AHL Weekly Release: Things still sweet in Hershey


her_200.jpgSPRINGFIELD, Mass. … Four short months after securing their ninth Calder Cup championship, the Hershey Bears are back atop the American Hockey League, opening the 2006-07 season with four straight road wins behind one of the league’s most potent – and balanced – offenses.

Off to the team’s best start since winning six in a row to begin the 1982-83 season, Hershey won its opener in Wilkes-Barre on Oct. 7 before completing a three-game sweep of its trip to Hamilton, Syracuse and Toronto this past weekend. The Bears have scored 21 goals in their four games, have found the net at least once in 11 of 12 periods (plus once in overtime), and have already seen 20 different skaters record at least one point.

Each of the Bears’ four victories has been in come-from-behind fashion, the most dramatic coming Friday night at Copps Coliseum in Hamilton. Hershey trailed by a goal until Chris Bourque tied the score with 4:31 to go and Tomas Fleischmann won it on a shorthanded marker with 3.6 seconds left in regulation.

Joey Tenute, Eric Fehr and Lawrence Nycholat, all returnees from the 2006 championship team, lead the Bears in scoring with five points each through four games. They are among the 12 players who are back with Hershey after winning the Calder Cup last spring.

Alexandre Giroux, who scored at least 32 goals in each of the last two seasons playing in Hartford, has picked up two goals and two assists so far to lead all Hershey newcomers. Rookie defenseman Jamie Hunt has three points in his first three professional games, and Quintin Laing, who spent the last five years with the division rival Norfolk Admirals, is tied for the team lead with three assists.

The Bears have a perfect record despite allowing 38.0 shots on goal per game, the most in the AHL this season. Frederic Cassivi ranks second in the league in saves (112) and has upped his career total to 193 AHL wins, good for 12th place all-time.

Bruce Boudreau, the winningest active coach in the AHL with 285 career victories, leads his charges back into Chocolatetown on Saturday night when Bridgeport visits the Giant Center in the Bears’ home opener. The game will be preceded by the raising of Hershey’s ninth championship banner and a championship ring ceremony.

… Albany forwards Keith Aucoin and David Gove were presented with their Stanley Cup championship rings by head coach Tom Rowe following practice on Oct. 11. Aucoin and Gove both made their NHL debuts with the Carolina Hurricanes during the 2005-06 season and practiced and traveled with the club throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The rings are 14-carat white gold with more than 100 diamonds and a Hurricanes logo set in rubies and black sapphires.

Aucoin, who had three points in three games with the River Rats, was recalled by Carolina and skated for the ’Canes on Monday night in Tampa.

… Five American Hockey League defensemen who endured scoring droughts over the entire 2005-06 season have already found the net early on in 2006-07.

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s Alain Nasreddine was the first to break through, scoring a shorthanded marker in the second period of the Penguins’ season opener vs. Manitoba on Oct. 4. Nasreddine, who went 71 games without a goal last year, added his second of this season last weekend. Brett Palin, scoreless in 64 games in 2005-06, scored his first professional goal for Omaha on Oct. 7 at Milwaukee.

On Oct. 13, Grand Rapids’ Danny Syvret and Toronto’s Marc Moro both found the net in the same game to end lengthy slumps. Syvret played 72 games (62 in Hamilton and 10 in the NHL with Edmonton) as a rookie last season without scoring, while Moro was goal-less over 73 regular-season games and five playoff contests for the Marlies.

Finally, Nolan Yonkman, besieged by injuries over the last four years, scored in Milwaukee’s 5-1 win over Chicago on Saturday night. It was his first goal since Feb. 16, 2003.

… No Milwaukee Admiral or Bridgeport Sound Tiger had ever recorded five points in a regular-season AHL game before rookies Alexander Radulov and Blake Comeau both did so on Friday night… Mathieu Darche, a 20-goal scorer in each of his last four AHL seasons, leads the league with seven goals in five games for the Worcester Sharks… Adam Dennis, who went 44-9-4 for London (OHL) last season, made 40 saves in his pro debut to lead Rochester to a 3-2 win at Binghamton on Saturday… Brian Finley allowed seven goals in his first game with Providence on Oct. 7; he rebounded to surrender just one goal combined in weekend wins over Worcester and Manchester… At the MTS Centre on Friday night, Winnipeg native Rejean Beauchemin made 30 saves for his first pro shutout in Philadelphia’s 3-0 win over Manitoba… Troy Brouwer, the leading scorer in the Western Hockey League a year ago, had two goals and two assists in Norfolk’s 8-1 win over Springfield on Saturday… Hartford (0-3-0-0) began a season with back-to-back losses for the first time in the franchise’s 10-year history… Van Andel Arena was sold out for Grand Rapids’ home opener for the 11th straight year… Iowa defeated Houston three times in a seven-day span from Oct. 8-14, shooting the Stars to the top of the West Division with a mark of 4-0-0-0… Road teams are an impressive 27-17-4-4 (.596 points percentage) so far this season.