On the next-to-last day of the regular season, the Calder Cup 2004 Playoff picture got a lot clearer, but there’s still plenty to play for on Sunday.
Milwaukee defeated Chicago on Saturday night, 3-1, ending the Wolves’ seven-game winning streak and giving the Admirals both the West Division championship and the Macgregor Kilpatrick Trophy as the AHL’s regular-season champions. Wade Flaherty made 36 saves in the win as Milwaukee finished its 80-game schedule with a record of 46-24-7-3 for 102 points.
Also in the West Division, Houston earned home ice in the qualifying series with a 3-1 win over Grand Rapids, while Cincinnati dropped an 8-3 decision to Cleveland. Frederic Cloutier made 24 saves in the Aeros’ win. The Griffins’ loss was not costly, however, as the Wolves’ defeat at the hands of Milwaukee gave Grand Rapids second place in the West.
Pat Rissmiller recorded three goals and an assist in Cleveland’s win over the Mighty Ducks, but it wasn’t enough to keep the Barons out of fourth place in the North. Rochester secured third place with a 2-2 tie in Binghamton, forcing Cleveland into a best-of-three qualifying series against Toronto.
Denis Hamel and Charlie Stephens picked up a goal and an assist each for the Senators, who clinched a playoff berth with the tie. But Binghamton’s place in the East Division standings is still up in the air, because Hershey got a pair of goals from Chris Bala and defeated Norfolk, 3-1. The Bears will clinch a playoff spot and host Binghamton in the best-of-three series if they snap an 11-game losing streak head-to-head and defeat Philadelphia on Sunday; otherwise, the Senators will host Norfolk.
Philadelphia wrapped up the East Division title with a 0-0 tie in Bridgeport. Wade Dubielewicz made 28 saves to tie an AHL rookie record with his ninth shutout of the season, but the Sound Tigers fell short of the win needed to keep their division championship hopes alive. Bridgeport will face Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in the division semifinals.
Providence and Worcester also skated to a scoreless tie, leaving the race for third place in the Atlantic Division to the final day of the season. Tim Thomas made 38 saves for the Bruins, earning his ninth shutout of the year and sixth in his last 10 starts. The IceCats are still one point ahead of Providence in the Atlantic; on Sunday, Worcester visits Manchester while Providence is in Hartford.
In other action on Saturday, Adrian Foster recorded two goals and an assist for Albany in a 6-3 win over Syracuse… Tony Salmelainen picked up a goal and an assist in Toronto’s 4-3 come-from-behind win over St. John’s… Alexander Semin scored twice as Portland beat Lowell, 3-2… Jozef Balej‘s overtime goal lifted Hartford over Wilkes-Barre, 3-2… Frantisek Lukes scored with 2:50 left in regulation to give Springfield a 2-1 win over Manchester… Jason Bacashihua made 28 saves as Utah beat San Antonio, 2-1… In the final game ever at Winnipeg Arena, Pat Kavanagh recorded two goals and two assists as Manitoba beat Hamilton, 6-3.