SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … In their first three seasons under head coach Claude Noel, the Milwaukee Admirals were a mainstay among the league’s elite teams, winning two division titles, two conference championships and one Calder Cup, averaging 47 wins and 104 points a year and actually improving their regular-season record each successive season.
In 2006-07, after a slow start in which they played just five games over the first four weeks of the season, Milwaukee has gradually picked up steam, and currently sits two games over .500 for the first time all season. The Admirals were unhampered by a 10-game, 18-day road trip that ended on Dec. 9, earning 11 of a possible 20 points. Since the start of December, Milwaukee has gone 6-0-0-2 and has climbed from a tie for last place in the West Division up to fourth, three points behind third-place Peoria.
The Admirals have spread the offense around all season, with 18 different players having scored a goal and 13 different players accounting for the team’s 27 power-play tallies. Third-year pro Rich Peverley leads the way with 10 goals, 20 assists and 30 points in 28 games, including 14 points during his current nine-game scoring streak. Ramzi Abid, a 34-goal scorer with rival Chicago in 2005-06, has scored eight times this year, and defenseman Sheldon Brookbank ranks second among all AHL defensemen with seven goals and 23 points.
Alexander Radulov was one of the top rookies in the entire AHL during his brief stay with Milwaukee, tallying 18 points in 10 games before earning what appears to be a full-time NHL recall from the parent Nashville Predators. In his absence, Cal O’Reilly has taken over as the Admirals’ top rookie scorer with 20 points on the season and Jason Guerriero, in his first North American pro campaign, has tallied 17 points, including 13 in eight games this month. Fellow rookies John Vigilante (16 points) and Kelsey Wilson (six goals on 26 shots) have also made an early impact.
Karl Goehring has shouldered the load in net for Milwaukee over the last 10 games, playing all but 11:27 in that span and going 6-0-2 in his last eight appearances. A shootout specialist with an 11-3 record in the tiebreaker over the last three seasons, Goehring has earned five of his nine wins this season in either overtime or the shootout.
Milwaukee will play 11 of its next 12 games against West Division foes, beginning with a three-game trip to Omaha (Wednesday, Saturday) and Iowa (Friday) this week. The Admirals are 10-5-1-1 away from home this season, one of five AHL teams with double-digit road wins to date.
WE THREE KINGS … Barry Brust and former AHL All-Stars Mike Cammalleri and Derek Armstrong led the Los Angeles Kings to a 4-2 win in San Jose on Thursday night.
Brust, recalled from Manchester on Nov. 29, made his first career NHL start in the game and made 34 saves, taking a shutout into the third period.
Armstrong and Cammalleri each scored a goal in the win for the Kings. Armstrong is a former scoring champion (2001), regular-season MVP (2001) and playoffs MVP (2000) in the AHL, while Cammalleri led the AHL in goal-scoring and put up 109 points during the 2004-05 season.
WESTWARD LEADING, STILL PROCEEDING … Darren Haydar of the West-leading Chicago Wolves has extended his scoring streak to 29 games, the second-longest such streak in AHL history behind only Mike Richard’s 31-game run with Binghamton in 1987-88.
Haydar, who is tops in the league with 59 points on the year, can break the record as early as this weekend, as Chicago hits the ice three more times before the Christmas break. The Wolves are in San Antonio on Thursday and Houston on Friday before hosting the Rampage on Saturday.
Haydar has 11 points in five games combined against the two Texas teams this season.
BE GOOD FOR GOODNESS’ SAKE … Rochester rookie Marek Zagrapan has played the most games of any AHL skater this season without being assessed a penalty. Zagrapan, who turned 20 earlier this month, has recorded three goals and two assists in 18 games for the Amerks, but has yet to be sent off to the penalty box.
Buffalo’s first-round draft pick (13th overall) in the 2005 draft, Zagrapan is not alone among a disciplined Rochester lineup. The Amerks are averaging 15.9 penalty minutes per game as a team; only Lowell (13.9) is penalized less often.
AND A PARTRIDGE IN A PEAR TREE … With more than 100 family and friends on hand, Philadelphia-area native Jeff Corey scored a goal in Toronto’s 5-3 defeat to the Phantoms at the Wachovia Spectrum on Sunday… Wilkes-Barre/Scranton captain Alain Nasreddine recorded his first career NHL point on Saturday night, scoring a goal for Pittsburgh in his hometown of Montreal… Penguins goaltenders Andrew Penner and Jeff Deslauriers have each played 14 games this season and sport identical 10-3-1 records… Brandon Bochenski and Martin St. Pierre returned from NHL stints in Chicago and combined for 15 points in three games for Norfolk last weekend… Omaha rookie David Van der Gulik scored two shorthanded goals in the third period of the Knights’ 3-1 win over Iowa on Saturday… Jeff Tambellini registered a hat trick in Bridgeport’s 6-4 win over Lowell on Saturday… Rookie T.J. Trevelyan has scored five goals in his first nine AHL games for Providence… Donald MacLean’s overtime goal in San Antonio’s 4-3 win over Manitoba on Sunday was the 199th goal of his AHL career… Nine different Amerks recorded at least two points each in Rochester’s 10-4 win over Binghamton on Saturday night… Grand Rapids had allowed eight goals in a regular-season game just twice over the franchise’s first 10 seasons; Milwaukee has hung eight on the Griffins twice already this year… The Hershey Bears will play their 5,000th regular-season AHL game on Wednesday night in Albany… The Colorado Avalanche announced on Sunday that they will begin an affiliation with the AHL’s new Cleveland franchise beginning in 2007-08.
The entire American Hockey League extends best wishes to everyone for a happy and healthy holiday season.