SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … After 1,140 regular-season games and 63 more through three playoff rounds, two powerhouses are set to battle for the American Hockey League championship when the 2012 Calder Cup Finals get under way on Friday night.
The Norfolk Admirals are in the Finals for the first time in their 12-year history, looking to put an exclamation point on what has already been a history-making season. The Admirals are 39-3 in their last 42 games, finishing the regular season on an unthinkable 28-game winning streak before winning 11 of their first 14 playoff contests. Norfolk has outscored its opponents 20-3 in their last six outings, including a decisive four-game sweep of St. John’s in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Alexandre Picard (8-7-15), who scored six goals in 42 games during the regular season for Norfolk, has a team-high eight goals in 14 playoff contests and leads the entire AHL with 15 points while ranking second with a plus-11 rating as well. After leading the league with 39 goals en route to being named the AHL’s MVP and rookie of the year in the regular season, Cory Conacher has scored just once in the playoffs but his Admirals mates have picked up the slack: all 20 skaters who have appeared in a postseason game for Norfolk have at least one point, and 17 have scored at least one goal.
Jon Cooper, winner of the Louis A.R. Pieri Award as the AHL’s outstanding coach in 2011-12, has his Norfolk club playing in the first Calder Cup Finals in 17 years of AHL hockey in the Hampton Roads area, a history that includes Admirals predecessors the Tidewater/Virginia Wings (1971-75) and the Hampton Gulls (1976-77).
The Toronto Marlies have won 23 of their last 29 games overall, including an 11-2 record in the playoffs to capture their first Western Conference championship. After leading the league in goals against during the regular season, Toronto has allowed one goal or fewer in seven of its 13 postseason games and ranks first in penalty killing at 95.1 percent (58-for-61) in the postseason. Behind the goaltending of Ben Scrivens, who leads the AHL in wins (11), GAA (1.61), save percentage (.944) and shutouts (3) this postseason, Toronto has disposed of Rochester, Abbotsford and Oklahoma City to reach the Calder Cup Finals.
Matt Frattin (10-3-13) led the AHL in goals through three playoff rounds but will miss the Finals after suffering a knee injury in the Marlies’ series-clinching win over Oklahoma City. Jerry D’Amigo (8-5-13) and Philippe Dupuis (4-9-13) are tied with Frattin for Toronto’s team scoring lead.
Under head coach Dallas Eakins, a Calder Cup champion with the Chicago Wolves (2002) during his playing days, the Marlies are four wins away from bringing just the second AHL title ever to the province of Ontario, following the Hamilton Bulldogs’ victory in 2007.
The best-of-seven 2012 Calder Cup Finals begin on Friday and Saturday at Norfolk Scope, which will also host Games 6 and 7, if necessary. The middle three games of the series are scheduled for Ricoh Coliseum in Toronto. Stay connected to theahl.com for live scores, broadcast and webcast information and the latest news from the AHL’s championship series, and be sure to follow the American Hockey League on Facebook (facebook.com/TheAHL) and Twitter (@TheAHL) as well.
In operation since 1936, the AHL continues to serve as the top development league for all 30 National Hockey League teams. More than 88 percent of today’s NHL players are American Hockey League graduates, and this season marks the 11th consecutive year in which more than 6 million fans have attended AHL games across North America.
QUICK HITS … After stopping 113 of 115 shots in the conference finals and shutting out St. John’s in Games 3 and 4, Dustin Tokarski enters the Calder Cup Finals without having allowed a goal in his last 159:46 of work… Toronto’s Philippe Dupuis (2-5-7) and Nicolas Deschamps (2-5-7) led all AHL skaters in scoring during the conference final round… Norfolk is the ninth consecutive East Division team to represent the Eastern Conference in the Calder Cup Finals, following Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (2004, ’08), Philadelphia (2005), Hershey (2006, ’07, ’09, ’10) and Binghamton (2011)… The Marlies are the fourth affiliate of a Canadian NHL team to reach the Finals since 2007 (Hamilton ’07, Manitoba ’09, Binghamton ’11)… Francis Charron (first Finals), Jean Hebert (second), Terry Koharski (fifth), Graham Skilliter (first) and Marcus Vinnerborg (second) have been named the referees for the series; John Grandt, Matt MacPherson, Mathieu Chenier and Kiel Murchison will be the linesmen.
2012 Calder Cup Finals – Series “O” (best-of-7)
E1-Norfolk Admirals [TB] vs. W2-Toronto Marlies [TOR]
Game 1 – Fri., June 1 – Toronto at Norfolk, 7:30
Game 2 – Sat., June 2 – Toronto at Norfolk, 7:15
Game 3 – Thurs., June 7 – Norfolk at Toronto, 7:00
Game 4 – Sat., June 9 – Norfolk at Toronto, 3:00
*Game 5 – Sun., June 10 – Norfolk at Toronto, 3:00
*Game 6 – Wed., June 13 – Toronto at Norfolk, 7:15
*Game 7 – Fri., June 15 – Toronto at Norfolk, 7:30