SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … News and notes from the week ending Dec. 9, 2012:
RISE OF THE FALCONS
The Springfield Falcons traveled up to St. John’s for a pair of games against the IceCaps and returned home with the best record in the AHL. The Falcons grabbed 5-3 and 4-2 decisions from their Newfoundland hosts, improving to 6-0-1-0 in their last seven road games and 14-4-1-3 (32 points) overall, good for a league-leading .727 points percentage.
In Friday’s opener, Springfield surrendered a 3-1 third-period lead before Cam Atkinson scored twice in the final 4:06 of regulation to cap a four-point night. Jonathan Audy-Marchessault added a goal and two assists and Dalton Prout had two helpers in the win.
On Saturday, Ryan Johansen contributed a goal and two assists while Tomas Kubalik had a goal and an assist and Curtis McElhinney stopped 46 of 48 shots as the Falcons became the first team in seven tries this season to go into Mile One Centre and defeat the IceCaps twice.
Atkinson (13-12-25), who scored his third consecutive game-winning goal on Saturday, is tied for third in the AHL with 13 goals including a league-best five game-winners. McElhinney improved to 13-2-2 on the season and leads the league in wins while ranking fourth in goals-against average (1.92) and third in save percentage (.940).
Springfield enters the new week 10 games above .500 for the first time since finishing the 1997-98 season with a mark of 45-26-7-2.
CAUSE TO CELEBRATE
Grand Rapids goaltender Tom McCollum celebrated his birthday last week with something he hadn’t been able to produce in 90 previous AHL appearances – a shutout victory.
McCollum, who turned 23 on Friday, stopped all 20 shots he faced that night as the Griffins notched a 3-0 win over the Chicago Wolves in Rosemont, Ill. Adam Almquist, Joakim Andersson and Tomas Tatar provided the offense in support of McCollum’s second career AHL shutout, but first shutout win.
A first-round draft pick (30th overall) by Detroit in 2008, McCollum registered 16 shutouts in four seasons of junior play in the Ontario Hockey League, but the fourth-year pro’s only other AHL whitewash had been a 1-0 shootout loss to Milwaukee back on Nov. 10, 2010.
The Washington AHL Showcase at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., last Thursday drew one of the largest turnouts in league history.
A capacity crowd of 18,506 fans saw the Hershey Bears, top affiliate of the hometown Capitals, rally for a 2-1 victory over the Norfolk Admirals. Braden Holtby, who backstopped the Caps to within one win of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, made 26 saves and shut out the Admirals the rest of the way after allowing a goal just 10 seconds into the contest.
The game ranks 11th all-time on the list of regular-season AHL attendances, and seventh among games played indoors:
Highest AHL attendance, single game (regular season)
1. *45,653 — Jan. 6, 2012 — Hershey vs. Adirondack (Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia, PA)
2. *21,673 — Feb. 19, 2011 — Providence at Connecticut (Rentschler Field, East Hartford, CT)
3. *21,508 — Feb. 20, 2010 — Binghamton at Syracuse (New York State Fairgrounds, Syracuse, NY)
4. 20,672 — Jan. 18, 1997 — Kentucky at Carolina (Greensboro Coliseum, Greensboro, NC)
5. *20,565 — Jan. 21, 2012 — Toronto at Hamilton (Ivor Wynne Stadium, Hamilton, ON)
6. 19,730 — Feb. 10, 2001 — Syracuse at Philadelphia (First Union Center, Philadelphia, PA)
7. 19,532 — Feb. 28, 1999 — Kentucky at Philadelphia (First Union Center, Philadelphia, PA)
8. 18,907 — Nov. 20, 1998 — Hartford at Philadelphia (First Union Center, Philadelphia, PA)
9. 18,626 — Jan. 22, 2010 — Texas at Lake Erie (Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, OH)
10. 18,582 — Nov. 9, 2012 — Syracuse vs. Hamilton (Bell Centre, Montreal, QC)
11. 18,506 — Dec. 6, 2012 — Hershey vs. Norfolk (Verizon Center, Washington, DC)
12. 18,394 — Oct. 9, 1998 — Hershey at Kentucky (Rupp Arena, Lexington, KY)
Friday night’s game between Binghamton and Portland pitted two sets of brothers against each other at the Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena.
Senators forward Mark Stone, 20, is in his rookie season after being drafted by Ottawa in 2010, and has registered 2-5-7 in 14 games for Binghamton. Older brother Michael Stone, a 22-year-old defenseman and alternate captain with Portland, was a third-round pick by Phoenix in 2008 and is in his third AHL season, currently showing 4-10-14 in 21 games with the Pirates. Both Stones made their NHL debuts last season, Michael in 13 regular-season and two postseason games with the Coyotes and Mark with the parent Senators during the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Also facing off on opposite sides were B-Sens forward David Dziurzynski, 23, in his third season with Binghamton, and younger brother Darian Dziurzynski, 21, a rookie with the Pirates. David has 2-5-7 and a plus-7 rating in 19 games for the Senators this season, while Darian has appeared in nine games and scored his first pro goal on Dec. 2 at Manchester.
Binghamton’s duo wound up on the winning end of a 6-1 decision, the Senators’ ninth straight victory.
FIVE TO WATCH
Match-ups to look forward to in the week ahead:
Binghamton at Syracuse, Wednesday (7 ET) – Two of the top three teams in the Eastern Conference go head-to-head as Binghamton visits Syracuse for their fourth of eight meetings this season. The Senators (13-5-1-1), who saw a nine-game winning streak snapped on Saturday, have been responsible for two of the Crunch’s six regulation losses on the year (14-6-1-2).
Hamilton at Chicago, Thursday (8 ET) – Hamilton kicks off a four-game road trip through the Midwest Division with a stop at Allstate Arena to face Chicago. The Bulldogs enter the week last in the North Division but won two of their first three games in December. The Wolves, who took a 2-1 decision in Rockford on Saturday, will be looking for their first back-to-back wins since opening the season with four straight W’s.
Springfield at Providence, Friday (7 ET) – Representing two cities that can trace their AHL roots back to the beginning (1936-37), Springfield and Providence meet for the third time this season and the 189th time in the regular season since the Falcons joined the league in 1994. The Bruins have earned points in six straight games (5-0-0-1), while Springfield’s league-best 14-4-1-3 mark includes an 8-1-1-0 record away from home. With a victory, the Falcons would have their first four-game winning streak since December 2006.
Texas at Abbotsford, Friday and Saturday (10 ET) – Locked in a tight five-team race in the South Division, Texas heads to Abbotsford for a pair of games with the conference-leading Heat. The Stars have won six of their last seven on the road and are 9-2-2-1 in their last 14 games overall. Abbotsford defeated Texas on Nov. 23, with Chris Breen scoring the game’s only goal eight seconds into overtime.
San Antonio at Oklahoma City, Friday and Saturday (8 ET) – After defeating the Barons twice on the road last weekend, the Rampage get two more cracks at Oklahoma City when they visit the AT&T Center. Jacob Markstrom was named the CCM/AHL Player of the Week after stopping 130 of 137 shots in San Antonio’s four wins, and Greg Rallo has 7-2-9 in his last eight games for the Rampage.
Sportsnet (West, Pacific), Sportsnet ONE
Saturday – Texas at Abbotsford, 10 ET
Comcast Network (Verizon FiOS 99)
Saturday – Manchester at Adirondack, 7 ET
Tuesday – Lake Erie at Hamilton, 7:30 ET
Thursday – Hamilton at Chicago, 8 ET
Thursday – Hamilton at Chicago, 01:00 GMT (Fri.)
SiriusXM NHL Network Radio (Sirius 207, XM 92)
Tuesday – Bridgeport at Portland, 7 ET
Wednesday – Binghamton at Syracuse, 7 ET
Thursday – Rochester at Lake Erie, 7 ET
Friday – Binghamton at W-B/Scranton, 7 ET
Friday – Texas at Abbotsford, 10 ET
Saturday – Worcester at Hershey, 7 ET
Saturday – Texas at Abbotsford, 10 ET
Sunday – Springfield at Manchester, 3 ET
Sunday – Oklahoma City at Houston, 6 ET
There have been 13 hat tricks and 49 shutouts recorded in the American Hockey League through Dec. 9:
Last week’s hat tricks (0)
Albany’s Keith Kinkaid has stopped 96 of 99 shots in his first three December starts, winning them all after going 0-4-3 in his previous seven decisions… Mike Lee, a third-round draft choice by Phoenix in 2009, made his AHL debut on Saturday with nearly 59 minutes of relief work and stopped 28 of 29 shots – plus all four shootout attempts – as Portland got past Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, 4-3… Jason Akeson has 0-10-10 in his first nine games since making his season debut with Adirondack on Nov. 21… Tim Kennedy’s scoring streak stands at eight games (7-7-14) for Worcester… After going without a goal for the first 16 games of the season, Chicago’s Darren Haydar found the net for the first time in 2012-13 and it was the game-winner in Saturday’s 2-1 victory at Rockford… With two assists on Saturday vs. Rochester, Toronto’s Keith Aucoin tied Bruce Boudreau for 11th place on the AHL’s all-time scoring list with 799 career points… Hershey captain Boyd Kane appeared in his 888th career regular-season game on Saturday vs. Hamilton, tying his former teammate Terry Virtue for 16th place all-time… The additions of Mike Mottau and Jon Sim to tryouts last week brought a combined 782 National Hockey League games to San Antonio’s roster; Mottau is a three-time AHL All-Star and was a 2001 AHL All-Rookie selection, while Sim was MVP of the 2003 AHL All-Star Game and has won both the Stanley Cup (Dallas, 1999) and Calder Cup (Philadelphia, 2005)… Providence won three games in three days last weekend by identical 3-2 scores, winning once in regulation, once in overtime and once in a shootout… Springfield, which begins the week with three consecutive victories, has failed on each of its previous 11 bids for a four-game winning streak since December 2006… Entering the week, Oklahoma City had two wins in nine tries against Houston (1-2-0-2) and San Antonio (1-3-0-0), but was 9-3-1-2 against the rest of the league… Rockford has faced 13 two-man-down situations this season and has yet to allow a 5-on-3 goal… Eight of Worcester’s first 23 games this season have extended beyond regulation; the Sharks are 1-1 in overtime and 4-2 in shootouts.