SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … News and notes from the week ending Mar. 3:
The Springfield Falcons woke up on Friday morning seven points behind Syracuse and Texas in the overall league standings. But the Birds completed a historic run to take over the top spot by the end of the weekend.
Completing four wins in a span of less than 48 hours – and with the Crunch (0-2-1-0) and Stars (0-1-0-1) earning just a single point each – Springfield erased that seven-point deficit and claimed a share of the league lead with 75 points, including an AHL-best .682 points percentage. At 34-14-4-3, the Falcons are 20 games over the .500 mark for the first time since the morning of Mar. 29, 1998.
The Falcons’ weekend began with the completion of a game against Adirondack that had been suspended on Feb. 17 following an injury to Springfield forward Wade MacLeod. Down 2-1 with 3:42 left in the second period when play resumed, the Falcons tied the game on a Scott Howes goal in the third period and won it, 3-2, on Jonathan Audy-Marchessault’s highlight-reel shootout conversion. In the regularly scheduled game that began 30 minutes later, the Falcons blitzed the Phantoms, 7-2.
Home against Providence on Saturday in a battle of division leaders, Springfield again prevailed in a shootout, 2-1, with goaltender Allen York stopping all four Bruins attempts to improve to 9-for-9 on the weekend.
Finally, Springfield hosted Worcester on Sunday afternoon and posted a 2-0 win over the Sharks, finishing up an eight-point weekend with Curtis McElhinney’s eighth shutout of the season. The All-Star goaltender, in his first season with the Falcons, equaled Manny Legace’s franchise record for career shutouts and matched the single-season record for shutouts in the city’s AHL history, established by AHL Hall of Famer Marcel Paille with the 1960-61 Calder Cup champion Springfield Indians.
The Peoria Rivermen had been the last AHL team to rack up eight standings points in a single weekend, accomplishing the feat in 2005 with a victory over Grand Rapids on Dec. 2, two wins (including the completion of a suspended game) at the Iowa Stars on Dec. 3, and a win over Milwaukee on Dec. 4.
MARK YOUR CALENDARS
The American Hockey League’s Board of Governors has approved several critical dates and deadlines pertaining to the remainder of the 2012-13 season.
The AHL’s trade and loan deadline will be Wednesday, Apr. 10, at 3 p.m. ET. Following the deadline, no player may be acquired via trade between member clubs, and no AHL club may accept a player on loan from a club other than its NHL affiliate.
The AHL’s playoff roster deadline will be Monday, Apr. 22, at 3 p.m. ET, by which time all 16 playoff teams must submit to the league a list of playoff-eligible players. Only those players on a team’s playoff eligibility list, plus signed draft choices and players signed to amateur tryout contracts, are eligible to compete in the Calder Cup Playoffs. Players from lower professional leagues can also be added if they played in at least eight games in the AHL and/or a lower league in 2012-13.
AHL Clear Day roster restrictions have been removed. Any eligible player on a club’s roster may participate at any time during the remainder of the regular season and the Calder Cup Playoffs.
And per National Hockey League rules, only those players who have been recalled from an AHL club following the NHL trade deadline (Wednesday, Apr. 3 at 3 p.m. ET) may be returned to the AHL during the remainder of the season.
’TIS THE SEASON
Updated every morning until the end of the regular season on theahl.com, the AHL Playoff Primer offers a snapshot of the current race to the Calder Cup Playoffs.
To check out the Playoff Primer, visit theahl.com and click on “Playoff Primer 2013” under the Standings link.
KEEP IT CLEAN
Special teams got a night off on Friday as the Chicago Wolves and Texas Stars combined for no power plays in their game at the Cedar Park Center.
Only two pairs of fighting majors were whistled by referee Ryan Hersey, making it the first AHL game without a single man-advantage since Peoria and Grand Rapids played a penalty-free game on Feb. 18, 2012. For the season, Chicago is the least-penalized team in the AHL, averaging 12.17 penalty minutes per game, while Texas is the fourth-least-penalized at 13.28 PIM per game.
EARNING THEIR WINGS
In their 2-1 shootout win at San Jose on Feb. 28, the Detroit Red Wings’ entire corps of defensemen was made up of graduates from their AHL affiliate, the Grand Rapids Griffins.
Manning the Red Wings blue line were Brendan Smith, Jakub Kindl, Brian Lashoff, Kyle Quincey, Jonathan Ericsson and Niklas Kronwall. Ericsson and Kronwall drew the assists on the Red Wings’ lone regulation goal.
In net for Detroit was Jonas Gustavsson, who made 25 saves in his first NHL start of the season. Gustavsson made a conditioning appearance for Grand Rapids on Feb. 17 and posted a 2-1 win over Charlotte.
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.
FIVE TO WATCH
Match-ups to look forward to in the week ahead:
Peoria at Lake Erie, Tuesday and Thursday (7 ET) – Entering play locked in a four-way tie for seventh place in the Western Conference, Lake Erie hosts Peoria in a critical two-game set for both clubs, their first meetings in more than four months. The Monsters – who are also just three points out of first place in the North Division – are in a 2-7-0-5 rut since Feb. 1, and are tied for having the fewest games remaining (18) of any team in the league. The Rivermen, 14th in the West but just seven points out of sixth place, are opening up a six-game road trip after their 4-1 win over division-leading Grand Rapids on Saturday night.
Syracuse at Toronto, Wednesday (11 am ET) – Syracuse makes a school-day matinee appearance in Toronto as Tampa Bay’s AHL affiliate visits Ricoh Coliseum for the first time since Norfolk hoisted the Calder Cup there last June 9. The Crunch come in tied for the top spot in the Eastern Conference, having lost three in a row to start March after winning eight straight to close out February. The North Division-leading Marlies, who began a stretch of playing 16 of 18 games at home on Feb. 2, are 6-5-0-2 thus far in that run.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton at Providence, Friday (7 ET) – Wilkes-Barre/Scranton begins a seven-game road stretch – including two consecutive three-game trips to New England – with a visit to Providence on Friday night. The Penguins, seventh in the Eastern Conference entering the week, have won eight of their last 10 away from home, but the Atlantic Division-leading Bruins are 18-8-0-3 at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center, including 10-1-0-1 in their last 12. This is the first of two meetings this season between the teams; Wilkes-Barre is 8-0-2-0 against Providence since its last regulation loss, an 8-3 defeat on Feb. 19, 2006.
Abbotsford at Rochester, Friday (7 ET) and Sunday (5 ET) – After beginning a seven-game, 13-day road trip in Hamilton on Tuesday, Abbotsford heads to Rochester for two big weekend meetings with the Americans. The Heat enter the week in sixth place in the Western Conference, one point clear of that four-team, seventh-place logjam that includes the Amerks. Rochester has scored 12 goals on 90 shots (3.93, .867) this season against Abbotsford goalie Barry Brust, who has a 2.11 GAA and .924 save percentage against the rest of the AHL.
Springfield at Albany, Saturday (5 ET) – Springfield and Albany have split their first four meetings this season heading into Saturday evening’s contest at the Times Union Center. Coming off their eight-point weekend, the Falcons enter the new week tied with Syracuse and Texas for the most points in the AHL but with two games in hand on both the Crunch and the Stars. The Devils, two points out of eighth place in the East coming into the week, have 19 regulation losses on the year, fifth-fewest in the conference.
There have been 38 hat tricks and 123 shutouts recorded in the American Hockey League through Mar. 4:
For Worcester’s Roy Sommer, Sunday’s game at Springfield was his 1,171st as an AHL head coach, tying Fred “Bun” Cook for second place overall; Frank Mathers (1,256), like Cook a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, is the all-time league leader… Two of the AHL’s top 20 career leaders in wins are back in the league, with Michael Leighton (16th, 170 wins) being assigned to Adirondack last week and reigning CCM/AHL Player of the Week Drew MacIntyre (19th, 153) in Toronto… Albany goaltender Jeff Frazee, who had not won consecutive starts in more than a year, ran his personal winning streak to three games with victories in Syracuse and Adirondack over the weekend, stopping 73 of 76 combined shots… Since they were traded for each other on Feb. 14, Dustin Tokarski has a 1.42 goals-against average, a .952 save percentage and one shutout in five starts for Hamilton (3-2-0), while Cedrick Desjardins has a 1.85 GAA, a .928 save percentage and two shutouts in six games with Syracuse (4-2-0)… When Adirondack defenseman Andreas Lilja, a veteran of 577 NHL games, scored in the Phantoms’ 3-2 loss to Albany on Sunday, it marked his first AHL goal in 12 years and one day; on Mar. 2, 2001, Lilja scored the game-winning goal for the Lowell Lock Monsters against the Worcester IceCats’ Dwayne Roloson… St. John’s forwards Eric O’Dell (6-5-11) and Kael Mouillierat (2-9-11) have combined for 22 points in the IceCaps’ last eight games… Martin Jones stopped 37 of 38 shots in Manchester’s 4-1 win at St. John’s on Saturday night; Jones has faced at least 37 shots in a game 10 times this season, and is 5-4-1 in those contests… After a two-game visit to Charlotte this weekend, Houston will play 12 of its final 17 games at home… Wilkes-Barre/Scranton is 19-5-0-1 against teams from outside the East Division this season, but 11-19-2-0 vs. divisional foes… San Antonio returned home after its annual Rodeo road trip (5-3-1-0) and defeated Chicago, 2-1, in front of 10,717 fans at the AT&T Center on Saturday night… With six home games remaining, the Hershey Bears have drawn 316,970 fans to its games in Chocolatetown in 2012-13; the Bears need to average 10,505 fans per game the rest of the way to become the first AHL team since the 1999-2000 Philadelphia Phantoms to average 10,000 fans over an entire season.