SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … News and notes from the week ending Feb. 3:
American Hockey League arenas filled back up as the 2012-13 regular season resumed following the All-Star break, with more than 200,000 fans attending games last weekend.
Friday night’s crowds were highlighted by the 16,205 fans who filled the AT&T Center in San Antonio for the Rampage’s annual Pink in the Rink Night. The Rampage earned a 1-0 victory over Rockford, then went out and raised $42,000 from a postgame jersey auction to benefit breast health awareness efforts. The capacity crowd was the largest in franchise history, and the largest to see a game in an AHL arena this season.
Also Friday, Lake Erie drew 13,258 fans to the Quicken Loans Arena for its meeting with Abbotsford, and 11,315 fans packed the Toyota Center to see Houston take on Texas.
The next night, the second-largest AHL crowd in XL Center history (13,239) watched the Connecticut Whale battle the rival Springfield Falcons. Chicago (10,823), Hershey (10,672), Grand Rapids (8,899), Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (8,040), Worcester (7,966) and Toronto (7,209) helped boost the league average to 8,160 fans per game on Saturday.
Entering the new week, more than 3.7 million fans had attended AHL games in 2012-13, an average of 5,597 fans per contest – up 4.6 percent from the same point last season.
BROTHERS IN BATTLE
Sunday’s Super Bowl XLVII matchup was billed as the first-ever meeting between coaching brothers in a championship game, with John Harbaugh leading his Baltimore Ravens against Jim Harbaugh’s San Francisco 49ers. But to the American Hockey League, it was nothing new.
In 1970-71, Larry Wilson was head coach of the AHL’s Providence Reds while older brother Johnny Wilson was guiding the Springfield Kings. Both teams reached the postseason despite having losing records, but Providence upset Baltimore and Springfield got past Montreal and Cleveland to set up a Finals showdown between the siblings from Kincardine, Ont.
The Kings, led by future NHL stars Butch Goring and Hockey Hall of Famer Billy Smith, swept the Reds – whose lineup included AHL Hall of Fame goaltender Marcel Paille and current Adirondack head coach Terry Murray – in four straight to win the Calder Cup.
Larry Wilson was posthumously voted into the AHL Hall of Fame in 2011, and his induction was accepted by his brother Johnny. Johnny Wilson passed away later that year.
AHL STARS NOT FADING
Since the 2013 Dunkin’ Donuts AHL All-Star Classic concluded on Jan. 28, a total of 11 All-Stars have been recalled to the National Hockey League.
San Antonio’s Drew Shore, who made his NHL debut with Florida on Jan. 22, joined his Western Conference teammates in Providence and then returned to Florida immediately after the event. Lake Erie’s Mike Sgarbossa was recalled by Colorado on Jan. 29 and made his NHL debut at Vancouver the next night. Called up from Springfield, Jonathan Audy-Marchessault made his NHL debut with Columbus on Jan. 31, the same night Tim Erixon made his first appearance with the Blue Jackets.
Ryan Hamilton, the MVP of the 2013 AHL All-Star Game, had a one-game stint with the Toronto Maple Leafs, skating vs. Washington on Jan. 31. Dallas summoned Jamie Oleksiak from Texas, and the rookie defenseman saw his first NHL action on Feb. 1. Providence’s Jamie Tardif, a seventh-year pro with 415 AHL games to his credit, made his NHL debut with Boston on Hockey Night in Canada Feb. 2. Albany’s Bobby Butler was recalled by New Jersey and appeared in his first game with the parent Devils on Feb. 3. And since Sunday night, Detroit has called for goaltender Petr Mrazek from Grand Rapids, the New York Rangers have recalled rookie forward J.T. Miller from Connecticut and Edmonton has summoned Mark Arcobello from Oklahoma City.
Of the 630 players to appear in an AHL All-Star Classic since 1995, more than 91 percent have made it to the NHL in their careers. Other former AHL All-Stars who have made their NHL debuts already this season include Tampa Bay’s Cory Conacher, New Jersey’s Matt Anderson, San Jose’s Matt Irwin, the New York Islanders’ Thomas Hickey and Winnipeg’s Zach Redmond.
OWN A PIECE OF HISTORY
Game-worn and game-used items from the 2013 Dunkin’ Donuts AHL All-Star Classic are up for auction now through AHL Authentic. Items will continue to be added over the next several weeks, including jerseys, helmets, gloves, game pucks and name plates.
For more information or to place a bid, visit stores.ebay.com/ahlauthentic.
Goaltenders ruled the day on Saturday as 22 teams combined to score just 44 goals and five of the 11 games on the AHL schedule ended in shutouts.
Petr Mrazek made 32 saves in Grand Rapids’ 1-0 win over Abbotsford; Eddie Pasquale stopped 24 shots to lead St. John’s to a 1-0 win over Binghamton; Mark Visentin turned aside 22 shots as Portland beat Albany, 2-0; Niklas Svedberg’s 26-save effort helped Providence past Worcester, 2-0; and Brad Thiessen made 20 saves as Wilkes-Barre/Scranton blanked Adirondack, 3-0.
The busiest goaltender on Saturday night was Rochester’s David Leggio, who stopped 43 of 46 shots in a 5-3 win at Syracuse. Manchester’s Martin Jones, who has faced at least 40 shots in a game five times this season, made 42 saves in a 2-1 loss at Hershey.
Saturday’s goaltenders across the league finished with a combined .932 save percentage for the night.
The St. John’s IceCaps earned their first two-game home series sweep of the season, defeating Binghamton by scores of 4-2 and 1-0 over the weekend. The IceCaps’ 10 previous two-game sets had ended in seven splits and three sweeps by their Mile One Centre guests.
Ottawa native Eric O’Dell, a second-round draft pick in 2008, scored the game-winning goal in both weekend contests against the Senators while Eddie Pasquale was in net for both victories, improving to 6-1-1 in his last eight decisions.
FIVE TO WATCH
Match-ups to look forward to in the week ahead:
Worcester at St. John’s, Tuesday and Wednesday (6 ET) – Heading in different directions, Worcester and St. John’s are both on the outside of the Eastern Conference playoff picture as they meet in a two-game set at Mile One Centre. The Sharks are 1-5-0-3 in their last nine games, falling one point behind eighth-place Hershey, while the IceCaps have surged to a 6-2-0-1 mark in their last nine to pull within two points of the eighth spot. St. John’s won the teams’ only previous meeting this season, a 3-2 overtime decision on Nov. 3.
Rochester at Abbotsford, Tuesday (1:30 ET) and Wednesday (10 ET) – Abbotsford begins the week in first place in the North Division, but fourth-place Rochester is just two points back with three games in hand heading into their two-game series in western Canada. The Americans come to town riding a five-game winning streak and having outscored the opposition 24-10 in that span, with Mark Mancari (4-6-10) and Kevin Porter (3-6-9) leading the offense during the run. The Heat have dropped three of four since their own five-game win streak from Jan. 15-25.
Portland at Providence, Friday (7 ET) – The top two teams in the Atlantic Division square off at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center on Friday night with the Pirates holding a three-point lead over the Bruins. It is the 203rd regular-season meeting all-time between the teams, with the Bruins holding a 4-1-0-1 edge in this year’s series. Providence’s Niklas Svedberg, second in the AHL with 20 wins this season, is 3-1-1 with a 1.58 GAA and a .946 save percentage vs. the Pirates.
Binghamton at Hershey, Saturday (7 ET) – East Division foes Binghamton and Hershey meet at Giant Center on Saturday night, with the Senators clinging to first place in the division and the Bears holding on to eighth in the conference. Each of the teams’ first four meetings this season were decided by a single goal (or a goal plus an empty-netter), including Binghamton’s 3-2 shootout victory on Jan. 26. The Sens have won three straight visits to Chocolatetown (two this season) after winning three of their previous 28 there (3-21-2-2).
San Antonio at Charlotte, Saturday (7 ET) and Sunday (3 ET) – With the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo moving into town, the San Antonio Rampage kicked off their annual extended road trip with a 5-2 win in Houston on Monday night; the nine-game, 21-day journey continues in Charlotte this weekend. The club was 7-3-0-1 during last year’s trip and eventually made the Calder Cup Playoffs; this year’s nine-point deficit from eighth place will be a steeper climb. The Checkers, meanwhile, begin the week one point behind Texas for first place in the South Division and the overall league standings.
There have been 29 hat tricks and 97 shutouts recorded in the American Hockey League through Feb. 3:
Last week’s shutouts (6)
Jacob Markstrom, SA Feb. 1 vs. Rockford
Petr Mrazek, GR Feb. 2 vs. Abbotsford
Mark Visentin, POR Feb. 2 vs. Albany
Eddie Pasquale, STJ Feb. 2 vs. Binghamton
Brad Thiessen, WBS Feb. 2 vs. Adirondack
Niklas Svedberg, PRO Feb. 2 at Worcester
One month after playing their last game on Jan. 5, Oklahoma City’s Jordan Eberle (25-26-51) and Justin Schultz (18-30-48) are still the top two scorers in the AHL… Wilkes-Barre/Scranton goaltenders Brad Thiessen (6-2-0, 1.18, .947, 4 SO) and Jeff Zatkoff (4-1-0, 1.11, .948) have combined to allow 15 goals in the Penguins’ last 13 games… Derek Grant has scored five of Binghamton’s league-leading 11 shorthanded goals this season… Charlotte defenseman Justin Krueger, who had a plus/minus rating of minus-4 for the season through Jan. 3, is plus-16 in his last 13 games… Brandon Mashinter notched 3-4-7 in his first eight games with Connecticut after totaling 2-3-5 in 30 games with Worcester prior to being traded to the N.Y. Rangers organization on Jan. 16… Chris Tanev’s first career NHL goal was the overtime winner in Vancouver’s 3-2 win over Edmonton on Monday night; Tanev had 2-10-12 in 29 AHL games with Chicago this season… Jonathan Cheechoo tied Oklahoma City club records for assists (four) and points (five) in the Barons’ 7-3 win over Charlotte on Friday night… With 36 saves in Portland’s 3-2 shootout win vs. Worcester on Friday, first-year pro Mike Lee improved to 3-0-0 (1.31, .960) in three AHL appearances this season… Springfield defenseman Bryan Helmer skated in his 1,100th regular-season AHL game on Friday night vs. Syracuse… With his hat trick earlier today vs. Peoria, Chicago’s Darren Haydar passed Mark Lofthouse (281) and Michel Picard (283) and moved into 26th place on the AHL’s all-time goals list with 284 career tallies… Hershey has been outshot in 30 of its first 45 games this season but is 15-12-2-1 in those contests.