AHL Weekly Release

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SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … News and notes from the week ending Nov. 11, 2012:

The Springfield Falcons have been quick out of the gate in 2012-13, racking up wins with an equally lethal offense and defense.

The Falcons, with an AHL-best .818 points percentage at 8-1-0-2, rank fourth in the league scoring 3.64 goals per game while allowing the fewest goals per contest (1.55). Springfield is coming off a weekend that saw Curtis McElhinney record the team’s first back-to-back shutouts since they posted three in a row from Jan. 21-26, 1996. McElhinney, named CCM/AHL Player of the Week for his effort, leads the league in wins (8), goals-against average (1.29), save percentage (.955) and shutouts (4).

Offensively, the Falcons have been led by second-year pros and 2012 AHL All-Stars Jonathan Audy-Marchessault (5-8-13) and Cam Atkinson (4-8-12). Nick Drazenovic (6-5-11) is tops on the team in goals, and Ryan Johansen (5-5-10) and Matt Calvert (4-6-10) have also hit double digits in points already.

Springfield, which is bidding to end its league-record postseason drought at nine years, is off to the franchise’s best start since 1997-98 when they earned points in 11 of their first 12 contests (8-1-3) en route to a division title.

A team carrying three goaltenders is rare in the American Hockey League, but the Toronto Marlies used their crowded crease to their advantage in sweeping a three-game weekend trip through Texas.

On Thursday night, Ben Scrivens stopped 24 shots and the Marlies scored four goals in the third period to defeat Houston, 6-4. On Friday in Cedar Park, Jussi Rynnas got the call and turned aside all 31 shots in Toronto’s 3-0 win over Texas. And on Saturday, Mark Owuya’s 20-save effort backed the Marlies as they erased a 3-1 deficit and posted a 5-3 victory in San Antonio.

It was the first time since Jan. 7-9, 2011, that an AHL team won three games in three nights using three different goaltenders. That weekend nearly two years ago, the Binghamton Senators knocked off Syracuse, Rochester and Providence behind the goaltending of Barry Brust, Mike Brodeur and Robin Lehner.

Adam Oates, a Calder Cup champion as a rookie with the Adirondack Red Wings in 1985-86 and now serving as co-coach of the Hershey Bears, was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame on Monday evening.

Undrafted, Oates played 1,337 games in the National Hockey League from 1985-2004, amassing 1,420 points and appearing in five NHL All-Star Games.

Oates becomes the 113th honored member of the Hockey Hall of Fame with ties to the American Hockey League, a distinguished group that includes, among others, Andy Bathgate, Johnny Bower, Ken Dryden, Glenn Hall, Tim Horton, Harry Howell, Brett Hull, Jacques Plante, Patrick Roy, Terry Sawchuk, Eddie Shore and Gump Worsley.

One of the largest crowds ever for an American Hockey League game packed the Bell Centre in Montreal on Friday night as the Hamilton Bulldogs, top affiliate of the hometown Canadiens, battled the Syracuse Crunch.

Attendance was 18,582 for the contest, the 10th-largest ever for a regular-season AHL game and the sixth-largest at an indoor venue.

The Crunch won, 4-1, getting two goals from Tyler Johnson, but the victory would be overshadowed by an injury to Bulldogs forward Blake Geoffrion. Geoffrion, whose grandfather Bernie Geoffrion and great-grandfather Howie Morenz were both Canadiens legends, is expected to make a complete recovery but remains hospitalized in Montreal after surgery to treat a depressed skull fracture suffered during the contest.

Despite a change of scenery, Keith Aucoin continues to climb the AHL’s all-time leaderboards.

The six-time AHL All-Star signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs on July 24, 2012, after four seasons in the Washington Capitals organization that saw him win two Calder Cups, a scoring title and a league MVP award with Hershey. After picking up an assist in the Marlies’ 6-5 overtime win at Oklahoma City earlier today, Aucoin leads the team with 12 points (1-11-12) in 12 games and has passed Peter White (783) and Zellio Toppazzini (786) to move into 13th place on the career AHL scoring list with 789 points.

Including Aucoin, 81 players in AHL history have recorded at least 500 points in their careers, a group that Hershey’s Jon DiSalvatore is one point away from joining. DiSalvatore, who enters the week with 2-6-8 in 12 games this season, has 499 points over a 10-year AHL career that has included previous stops in Houston, Lowell, San Antonio, Peoria, Worcester and Cleveland.

Spearheaded by referee Tim Mayer, American Hockey League on-ice officials will be growing “Movember” mustaches to raise awareness and funds for men’s health issues this month.

Since its beginnings, the Movember Foundation has grown to become a global movement with nearly 2 million participants in formal campaigns worldwide, and more than $126 million was raised by the foundation in 2011.

For more information on the AHL Officials Movember team, visit mobro.co/ahlofficials.

Match-ups to look forward to in the week ahead:

Lake Erie at Abbotsford, Tuesday and Wednesday (10 ET) – Two of the top teams in the Western Conference collide in the Fraser Valley as Lake Erie (9-4-0-0) visits Abbotsford (7-1-1-2) for a pair of games. The Monsters have won seven of nine on the road this season, while the Heat are 6-0-1-1 on home ice.

Springfield at W-B/Scranton, Wednesday (7 ET) – Having opened the season by playing nine of its first 11 games at home, Springfield plays three road games in four nights this week, beginning Wednesday in Wilkes-Barre. The Falcons are 5-0-0-2 in their last seven contests, while the Penguins have won six of their last eight.

Grand Rapids at Lake Erie, Friday (7:30 ET) – Riding a five-game winning streak and starting the week atop the Midwest Division, Grand Rapids visits Lake Erie on Friday. It’s the first of six meetings this season between the Griffins and Monsters; the other five will all take place between Feb. 15 and Apr. 20.

Hershey vs. Syracuse, Friday (7:30 ET at Syracuse) and Sunday (5 ET at Hershey) – East Division foes Hershey and Syracuse meet twice this weekend, with five points separating the first-place Crunch from the last-place Bears. Syracuse opened the season with a 4-3 win over Hershey on Oct. 13.

Toronto vs. Hamilton, Friday (7:30 ET at Hamilton) and Saturday (3 ET at Toronto) – The AHL’s Battle of Ontario is renewed as the Marlies and Bulldogs play a home-and-home this weekend. Hamilton won the first meeting, 4-1, on Oct. 19, but Toronto has answered with 5-0 and 5-4 (overtime) wins since.

Here is this week’s broadcast schedule for national and regional TV and radio. All games are also streamed at AHL Live (ahllive.com).

Sportsnet (all regions)
Saturday – Hamilton at Toronto, 3 ET

TVA Sports
Wednesday – Rochester at Hamilton, 10 a.m. ET
Friday – Toronto at Hamilton, 7:30 ET
Saturday – Hamilton at Toronto, 3 ET

ESPN America
Saturday – Peoria at Chicago, 01:00 GMT (Sun.)

SiriusXM NHL Network Radio (Sirius 207, XM 92)
Tuesday – Lake Erie at Abbotsford, 10 ET
Wednesday – Springfield at W-B/Scranton, 7 ET
Wednesday – Lake Erie at Abbotsford, 10 ET
Thursday – San Antonio at Texas, 8:30 ET
Friday – Milwaukee at Oklahoma City, 8 ET
Saturday – Hamilton at Toronto, 3 ET
Saturday – Adirondack at Syracuse, 7:30 ET
Sunday – Abbotsford at Toronto, 3 ET
Sunday – Rockford vs. Houston, 6 ET (at St. Paul, Minn.)

After a 5-0 blanking of Norfolk on Nov. 11, Springfield has outscored its opponents 22-4 in four Sunday contests this season… Abbotsford took three of four points from visiting Oklahoma City over the weekend in front of two capacity crowds at the Entertainment & Sports Centre… Including today’s overtime loss to Toronto, the Barons have gone 270:58 since their last 5-on-5 goal, a Jordan Eberle tally 10 seconds into the third period on Nov. 3 vs. Houston; Oklahoma City has scored six power-play goals, one extra-attacker goal and one 4-on-4 goal since then… Rookie Brock Nelson, a first-round draft pick by the New York Islanders in 2010, has scored a goal in five consecutive games for Bridgeport (5-4-9)… Chris Terry and Brett Sutter both enter the new week riding six-game scoring streaks for Charlotte… Texas set a franchise record with 49 shots on goal in Saturday’s 5-4 shootout loss to Lake Erie; Cody Eakin (8) and Matt Fraser (7) led the barrage for the Stars… Francis Pare has scored a goal in five consecutive home games for Grand Rapids, which begins the week alone in first place in its division for the first time since Feb. 2, 2009; Pare is the only current Griffin who was on the team then… Steve Pinizzotto scored twice in Chicago’s 2-1 win at Charlotte on Nov. 6, his first goals since missing the entire 2011-12 season due to injury… T.J. Hensick had 1-6-7 in three games last week for Peoria to lead all AHL scorers… Rockford is 1-5-0-1 vs. Midwest Division opponents this season, but 4-1-0-0 outside the division… The IceHogs will face off against Houston this Sunday evening at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn.