SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … News and notes from the end of the regular season:
ANOTHER FANTASTIC FINISH
The curtain fell on a thrilling 2012-13 regular season Sunday night, but not before one last wild weekend. Twelve teams were still battling for the last seven Calder Cup Playoff spots entering Friday’s action, and five were still alive for the last two berths as late as 5 p.m. ET on Sunday.
For the second year in a row, Milwaukee needed a big late-season surge and some Game 76 heroics to qualify for the playoffs. Magnus Hellberg backstopped the Admirals to shutout wins in Chicago and Peoria to close out the schedule and give Milwaukee the eighth spot in the Western Conference. This will mark the Admirals’ 11th consecutive postseason appearance – tied with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton for the AHL’s longest active streak.
The bottom four seeds in the Western Conference are also playing some of the AHL’s best hockey of late. Milwaukee’s 15-4-1-0 record in its last 20 games allowed it to extend its AHL record with a 10th straight 40-win season. Rochester’s 16-7-1-0 mark after Mar. 1 helped the Americans to the seventh seed and a second consecutive postseason appearance since reuniting with the Buffalo Sabres. Sixth-seeded Houston won seven of its last nine and is 18-8-1-2 since Feb. 8, and Oklahoma City took fifth place with a 13-3-0-3 mark in its last 19 games.
Texas, Toronto and Grand Rapids are the top three seeds in the West after winning their divisions, and Charlotte finished fourth in a conference that saw the top nine teams finish the regular season separated by 10 points, all winning between 40 and 43 games.
The race for eighth in the Eastern Conference came down to the wire with Norfolk, Hershey and Connecticut all tied entering Sunday’s action. The Admirals’ quest to keep the Calder Cup in Hampton Roads ended when Ryan Spooner’s third goal of the game with 21 seconds left in regulation gave Providence a 4-3 victory over Norfolk on Sunday afternoon. Later, Jon DiSalvatore’s two third-period goals were the difference in Hershey’s 4-2 win over Manchester, eliminating Connecticut and giving the Bears the final postseason invitation out of the East.
Providence’s path to the AHL’s regular-season points championship ended with a nine-game winning streak to close out the year and a 28-5-0-2 record after the All-Star break. Springfield set a franchise record for highest points percentage (.651) and tied the club mark with 45 wins en route to the Northeast Division title. Syracuse lost seven of 11 games (4-4-3-0) following Jon Cooper’s promotion to Tampa Bay but still held off fourth-seeded Binghamton by one point to win the East Division.
A seven-game winning streak from Mar. 30 to Apr. 14 helped Wilkes-Barre/Scranton secure the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference, one point ahead of Portland. And Manchester’s six straight wins from Apr. 7-20 allowed the Monarchs to secure the seventh seed and an 11th playoff appearance in 12 years.
The best-of-five conference quarterfinal round of the 2013 Calder Cup Playoffs gets started on Friday night with series openers in Providence, Milwaukee, Oklahoma City and Houston. First-round series are scheduled in either a 2-2-1 or a 2-3 format; in the event of a 2-3, the higher seed has exercised its option of playing either the first two games or the last three games at home.
ALMOST ’HOG HEAVEN
At the start of April, Brandon Pirri was tied for 10th in the AHL in scoring, six points off the lead. And his Rockford IceHogs were 11th in the Western Conference, three points out of a playoff spot. That’s when Pirri and the IceHogs took off.
The third-year pro erupted for 19 points in Rockford’s last nine games and finished with a comfortable four-point cushion atop the leaderboard to win the John B. Sollenberger Trophy with 75 points on the year. Pirri also tied for the league lead with 53 assists, 16 coming over that final nine-game stretch.
The IceHogs won eight of those nine games, scoring 39 goals and entering the final day of the regular season tied for eighth place, but still wound up two points shy of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Rockford’s 42 wins on the season were the most ever by an AHL team that did not qualify for the postseason.
JOHNNY BE GOOD
Tyler Johnson returned to Syracuse after his first stint in the National Hockey League and scored five goals in his last three games to earn the Willie Marshall Award as the AHL’s leading goal-scorer for 2012-13.
Johnson, who tallied three goals and three assists in 14 games during his debut appearances with Tampa Bay, was also named the winner of the Les Cunningham Award as the AHL’s most valuable player last week. His haul of hardware follows a 2011-12 season that saw Johnson earn a spot on the AHL All-Rookie Team and win a Calder Cup championship with Norfolk.
Since Feb. 10, 2012 – the day Norfolk began its 28-game winning streak last season – Johnson has registered 53 goals and 52 assists for 105 points, along with a plus-52 rating, in 90 regular-season games in the AHL.
2012-13 BY THE NUMBERS
Seven of the 14 teams that missed the Calder Cup Playoffs last year made it this spring… AHL attendance for the 2012-13 regular season was 6,510,295, the second-highest total in AHL history; the average of 5,710 fans per game was the third-highest ever… Hershey averaged 10,046 fans per home game over the regular season, becoming the fifth team to top 10,000 since the AHL began officially tracking attendance in 1962-63… St. John’s sold out all 38 home games at Mile One Centre for the second consecutive season… Providence (50-21-0-5) is just the third team in AHL history with at least 50 wins in a 76-game season, joining the Norfolk Admirals (55 in 2011-12) and the Cincinnati Swords (54 in 1972-73)… Rochester’s David Leggio, who led the league in wins (38), finished the season with 1,957 saves, third-most in the AHL since 1973-74… Grand Rapids defenseman Brennan Evans appeared in all 76 games for the second year in a row, extending his league-high streak to 164 consecutive games played since his last DNP on Mar. 13, 2011… With 75 points in 76 games, Rockford’s Brandon Pirri is the first player ever to win the AHL scoring championship while averaging under a point per game… The IceHogs won 11 games this season when trailing after two periods (11-24-2-0)… Oklahoma City finished first in the league on the power play (21.6 percent), but last in penalty killing (79.3 percent) despite allowing just one power-play goal over its final 17 games… Shooters were successful on 30.4 percent of attempts in shootouts, and on 32.3 percent (20-for-62) of penalty shots this season.
FOLLOW THE LEADERS
Some of the statistical leaders in the AHL for the 2012-13 regular season:
|Points||75||Brandon Pirri, RFD|
|Goals||37||Tyler Johnson, SYR|
|Assists||53||Jeff Taffe, HER
Brandon Pirri, RFD
|Games Played||76||20 players tied|
|Plus/Minus||+32||Radko Gudas, SYR|
|Penalty Minutes||316||Bobby Robins, PRO|
|Power-Play Goals||17||Matt Fraser, TEX|
|Shorthanded Goals||5||Derek Grant, BNG|
|Game-Winning Goals||8||Ben Smith, RFD
Jason Zucker, HOU
Chris Terry, CHA
Brett Connolly, SYR
|Overtime Goals||3||Jason Zucker, HOU
Chris Terry, CHA
Chad Kolarik, CT-WBS
|Unassisted Goals||7||Gabriel Dumont, HAM|
|Shootout Goals||6||Darren Haydar, CHI
Mike Sislo, ALB
|Shootout % (min. 3 att.)||1.000||Chad Billins, GR (5/5)
Blair Jones, ABB (3/3)
|GAA||1.93||Jeff Zatkoff, WBS 21.6|
|Save Percentage||.938||Robin Lehner, BNG|
|Wins||38||David Leggio, RCH|
|Shutouts||9||Curtis McElhinney, SPR|
|Saves||1,957||David Leggio, RCH|
|Minutes||3,799||David Leggio, RCH|
|Points (rookie)||57||Ryan Spooner, PRO|
|Goals (rookie)||29||Chris Brown, POR|
|Assists (rookie)||40||Ryan Spooner, PRO|
|Points (defenseman)||48||Justin Schultz, OKC
Matt Donovan, BRI
|Goals (defenseman)||18||Justin Schultz, OKC|
|Assists (defenseman)||37||Adam Clendening, RFD|
|Power Play %||21.6||Oklahoma City|
|Penalty Killing %||87.2||Wilkes-Barre/Scranton|
|Attendance||381,764||Hershey (10,046 avg.)|
There were 53 hat tricks and 168 shutouts recorded in the American Hockey League in 2012-13, and 85 AHL players have made their National Hockey League debuts this season:
Last week’s shutouts (8)
Yann Danis, OKC – Apr. 19 vs. Abbotsford
Jeff Frazee, ALB – Apr. 20 vs. Norfolk
Michael Hutchinson, PRO – Apr. 20 at Bridgeport
Magnus Hellberg, MIL – Apr. 20 at Chicago
Calvin Pickard, LE – Apr. 20 vs. Grand Rapids
Rob Madore, CHA – Apr. 20 at Peoria
Niko Hovinen, OKC – Apr. 21 vs. Houston
Magnus Hellberg, MIL – Apr. 21 at Peoria
Hershey’s Jeff Taffe became the 86th player in AHL history with 500 career points – and the third Bear to reach the milestone this season – with an assist in a 4-2 loss at Binghamton on Saturday… Niklas Svedberg closed out his rookie season with a 25-2-1 record in his last 28 starts for Providence, including a 13-0-1 streak at home… Tomas Vincour recorded 5-6-11 in six games after joining Lake Erie following his Apr. 2 trade to Colorado, including five consecutive multiple-point games… Ben Smith finished the season with 8-3-11 and three game-winning goals in his last four games for Rockford… Freddie Hamilton scored two shorthanded goals in the final 1:54 of the third period of Worcester’s 4-2 win at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Friday night… Brett Sutter notched four points (two goals, two assists) in the final 5:49 of playing time last Tuesday as Charlotte rallied for a 4-3 overtime win at Peoria… After being whistled for three minor penalties in 60 games this season, Houston’s Chad Rau has totaled 27 penalty minutes in 266 career AHL contests over his four-year career… Springfield won the Northeast Division by 20 points over second-place Connecticut, the largest margin since Hershey (29) and Hamilton (24) ran off with their respective divisions in 2009-10… Wilkes-Barre/Scranton was 27-9-0-2 against teams from outside the East Division… Behind Jeff Zatkoff and Brad Thiessen, the Penguins allowed the fewest goals in the league (178) for the third time in the last eight seasons (2005-06, 2010-11)… Milwaukee is 13-4-0-2 in regular-season games during April of the last two seasons.