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Marlies secure North Division title; Crunch clinch spot


Wednesday’s Boxscores

TORONTO 2, GRAND RAPIDS 0
Second-year goaltender Justin Pogge made 24 saves for his fourth shutout of the season as Toronto posted a 2-0 win over visiting Grand Rapids on Wednesday at Ricoh Coliseum.

The victory allowed the Marlies, who are 9-0-0-1 in their last 10 games and 47-18-3-6 on the season, to officially clinch the AHL’s North Division title.

Bates Battaglia gave the Marlies the lead for good midway through the third period, and Tyler Doig added a goal in the third stanza.

Patrick Wellar, Robbie Earl, Alex Foster, and Jaime Sifers contributed an assist apiece for Toronto in the winning effort. Pogge upped his season record to 25-9-4.

The Marlies finished 5-3-0-0 against Grand Rapids this season and have not lost in regulation overall since dropping a 7-1 decision to the Griffins at Van Andel Arena on Mar. 12.


SYRACUSE 4, BINGHAMTON 1
Syracuse punched its ticket to the 2008 Calder Cup Playoffs with a 4-1 win over visiting Binghamton at the Onondaga County War Memorial.

The Crunch, who missed the playoffs last season, are guaranteed to face Manitoba in the first round this year. The teams also squared off in a first-round series in 2006, won by the Moose in six games.

First-year North American pro Andrei Plekhanov scored twice for the Crunch, giving him five goals and six points over his last three games.

Syracuse’s Mark Rycroft added a power play marker, and Brian McGuirk scored his first professional goal into an empty net with just under two minutes left in regulation.

Goaltender Dan LaCosta stopped 33 of 34 for the Crunch, who captured their ninth straight win and set an AHL season high by registering a point in a 17th consecutive game (14-0-0-3).

Rookie Alexander Nikulin lit the lamp for Binghamton, which remained three points back of idle Hershey for the East Division’s final playoff spot.


MANCHESTER 5, BRIDGEPORT 1
Manchester continued its late-season playoff push with a 5-1 win over visiting Bridgeport in front of 8,564 fans at the Verizon Wireless Arena.

Brady Murray had a goal and two assists for the Monarchs, who improved to 9-2-1-0 in their last 12 games and remained five points up on Springfield for the Atlantic Division’s final postseason berth.

Manchester’s Josh Kidd netted his first professional goal, while Kevin Westgarth, Brian Boyle, and Marc-Andre Cliche also scored.

Lauri Tukonen chipped in a pair of assists, and goaltender Jonathan Quick made 29 saves in the winning effort.

Jeff Tambellini, an AHL All-Star as a member of the Monarchs in 2006 and again with Bridgeport this season, provided the Sound Tigers’ lone marker on the night.


ALBANY 4, WILKES-BARRE/SCRANTON 3 (SO)
Defenseman Bryan Rodney’s goal in the fifth round of a shootout pushed Albany to a 4-3 road win over Wilkes-Barre/Scranton at the Wachovia Arena.

Ben Cottreau also scored in the shootout for the River Rats, and goaltender Michael Leighton stopped four of five Penguins attempts after making 29 saves through the first 65 minutes.

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton took a 2-0 edge after the first period on goals by Chris Minard and Alex Goligoski.

But Albany stormed back for a trio of second-period markers, with Jamie Johnson, Nicolas Blanchard, and Joe Jensen doing the honors.

Former River Rat Dave Gove tallied the equalizer for the Penguins at 8:53 of the third period, sending the contest to overtime.


PHILADELPHIA 1, NORFOLK 0
Martin Houle made 23 saves for his first shutout in more than two years as Philadelphia edged Norfolk by a 1-0 count at the Wachovia Spectrum.

Phantoms forward Pete Zingoni tallied the game’s lone goal on the power play at 4:56 of the first period, with Jared Ross picking up an assist.

Houle’s last whitewash came for the Phantoms on Mar. 29, 2005. Oddly, that game was also a home tilt against Norfolk, as Houle made 39 saves in a 5-0 triumph.

With the victory, Philadelphia moved back into a tie with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton for first place in the East Division. Both teams have 92 points with six games remaining.


SPRINGFIELD 4, WORCESTER 2
A pair of early third-period goals sent Springfield on its way to a 4-2 win over visiting Worcester at the MassMutual Center.

With the game tied 1-1, Falcons rookies Liam Reddox and Rob Schremp scored at 3:09 and 6:22, respectively, making it a 3-1 Springfield lead.

After Worcester’s Mike Iggulden cut the deficit to 3-2 with 1:37 left in regulation, Troy Bodie tallied an empty-netter in the closing minute to secure the victory.

Reddox finished with a game-high four points (1-3-4) for the Falcons, while Schremp had three points (1-2-3). Goaltender Devan Dubnyk picked up the win with 40 saves on 42 shots.

The Sharks’ Craig Valette and the Falcons’ Grant Potulny exchanged first-period goals.


SAN ANTONIO 3, MILWAUKEE 2 (OT)
2008 AHL All-Star Joey Tenute lit the lamp 1:58 into overtime as San Antonio rallied for a 3-2 win over visiting Milwaukee at the AT&T Center.

Rampage winger Jon DiSalvatore sent the game to overtime by scoring his second goal of the contest with just 57 seconds left in regulation.

Tenute assisted on DiSalvatore’s first goal, which came on the power play in the second period.

Goaltender Al Montoya picked up the win for the Rampage, stopping 21 of 23 shots.

The Admirals’ Josh Langfeld and Matt Ellison netted goals in the losing effort. Netminder Dov Grumet-Morris made 50 saves – three short of an AHL season high – in taking the tough-luck loss.

San Antonio’s overtime victory created a three-way tie with Houston and Milwaukee for third place in the tightly packed West Division. All three clubs sit within two points of second-place Rockford.


HOUSTON 2, LAKE ERIE 0
Barry Brust made 25 saves for his fourth shutout of the season as Houston downed host Lake Erie by a 2-0 count at the Quicken Loans Arena.

Ryan Hamilton provided all the offense the Aeros’ would need with a power play goal in the first period. Joel Ward added an unassisted marker late in the third.

Brust stopped 14 shots in the third period alone for the Aeros, who improved to 14-4-0-1 in their last 19 contests. The Aeros are now tied with both San Antonio and Milwaukee for third place in the West Division.


MANITOBA 4, CHICAGO 1
Manitoba earned a split of its two-game set with Chicago by taking a 4-1 win over the Wolves before 7,262 fans at the MTS Centre.

Danny Groulx posted a goal and an assist for the Moose, while Greg Classen, Juraj Simek, and Daniel Rahimi also lit the lamp. Rahimi’s goal went into an empty net with 1:14 left in the third period.

Moose rookie goaltender Cory Schneider only needed to make 15 saves in picking up his 18th victory of the season (18-11-2).

The win allowed Manitoba to remain four points up on Syracuse for second place in the North Division. The two teams are guaranteed to battle in the first round of the Calder Cup Playoffs, but home-ice advantage is still yet to be determined.

Colin Stuart scored the Wolves’ lone goal in the losing effort.