SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … News and notes from around the American Hockey League, where the pace starts to pick up as the calendar turns to November:
SHARK ATTACK … With 12 former Worcester Sharks already having played for the San Jose Sharks this season, it should come as no surprise that the AHL club is continuing to churn out top talent.
Worcester enters the new week as the only remaining team without a regulation loss on the 2011-12 season, going 4-0-0-2 during a light October schedule that left the Sharks with games in hand on the rest of the league.
Looking to follow young forwards like Jamie McGinn, Benn Ferriero and Andrew Desjardins on the road to San Jose, rookie Mike Connolly leads Worcester in goals (5), assists (5), points (10) and plus/minus (+7) as he begins his professional career with the AHL Sharks. The 22-year-old Connolly was an alternate captain on the University of Minnesota-Duluth’s national championship team in 2010-11, signing with San Jose after the season. Fellow rookies James Livingston and Nathan Moon have 2-2-4 apiece for the Sharks, and the goaltending duo of Tyson Sexsmith (2-0-2, 1.69, .930) and Harri Sateri (2-0-0, 1.93, .935) has stopped 151 of 162 shots to date.
Worcester finds itself among the league’s top special teams also, tied for fourth on the power play (8-for-30, 26.7 percent) and ranking second on the penalty kill (25-for-28, 89.3 percent).
THE LIFE AQUATIC … The Sharks aren’t the only ones making waves in the AHL’s seas. The St. John’s IceCaps, Connecticut Whale and Norfolk Admirals have all sailed into first place in their respective divisions in the Eastern Conference.
The first-year IceCaps kicked off a six-game New England road trip with overtime losses in Springfield and Providence, finishing October with a 5-2-3-0 record and an Atlantic Division-best 13 points. Defenseman Paul Postma (2-6-8), an AHL All-Star last season, leads St. John’s in scoring while rookie Carl Klingberg has scored a team-high six goals.
After an opening-night loss to Adirondack, the Northeast Division’s Whale (6-1-0-2) have earned points in eight straight games for the franchise’s best start since winning their first nine games in 2004-05. Connecticut sports the league’s third-ranked defense, with goaltenders Chad Johnson and Cameron Talbot combining for 17 goals allowed in nine contests.
Over in the East Division, the Norfolk Admirals have charted a course to a 7-2-0-1 start behind the league’s most potent offense (4.60 goals per game). Carter Ashton (9-4-13) and Cory Conacher (4-8-12) are the top scoring rookies in the AHL, and Trevor Smith (5-9-14) has six multiple-point games already to help him to the team points lead.
IMPRESSIVE RETURN … After more than 21 months on the sidelines, Krys Kolanos returned to the ice over the weekend and provided an immediate boost to a struggling Abbotsford Heat offense.
Kolanos, who had last played a game on Jan. 16, 2010, and underwent hip surgery a month later, recorded a hat trick in his Heat debut on Oct. 28 and finished with seven points in two weekend games, Abbotsford victories in Grand Rapids and Hamilton.
A 30-goal scorer with Quad City in 2007-08 and Houston in 2008-09, Kolanos was named the Reebok/AHL Player of the Week, winning the award for the second time in his career. The Calgary native and former first-round draft choice by Phoenix (19th overall in 2000) signed a tryout with Abbotsford after sitting out the entire 2010-11 season recovering from injury.
The Heat scored 11 goals in their two weekend games, almost matching the 12 goals they scored in their first seven games prior to Kolanos’s return.
BIENVENUE, LOUIS … A first-round draft pick by Montreal (18th overall) in 2009, Louis Leblanc made his professional debut with the Hamilton Bulldogs on Oct. 27 and paid immediate dividends. The 20-year-old center dished out two assists in regulation before netting the decisive goal 2:28 into overtime as the Bulldogs defeated Rochester, 3-2.
Leblanc, who had been rehabilitating from off-season surgery, played junior hockey with Montreal (QMJHL) last season after one year at Harvard University in 2009-10. He finished his first pro weekend with four points in three games.
ETC. … Kaspars Daugavins scored his first NHL goal and Robin Lehner made 23 saves in Ottawa’s 3-2 win over Toronto on Oct. 30, a game for which seven members of the 2011 Calder Cup champion Binghamton Senators were in Ottawa’s lineup… Philippe Cornet, who scored seven goals in 60 games as a rookie for Oklahoma City last season, has matched that total in eight games for the Barons this year… Peoria linemates T.J. Hensick and Brett Sterling both carry seven-game scoring streaks into the new week… With a 5-3 win in Milwaukee on Oct. 29, Curt Fraser became the Grand Rapids Griffins’ all-time leader in coaching wins with 117… Brett McLean scored twice in Rockford’s 6-4 win over Peoria on Oct. 28, his first AHL goals since Oct. 11, 2003… Steve Bernier, a 2003 first-round draft pick by San Jose who has played 385 career NHL games, signed with Albany last week after attending training camp with New Jersey… Texas has scored 17 power-play goals in nine games (17-for-46, 37.0 percent)… Binghamton has been outshot in each of its first 10 games (5-4-1-0); St. John’s has held the shots advantage in each of its first 10 (5-2-3-0)… Houston is outscoring its opponents 14-3 in third periods this season… Milwaukee made it points in 21 straight regular-season road games (14-0-4-3) with a 2-1 win in Chicago on Oct. 28, continuing to extend its AHL record.