AHL Weekly Release

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SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … News and notes from the week ending Dec. 16, 2012:

There had been 13 hat tricks through the first two months of the 2012-13 American Hockey League season, but the first two four-goal games came just days apart last week.

First up, Bobby Butler of the Albany Devils scored four times as part of a five-point performance in a 6-3 win over Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Wednesday night. It was the second career hat trick for Butler, who had a three-goal game vs. Syracuse on Nov. 7, 2010, while a rookie with the Binghamton Senators.

Butler, the MVP of the 2011 AHL All-Star Game and a Calder Cup champion with the Senators that year, became the fifth player in Devils franchise history to score four times in one game, following David Clarkson, Matt Halischuk, Tim Sestito and Chad Wiseman. His five points also tied a team mark.

On Saturday night in Oklahoma City, Butler’s feat was duplicated by the Barons’ Jordan Eberle, whose four goals and one assist led the Barons to a 5-3 win over San Antonio. The five-point night helped Eberle finish the week with a league-best 19 goals, and tied with teammate Justin Schultz for the AHL scoring lead with 38 points.

It was the first professional hat trick for Eberle, who has five multiple-goal games in 2012-13 and now has 28-33-61 in 46 career AHL contests. Eberle was the third Barons skater to score at least four goals in a game; Linus Omark scored five times vs. Toronto on Nov. 7, 2010, and Colin McDonald had a four-goal night against the Rampage on Apr. 8, 2011.

With the 2013 Dunkin’ Donuts AHL All-Star Classic in Providence just over a month away, it isn’t just the players around the American Hockey League who are bidding for berths in the league’s annual showcase event.

The head coach of the team with the best points percentage in each conference after play on Dec. 31 will be named that conference’s head coach for the All-Star Classic, which will take place Jan. 27-28.

Eastern Conference leaders (through Dec. 16)
.712 Jon Cooper, Syracuse
.700 Brad Larsen, Springfield
.682 Luke Richardson, Binghamton
.600 Bruce Cassidy, Providence
.593 Ray Edwards, Portland

Western Conference leaders (through Dec. 16)
.692 Troy G. Ward, Abbotsford
.643 Jeff Daniels, Charlotte
.620 Dallas Eakins, Toronto
.615 John Torchetti, Houston
.600 Willie Desjardins, Texas

In addition, one head coach from each conference will be selected by league president David Andrews to fill out the all-star coaching staffs.

Rosters for the All-Star Classic will be announced in early January, and AHL fans will then determine the starting lineups for the event.

The company gets more and more exclusive the higher Keith Aucoin climbs. With the first of his two goals in Toronto’s 5-0 win over Grand Rapids on Sunday afternoon, Aucoin became just the 11th player in the 77-year history of the American Hockey League to reach the 800-point plateau.

A 12th-year pro out of Norwich (Vt.) University, Aucoin has totaled 228 goals and 573 assists (fifth all-time) for 801 points in 697 career AHL games. The native of Chelmsford, Mass., is the highest-scoring U.S.-born player in league history, and has finished among the AHL’s top 10 in regular-season scoring seven times, winning the scoring title and league MVP honors in 2009-10. Aucoin has appeared in a record-tying six AHL All-Star Classics, owns the record for postseason all-star team berths for a center (six), and won two Calder Cups as a member of the Hershey Bears.

Aucoin joins Mitch Lamoureux, Tim Tookey and Jody Gage as the only players to have achieved the 800-point milestone in the last 40 years, and he begins the week just four points away from knocking Bill Sweeney out of the top 10 all-time.

In addition to his production in the AHL, Aucoin has also appeared in 102 career NHL games with Carolina and Washington, totaling 11 goals and 26 assists for 37 points.

AHL all-time leading scorers
1. 1,375 Willie Marshall 1952-72; Pittsburgh Hornets, Hershey Bears, Rochester Americans, Providence Reds, Baltimore Clippers
2. 1,334 Fred Glover 1948-68; Indianapolis Capitals, St. Louis Flyers, Cleveland Barons
3. 1,048 Jody Gage 1979-96; Adirondack Red Wings, Rochester Americans
4. 974 Tim Tookey 1980-95; Hershey Bears, Fredericton Express, Baltimore Skipjacks, New Haven Nighthawks, Providence Bruins
5. 892 Dick Gamble 1954-70; Buffalo Bisons, Rochester Americans
6. 881 Mike Nykoluk 1956-72; Rochester Americans, Hershey Bears
7. 829 Harry Pidhirny 1948-66; Philadelphia Rockets, Springfield Indians, Syracuse Warriors, Providence Reds, Baltimore Clippers
8. 821 Jimmy Anderson 1954-70; Springfield Indians/Kings, Buffalo Bisons
9. 816 Mitch Lamoureux 1982-99; Baltimore Skipjacks, Hershey Bears, Maine Mariners, Providence Bruins
10. 804 Bill Sweeney 1957-69; Providence Reds, Buffalo Bisons, Springfield Indians/Kings, Rochester Americans
11. 801 Keith Aucoin 2001-present; Lowell Lock Monsters, Providence Bruins, Cincinnati Mighty Ducks, Albany River Rats, Hershey Bears, Toronto Marlies

The Springfield Falcons are in first place in the Northeast Division, playing some of the franchise’s best hockey in more than a decade. But there is still one achievement eluding the Birds.

The Falcons entered last Friday’s game in Providence with three straight wins, but dropped a 6-3 decision to the Bruins. It was the third time this season – and remarkably the 12th consecutive time over the last six years – that Springfield was unable to extend a three-game winning streak to four.

Springfield’s longest winning streaks since 2007
# Dates Ended by
3 Dec. 2-8, 2012 … Dec. 14 at Providence L, 3-6
3 Nov. 4-11, 2012 … Nov. 14 at W-B/Scranton L, 1-2
3 Oct. 13-19, 2012 … Oct. 20 vs. Providence L, 1-3
3 Feb. 24-26, 2012 … Mar. 2 at Norfolk L, 2-5
3 Jan. 25-28, 2012 … Feb. 3 at Providence L, 1-4
3 Jan. 6-8, 2012 … Jan. 13 vs. Portland L, 4-5 (SO)
3 Nov. 16-19, 2011 … Nov. 25 at Adirondack L, 1-5
3 Oct. 26-29, 2011 … Nov. 4 vs. Adirondack L, 1-2
3 Feb. 23-26, 2011 … Feb. 27 at W-B/Scranton L, 4-5
3 Feb. 16-19, 2011 … Feb. 22 vs. Manchester L, 0-5
3 Feb. 2-9, 2008 … Feb. 13 at Hartford L, 3-4
3 Dec. 8-14, 2007 … Dec. 15 at Portland L, 3-4 (OT)

The last time the Falcons won four games in a row was Dec. 23-30, 2006.

The American Hockey League’s two Connecticut-based teams are both remembering the victims of last week’s tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

The Bridgeport Sound Tigers announced that they will wear commemorative jersey patches and helmet decals for the remainder of the 2012-13 season, and the initials “S.H.E.S.” and the date “12-14-12” will be painted in the ice behind each net at the Webster Bank Arena. And several Connecticut Whale players including Cameron Talbot, Christian Thomas, Brandon Segal, Dylan McIlrath, Mike Vernace and Kyle Jean visited Newtown on Monday to pay their respects, sharing images from town through Twitter and Instagram.

Teams throughout the league observed moments of silence prior to games over the weekend to honor the memory of the victims.

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

Springfield at Portland, Wednesday (7 ET) – Division leaders Springfield and Portland meet for the third time this season, and the first time since the Pirates’ wild 6-5 overtime win on Nov. 23. The Pirates scored four power-play goals to erase a 4-1 deficit in that one, and Oliver Ekman-Larsson won it 19 seconds into OT. Portland enters this matchup on a five-game winning streak; Springfield is 9-2-1-0 on the road.

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton at Binghamton, Wednesday (7 ET) – The Penguins look to snap a five-game winless slide when they travel up Interstate 81 to take on Binghamton in the teams’ fourth of 10 meetings this season. Trevor Smith has scored Wilkes-Barre’s only two non-shootout goals against the Senators this season, as Robin Lehner and Ben Bishop have combined to stop 97 of 99 shots over three games.

San Antonio at Texas, Wednesday (8:30 ET) – San Antonio followed a four-win week with four straight losses, and will head to Cedar Park on Wednesday looking for its first victory in four meetings with the Stars this season. Texas has earned points in six straight games and is on a 10-2-2-2 run since Nov. 10, and second-year pro Matt Fraser has scored 13 goals in 15 career contests against the Rampage.

Peoria at Charlotte, Thursday and Friday (7 ET) – Entering the week on a four-game winning streak and suddenly just two points out of first place in the Midwest Division, Peoria visits South-leading Charlotte to close out its pre-Christmas slate. The Rivermen (who host Hamilton on Tuesday) allowed a total of five goals in those four victories, but have been outscored 19-6 in four losses to the Checkers this season.

Hamilton at Toronto, Dec. 26 (1 ET) – Toronto hosts Hamilton in a Boxing Day matinee at the Air Canada Centre, the sixth meeting this season between the QEW rivals. Marlies forwards Keith Aucoin (2-7-9) and Nazem Kadri (0-8-8) have combined for 17 points in five games against the Bulldogs this season.

Here is this week’s broadcast schedule for national and regional TV and radio (full TV schedule including local games is here: bit.ly/Q7sLcg). All games are also streamed at AHL Live (ahllive.com).

Friday – St. John’s at Hamilton, 7:30 ET (all regions)
Saturday – San Antonio at Hamilton, 7 ET (all regions)
Dec. 26 – Hamilton at Toronto, 1 ET (Sportsnet ONE)

Fox Sports Southwest (DirecTV 676, Dish 416/366)
Wednesday – San Antonio at Texas, 8:30 ET

TVA Sports
Friday – St. John’s at Hamilton, 7:30 ET
Saturday – San Antonio at Hamilton, 7 ET
Dec. 26 – Hamilton at Toronto, 1 ET

ESPN America
Wednesday – Abbotsford at Chicago, 17:00 GMT
Saturday – Chicago at Grand Rapids, 00:00 GMT (Sun.)
Dec. 26 – Hamilton at Toronto, 1 ET

SiriusXM NHL Network Radio (Sirius 207, XM 92)
Tuesday – Hamilton at Peoria, 8 ET
Wednesday – Toronto at Lake Erie, 7 ET
Thursday – Peoria at Charlotte, 7 ET
Friday – Binghamton at Rochester, 7 ET
Saturday – St. John’s at Toronto, 3 ET
Saturday – San Antonio at Hamilton, 7 ET
Dec. 26 – Hamilton at Toronto, 1 ET
Dec. 26 – Connecticut at Bridgeport, 7 ET

There have been 17 hat tricks and 59 shutouts recorded in the American Hockey League through Dec. 16:

Last week’s hat tricks (4)
*Bobby Butler, ALB Dec. 12 vs. WBS
Jamie Tardif, PRO Dec. 14 vs. Springfield
*Jordan Eberle, OKC Dec. 15 vs. San Antonio
Jon Sim, SA Dec. 15 at OKC
   *four-goal game

Last week’s shutouts (9)
Cedrick Desjardins, HAM Dec. 11 vs. Lake Erie
Braden Holtby, HER Dec. 12 at St. John’s
Riku Helenius, SYR Dec. 14 at Adirondack
Jake Allen, PEO Dec. 14 at Grand Rapids
Justin Peters, CHA Dec. 15 vs. Houston
Mark Visentin, POR Dec. 15 at Connecticut
Dustin Tokarski, SYR Dec. 15 vs. WBS
Mark Dekanich, STJ Dec. 16 at Providence
Jussi Rynnas, TOR Dec. 16 vs. Grand Rapids

Entering the week, two points separated top from bottom in the five-team Midwest Division… While Jordan Eberle was scoring four goals in Oklahoma City’s 5-3 win over San Antonio on Saturday night, Jon Sim was netting all three Rampage goals; it was the first time opponents recorded hat tricks in the same AHL game since Syracuse’s Alexandre Picard (four goals) and Albany’s Pat Dwyer (three) did it in a 5-4 Crunch win on Mar. 21, 2009… Houston rookie Jason Zucker was credited with 13 shots on goal in the Aeros’ 4-3 shootout win over Oklahoma City on Sunday; the AHL single-game record is 14, accomplished five times since 1992… Portland finished the week on a five-game winning streak, with goaltenders Chad Johnson (3-0-0, 1.64, .939), Mark Visentin (1-0-0, 1.82, .941) and Mike Lee (1-0-0, 1.02, .966) combining to allow eight goals in the five games… Matt Climie has started seven consecutive games in net for Chicago, making at least 30 saves in five of them… With a 6-4 win on Saturday, Hamilton improved to 7-0-1-1 all-time vs. Rockford… Charlotte has scored more than three goals in a game just once in its last 11 contests, but enters the week on a season-best four-game winning streak… After playing 17 of its first 23 games this season on the road, Milwaukee is playing 19 of 25 at home between Dec. 14 and Feb. 17… Manchester is 1-7-1-0 on Fridays this season, but 8-1-0-0 on Saturdays… Texas was 2-for-12 on the power play during its two-game visit to Abbotsford last week; opponents had been 2-for-49 (4.1 percent) in 14 previous games at the Entertainment & Sports Centre this season… The league’s three-day Christmas break ends with a 1 p.m. ET Boxing Day matinee as Hamilton and Toronto face off at the Air Canada Centre.

The entire American Hockey League extends best wishes to everyone for a happy and healthy holiday season.