SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … News and notes from the week ending Dec. 2, 2012:
TURNING IT AROUND
They say it’s not how you start, but rather how you finish. If that’s the case, there are a few teams in the AHL who are back on the right track.
The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins went 10-2-0-0 during the month of November and have won 13 of 16 since opening the season with four straight losses. Twenty different Penguins recorded a point last month, led by Trevor Smith (7-6-13) with 10 points in 12 games. Jeff Zatkoff allowed just 11 goals in his nine starts en route to winning CCM/AHL Goaltender of the Month honors, and rookie Beau Bennett had a six-game scoring streak to help keep him atop the team’s points list with 5-11-16 on the year.
The Rockford IceHogs managed to score just five goals in their first four games of the 2012-13 season, limping out to an 0-3-0-1 start. But the ’Hogs have found their offensive touch, now ranking seventh in the league with 3.32 goals scored per game for the year, and with a 6-1-0-0 mark since Nov. 21 and 12 wins in 18 games since their winless start, Rockford has moved into first place in the Midwest Division.
Rookie defenseman Adam Clendening (4-12-16), a second-round draft choice by the Chicago Blackhawks in 2011, has erupted for 12 points – including five multiple-point efforts – in his last eight games for Rockford while four-time AHL All-Star Martin St. Pierre (8-11-19) has four goals in his last three games and a team-best 19 points on the season.
Since a lukewarm start to the 2012-13 season, the Binghamton Senators have been the hottest team in the AHL over the last three weeks, rattling off eight consecutive wins and staking a claim to the best record in the Eastern Conference (12-4-1-1, .722).
Fifteen Senators have scored a goal during the streak – including eight different game-winning goal scorers – and Robin Lehner and Ben Bishop have split the goaltending duties while facing more rubber than any tandem in the league; Binghamton ranks last allowing 35.7 shots per game for the year.
D.C. WELCOMES THE “A”
The Norfolk Admirals and Hershey Bears will bring hockey back to the District of Columbia on Thursday night with the Washington AHL Showcase presented by Geico, the first regular-season AHL game played in the area in more than 30 years.
The Bears have won four conference championships and three Calder Cups since becoming the Washington Capitals’ top affiliate in 2005. The Admirals are the top development team for the Anaheim Ducks, whose head coach, AHL Hall of Famer Bruce Boudreau, led Hershey to the 2006 title and Washington to the NHL’s Presidents’ Trophy in 2010.
The AHL’s history in the District goes back to the Washington Lions, a mostly forgettable team that played at Uline Arena in the 1940s and lost 100 more games than it won during its four seasons. More recently, the Hershey Bears played a 1979 home game against the Philadelphia Firebirds at the Capital Centre in the Washington suburb of Landover, Md., while Hersheypark Arena was being used as an evacuation site following the accident at the Three Mile Island nuclear station.
Thursday’s game at the 18,506-seat Verizon Center in downtown Washington is expected to draw one of the largest crowds ever for an AHL game. It can be seen on Comcast Sportsnet Mid-Atlantic (DirecTV 642, Dish Network 424/374, Verizon FiOS 76/576) beginning at 7 p.m. ET.
Before heading to Washington, the Bears took on Norfolk back at Giant Center on Dec. 1 for their annual Teddy Bear Toss game. The Admirals posted a 5-1 win, but one Hershey goal was all it took for the near-capacity crowd to litter the ice with stuffed animals.
A total of 12,497 toys rained down onto the ice and were collected for donation to the Children’s Miracle Network.
To watch the Hershey teddy bear toss, click here.
DIVISION LEADERS COLLIDE
A home-and-home series between first-place teams produced two hotly contested games last weekend, as Atlantic Division leading Manchester and Northeast Division leader Springfield faced off on Friday and Saturday nights.
The Falcons had just eight wins in 47 visits all-time to the Verizon Wireless Arena, and they found themselves trailing 3-0 after the second period on Friday evening. But Nick Holden and Matt Calvert cut the deficit to 3-2, Dalton Smith scored 11 seconds after the Monarchs had regained a two-goal cushion to make it 4-3, and then Ryan Craig netted a pair of goals, including the shorthanded game-winner with four minutes left in regulation, to send Springfield to a 5-4 victory. It was the Falcons’ first five-goal period since Apr. 2, 2011.
Seeking a measure of revenge, the Monarchs spotted Springfield the lead in Saturday’s rematch at the MassMutual Center before Dwight King and Linden Vey scored to give Manchester a 2-1 edge after 20 minutes. This time, however, the Monarchs preserved the lead, with Peter Mannino finishing with 20 saves to earn his second straight win in Springfield.
NOVEMBERS TO REMEMBER
AHL scoring and goaltending leaders for the month of November:
Jordan Eberle, OKC 13gp, 10-11-21
Justin Schultz, OKC 13gp, 5-14-19
Taylor Hall, OKC 12gp, 5-11-16
Justin Fontaine, HOU 13gp, 6-10-16
Brian Flynn, RCH 10gp, 7-8-15
Richard Panik, SYR 11gp, 8-7-15
Jon Rheault, SA 12gp, 6-8-14
Tyler Johnson, SYR 11gp, 8-5-13
T.J. Hensick, PEO 11gp, 3-10-13
Jason Zucker, HOU 12gp, 9-4-13
Brayden Schenn, ADK 12gp, 5-8-13
Barry Brust, ABB 5-0-0, 0.59, .976, 3 SO
Jeff Zatkoff, WBS 8-1-0, 1.21, .955, 3 SO
Danny Taylor, ABB 2-2-0, 1.24, .949, 2 SO
Robin Lehner, BNG 5-0-1, 1.48, .958, 1 SO
Eddie Pasquale, STJ 4-2-1, 1.56, .955, 2 SO
Dustin Tokarski, SYR 5-2-0, 1.88, .920
Cristopher Nilstorp, TEX 4-3-0, 1.94, .921, 2 SO
Riku Helenius, SYR 3-1-0, 2.00, .914, 1 SO
Scott Munroe, ADK 4-3-0, 2.08, .925, 1 SO
Peter Mannino, MCH 2-1-0, 2.14, .920
Oklahoma City’s quartet of Jordan Eberle (10-11-21, +13), Justin Schultz (5-14-19, +10), Taylor Hall (5-11-16, +5) and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (6-6-12, +7) totaled 26 goals and 68 points during November; the rest of the Barons roster combined for 16 goals and 49 points… Houston rookie Jason Zucker was second in the AHL with nine goals in November; Syracuse teammates Richard Panik and Tyler Johnson scored eight each… Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s Jeff Zatkoff led all AHL goalies with eight wins in November, posting a 1.21 goals-against average, a .955 save percentage and three shutouts… During a month that saw him set a record for the longest shutout streak in AHL history, Abbotsford’s Barry Brust stopped 121 of 124 shots in five November starts (5-0-0, 0.59, .976)… South Division rivals Yann Danis of Oklahoma City and Matt Hackett of Houston showed identical 7-2-2 records during November… Rochester rookie Brian Flynn registered 15 points in 10 games… Manchester’s Martin Jones was just 2-7-1 in November but he posted two shutouts and a respectable .916 save percentage.
FIVE TO WATCH
Match-ups to look forward to in the week ahead:
San Antonio at Abbotsford, Tuesday and Wednesday (10 ET) – Entering the week with the best record in the AHL at 13-3-2-2 (30 points), Abbotsford hosts San Antonio twice looking to improve on their 9-1-1-1 home mark. The Heat suffered their first regulation loss on home ice this season when they dropped a 3-0 decision to Hamilton on Dec. 1, also the first time they had allowed three non-shootout goals at home. The Rampage are off to a 2-1-0-0 start to their five-game road trip, and are 6-2-0-0 all-time in Abbotsford.
Hershey vs. Norfolk, Thursday (7 ET at Washington, D.C.) – After each team won in the other’s barn last week, Hershey and Norfolk head to the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., for their third meeting in nine days. Jon DiSalvatore scored twice in the Bears’ 5-2 win at Norfolk on Nov. 28; Emerson Etem scored two goals and Patrick Maroon had three assists in the Admirals’ 5-1 victory in Hershey on Dec. 1.
Lake Erie at Charlotte, Thursday and Friday (7 ET) – Lake Erie makes its only visit of the season to Charlotte for a two-game set this week. After racing out to a 9-4-0-0 start, the Monsters have won just two of their last nine games. The Checkers begin the week first in the South Division, one point ahead of Oklahoma City and Houston, but have started their 10-game homestand with four consecutive losses.
Springfield at St. John’s, Friday and Saturday (6 ET) – Entering the week tied atop the Eastern Conference with 28 points, Springfield hits the road and travels up to St. John’s for a pair of games with the IceCaps this weekend. The Falcons defeated St. John’s, 4-2, to open the season on Oct. 13. The IceCaps, 6-5-0-1 at home this year, have split each of their six two-game home series this season.
Houston at Texas, Friday (8:30 ET) – Houston brings a five-game winning streak to Cedar Park to take on Texas on Friday night. Each of the five victories has been by a single goal after the Aeros had lost six of their first seven one-goal decisions this season. The Stars, 7-2-1-1 in their last 11 games entering the week, will be returning home after a six-game road trip.
Saturday – Rochester at Toronto, 7 ET
Comcast Sportsnet Mid-Atlantic (DirecTV 642, Dish 424/374, FiOS 76/576)
Thursday – Hershey vs. Norfolk, 7 ET (at Washington)
Sunday – Abbotsford at Toronto, 3 ET
Friday – Grand Rapids at Chicago, 01:30 GMT (Sat.)
Saturday – Rochester at Toronto, 00:00 GMT (Sun.)
Sunday – Abbotsford at Toronto, 20:00 GMT
SiriusXM NHL Network Radio (Sirius 207, XM 92)
Tuesday – San Antonio at Abbotsford, 10 ET
Wednesday – Bridgeport at Connecticut, 7 ET
Wednesday – San Antonio at Abbotsford, 10 ET
Thursday – Hershey vs. Norfolk, 7 ET (at Washington)
Friday – Adirondack at Rochester, 7 ET
Saturday – Providence at Worcester, 7 ET
Sunday – Milwaukee at Charlotte, 3 ET
Sunday – Oklahoma City at San Antonio, 5:30 ET
There have been 13 hat tricks and 46 shutouts recorded in the American Hockey League through Dec. 2:
Last week’s hat tricks (1)
Stephane Da Costa, BNG Dec. 2 vs. Syracuse
Worcester goaltender Harri Sateri stopped 85 of 90 shots and was 9-for-9 on shootout attempts in posting back-to-back road wins over Bridgeport and Providence last weekend; his 50 saves vs. the Bruins on Sunday were the most by an AHL goalie this season… Portland’s Rob Klinkhammer has scored seven goals this season, and they have all come in three games – Oct. 23 at St. John’s (three), Nov. 14 vs. Worcester (two) and Dec. 2 at Manchester (two)… Heading into the new week riding a four-game scoring streak, Toronto’s Keith Aucoin is three points shy of becoming the 11th player in AHL history to reach 800 career points; Aucoin has had a three-point night on three occasions already this season… Dallas Eakins earned his 124th regular-season win as the Marlies’ head coach on Nov. 30 at Rochester, surpassing Greg Gilbert in all-time wins as the team’s bench boss… Wilkes-Barre/Scranton head coach John Hynes enters the new week with 115 victories, tying Glenn Patrick for the most in franchise history… Texas rookie Reilly Smith has five points (3-2-5) in his last five games after totaling three points (0-3-3) in his first 15 contests… Gabriel Bourque (18:35) and Chris Mueller (19:40) scored in the final 85 seconds of regulation on Nov. 30 as Milwaukee turned a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 win over Chicago… Five of the seven regular-season and playoff goals that Derek Meech has scored in a St. John’s uniform have been game-winners, including all three in 2012-13… Houston has won four of its first five meetings with Oklahoma City this season, including a pair of victories at Toyota Center last week.