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AHL Weekly Release: Stars set to shine in Worcester

2009asc_v2.jpgSPRINGFIELD, Mass. … The 2009 AHL All-Star Classic presented by Charter Communications, set for this coming Sunday and Monday, will bring some of the best young players in hockey to the DCU Center in Worcester, Mass., to continue a tradition that actually dates back more than 65 years.

While 2009 marks the 15th installment of the league’s modern All-Star event, the first AHL All-Star Game was held on Feb. 3, 1942, under the support of league president Maurice Podoloff. The game, played at the famed Arena in Cleveland, was a fundraiser for U.S. and Canadian efforts in World War II and featured some of the most notable names in league history, including Les Cunningham and Eddie Shore, two men whose names now grace AHL awards honoring the league’s MVP and outstanding defenseman, respectively.

The AHL All-Star Game was brought back in 1954, and for the next six years the contest pitted the defending Calder Cup champions against a team of league all-stars. Many of the AHL’s great players of the era participated, including AHL Hall of Famer Fred Glover, who played in all six of these games. Other AHL All-Stars in the 1950’s included future Hockey Hall of Famers Johnny Bower, Frank Mathers, Brian Kilrea, Henry Lumley, Pierre Pilote, Gump Worsley and Emile Francis.

Following the All-Star Game in December 1959, the event was not held again until current league president and CEO David Andrews revived it 35 years later. In Providence on Jan. 17, 1995, a team of All-Stars from the AHL’s six Canadian teams faced off against All-Stars from the league’s 11 U.S.-based clubs. The annual Skills Competition was added in 1996, and the format was changed in 1997 to the current set-up pitting Canadian-born players against those born outside of Canada.

The 2009 edition will once again feature a crop of the AHL’s brightest stars, including leading scorers Keith Aucoin and Alexandre Giroux from Hershey, top goaltenders Cory Schneider (Manitoba), Mike Brodeur (Rochester), and Brian Elliott (Binghamton), and rookie standouts Nathan Gerbe and Tim Kennedy of Portland, Claude Giroux from Philadelphia, and Nikita Filatov of Syracuse.

Since 1995, more than 94 percent of the participants in the AHL All-Star Classic have played in the National Hockey League. This week’s NHL All-Star event in Montreal will feature nine former AHL All-Stars: Jay Bouwmeester, Dan Boyle, Dustin Brown, Brian Campbell, Zdeno Chara, Mike Komisarek, Zach Parise, Marc Savard, and Eric Staal.

Fans in Worcester and a live international TV audience is set to once again witness the AHL’s best face off in the 2009 AHL All-Star Skills Competition presented by Charter Communications on Sunday, Jan. 25, at 4:00 ET, and the 2009 AHL All-Star Game on Monday, Jan. 26, at 7:00 ET. The AHL All-Star TV network will reach over 100 million households; visit theahl.com for a schedule of air times.

AHL HALL OF FAME INDUCTIONS SET … As part of the festivities for the 2009 AHL All-Star Classic presented by Charter Communications, the AHL will be inducting four new members into the league’s Hall of Fame.

The Class of 2009 includes Jimmy Anderson, Bruce Boudreau, Les Cunningham, and Louis A.R. Pieri, and will be enshrined as part of the annual Hockey Hall of Fame/AHL All-Star Classic Luncheon at the DCU Center Grand Ballroom on Monday afternoon, Jan. 26.

ALL-STAR OFFICIALS NAMED … The American Hockey League has named the on-ice officials for the 2009 AHL All-Star Game in Worcester. Francois St. Laurent will serve as the game’s referee, while Hans Baker and Joe Ross will be the linesmen. It will mark the first AHL All-Star appearance for all three.

AHL GAMES TO AIR ON XM RADIO … A pair of AHL games between intra-state rivals this week will be aired live on the NHL Home Ice channel (XM 204, Sirius 208) on XM Radio – America’s satellite radio company – and XM Canada with nearly 20 million subscribers across North America.

The NHL Home Ice channel will carry the action when the Syracuse Crunch visit the Rochester Americans on Thursday (Jan. 22) at 7:05 ET, and when the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins travel to square off with the Hershey Bears on Friday (Jan. 23) at 7:00 ET.

Fans can also tune into NHL Home Ice to hear the live broadcast of the AHL All-Star Game from Worcester next Monday (Jan. 26).

REWRITING THE RECORD BOOKS… Hershey forward Alexandre Giroux completed his charge to the AHL record books on Sunday when he scored a goal in his 15th consecutive game, tallying the game-tying marker in the Bears’ 3-2 shootout win over the Worcester Sharks at the Giant Center. Giroux broke the record of 14 straight games set by Moncton Golden Flames forward Brett Hull during the 1986-87 season.

The streak began on Nov. 26, 2008, and was interrupted by five separate recalls by the parent Washington Capitals. Over the 15 contests, Giroux extended the streak in the first period of a game on six occasions, in the second period four times, and five times he scored in the third frame to keep it going. All told, the 27-year-old Quebec City native totaled 22 goals during the streak and leads the AHL with 34 goals in 35 games on the campaign.

ETC … Philadelphia goaltender Scott Munroe had not allowed a goal in his first 129:29 of action against Albany this season before Michael Ryan scored at 9:29 of the opening period on Sunday; Munroe blanked the River Rats in the teams’ first two meetings of the campaign… Ryan has racked up 10 goals in his last seven games for Albany, including a pair of hat tricks… Houston goaltender Nolan Schaefer is on a personal three-game winning streak (1.30, .947), his longest since capturing victories in the Aeros’ first three games of the season… Hamilton is 17-6-2-0 against North Division opponents thus far, including a 9-1-1-0 mark on home ice… Grand Rapids has gone a franchise-record 11 consecutive games without surrendering a power play goal, posting a perfect 40-for-40 mark on the penalty kill over that span… Rochester’s Janis Sprukts registered back-to-back four-point games (3-1-4 and 1-3-4) as the Americans took road wins over Manchester and Providence last weekend… AHL All-Star Ryan Vesce has a point in 11 straight games (6-10-16) for Worcester… PlanetUSA AHL All-Star captain Rory Fitzpatrick enters the AHL Chat Room (theahl.com) to answer fans’ questions on Wednesday, Jan. 21.