SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … News and notes from the week ending Feb. 24:
STARS ON THE RISE (PART I)
The Texas Stars started slowly, finishing their first 10-game segment of the season at 3-6-0-1. But they have been the hottest team in the American Hockey League for the better part of the last four months, going 30-7-4-3 since Nov. 11 and a remarkable 17-2-1-2 since New Year’s to take over the top spot in the overall standings.
Under head coach Willie Desjardins, in his first season at the helm in the professional ranks, the Stars have already surpassed their win (31) and point (67) totals from all of last season with 22 games remaining, and are on pace to better the 99-point showing they had in their inaugural 2009-10 campaign – a season that ended with a trip to the Calder Cup Finals.
Texas has been served by youth all season, with second-year pro Matt Fraser leading the club in goals (24) and points (35) and rookies Alex Chiasson (12-17-29), Jamie Oleksiak (6-23-29, +20) and Reilly Smith (11-16-27) also among the team’s top five scorers. In the Stars’ net, rookie Jack Campbell (13-6-3, 2.45, .912) and first-year North American pro Cristopher Nilstorp (17-10-1, 2.17, .914) have anchored the AHL’s third-ranked defense, which is allowing 2.46 goals per game.
In addition, the development pipeline between Cedar Park and Dallas has seen 11 players already suit up for both Texas and the parent-club Stars in 2012-13.
STARS ON THE RISE (PART II)
In the month since the 2013 Dunkin’ Donuts AHL All-Star Classic concluded on Jan. 28, 20 of the 46 participants in the event have been recalled to the National Hockey League, with 10 making their NHL debuts:
Recalled 2013 AHL All-Stars
Drew Shore, San Antonio — Florida, Jan. 28
*Mike Sgarbossa, Lake Erie — Colorado, Jan. 29
*Jamie Oleksiak, Texas — Dallas, Jan. 30
Tim Erixon, Springfield — Columbus, Jan. 30
*Jonathan Audy-Marchessault, Springfield — Columbus, Jan. 30
Ryan Hamilton, Toronto — Toronto, Jan. 31
*Jamie Tardif, Providence — Boston, Feb. 1
Bobby Butler, Albany — New Jersey, Feb. 2
*Petr Mrazek, Grand Rapids — Detroit, Feb. 3
*J.T. Miller, Connecticut — N.Y. Rangers, Feb. 4
*Mark Arcobello, Oklahoma City — Edmonton, Feb. 5
Chris Summers, Portland — Phoenix, Feb. 5
*Richard Panik, Syracuse — Tampa Bay, Feb. 12
*Michal Jordan, Charlotte — Carolina, Feb. 14
*Eric Gryba, Binghamton — Ottawa, Feb. 14
Gustav Nyquist, Grand Rapids — Detroit, Feb. 15
Jason Zucker, Houston — Minnesota, Feb. 16
Matt Fraser, Texas — Dallas, Feb. 18
Kevin Porter, Rochester — Buffalo, Feb. 21
Robin Lehner, Binghamton — Ottawa, Feb. 21
*made NHL debut
PHILLY FANS FLOCK TO SEE PHANTOMS
A crowd of 19,561 fans filled the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia on Feb. 22 to see the Adirondack Phantoms, AHL affiliate of the hometown Flyers, take on Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, the top affiliate of the arch-rival Pittsburgh Penguins.
The crowd was the seventh-largest in AHL history (regular season) and the third-largest for an indoor game. It also marked the fifth time this season that an AHL game drew a turnout of more than 18,500 fans.
Highest AHL attendance, single game (regular season)
1. *45,653 — Jan. 6, 2012 — Hershey vs. Adirondack (Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia, PA)
2. *21,673 — Feb. 19, 2011 — Providence at Connecticut (Rentschler Field, East Hartford, CT)
3. *21,508 — Feb. 20, 2010 — Binghamton at Syracuse (New York State Fairgrounds, Syracuse, NY)
4. 20,672 — Jan. 18, 1997 — Kentucky at Carolina (Greensboro Coliseum, Greensboro, NC)
5. *20,565 — Jan. 21, 2012 — Toronto at Hamilton (Ivor Wynne Stadium, Hamilton, ON)
6. 19,730 — Feb. 10, 2001 — Syracuse at Philadelphia (First Union Center, Philadelphia, PA)
7. 19,561 — Feb. 22, 2013 — W-B/Scranton vs. Adirondack (Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, PA)
8. 19,532 — Feb. 28, 1999 — Kentucky at Philadelphia (First Union Center, Philadelphia, PA)
9. 19,070 — Dec. 28, 2012 — Lake Erie vs. Rochester (First Niagara Center, Buffalo, NY)
10. 18,907 — Nov. 20, 1998 — Hartford at Philadelphia (First Union Center, Philadelphia, PA)
11. 18,800 — Dec. 26, 2012 — Hamilton at Toronto (Air Canada Centre, Toronto, ON)
12. 18,626 — Jan. 22, 2010 — Texas at Lake Erie (Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, OH)
13. 18,582 — Nov. 9, 2012 — Syracuse vs. Hamilton (Bell Centre, Montreal, QC)
14. 18,506 — Dec. 6, 2012 — Hershey vs. Norfolk (Verizon Center, Washington, DC)
15. 18,394 — Oct. 9, 1998 — Hershey at Kentucky (Rupp Arena, Lexington, KY)
16. 18,202 — Jan. 13, 2001 — Portland at Philadelphia (First Union Center, Philadelphia, PA)
17. 18,076 — Mar. 18, 2000 — Rochester at Philadelphia (First Union Center, Philadelphia, PA)
18. 18,056 — Jan. 21, 2011 — W-B/Scranton vs. Adirondack (Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, PA)
19. 17,898 — Dec. 28, 2004 — Edmonton vs. Rochester (HSBC Arena, Buffalo, NY)
20. 17,812 — Oct. 3, 1997 — Cincinnati at Kentucky (Rupp Arena, Lexington, KY)
Eight of the top 18 regular-season crowds in AHL history were for games in Philadelphia, as was the largest postseason crowd ever – 20,103 fans for the Phantoms’ Calder Cup championship clincher vs. Chicago in 2005.
CHANGE AT THE TOP
Fifty days after he played his last game with the Oklahoma City Barons, Jordan Eberle finally surrendered the AHL scoring lead on Feb. 24.
Eberle, who had 25 goals and 26 assists for 51 points in 34 games with the Barons through Jan. 5 before rejoining the parent Edmonton Oilers, was passed by Grand Rapids Griffins forward Gustav Nyquist, whose back-to-back three-point efforts over the weekend gave him 52 points (19 goals, 33 assists) in 51 games.
Syracuse Crunch forward Tyler Johnson is now tied with Eberle for second in the scoring race with 51 points, including a league-best 28 goals.
MINK IN THE RINK
Providence Bruins forward Graham Mink notched a goal and an assist in a 5-3 win at Bridgeport on Feb. 16, becoming the 84th player in American Hockey League history with 500 career points.
The milestone point was an assist on Kyle MacKinnon’s game-winning goal in the third period, and made Mink the third player to reach the plateau this season after Hershey’s Jon DiSalvatore and Rockford’s Martin St. Pierre.
A 33-year-old native of Stowe, Vt., Mink has played 704 regular-season games in the AHL with Providence, Hershey, Peoria, Rochester, Worcester and Portland, totaling 248 goals and 255 assists for 503 points. He is also a two-time Calder Cup winner with the Bears (2006, 2009).
Boyd Kane, Mink’s former teammate in Hershey, could be the next player to join the 500-point club. Kane enters the week with 495 points for his AHL career.
Following Mink’s personal milestone, two AHL clubs reached the same franchise milestone on Feb. 23 when the Chicago Wolves and Norfolk Admirals both picked up regular-season win number 500.
The Wolves, in their 12th AHL season, shut out the Peoria Rivermen, 3-0, behind 38 saves from Matt Climie and a three-point night from captain Darren Haydar. Chicago’s 500th regular-season win came in its 925th game since joining the AHL in 2001; only the Connecticut Whale (then the Hartford Wolf Pack) got to 500 wins faster, needing 915 games to reach the mark in 2009.
The Admirals, a 13th-year franchise after joining the AHL in 2000, got a late regulation goal from Brandon McMillan and a Jordan Hendry conversion in the sixth round of the shootout to earn a 3-2 win over the Providence Bruins, securing their 500th win in their 1,008th regular-season outing.
Chicago and Norfolk are the 21st and 22nd franchises in AHL history to reach 500 wins.
OWN A PIECE OF HISTORY
Game-worn and game-used items from the 2013 Dunkin’ Donuts AHL All-Star Classic are up for auction now through AHL Authentic. Items will continue to be added over the next several weeks, including jerseys, helmets, gloves, game pucks and name plates.
For more information or to place a bid, visit stores.ebay.com/ahlauthentic.
FIVE TO WATCH
Match-ups to look forward to in the week ahead:
Syracuse vs. Rochester, Tuesday at Rochester (7 ET) and Saturday at Syracuse (7:30 ET) – Syracuse brings a seven-game winning streak into its first of two meetings this week with Rochester. The Crunch have opened up a five-point lead over the rest of the Eastern Conference and are 20-6-0-2 on the road this season, but the Americans have won five of the first six meetings between the clubs in 2012-13. Syracuse (3.51 goals per game) and Rochester (3.34) are the two highest-scoring teams in the AHL.
Texas vs. Oklahoma City, Tuesday at Oklahoma City (8 ET) and Saturday at Texas (8 ET) – Texas begins the week with the best record in the AHL (33-13-4-4, 74 points), and the Stars bring a five-game winning streak into Oklahoma City to face the Barons. Texas has won its last three meetings with OKC after the Barons had taken five of the first six this season. Rookie defenseman Jamie Oleksiak has 3-3-6 and a plus-8 rating in his last five games for the Stars.
Hershey at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Friday (7 ET) – The Penguins and Bears enter the week sixth and seventh, respectively, in the Eastern Conference as they meet Friday night for the 11th of 12 times this season. Hershey (6-2-2-0) has out-pointed Wilkes-Barre (4-5-1-0) by a 14-9 count in the season series but the Penguins have won the last three get-togethers allowing a total of two goals. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton leads the league in both penalty-killing efficiency (88.2 percent) and goals against (2.28 per game).
Worcester at Providence, Friday (7 ET) – Entering the week with an 11-1-0-1 mark in its last 13 games, Providence takes on Worcester at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center for the teams’ 10th of 12 meetings this season. The Sharks, who will be bidding for their second three-game winning streak of the season, have lost two straight to the Bruins in regulation after a 5-0-0-2 start to the season series. Five of Bracken Kearns’ team-leading 13 goals for Worcester this season have come against Providence.
Peoria at Rockford, Friday (8 ET) – Points are at a premium for 11th-place Rockford (56 points) and 13th-place Peoria (53 points) as the calendar turns to March. The in-state rivals, who met three times in February, will play five more times between now and the end of the regular season as they continue to jockey in the Western Conference playoff race. Rivermen forward T.J. Hensick leads all scorers in the season series with 3-7-10 in seven games vs. the IceHogs.
There have been 35 hat tricks and 120 shutouts recorded in the American Hockey League through Feb. 24:
Last week’s shutouts (10)
David Leggio, RCH — Feb. 18 at Hamilton
Carter Hutton, RFD — Feb. 20 at Peoria
Niklas Svedberg, PRO — Feb. 22 at Norfolk
Mike McKenna, PEO — Feb. 22 vs. San Antonio
Justin Peters, CHA — Feb. 23 at Abbotsford
Philipp Grubauer, HER — Feb. 23 vs. Adirondack
Matt Climie, CHI — Feb. 23 at Peoria
Cedrick Desjardins, SYR — Feb. 23 vs. Springfield
Magnus Hellberg, MIL — Feb. 24 at Hamilton
Cedrick Desjardins, SYR — Feb. 24 vs. Connecticut
In earning CCM/AHL Player of the Week honors, Darren Haydar had a hand in all seven of Chicago’s goals over three games (4-3-7); the Wolves captain has 17-17-34 in his last 29 games… Rochester’s David Leggio leads the AHL in wins (26), minutes played (2,539) and shots faced (1,396); the Americans’ other goalies have only one win this season, Connor Knapp’s 3-1 victory over Adirondack on Dec. 7… Connecticut’s Christian Thomas, who made his NHL debut with the New York Rangers on Feb. 23 at Montreal, is the fourth former “AHL Future Star” to reach the National Hockey League (following Cody Eakin, Colin Greening and Jeremy Morin); Thomas, the son of Syracuse Crunch assistant coach Steve Thomas, was 14 when he was selected to participate alongside other bantams in the AHL All-Star Skills Competition in Toronto in 2007… Kael Mouillierat tallied seven points (1g, 6a) in two games for St. John’s last week; he had 0-2-2 in his previous eight contests… Syracuse has outscored its opponents 32-7 during its current seven-game winning streak, with Riku Helenius (4-0-0, 0.98, .964) and newcomer Cedrick Desjardins (3-0-0, 1.00, .963) pitching two shutouts each… In his 11 games with Oklahoma City, Jonathan Cheechoo has been held scoreless six times but has five multiple-point games (6-9-15)… Chad Billins’ hat trick for Grand Rapids on Feb. 24 was the first by a rookie defenseman in the AHL since Paul Postma scored three times for Chicago on Feb. 21, 2010… Wilkes-Barre/Scranton won three weekend games by identical 2-1 scores – one each in regulation, overtime and a shootout – and has now allowed two goals or fewer in 17 of its last 22 contests… Bridgeport (149) and Springfield (95) combined for 244 minutes in penalties on Feb. 22, the most in an AHL game in more than two years; the Falcons were handed one 10-minute misconduct and three ejections during the contest, the team’s first four misconduct penalties all season… San Antonio has scored 12 goals on 66 shots in three games vs. Grand Rapids this season… Four games on Saturday’s schedule were scoreless after two periods (Connecticut at W-B/Scranton, Springfield at Syracuse, Chicago at Peoria, Charlotte at Abbotsford)… Eight of the 16 teams in playoff positions at the start of the week did not qualify for the postseason in 2012.