AHL Weekly Release: Races heat up into final week

Calder Cup Playoff Picture (through Sunday 4/8/07)
Atlantic Pts Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
y-Manchester 101 @Por SPR   @Spr WOR @Pro
x-Hartford 96       BRI   @Por
Worcester 89   LOW   PRO @Mch LOW
Providence 88       @Wor @Spr MCH

Lowell 85   @Wor   POR @Por @Wor
Portland 82 MCH     @Low LOW HFD
East Pts Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
x-Hershey 110       @Wbs @Bng @Phi
x-W-B/Scranton 106   BRI   HER   SYR
x-Norfolk 104       @Phi @Alb @Bri
Albany 78   BNG   BNG NOR  

Bridgeport 77   @Wbs   @Hfd PHI NOR
North Pts Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
y-Manitoba 100       TOR TOR  
x-Rochester 91 @Tor     SYR @Syr HAM
x-Hamilton 90   GRA   GRA @Gra @Roc
Grand Rapids 83   @Ham   @Ham HAM @Tor

Peoria 80   MIL   @Oma OMA @Mil
Syracuse 77       @Roc ROC @Wbs
West Pts
x-Omaha 98 SAN     PEO @Peo @Chi
x-Chicago 97       @Mil IOW OMA
x-Milwaukee 89 HOU @Peo   CHI   PEO
Iowa 84   @Hou   @Hou @Chi  

x-clinched playoff berth… y-clinched division title

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … There’s plenty still left to play for as the American Hockey League enters the final week of its 71st regular season. Five postseason berths and two division titles are still undecided, and only two teams know for sure precisely which of the 16 playoff slots they will be slotted into.

In the Atlantic Division, four teams are still alive with two spots up for grabs. Worcester (89) and Providence (88) control their fates, but the Sharks still have two games left against fifth-place Lowell (85). Portland (82) needs to earn at least seven of a possible eight points out of its final four games and also get some outside help to return to the postseason.

Manchester has already won the Emile Francis Trophy and its second division title in three years; Hartford is one point away from clinching second place and home-ice advantage in the first round.

Hershey (110) has pulled away in the race for first place in the East Division, and can win its first division title since 1994 with a victory over Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (106) on Friday night. Norfolk (104) has fallen to third place thanks to its current four-game winless slide, and the Admirals close out the regular season with three road contests.

Bridgeport (77) trails fourth-place Albany (78) by one point but has one game in hand – a Sunday finale against Norfolk.

In the North, Manitoba has wrapped up the Sam Pollock Trophy and the first division title in the franchise’s 13-year history. Rochester (91) and Hamilton (90) appear headed for a first-round meeting, although the Bulldogs still have three games left against fourth-place Grand Rapids (83).

The Griffins haven’t sewn anything up yet themselves; Peoria (80), which could cross over from the West Division to the North if it doesn’t catch Iowa (84), is just three points behind Grand Rapids with four games remaining. And Syracuse (77) is still alive as well, needing to win its final three games while Grand Rapids loses its last four in regulation and Peoria drops at least five of its remaining eight available points.

While the Stars and Rivermen battle for fourth place in the West, Omaha (98) and Chicago (97) are locked in a battle for the division title that could come down to Sunday evening’s meeting between the Ak-Sar-Ben Knights and the Wolves at Allstate Arena. Milwaukee (89) has clinched its fifth straight postseason berth, and can secure third place with a win over Houston on Tuesday.

The 2007 Calder Cup Playoffs will begin next week with 16 teams looking to capture the American Hockey League championship.

TIEBREAKERS … Following are the tiebreaking procedures used in the event of a tie in the standings following the completion of the regular season on Sunday. When a tie among three or more teams is broken resulting in a two-team tie, the original tiebreaking method is used.

Between two teams:
a) wins
b) points in season series between teams
c) goal differential
d) goals scored in season series between teams
e) intra-conference points percentage
Among three or more teams:
a) wins
b) points percentage in combined season series
c) goal differential
d) goal differential in combined season series
e) intra-conference points percentage

DUBIE, DUBIE DO … Two-time AHL All-Star and former AHL rookie of the year Wade Dubielewicz backstopped the New York Islanders into the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a 3-2 shootout win over New Jersey on Sunday afternoon.

Dubielewicz, 22-12-5 with five shootout victories in the AHL for Bridgeport this season, made 22 saves as the Islanders clinched eighth place in the NHL’s Eastern Conference. He is 4-1-0, including four straight wins last week, with a 2.06 GAA and a .934 save percentage with the Islanders in place of an injured Rick DiPietro.

FROM CALDER TO STANLEY? … Four NHL head coaches are heading into the postseason with a Calder Cup championship already on their resumes. Nashville’s Barry Trotz (Portland, 1994), Tampa Bay’s John Tortorella (Rochester, 1996), Atlanta’s Bob Hartley (Hershey, 1997) and Calgary’s Jim Playfair (Saint John, 2001) all won titles while coaching in the American Hockey League.

Only six men in history – including Tortorella and Hartley – have ever won both a Calder Cup and a Stanley Cup as a head coach.

ETC. … The Hartford Wolf Pack (1997-2007) have joined the Hershey Bears (1938-49) and the Montreal/Nova Scotia Voyageurs (1969-84) as the only teams in AHL history to qualify for the Calder Cup Playoffs in each of their first 10 or more seasons… San Antonio took 12 shots on goal in its 1-0 loss to Omaha on Friday; Hartford’s Nigel Dawes took 12 shots on goal in Hartford’s game vs. Worcester that same night… After allowing three goals on six shots in 9:31 of work at San Antonio on Mar. 27, Second Team AHL All-Star Curtis McElhinney recorded a 0.98 goals-against average and a .952 save percentage in four starts for the Knights last week… Tony Quesada, who was 0-8-0 with a 5.06 GAA and an .855 save percentage in his previous 10 appearances, made 41 saves in Houston’s 1-0 overtime win at Omaha on Saturday for his first career AHL victory and shutout… Scott Parse, a 2007 Hobey Baker Award finalist from the University of Nebraska-Omaha, has two goals and four assists in his first six pro games for Grand Rapids… Charles Linglet recorded two goals and three assists in Peoria’s 8-2 win in Houston on Tuesday… Second Team AHL All-Star defenseman Dustin Byfuglien played five games in five nights last week for the NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks (Tuesday, Thursday) and the AHL’s Norfolk Admirals (Wednesday, Friday, Saturday)… Rookie Matt Moulson has taken over the Manchester team lead with 25 goals and 55 points, and is tied for third in the AHL with a plus-25 rating… Sixteen of Dan McGillis’s 17 goals over the last two seasons, including all 10 for Lowell this year, have come on the power play.