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AHL grads battling for Lord Stanley’s Cup

Untitled-3.jpg As Carolina and Edmonton begin their final quest for the Stanley Cup this week, more than 75 percent of the troops leading the charge are American Hockey League graduates.

The Hurricanes’ Peter Laviolette is looking to become just the sixth head coach in history to lead teams to both a Stanley Cup and a Calder Cup championship in his career. Laviolette won the Louis A.R. Pieri Award as the AHL’s coach of the year in 1998-99, when he guided the Providence Bruins to the AHL title.

The other five men to accomplish the feat are Fred Shero, Al MacNeil, Mike Keenan, Bob Hartley and John Tortorella, who won the Cup with Tampa Bay the last time it was awarded in 2004.

Hurricanes assistant coach Kevin McCarthy reached the Calder Cup Finals in 1986 with Hershey, and was then a member of the 1988 Bears team that rolled to the Calder Cup championship on the strength of a 12-0 playoff record. McCarthy later served as an AHL head coach in Hershey, Springfield and New Haven. Jeff Daniels, Carolina’s other assistant coach, played three AHL seasons in his career, all under McCarthy with the Falcons and Beast.

Carolina goaltender Cam Ward was a member of the AHL’s All-Rookie team last season, when he led the league in save percentage (.937) while tending goal for the Lowell Lock Monsters. Eric Staal is leading the NHL in playoff scoring after an All-Star season with Lowell in 2004-05, and 1995 AHL All-Star Cory Stillman is second with 19 points in 18 games.

Hurricanes defenseman Andrew Hutchinson, who has suffered through an injury-plagued season, won a Calder Cup with Milwaukee in 2004.

On the other side, the Edmonton roster boasts seven players who have played in a Calder Cup championship series, including captain Jason Smith, who won the AHL title with Albany in 1995.

Marc-Andre Bergeron, Jarret Stoll, Ty Conklin and Raffi Torres led the Oilers’ AHL affiliate in Hamilton to the Finals in 2003. Torres also played for the Calder Cup with Bridgeport in 2002, Toby Petersen was a two-time finalist with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in 2001 and 2004, and Georges Laraque helped Hamilton reach the championship round in 1997.

Dwayne Roloson was a three-time All-Star in his AHL days, backstopping the Saint John Flames to the conference finals in 1996 and earning the Baz Bastien Award as the AHL’s outstanding goaltender in 2001.

Matt Greene, who has appeared in 11 playoff games for Edmonton was a standout rookie defenseman for the Iowa Stars in 2005-06, and Rem Murray spent the first five months of the season with the Houston Aeros before signing with Edmonton.

Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish played in the AHL from 1979-82 with Binghamton, Springfield and Erie. Assistant coach Charlie Huddy finished his playing career with Rochester in 1996-97, and development coach Geoff Ward spent five seasons coaching in the AHL, serving as head coach of the 2003 Calder Cup runner-up Hamilton Bulldogs.