AHL Morning Skate: Still something to play for

Every morning from now until the end of the Calder Cup Playoffs, the AHL Morning Skate takes a spin around the AHL ice with recaps and previews, news and notes, facts and figures, and the top headlines from around the American Hockey League.

Hamilton 2, TORONTO 1 (OT)
ALBANY 3, Binghamton 2
BRIDGEPORT 3, Lowell 1
HARTFORD 5, Springfield 3
HERSHEY 3, Philadelphia 2
Portland 5, MANCHESTER 4
Norfolk 4, W-B/SCRANTON 3
WORCESTER 3, Providence 0
Manitoba 4, LAKE ERIE 1
SYRACUSE 4, Rochester 2
CHICAGO 5, Rockford 2
PEORIA 5, Grand Rapids 2
SAN ANTONIO 4, Houston 2
Quad City 5, IOWA 3

1. Kyle Wilson notched two goals to help Hershey clinch the East Division title with a 3-2 win over Philadelphia.

2. Kris Chucko scored twice and added an assist as Quad City wrapped up its season by dropping Iowa, 5-2.

3. AHL Rookie of the Year Nathan Gerbe netted a pair of goals as Portland clinched third place in the Atlantic Division with a 5-4 triumph at Manchester.

San Antonio at Houston, 5:05
W-B/Scranton at Hershey, 6:00

Click here for up-to-date AHL standings

1. Hershey clinches the overall points title with a win vs. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton
2. Manitoba clinches the overall points title with a Hershey loss (regulation/OT/SO) vs. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton

1. Hartford has clinched the division title, and will play Worcester in the first round beginning Thursday
2. Providence has clinched second place, and will play Portland in the first round beginning Wednesday

1. Hershey has clinched the division title, and will play Philadelphia in the first round (schedule TBA)
2. Bridgeport has clinched second place, and will play Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in the first round beginning Friday

1. Manitoba has clinched the division title, and will play Toronto in the first round beginning Wednesday
2. Hamilton has clinched second place, and will play Grand Rapids in the first round beginning Friday

1. Milwaukee has clinched the division title, and will play either Houston or Rockford in the first round beginning Thursday
2. Peoria has clinches second place, and will play either Houston or Rockford in the first round beginning Wednesday
3. Houston clinches third place with a win vs. San Antonio
4. Rockford clinches third place with a Houston loss (regulation/OT/SO) vs. San Antonio

GAME NOTES (all times ET):
San Antonio at Houston, 5:05
Houston hosts San Antonio in its regular-season finale this afternoon needing a win to clinch third place in the West Division and a date with Peoria in the opening round of the playoffs… A Houston loss means a fourth-place finish and a battle with first-place Milwaukee in round one… The Aeros are on a five-game skid (0-4-1-0) and are 1-6-1-1 in their last nine games… John Lammers and Maxim Noreau netted goals in last night’s 4-2 loss in San Antonio… The last-place Rampage bring a seven-game winning streak into their season finale (not including their Apr. 6 completion of a 5-2 win over Lake Erie) and are 10-1-0-0 in their past 11 games down the stretch… At 36-37-2-4 overall, a win would allow San Antonio to finish at .500 for the season after a 2-20-0-1 start… Joel Perrault has registered a point in 10 of his last 11 games (10-5-15) for the Rampage, and Wyatt Smith tallied three points (1-2-3) in Saturday’s victory over Houston.

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton at Hershey, 6:00
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and Hershey, both playoff-bound in the East Division, conclude their regular-season slates tonight at the Giant Center… The Bears have clinched the division and regular-season conference crowns, and can secure the overall AHL points title with a victory tonight… Kyle Wilson had totaled two goals in his previous 18 games before scoring twice in Hershey’s 3-2 win over future playoff foe Philadelphia on Saturday… Alexandre Giroux (5-9-14 in 9 GP) and Chris Bourque (6-4-10 in 9 GP) have led the Bears’ offense against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton this season… Giroux (58-37-95) is also looking to close out the AHL scoring title… The Penguins have clinched third place in the East and will oppose Bridgeport in the opening round of the playoffs… Paul Bissonnette has scored a goal in two straight games (2-1-3) and three of his last four (3-1-4) for the Pens… Rookie Joe Vitale has four points (2-2-4) in his first four professional games.


Steve LeBlanc, Milton Canadian Champion
While always friendly and accommodating with his hometown newspaper, Darren Haydar was in an especially good mood upon heading into last weekend’s visit to Hamilton’s Copps Coliseum. But it wasn’t the thought of playing so close to home — or even the fact that he’d just been named to the American Hockey League’s second-team all-star squad — that was lifting his spirits. The two-time Calder Cup champ had much greater news to bask in. “Sara got her biopsy results yesterday and there’s no sign of cancer,” he happily reported of his longtime girlfriend, who’s battled throat cancer for about a year now. “It’s great, a big step forward.”

Derek Van Diest, Edmonton Sun
To the Edmonton Oilers the game might not have meant much, but to Taylor Chorney it was the world. On Friday, the Oilers defenseman made his NHL debut in a 5-1 win over the Calgary Flames. “It was awesome,” Chorney said. “There were a lot of emotions running through me throughout that day. The whole thing was pretty exciting to actually get out there, get a couple of shifts under my belt and then kind of settling in a little bit. The biggest thing was just trying to control my emotions, there were so many running through me. I didn’t want to get too pumped up or psyche myself out, or anything like that.”

Tom Venesky, Wilkes-Barre Times Leader
The way Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins forward Paul Bissonnette sees it, the reason for the success of his fourth line is simple. Yep, that’s it. Just simple – as in simply forechecking, hitting and wearing teams down. If the line of Bissonnette, Joe Vitale and Jean-Michel Daoust shows up on the scoresheet, it’s an added bonus to their hard work. “We keep it simple and wear teams down,” Bissonnette said. “Doing the little things like drawing penalties and tiring out the defensemen helps motivate the rest of our guys.” After Wednesday’s 4-3 overtime loss to Norfolk, head coach Todd Reirden said the fourth line was the best combination of the night. On Friday they were even better, combining for two goals and five points.

Tim Warsinskey, Cleveland Plain Dealer
This is what a hockey town looks like. 17,627 fans nearly filled Quicken Loans Arena on a cool Saturday night in Cleveland, dressed in maroon and white and ready to rock. This is what a hockey town sounds like. A roar fills the venue three minutes into the game when rookie Brandon Biggers loses his sweater and helmet, but gets in a few good left hooks before getting ejected for fighting Manitoba 13-year pro Nolan Baumgartner. They cheer even louder – Cavaliers loud – when Lake Erie’s Mark McCutcheon pokes at a pass in the crease from Chris Durno and scores at 8:24 of the third period. “With the support we’ve drawn throughout the year, especially a night like tonight, I see no reason why this can’t be not just a hockey town, but one of the better hockey towns, especially in the American Hockey League,” Monsters coach Joe Sacco said.

John Whisler, San Antonio Express-News
If the Rampage only had a few more games, one of the hottest teams in the AHL might be gearing up for playoff run for a second-straight season. If only. As it is, the Rampage still will have something to play for today in Houston after setting a franchise record for consecutive wins Saturday night. Kevin Porter notched three assists as the Rampage rallied from a two-goal deficit to claim their seventh straight victory, 4-2 over the Aeros in the final game of the season at the AT&T Center. The Rampage will go for eight in a row and a .500 record this afternoon against the playoff-bound Aeros. “We’re on a roll right now,” Porter said. “If we were in the playoffs, I think we could go pretty far.”

Lacy J. Banks, Chicago Sun-Times
Although this was their losingest season and only the second time they’ve missed the playoffs in their 15-year history, the defending Calder Cup-champion Wolves finished on a positive note, beating the playoff-bound Rockford IceHogs 5-2 on Saturday night before a season-high crowd of 16,019 at Allstate Arena, the largest in three years. “This crowd is just a testament to what the Wolves organization has done for the last 15 years,” said president Mike Polisky. “We offer a great sports and entertainment family product in the city. The organization cares about its fans as much as anybody could. But the support of the fans inspired us to close this season in a great way.”

In Saturday’s NHL action, 2007 AHL All-Star Curtis McElhinney made 35 saves for his first career NHL victory as Calgary beat Edmonton, 4-1… Niklas Hjalmarsson scored his first career NHL goal and Dustin Byfuglien notched the winning goal on a penalty shot with 28 seconds left as Chicago beat Detroit, 4-2… Boyd Devereaux’s hat trick led Toronto past Ottawa, 5-2.

6 – Number of times in AHL history in which every member of a division finished the season with a record of .500 or better: the 1937-38 Western Division (three teams), the 1940-41 Eastern Division (four teams), the 1948-49 Western Division (five teams), the 1962-63 Eastern Division (five teams), the 2002-03 South Division (four teams) and the 2002-03 West Division (five teams)… A San Antonio victory over Houston today would add this season’s eight-team West Division to the list.

April 12, 1985Michel Therrien scores the winning goal in Sherbrooke’s 3-2 win at Fredericton as the Canadiens take a 2-0 lead in their first-round playoff series.

April 12, 1972Howie Menard sets an AHL playoff record with seven points in Baltimore’s 10-1 win over Cleveland as the Clippers take a 3-2 first-round series lead.

April 12, 1959 – The Hershey Bears advance to the Calder Cup Finals with a 4-3 win at Cleveland in Game 7 of their league semifinal series.

April 12, 1938 – The Providence Reds win the Calder Cup with a 4-1 win over the defending champion Syracuse Stars.

Don’t miss a step on the road to the 2009 Calder Cup Playoffs. AHL Live brings AHL action to your computer all season long with live video webcasts and highlights of every AHL game, as well as behind-the-scenes features and interviews in the Video On Demand section… Visit theahl.com or ahllive.com for details.

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Jason Chaimovitch, Vice President of Communications
AJ Atchue, Coordinator of Communications
(413) 781-2030