WEEKLY RELEASE #14
RECORD-SETTING NIGHT … For the third consecutive winter, an outdoor AHL contest established a new single-game attendance record for the league.
An announced crowd of 45,653 fans packed Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia on Jan. 6 to watch the Adirondack Phantoms defeat the Hershey Bears, 4-3. Phantoms captain Ben Holmstrom scored with 20.8 seconds remaining in regulation to tie the game and Shane Harper won it 58 seconds into overtime.
Friday’s turnout was greater than the two previous largest crowds combined. Attendance for last year’s outdoor game between Connecticut and Providence was 21,673 in East Hartford, Conn., and the first-ever outdoor AHL game between Syracuse and Binghamton drew 21,508 fans to the New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse.
The city of Philadelphia now owns both the regular-season and playoff records for single-game AHL attendance. On June 10, 2005, a crowd of 20,103 packed the Wells Fargo Center to watch the Phantoms defeat Chicago to win the Calder Cup.
The AHL has one more outdoor showcase on the schedule this month, as the Hamilton Bulldogs take on the Toronto Marlies at Ivor Wynne Stadium in Hamilton on Jan. 21.
CONFERENCE STANDINGS TO FOREFRONT … As teams begin reaching the halfway point of their 76-game regular-season schedules, attention is turned from the division standings to the conference standings with a new playoff format in place for 2012.
This year, the three division winners plus the teams with the next five best records in each conference will qualify for the Calder Cup Playoffs.
Connecticut’s five-point lead over Albany in the Northeast is the largest of any division leader, and no team in either conference is more than nine points out of a playoff spot, setting up heated races for the second half of the season.
The official midway point of the 2011-12 season comes Saturday night with game number 570.
POULIN WALL … Bridgeport goaltender Kevin Poulin entered the new year with six losses in his last seven starts. But by the end of the first week of 2012, he had made a run at the AHL record books.
Poulin, a second-year pro and 2008 draft pick by the New York Islanders, recorded three consecutive shutouts and held opponents off the scoreboard for 221 minutes and 54 seconds before being beaten by Providence’s Calle Ridderwall in the second period of a 3-2 Sound Tigers shootout win on Sunday. Named the Reebok/AHL Player of the Week for his performance (4-0-0, 0.48, .980), Poulin earned his third recall of the season by the Islanders on Monday afternoon.
Poulin’s shutout streak fell just 27:57 short of the league record, set by Hockey Hall of Famer Johnny Bower with the Cleveland Barons in 1957.
BITZ BACK … Out of game action since Mar. 27, 2010, Byron Bitz was activated from the injured list and assigned to the Chicago Wolves last week. Bitz had been sidelined for 21 months, mostly by recurring injuries and the resulting surgeries and rehabilitation that cost him the entire 2010-11 season. He signed with Vancouver as a free agent last summer and has 87 career NHL games with Boston and Florida to his credit.
Making his return to the ice on Jan. 6 in Peoria, Bitz scored what would stand up as the game-winning goal as the Wolves defeated the Rivermen, 5-2, and then came back with an assist in a 5-2 win over Charlotte on Jan. 8.
FURIOUS COMEBACK … Down by four with just over 12 minutes remaining, Albany staged the largest comeback in franchise history and stunned the host Norfolk Admirals on Jan. 6. The Devils got goals from Nick Palmieri (7:47), Mike Hoeffel (10:06), Matt Anderson (10:59) and Eric Gelinas (19:34) before Joe Whitney gave Albany a 5-4 victory at 3:31 of overtime.
Albany kept the momentum going and took a 3-1 decision in the rematch, the first time the Devils have earned road wins on consecutive nights since Nov. 19-20, 2010.
QUICK HITS … With a sellout crowd at Giant Center on Jan. 7, Hershey and Adirondack wound up playing their home-and-home series in front of 56,468 fans over two nights in southern Pennsylvania… Attendance was 15,319 for Chicago’s game vs. Lake Erie at Allstate Arena on Jan. 7, the largest indoor crowd of the season in the AHL… Norfolk rookie Cory Conacher became the first player to reach 20 goals this season – and also added his 21st in the Admirals’ 5-1 win at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Jan. 4… Binghamton forward Corey Locke enters the new week with 498 career AHL points, bidding to become the 81st member of the 500-point fraternity… Teammate Rob Klinkhammer has 10-8-18 in 17 games since joining the Senators from Rockford… Hershey’s Keith Aucoin, now on pace for 107 assists this season (the existing AHL record is 89), has moved past AHL Hall of Famer Jody Gage and into sixth place on the league’s all-time list with 546 career helpers… Hamilton forward Andreas Engqvist has five multiple-point efforts and a plus-9 rating during his current eight-game scoring streak (8-5-13)… Rochester rookie Phil Varone recorded 0-9-9 in his first 26 games, but has 5-6-11 in his last 10 outings… After denying Connecticut’s Andre Deveaux on Jan. 8, Springfield goaltender Manny Legace is 4-for-4 on penalty shots this season… Toronto’s Jussi Rynnas enters the new week having gone 127:04 without allowing a goal, and having made 112 saves on 114 shots in his last four starts (3-1-0, 0.50, .982)… Hershey has scored five shorthanded goals in its last seven games… Houston is the only team in the AHL without a regulation loss when leading or tied after two periods (16-0-1-5).