AHL Weekly Release: Big 3 driving Wolves’ engine


chi_200.jpgSPRINGFIELD, Mass. … The most productive trio in the American Hockey League today has the Chicago Wolves (9-4-1-0) back among the league’s elite after missing the playoffs last season.

Rookie Brett Sterling has joined center Jason Krog and right wing Darren Haydar to power the Wolves’ league-leading offense, averaging 4.43 goals per game. The three have combined for 30 goals and 42 assists for 72 points, or 43.6 percent of Chicago’s offensive output, through 14 games. Krog and Haydar continue to be the top two scorers in the league, with each finding the scoresheet at least once in every game this season.

Sterling, a 22-year-old native of Los Angeles, is coming off a stellar four-year career at Colorado College, where he was one of the school’s all-time leading scorers. Drafted by the Atlanta Thrashers after scoring 27 goals as a freshman in 2003, Sterling was a Hobey Baker Award finalist in both 2005 and 2006, finishing second in the nation in scoring in his junior year and fifth in his senior season. Sterling has five goals and three assists for eight points in his last three games, and currently ranks third among all AHL rookies with 17 points in 13 contests for the Wolves.

Krog and Haydar bring not just offensive talent but also big-game experience to the young Wolves lineup. The former college teammates reached the NCAA championship game together at the University of New Hampshire in 1999, when Krog won the Hobey Baker Award as the top college player in the U.S. and Haydar was named the outstanding freshman in the Hockey East conference. Krog went on to play in the Calder Cup Finals for Bridgeport in 2002 and the Stanley Cup Finals for Anaheim in 2003; Haydar won a Calder Cup with Milwaukee in 2004 and returned to the Finals with the Admirals in 2006, leading the AHL in playoff scoring both postseasons.

Krog leads the AHL with 19 assists and 29 points in 2006-07, including 13 points in his last four games. Haydar is tied for second in goals (11), tied for third in assists (15) and second in points (26), and including last season and the 2006 Calder Cup Playoffs, has recorded a point in 36 of his last 38 AHL games (34g, 35a).

No one else on the Wolves’ roster has hit double digits in the points column. Derek MacKenzie, in his sixth season in Chicago, has four goals, five assists and a plus-8 rating second only on the team to defenseman Boris Valabik. The 10th overall pick in the 2004 NHL draft, the 20-year-old Valabik is a plus-10 on the season, second among all AHL rookies.

Two points out of first place in the West Division, Chicago wraps up a six-game road trip with a visit to Iowa on Tuesday night.

IN-CREASE PRODUCTION … The busiest goaltender in the AHL was even busier last week, as Josh Harding stopped 86 of 89 shots in two Houston victories.

The third-year pro has appeared in all 14 Aeros games this season, manning the crease for all but a little over one period of work.

Harding sparked Houston’s two-game sweep of Iowa at Wells Fargo Arena last week, making 38 saves in a 3-2 win on Thursday and following that up with 48 saves in a 3-1 victory on Friday.

Harding’s 5-7-1 record is not reflected in his 2.32 goals-against average and .928 save percentage, both of which are improvements over his 2005-06 totals.

OT PAYING DIVIDENDS FOR ADMIRALS … The Milwaukee Admirals needed just 75 extra seconds to post two overtime wins over the weekend. Cal O’Reilly scored 52 seconds into OT to give Milwaukee a 3-2 win in Grand Rapids on Friday, and Ramzi Abid got the winner at the 23-second mark as the Admirals tipped Peoria on Saturday, 2-1.

OT PAYING DIVIDENDS FOR ADMIRALS … The Norfolk Admirals have posted four overtime wins already this season, with each of their last three victories coming in extra time. Last weekend, Troy Brouwer capped a comeback from a two-goal third-period deficit and gave Norfolk a 5-4 win in Lowell on Saturday, and Adam Burish’s first professional goal clinched a 2-1 victory at Manchester on Sunday.

TRICKS ARE TREATS … After four hat tricks were recorded over the first month of the 2006-07 season, there were five around the AHL last week.

Dustin Boyd’s first pro hat trick lifted Omaha to a 4-1 win in Toronto on Thursday night. Philadelphia’s Brad Tapper (Friday) and Peter Zingoni (Saturday) both used three-goal games to score their first goals as Phantoms. Hartford rookie Ryan Callahan scored three power-play goals in Saturday’s 9-3 win over San Antonio, and now has nine goals in his last nine games. And Clarke MacArthur’s three-goal night on Sunday led Rochester past Chicago, 7-3.

ETC. … Sparked by two goals and two assists from native Manitoban Eric Fehr, Hershey swept a two-game weekend series from the Moose in Winnipeg and tied the 68-year-old franchise’s record with an eight-game road winning streak… Worcester rookie Joe Pavelski has earned an assist in 10 consecutive games, only the third assist streak of at least 10 games in the AHL over the last eight seasons… Hamilton’s Jaroslav Halak has stopped 88 of 90 shots faced in three November starts (0.67, .978)… Corey Crawford made 54 saves in Norfolk’s 5-4 overtime win in Lowell on Saturday night… Providence’s Martins Karsums scored the game-tying and game-winning goals in Providence’s 4-3 overtime victory over Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Sunday… Keith Aucoin has 15 points in his last seven games for Albany… Eight of Grand Rapids’ nine losses this season have been by a single goal (2-5-2-1); the Griffins had nine one-goal losses all of last season (23-4-1-4)… Chicago has scored 14 power-play goals in its last four games (14-for-37, 37.6 percent)… Tommy Williams, a three-time Calder Cup champion and five-time AHL All-Star defenseman for Cleveland and Rochester, passed away last week due to complications from a stroke; he was 83.