1. A fantastic Frozen Frontier
The Rochester Americans hosted the sixth outdoor game in AHL history on Friday night, and a standing-room-only crowd at Frontier Field was treated to a thrilling finish — and a big win for the home team.
Captain Matt Ellis opened the scoring 3:36 into the game, assisted on the goal that gave Rochester a third-period lead after trailing 3-1, and won it with a goal in the sixth shootout round as the Amerks edged Lake Erie, 5-4, before 11,015 fans — the largest crowd for a game in Rochester in nearly eight years (Dec. 30, 2005).
Colton Gillies and Jerome Gauthier-Leduc also had a goal and an assist each for Rochester, and Matt Hackett finished with 26 saves. Mike Zigomanis, who had a goal and an assist for Toronto in the Marlies’ 2012 outdoor game in Hamilton, notched an assist and a shootout goal.
Defenseman Matt Hunwick, who skated for the Boston Bruins in the 2010 NHL Winter Classic at Fenway Park, scored twice for Lake Erie, including the goal in the final second of regulation that forced overtime. Mark Olver (1-2) and Andrew Agozzino (0-3) each had three points for the Monsters.
The Frozen Frontier was the first of two outdoor games scheduled in the AHL this season. The defending Calder Cup champion Grand Rapids Griffins will take on the Toronto Marlies at Comerica Park in Detroit on Dec. 30, part of the 2013 SiriusXM Hockeytown Winter Festival.
2. Ellis answers call
The winning goal in Friday’s outdoor game came on the first shootout attempt of Matt Ellis‘s career.
The 12th-year pro finally got the tap in his 84th career shootout game, including 46 in the AHL with Rochester, Portland and Grand Rapids and 38 in the NHL with Buffalo, Los Angeles and Detroit.
Ellis has 93 goals and 117 assists for 210 points in 403 career AHL games, along with 16 goals and 25 assists for 41 points in 268 NHL contests. He was recalled following the Frozen Frontier and skated for Buffalo in Saturday’s matchup with Calgary.
3. Miele named Player of the Week
Andy Miele of the Portland Pirates was named the CCM/AHL Player of the Week after putting up eight points in three games, including a five-point effort in a 5-1 win over Worcester on Saturday night.
Miele scored once at even strength, once on the power play and once shorthanded in that game for his first career hat trick, and tied a career high with his five points.
With 10 points in his last four games, Miele leads Portland in goals (10), assists (14) and points (24) in 22 games played this season. He eanred his first two career NHL points earlier this season, registering two assists for Phoenix on Oct. 29 vs. Los Angeles.
4. Calder Cup redux
Sunday evening’s NHL game between the Detroit Red Wings and the Tampa Bay Lightning featured 15 players who had faced off during the 2013 Calder Cup Finals just six months earlier.
The Red Wings’ lineup included Petr Mrazek, Gustav Nyquist, Joakim Andersson, Brian Lashoff, Luke Glendening, Tomas Jurco and Tomas Tatar, who was the MVP of the playoffs as the Grand Rapids Griffins captured their first championship last spring. Jurco was making his NHL debut in the contest.
Johnson, Brown and Alex Killorn scored third-period goals to give Tampa Bay a 3-0 victory.
5. D’Amigo makes a splash
After making his NHL debut with the Toronto Maple Leafs on Dec. 5, Jerry D’Amigo earned his first two points with a goal and an assist in the Leafs’ 7-3 victory over Chicago on Saturday night.
D’Amigo, who won a gold medal with the United States at the 2010 World Junior Championships, was drafted by the Leafs in 2009 and played 208 AHL games with the Toronto Marlies before getting his first recall.
He set a career high with 41 points in 2011-12 and helped the Marlies reach the Calder Cup Finals.
6. Wild end home slide
The Iowa Wild ended an eight-game home losing streak with a 3-1 win over Rockford at the Wells Fargo Arena on Sunday evening.
The Wild had not won on home ice since a 4-2 decision over Texas back on Nov. 1. Their losing streak included a fruitless six-game homestand from Nov. 13-24, and Iowa was outscored 27-7 in the eight defeats.
The Wild, who enter the new week with points in five of their last seven outings overall (4-2-1-0), rank eighth in the AHL in attendance despite their on-ice struggles, averaging 5,716 fans per game.
7. Neuvirth wins return to Hershey
In his first AHL appearance since hoisting the Calder Cup on June 13, 2010, Michal Neuvirth picked up a victory with a 33-save effort in Hershey’s 7-4 win over the Binghamton Senators on
Neuvirth, with the Bears on a conditioning assignment from Washington, backstopped Hershey to back-to-back Calder Cups and earned the Jack Butterfield Trophy as the most valuable player of the 2009 Calder Cup Playoffs.
8. Griffins lead the way
Roughly two-thirds of the season still remains, but Grand Rapids is on pace to make AHL history.
The Griffins currently lead the league in offense, averaging 3.85 goals per game through 26 contests. They have hit the five-goal mark 11 times, including eight times in their last 11 home games.
The Griffins also lead the league in defense, averaging a scant 2.27 goals per game. Grand Rapids has allowed two goals or fewer in 16 of its 26 outings.
The last AHL team to finish first in both goals for and goals against was the 1992-93 Binghamton Rangers, who scored 392 goals and allowed 246 during a record-setting 57-13-10 campaign.
9. Notes in the margin
Not surprising given their 76-39 margin in goals (excluding power plays), but of the 18 players in the AHL with a plus/minus rating of +11 or better, 11 play for Grand Rapids.
Albany set a franchise record Saturday with its sixth consecutive win.
All five teams in the East Division — Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Binghamton, Norfolk, Syracuse and Hershey — have points percentages above .500. That quintet has also produced the last eight Calder Cup finalists out of the Eastern Conference.
With Antti Raanta and Kent Simpson both up with the parent Chicago Blackhawks, Rockford signed Allen York to a tryout last week and he made his IceHogs debut at Iowa on Sunday. York has played for three AHL teams already this season (Rockford, Texas, Charlotte) while posting respectable numbers (3-2-2, 2.51, .919, 1 SO).
Charlotte is 4-1-0-0 against West Division foes this season, but 7-13-0-1 against the rest of the league.
Jon DiSalvatore, who signed an AHL deal with Syracuse on Monday, has scored at least 20 goals in nine of his 10 AHL seasons. The former All-Star has 224 goals and 316 assists for 540 points in 746 career AHL games.
10. Alumni watch
Congratulations to AHL call-ups Dylan McIlrath, Cody Ceci, Brian Dumoulin, Kent Simpson, Ryan Strome, Tomas Jurco and Philip Samuelsson, who all made their National Hockey League debuts in the last week.
The 2013-14 total now stands at 68.
Ceci, an Ottawa native, scored the winning goal for his hometown club in the Senators’ 3-2 overtime win over St. Louis on Monday night. Ceci has two goals with the Binghamton Senators this season — both of those came in OT also.