Wideman, Stolarz Welcome Bright Lights of All Star ClassicJan 13, 2020
By AJ Manderichio/SanDiegoGulls.com
In just a few weeks, both Chris Wideman and Anthony Stolarz will take center stage in Ontario, Calif. at the league’s annual AHL All-Star Classic.
The two are ready for the challenge.
“It’ll be fun for sure. It’s fun for fans; it’s definitely a better format for the players,” Wideman said while discussing the upcoming event. “Since our division is hosting the game, we’re definitely going to look to be competitive and win the thing.”
Both veterans are making a second appearance in the league’s midseason showcase. Wideman made his first All Star Classic appearance in 2015 in Utica, N.Y., while Stolarz participated in 2016. It’s the second time two Gulls will represent the organization, as both Brandon Montour and Nick Ritchie participated during the 2016 showcase.
For the first time, the league will bring the two-day event to the West Coast. It’s a testament to the growth of the Pacific Division and the growing popularity of the sport in Southern California.
“The Gulls, in particular, have done a great job growing the game in San Diego,” Wideman said. “You see kids at the game every night and how much fun they have. The little things we do around the community is great. I’ve really enjoyed not only being part of the organization but the community.”
After arriving from a two-game road trip in Grand Rapids, the players will head to Ontario for a red-carpet arrival and the league’s Skills Competition Sunday afternoon. Expect to see some flair from Stolarz, who enjoys the opportunity to dazzle the crowd in the goalie drills.
“You have the stand and shoot drills, where the guys just go rapid fire back and forth; the three-on-zero challenge as well,” he explained. “You get to show off some acrobatic saves. I’m just looking forward to going out there, making some nice saves and keeping the West in it.”
The events continue on Monday, where the Pacific will look to capture its first AHL All-Star Classic title. The duo described how their comfort and familiarity with each other’s playing styles could lead to a memorable night.
“I know that he’s going to play the puck well, and if we give anything up, he’s going to make the save,” Wideman said. “For me, just having the comfort of knowing he’s back there will be helpful.”
“I’m going to try to look to keep my team in it, make some plays handling the puck,” Stolarz explained. “Our division is hosting it, so we’re going to look to be competitive and take this thing.”
It’s a unique event for both San Diego’s representatives and fans of the organization. The Gulls enjoy plenty of support in Ontario, with their fans packing busses and cars for matchups at Toyota Arena. With the league’s premier talent coming to a familiar place, the Gulls expect they’ll still get some hometown support from their fans attending the festivities.
“Any time we go to Ontario, there’s always a ton of Gulls fans that go,” Stolarz said. “They always give us a fist bump when we walk down the hallway. Hopefully, they can go to the All Star Game to support us. Ontario being our biggest rival, I’m not expecting too many cheers for us.”
While they’ll team with their division foes, Wideman also wants to let them know – his team is on the hunt for the playoffs, and those All Star teammates will need to stay on their toes.
“It’s a great opportunity to meet guys throughout the league,” he said with a smile, “and let the other guys in the division know we’re going to be coming in the second half and to watch it.”