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AHL Weekly Release: The envelopes, please…

WEEKLY RELEASE #26

SPRINGFIELD, Mass.
… With ballots from coaches, players and media due today, the American Hockey League begins handing out individual awards this week in recognition of its outstanding performers during the 2007-08 season.

A pair of Manchester Monarchs teammates lead the race for the Dudley “Red” Garrett Memorial Award, given annually to the AHL’s outstanding rookie. Teddy Purcell has recorded 77 points in 63 games for Manchester while Brian Boyle has added 58 points in 67 games to help the Monarchs’ drive towards a seventh straight postseason appearance. Both players also made their NHL debuts and scored their first NHL goals with the Los Angeles Kings earlier this season.

Marc-Andre Gragnani, who has played both defense and wing for the Rochester Americans this season, is third in the AHL in rookie scoring with 50 points, and Portland’s Bobby Ryan has recorded 49 points in 48 AHL games while also getting in 21 NHL contests with Anaheim.

There are several worthy candidates for the Aldege “Baz” Bastien Award as the league’s outstanding goaltender. Albany’s Michael Leighton has faced more shots than any other goalie in the league and ranks first in goals-against average (2.02), save percentage (.933) and shutouts (7), while Milwaukee’s Pekka Rinne leads the AHL in minutes played and wins (33). Rookies Ondrej Pavelec of Chicago, Tuukka Rask of Providence, John Curry of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Miika Wiikman of Hartford and Cory Schneider of Manitoba all have their teams either in or near first place while putting up impressive individual numbers.

In the chase for the Eddie Shore Award, presented annually to the AHL’s best defenseman, former Calder Cup and Stanley Cup champion Andrew Hutchinson of Hartford has racked up 64 points and a plus-28 rating in 62 games. Brian Salcido has tied Portland’s franchise record for scoring by a blueliner in a season (50 points), and Milwaukee’s Janne Niskala leads all league defensemen with 18 goals on the year.

The winner of the Louis A.R. Pieri Award as the AHL’s outstanding coach traditionally parlays the honor into further success; recent winners include current NHL head coaches Peter Laviolette, Claude Julien, Barry Trotz and Marc Crawford. Last year’s winner, Mike Haviland, is having a successful first season in Rockford, while Providence’s Scott Gordon and Chicago’s John Anderson have guided their teams to the top of their respective conferences.

The award announcements began last week when the AHL revealed the 29 finalists for the Yanick Dupre Memorial Award as the AHL’s Man of the Year. The 2007-08 AHL All-Rookie Team will be announced on Wednesday, and the First and Second All-Star Teams will be unveiled on Thursday. 

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FOUR FOR BOURQUE … Hershey forward Chris Bourque notched the fourth four-goal game in the AHL this season, propelling the Bears to a 5-2 win over the visiting Hamilton Bulldogs on Saturday night. The third-year pro now has 24 goals on the season, one shy of the career high he set in 2006-07.

Bourque became the first Hershey skater to net four goals in one game since Len Barrie did it on Oct. 17, 1992, in a 10-4 win over the New Haven Senators.

Peoria’s Jean-Guy Trudel, Quad City’s Grant Stevenson and Springfield’s Grant Potulny also have recorded four-goal games this season.

OVERTIME IS CRUNCH TIME … The Syracuse Crunch extended their winning streak to eight games and their points streak to 16 games (13-0-0-3) with three extra-time victories last week. The Crunch pulled out a 3-2 shootout win over Toronto on Wednesday before Zenon Konopka and Marc Methot provided overtime heroics in weekend decisions over Albany and Lake Erie, respectively.

Syracuse has needed overtime in 12 of its last 23 games since Feb. 2, and is 17-1-0-5 in that span.

TEN-PACK … Hartford tied a franchise record and an AHL season high for goals in a game with a 10-1 victory over Springfield on Saturday night, getting points from 14 different players in the win. The nine-goal margin of victory was the largest in an AHL game since the Worcester IceCats defeated Springfield, 9-0, on Oct. 23, 2004.

The Wolf Pack have scored 42 goals during their current eight-game points streak (7-0-0-1), and have surpassed the 100-point mark in the standings for the fourth time in the last five seasons and the fifth time in their 11 years of existence.

ETC. … Wilkes-Barre/Scranton took over sole possession of first place in the East Division with Saturday’s 4-2 win at Bridgeport, knocking Philadelphia out of the top spot for the first time since Oct. 7… Ben Ondrus recorded a hat trick in Toronto’s 6-1 win over Lake Erie on Sunday in a game that featured no penalties… Manchester rookie Brady Murray tallied 10 points (6g, 4a) in 14 games during March after recording 11 points (4g, 7a) in his first 38 AHL games… Jason Krog became the first AHL player to reach 100 points this season with an assist in Chicago’s 6-4 win over Grand Rapids on Sunday… Brad Moran has tallied 18 points (5g, 13a) during his current nine-game scoring streak for Manitoba… Hartford never trailed at any point in sweeping its eight-game season series from Worcester… Providence has won 50 games for the first time since 1998-99, when the Bruins went 56-16-4-4 en route to the Calder Cup championship… Milwaukee took a 4-3 shootout decision from Houston on Sunday in the first of five meetings between the teams over the last 15 days of the regular season… Each of the Aeros’ last 10 victories has been by one goal… Rochester played the 4,000th regular-season game in franchise history on Friday night, a 5-4 shootout win over Manitoba… Bob Clarke, general manager of the Philadelphia Phantoms’ 1998 and 2005 Calder Cup championship teams, was inducted on Sunday into the team’s Hall of Fame… The Norfolk Admirals’ eighth annual MDA Jersey Auction on Saturday raised more than $26,000 for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.