AHL Morning Skate: April 11

TORONTO 3, Hamilton 2 (SO)
Albany 3, ADIRONDACK 2
BRIDGEPORT 2, Manchester 0
Lowell 5, PORTLAND 2
HARTFORD 7, Springfield 5
WORCESTER 3, Providence 0
BINGHAMTON 3, W-B/Scranton 1
NORFOLK 5, Hershey 2
Abbotsford 4, LAKE ERIE 3 (SO)
SYRACUSE 5, Rochester 2
CHICAGO 6, Grand Rapids 4
SAN ANTONIO 4, Rockford 2
MANITOBA 2, Peoria 1 (SO)
HOUSTON 4, Texas 2

1. Corey Locke posted two goals and an assist as part of a seven-goal second period for Hartford in a 7-5 win over Springfield.

2. Maksim Mayorov tallied two goals and a helper as Syracuse collected its first victory of the season over Rochester, a 5-2 decision in its season finale.

3. Scott Munroe recorded a 23-save shutout as Bridgeport clinched a playoff spot with a 2-0 win over Manchester.

Hartford at Bridgeport, 3:00
Manchester at Springfield, 3:00
Binghamton at W-B/Scranton, 3:05
Providence at Lowell, 4:00
Worcester at Portland, 4:00
Houston at San Antonio, 4:00
Abbotsford at Toronto, 4:00
Grand Rapids at Milwaukee, 6:00

Click here for up-to-date AHL standings

1. Worcester has clinched the division title
2. Portland has clinched second place and will face Manchester in the first round beginning Friday night
3. Bridgeport and Lowell have clinched playoff spots… Bridgeport owns the tiebreaker over Lowell by virtue of winning the teams’ season series
4. Bridgeport clinches fourth place and a playoff meeting with Worcester with (a) a win vs. Hartford; or (b) a Lowell regulation loss vs. Providence; or (c) a point vs. Hartford and a Lowell OTL/SOL vs. Providence
5. Lowell clinches fourth place and a playoff meeting with Worcester with (a) a win vs. Providence and a Bridgeport loss (regulation/OT/SO) vs. Hartford; or (b) a point vs. Providence and a Bridgeport regulation loss vs. Hartford

1. Hershey, Albany and W-B/Scranton have clinched the top three spots in the division
2. W-B/Scranton clinches the third seed in the East Division and a playoff meeting with Albany with (a) a win vs. Binghamton and either a Bridgeport or Lowell loss (regulation/OT/SO), or (b) a point vs. Binghamton and either a Bridgeport or Lowell regulation loss

1. Hamilton has won the division and will face Manitoba in the first round beginning Thursday night
2. Rochester has clinched second place and will face Abbotsford in the first round beginning Thursday night

1. Chicago has won the division and will face Milwaukee in the first round beginning Wednesday night
2. Texas has clinched second place and will face Rockford in the first round beginning Friday night

GAME NOTES (all times ET):
Hartford at Bridgeport, 3:00
Assured of its second straight playoff berth, Bridgeport hosts Hartford on Sunday to wrap up the regular season… The Sound Tigers are 11-4-1-0 in their last 16 games, and they can clinch fourth place in the Atlantic Division with another victory today… Tyler Haskins has a point in three straight games (1-2-3) for Bridgeport, and Jeremy Reich shows five points (1-4-5) in his last two contests… The Wolf Pack have won two straight games to begin the weekend but will miss the postseason for the first time in team history… Hartford leading scorer Corey Locke (31-54-85), who has recorded five points (2-3-5) in his last two games, shows a team-high five goals and nine points in nine outings against Bridgeport this season.

Manchester at Springfield, 3:00
Manchester visits Springfield on Sunday to conclude its regular-season slate… The Monarchs, whose eight-game winning streak ended on Saturday with a 2-0 loss at Bridgeport, have clinched third place in the Atlantic Division and will oppose Portland in the first round of the playoffs… Last night marked Manchester’s seventh shutout against of the season and first since a 2-0 loss at Syracuse on Mar. 17… Bud Holloway shows 10 points (3-7-10) in seven games vs. Springfield, helping Manchester to a 6-1-0-0 mark in the season series… Chris Minard is on a five-game scoring streak (5-1-6) for the Falcons, who are 0-5-2-1 in their last eight contests.

Binghamton at W-B/Scranton, 3:05
Binghamton and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton play the back end of a home-and-home set on Sunday at Mohegan Sun Arena… The Senators, who will miss this spring’s playoffs, collected a 3-1 win last night and improved to 14-4-2-0 in their last 20 games… Josh Hennessy has a point in four of his last five games (1-5-6) for the Senators, and Erik Condra shows four points (2-2-4) in two games so far this weekend… The Penguins, who are 2-5-0-0 in their last seven games, are assured of their eighth consecutive playoff spot and will oppose either Hershey or Albany in the opening round… Chris Conner (2-4-6) and Dustin Jeffrey (2-4-6) have each recorded a team-high six points against Binghamton this season.

Providence at Lowell, 4:00
A day after clinching their first playoff spot in team history, Lowell hosts Providence on Sunday to conclude the regular season… The Devils are currently tied with Bridgeport for fourth place in the Atlantic Division with 86 points and 38 wins apiece, but the Sound Tigers own the next tiebreaker based on winning the season series… Alexander Vasyunov (1-3-4) and defenseman Cory Murphy (1-4-5) are each riding four-game scoring streaks for the Devils, while Ben Walter has a point in his last three contests (1-3-4)… Providence, which is destined to miss the playoffs for the first time since 1998, has been shut out in three of its last seven games…

Worcester at Portland, 4:00
The Atlantic Division’s first- and second-place finishers go head-to-head as Worcester travels to Portland on Sunday… The Sharks clinched their first Atlantic Division title with a 3-0 win over Providence on Saturday, ensuring that the Pirates would finish second… AHL All-Rookie goaltender Alex Stalock is 39-18-2 (2.58, .909) in 60 appearances for Worcester and earned his fourth shutout of the season last night… Cory Quirk (1-3-4) and defenseman Mike Moore (1-2-3) each show three-game scoring streaks for the Sharks… Marc-Andre Gragnani has a goal in two straight games and a point in seven of his last nine (2-6-8) for the Pirates, who are looking to snap a three-game winless skid (0-2-1-0).

Houston at San Antonio, 4:00
Intra-state foes Houston and San Antonio conclude their respective seasons on Sunday at the AT&T Center… The Aeros and Rampage will both miss the playoffs this year, but a Houston victory, overtime loss, or shootout loss would ensure that all seven West Division teams finish with a points percentage greater than .500… Aeros rookie Chad Rau shows four points (2-2-4) in his last two games, including two goals and an assist in a 5-3 win at San Antonio on Thursday… Leading scorer Jean-Michel Daoust (21-33-54) is on a three-game scoring streak (1-3-4) for Houston… Rampage forward Kyle Turris has registered a point in seven of his last eight games (4-5-9).

Abbotsford at Toronto, 4:00
Locked into third place in the North Division and a first-round playoff match-up with Rochester, Abbotsford concludes the regular season with a trip to Toronto on Sunday… The Heat split a pair of shootout decisions at Lake Erie to begin this road trip, dropping a 5-4 decision on Wednesday before coming back with a 4-3 win last night… Colin Stuart has a point in three straight games (3-1-4) for the Heat after going his previous seven outings without one… Abbotsford defenseman Staffan Kronwall, who played 131 career games for the Marlies, shows a point in five of his last six contests (1-5-6)… Ryan Hamilton scored in overtime to give Toronto a 2-1 win in these teams’ last meeting on Mar. 21… The Marlies will miss the playoffs for the first time since 2007.

Grand Rapids at Milwaukee, 6:00
Grand Rapids wraps up its season on Sunday with a trip to Milwaukee, which is set to oppose Chicago in the first round of the playoffs… The Griffins have racked up 16 goals in their last three games (2-1-0-0) after totaling four goals in a three-game regulation losing skid from Mar. 31 to Apr. 3… Griffins forward Jeremy Williams tallied a hat trick in Saturday’s 6-4 loss at Chicago and has four goals and two assists in his last three games… Cory Emmerton also boasts a three-game scoring streak (1-3-4) for the Griffins, while Francis Pare has a point in four straight (2-2-4)… Mike Santorelli has recorded a point in nine of his last 10 games (5-9-14) for the Admirals, who were the only AHL team with Saturday night off.

SHARKS DIVE IN A TITLE POOL – Worcester Telegram & Gazette

Hockey fans in these parts have seen playoff handshakes, memorable comebacks, and heartbreaking defeats. They’ve seen shutouts and hat tricks and bruising fights, but until last night, they had never seen their American Hockey League team win a division championship.

The American League regular season wraps up this weekend and the playoff picture, of course, remains unsettled. In the AHL, where development sometimes holds equal footing with wins and losses in the minds of most GMs, making the playoffs still matters. Prospects will not develop and gain valuable post-season experience if they are heading to the golf course come mid-April.

They did the wave a week ago Saturday night at an Albany River Rats hockey game. The news, actually, is there were enough fans, 6,743 of them, to actually do the wave. Rowdy crowd, too. They were partying like it was nineteen ninety-something. Appropriate, since this last Albany River Rats team – unless a new franchise comes in and adopts the name, of course – is reminiscent of the long-ago glory years.

The careening puck finally came to rest in the crease, behind the Albany goaltender but just in front of the goal line. As it was sat there so tantalizingly close to a score for the Penguins, Albany defenseman Tim Conboy scurried in, attempting to rescue the River Rats. He tried to clear the puck out of danger. Instead, he wound up bumping it into the net. This is how the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins sealed their spot in the AHL playoffs, with a game-winning goal Friday night that was actually scored by the other team.

This year hasn’t exactly gone according to plan for Karl Alzner. After playing 30 games for the Capitals last season, Alzner was considered one of the team’s top two prospects along with Semyon Varlamov and had designs of spending the entire 2009-10 campaign in Washington. As general manager George McPhee continued to horde NHL defensemen last offseason, it became pretty clear it wasn’t to be for Alzner.

When Tim Brent tore a pectoral muscle during an exhibition game against Pittsburgh last September, he was told his season might be in jeopardy. Instead, his 2009-10 campaign will finish on a high note, one he never thought would come.

AFTER PAYING DUES, IT’S NOW TUUKKA TIME – Worcester Telegram & Gazette
Tuukka Rask had played in five NHL games entering this season. With that kind of limited résumé, you’d think folks would be astonished that Rask, who turned 23 last month, came into the final weekend of the season leading the NHL in goals-against average and save percentage. Well, not so much.

On Saturday, 2009-10 Second Team AHL All-Star Jerome Samson recorded an assist in Carolina’s 4-2 loss at Boston… 2009-10 AHL All-Rookie forward Logan Couture notched the decisive shootout goal as San Jose edged Phoenix by a 3-2 count… Christian Hanson and Viktor Stalberg each recorded a goal as Toronto pulled out a 4-3 overtime win at Montreal… 2004-05 AHL All-Rookie forward Thomas Vanek racked up four goals to lead Buffalo past Ottawa, 5-2.

600 – Career AHL points for Lake Erie’s Darren Haydar, hitting the milestone in the Monsters’ last game of the season last night… The former AHL MVP, scoring champion and rookie of the year and two-time Calder Cup winner finished the season with 224 goals and 376 assists in 562 career AHL games.

+144 – Hershey’s goal differential this season, the third-highest mark in AHL history behind the 1992-93 Binghamton Rangers (+146) and the 1972-73 Cincinnati Swords (+145).

April 11, 2004Antero Niittymaki becomes the seventh goaltender in AHL history to be credited with a goal when Hershey, needing a win on the last day of the season to qualify for the playoffs, pulls its goalie in overtime and accidentally shoots the puck into its own net.

April 11, 1985 – Pat Conacher scores after 45:17 of overtime to give the Nova Scotia Oilers a 4-3 win over the Maine Mariners in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series.

April 11, 1937 – The Syracuse Stars win the first Calder Cup championship with a 5-0 victory over the Philadelphia Ramblers.

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