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Penguins, Barons, Amerks all clinch

The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, Cleveland Barons and Rochester Americans all clinched berths in the Calder Cup 2004 Playoffs on Friday night, leaving eight spots still open in the field of 20 with nine days left in the regular season.

The Penguins scored three times in the first period and held on for a 3-0 win over Albany. Tomas Surovy and Kris Beech recorded a goal and an assist each, and Martin Brochu made 28 saves for his 16th career AHL shutout.

The Pens will be in the postseason for the third time in the team’s five-year history. They went as far as the Calder Cup Final in 2001.

The Barons are bringing Calder Cup playoff hockey to Cleveland for the first time since 1972, wrapping up a berth with a 3-1 win in Toronto (in conjunction with Manitoba’s win over St. John’s). Pat Rissmiller had a goal and an assist and Aaron Gill, fresh off a collegiate career at Notre Dame, scored in his professional debut.

Rochester will take part in the AHL playoffs for the 15th consectuive spring following a 4-0 win over Syracuse. Geoff Peters and Jason Botterill scored in the final minute of the first period to propel the Amerks to victory, and Ryan Miller finished with 30 saves in recording his fifth shutout of the season.

Elsewhere on Friday:
Jason LaBarbera made 29 saves to extend his AHL record with his 13th shutout of the season, leading Hartford over Lowell, 3-0… Antero Niittymaki made 35 saves as Philadelphia improved to 11-0-0-0 against Hershey this season with a 4-1 win over the Bears… Former IceCat Andrej Podkonicky scored twice for Portland in a 3-1 win over Worcester… Tim Thomas made 22 saves for his fourth shutout in six starts, leading Providence past Springfield, 3-0… Frederic Cassivi‘s 29-save effort led Chicago over Grand Rapids, 3-0… Charlie Stephens recorded a goal and two assists as Binghamton defeated Norfolk, 3-1… Jeff Hamilton picked up a goal and an assist to help Bridgeport tie Manchester, 2-2… The line of Dan Cavanaugh, Kyle Wanvig and Billy Tibbetts picked up three points each for Houston in a 3-3 tie with Cincinnati… Justin Morrison registered a goal and two assists and Manitoba scored five times in the second period en route to a 7-4 win over St. John’s… Josh Olson and Paul Healey picked up two goals and an assist apiece as San Antonio earned a 5-2 win over Utah.