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AHL Weekly Release: Playoffs begin this week

WEEKLY RELEASE #28

cc08.jpgSPRINGFIELD, Mass. … An exciting finish to the regular season has set the stage for the 2008 Calder Cup Playoffs, which get underway this week.

The final piece of the puzzle didn’t fit into place until the 1,160th game ended on Sunday night, when Quad City completed a 4-3 win at San Antonio. The loss dropped the Rampage to fifth place in the West Division and sent them to Toronto to begin their first postseason appearance since 2003. Milwaukee’s shootout loss to Houston earlier in the evening set up a first-round meeting between the Admirals and Chicago for the second year in a row, while the Aeros claimed third place and will meet Rockford in the division semifinals.

Syracuse finished the regular season with a 7-1 rout of Hamilton on Sunday. It was the Crunch’s 15th consecutive victory, two shy of the all-time AHL record, and allowed them to wrap up second place in the North Division and home-ice advantage in their opening series with Manitoba. Syracuse finished the regular season on a 20-0-0-3 tear after a 5-0 loss at home to Lake Erie on Feb. 18 to finally catch the Moose, who were 18-5-1-2 over that span.

Hershey, the two-time defending Eastern Conference champions, became the final team to punch their postseason ticket when they earned a 5-2 win at Philadelphia on Saturday night. The Bears will meet Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in the first round, as that Bears win also gave the Penguins the East Division title. The Phantoms, meanwhile, settled for second place and will take on Albany in the opening round.
After finishing with the best record in the league, Providence draws Manchester in a rematch of the teams’ second-round meeting last spring. In the other Atlantic Division semifinal series, Hartford tangles with Portland for their third postseason clash in five years.

The AHL’s championship trophy is named after Hockey Hall of Famer Frank Calder, who served as the first president of the National Hockey League from 1917-43. During the 1920s, Calder was instrumental in guiding professional hockey into the mainstream of the United States’ major cities, including New York, Boston, Chicago and Detroit, while also helping form the American Hockey League in 1936.

The 2008 Calder Cup Playoffs get underway with six games on Wednesday night.

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2007-08 BY THE NUMBERS … The Providence Bruins finished with 55 wins (tied for the third-most in AHL history) and 117 points (third all-time), and set an AHL record with 28 road victories on the season… League MVP Jason Krog’s empty-net goal on Sunday night not only gave him the scoring triple crown (39g, 73a, 112pts.), it also made Chicago the first team with consecutive 300-goal seasons since Philadelphia from 1996-98… The Wolves also led the league in power-play goals (107), power plays (514) and times shorthanded (507)… Justin Mapletoft’s eight shorthanded goals for Binghamton were the most by an AHL player since Mark Greig scored nine for Philadelphia in 2000-01… Rockford’s Troy Brouwer finished with 25 power-play goals, two shy of the AHL record… Manchester’s Teddy Purcell and Brian Boyle are the first teammates to finish 1-2 in the AHL in rookie scoring since Stephan Lebeau and Benoit Brunet for Sherbrooke in 1988-89… Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s Dennis Bonvie finished his regular-season career with 84 goals, 191 assists and an all-time record 4,493 penalty minutes in 871 AHL games… Shooters were successful on 26.4 percent of penalty shots (19-for-72) and 31.8 percent of shootout attempts during the regular season… Portland’s Stephen Dixon played all 80 games for third straight season, while thanks to mid-season trades, Dave Gove and Steven Goertzen each played 81… Hershey led the league in attendance for the second year in a row, averaging 8,770 fans per game.

FOLLOW THE LEADERS … Some of the statistical leaders for the 2007-08 AHL season:

Points112Jason Krog, CHI Saves 1,634Michael Leighton, ALB
Goals39Jason Krog, CHI Minutes3,840Pekka Rinne, MIL
Assists73Jason Krog, CHI Points (rookie)83Teddy Purcell, MCH
Games Played81Dave Gove, ALB-WBS
Steven Goertzen, SYR-SAN
 Goals (rookie)31Brian Boyle, MCH
Penalty Minutes350Louis Robitaille, HER Assists (rookie)58Teddy Purcell, MCH
Power-Play Goals25Troy Brouwer, RFD Points (defenseman)64Andrew Hutchinson, HFD
Shorthanded Goals8Justin Mapletoft, BNG Goals (defenseman)21Joel Kwiatkowski, CHI
Game-Winning Goals10Brett Sterling, CHI Assists (defenseman)46Andrew Hutchinson, HFD
Plus/Minus+39Jeff Hoggan, PRO Power Play %23.8Manchester
Overtime Goals4Brett Sterling, CHI Penalty Killing %87.4Toronto
Unassisted Goals6Joel Ward, HOU Power-Play Goals107Chicago
GAA2.06Nolan Schaefer, HOU Shorthanded Goals21Binghamton
Save Percentage.931Michael Leighton, ALB Goals For300Chicago
Wins36Pekka Rinne, MIL Goals Against183Houston
Shutouts7Michael Leighton, ALB Attendance350,815Hershey (8,770 avg.)

ETC. … Average attendance at the 40 games played over the final weekend of the regular season was 7,446… The first-year Lake Erie Monsters drew three of the top four single-game crowds in the AHL this season, including a season-high 15,408 for their home finale on Saturday… Rockford’s Petri Kontiola ended the regular season on an 11-game scoring streak (4g, 13a)… Corey Locke tied a Hamilton franchise record with six points (3g, 3a) in the Bulldogs’ 8-4 win over Rochester on Wednesday… Two weeks after completing his collegiate career at the University of New Hampshire, Kevin Regan returned to the Granite State on Saturday and posted a 23-save shutout in his pro debut, leading Providence over host Manchester, 2-0… The P-Bruins finished 33-0-0-0 when leading after two periods after putting up a 32-0-0-0 mark last year… Quad City and San Antonio each won a league-high nine games when trailing after 40 minutes… Springfield (35-35-5-5) finished .500 or better for the first time since 1998-99… Toronto’s 34-point improvement over last year was the greatest jump in the league this season… Of the seven goalies used by Manchester in 2007-08, six also played in the NHL with the parent Los Angeles Kings this season.