker. Mukhamadullin was clearly the crowd favorite and every chance he got was met with a load cheer, with the big pop coming when he scored such a clutch goal.

The game was also special for Team Pacific’s Dustin Wolf, who is a native of Gilroy, California, a 35-minute drive south from San Jose. Though he had an uncharacteristic blunder in the opening game of the night, it hurts a lot less when it’s in an all-star game. In the end, he made a game-saving stop on Atlantic’s final gasp in the championship game and won the All-Star Challenge for the second straight year with another great performance.

It's really hard to put on an entertaining All-Star event. You need buy-in from the players, you need the fans to be active and you need a few moments to materialize that make for a memorable night.

Based on the way the players looked after the game, the smiles on the fan’s faces and the number of clips circulating widely across social media, mission accomplished by the AHL.

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