AHL Weekly Release

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SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … News and notes from the week ending Jan. 6:

Strange. Surreal. Exciting. Weird. All words used by Syracuse Crunch players and coaches to describe their two-game trip to Norfolk last weekend.

For most of them, including last year’s league MVP and rookie of the year Cory Conacher, defenseman of the year Mark Barberio and coach of the year Jon Cooper, it was a return to a place where they carved out a place in hockey lore – including a professional hockey record 28-game winning streak and the 2012 Calder Cup championship – as members of the Admirals. Following the 2011-12 season, the Tampa Bay Lightning entered into an affiliation with Syracuse, while the Anaheim Ducks moved its prospects into Norfolk.

The Crunch traveled down to Scope and left as owners of the best record in the AHL (22-7-2-3), grabbing wins of 3-0 and 4-3 (in overtime) from the host Admirals before more than 13,000 fans combined for the two-game set.

In Friday’s opener, Richard Panik, Tyler Johnson and Keith Aulie – all members of Norfolk’s title team last year – scored for the Crunch while Dustin Tokarski, who was 12-2 for the Admirals during the 2012 playoffs, made 22 saves for his second shutout of the season. In Saturday’s rematch, Brett Connolly – one of only five Crunch skaters to play over the weekend who was not an ex-Admiral – scored at 1:21 of OT to secure Syracuse’s fifth straight road win.

The teams meet again this Friday in Syracuse and then four more times late in the season, including another visit by the Crunch to Norfolk on Mar. 29-30.

Rockford captain Martin St. Pierre became the 83rd player in AHL history with 500 career points when he notched an assist in the first period of the IceHogs’ 5-2 loss at Toronto on Saturday afternoon.

The 29-year-old native of Embrun, Ont., has amassed 139 goals and 361 assists in 475 AHL games with Edmonton, Norfolk, Rockford, Providence, Binghamton and Springfield. St. Pierre has appeared in four AHL All-Star Classics and was named to the AHL All-Rookie Team in 2005-06, the AHL First All-Star Team in 2006-07 and the AHL Second All-Star Team in 2007-08. He has finished in the league’s top 10 in scoring four times.

St. Pierre is the second AHL player to reach the 500-point milestone this season; Hershey’s Jon DiSalvatore recorded his 500th point on Nov. 25, also against Toronto. The Bears’ Boyd Kane could be next in line to reach the mark, entering the week with 488 career points.

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

Grand Rapids at Rockford, Wednesday and Friday (8 ET) – With a 7-1-0-1 mark in its last nine games, Grand Rapids has opened up a five-point lead atop the Midwest Division; Rockford, on a three-game losing streak, has fallen seven points off the Griffins’ pace. The Griffins have won three of the first four meetings between the teams, all played in Grand Rapids; the final four meetings – beginning with three in the next 11 days – all take place in Rockford.

Syracuse vs. Rochester, Wednesday (7 ET at Rochester) and Saturday (7:30 ET at Syracuse) – In their third and fourth of 10 meetings this season, Syracuse and Rochester collide twice this week. The Americans have defeated the Crunch twice already, a 6-5 shootout win on opening night and a 5-2 decision on Nov. 10. Syracuse begins the week on an 8-1-1-1 run and having taken over the best points percentage in the AHL (.721).

Lake Erie at San Antonio, Thursday (8 ET) and Friday (8:30 ET) – Lake Erie and San Antonio wrap up their season series as the Monsters visit the AT&T Center for a pair of games. Lake Erie, 6-2-1-0 in its last nine, began a six-game road stretch with a 3-2 shootout victory in Hamilton on Jan. 5, and opens the week in the eighth spot in the Western Conference. The Rampage, 5-1-0-1 in their last seven, have also won six of their last seven home games.

Springfield at Worcester, Friday (7:30 ET) – Three full months into the 2012-13 season, in-state foes Springfield and Worcester meet for the first time when the Falcons head to the DCU Center on Friday night. Springfield was 5-2-1-0 against the Sharks last season, with Cam Atkinson and Tomas Kubalik leading the offense with 5-3-8 each. Worcester defenseman Matt Irwin put up 3-6-9 in seven outings against the Falcons in 2011-12.

Chicago at Abbotsford, Friday and Saturday (10 ET) – Vancouver’s top affiliate makes its final appearance in British Columbia this regular season as Chicago travels to Abbotsford for a two-game weekend set. The Wolves have a 5-8-2-0 mark on the road this year, but the Heat have lost five of their last seven on home ice (2-4-1-0), and are 4-8-1-2 overall since Dec. 1.

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).

Saturday – Chicago at Abbotsford, 10 ET (Sportsnet)

TVA Sports
Tuesday – Toronto at Hamilton, 7:30 ET

SiriusXM NHL Network Radio (Sirius 207, XM 92)
Tuesday – Hershey at Bridgeport, 7 ET
Wednesday – Binghamton at W-B/Scranton, 7 ET
Thursday – Lake Erie at San Antonio, 8 ET
Friday – Albany at Manchester, 7 ET
Friday – Chicago at Abbotsford, 10 ET
Saturday – Connecticut at Hershey, 7 ET
Saturday – Chicago at Abbotsford, 10 ET
Sunday – Portland at Worcester, 3 ET
Sunday – Peoria at Milwaukee, 6 ET

There have been 21 hat tricks and 76 shutouts recorded in the American Hockey League through Jan. 6:

Last week’s hat tricks (0)

Last week’s shutouts (8)
Ben Scrivens, TOR Jan. 2 vs. Hamilton
Cameron Talbot, CT Jan. 4 vs. Adirondack
Justin Peters, CHA Jan. 4 at Lake Erie
Dustin Tokarski, SYR Jan. 4 at Norfolk
Jacob Markstrom, SA Jan. 4 vs. Peoria
Darcy Kuemper, HOU Jan. 5 vs. San Antonio
Brad Thiessen, WBS Jan. 5 vs. Worcester
Jason Missiaen, CT Jan. 6 vs. WBS

Chicago’s Brett Sterling notched career AHL points 399, 400 and 401 during Sunday’s 6-3 Wolves win over Oklahoma City… Justin Schultz’s 18 goals in 34 games for Oklahoma City are two shy of the AHL record for a rookie defenseman, set by current Portland assistant coach John Slaney (20) in 79 games with the 1992-93 Baltimore Skipjacks… Schultz has also gone his last 28 consecutive games without being penalized… Mark Visentin’s 48-save effort in Portland’s 2-1 win over Providence last Wednesday represented the most saves by a Pirates goaltender since Maxime Ouellet made 49 stops in shutting out the Saint John Flames, 3-0, on Jan. 12, 2003… Even after allowing four goals on 29 shots in Abbotsford’s 5-2 loss to Rochester on Friday, Barry Brust has stopped 198 of 208 shots in eight starts on home ice this season (6-2-0, 1.24, .952)… Curtis McElhinney made 47 saves in Springfield’s 4-1 win at Providence on Sunday, bettering the career-high of 46 he had set at St. John’s seven starts earlier on Dec. 8… Since sitting as a scratch on Dec. 16, San Antonio rookie defenseman Alex Petrovic has one goal, four assists and a plus-10 rating in nine games… Connecticut earned its first two shutouts of the season last week, with Cameron Talbot keeping Adirondack off the scoreboard on Friday and Jason Missiaen blanking Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Sunday… Lake Erie is a league-best 14-for-28 (50.0 percent) in shootout efficiency this season, led by Bryan Lerg (4-for-5), Mark Olver (3-for-5) and Mike Sgarbossa (3-for-6)… Albany is 9-3-1-1 in its last 14 games after weekend wins over conference powers Springfield and Binghamton… Grand Rapids improved to 5-0-0-0 against Chicago this season with a 4-3 shootout win on Jan. 5; the Griffins also have two overtime victories against the Wolves… Texas has scored at least one power-play goal in eight straight games… St. John’s looks to snap a six-game home losing streak when the Toronto Marlies come to town this weekend… Worcester played 13 consecutive one-goal games from Nov. 30 to Dec. 31, going 8-4-0-1… Hamilton’s penalty killing is tied for first in the league at home (92.1 percent) but ranks 30th on the road (72.7 percent)… Entering the new week, four of the AHL’s six division leaders were teams that missed the playoffs last season (Portland, Springfield, Grand Rapids, Charlotte).