AHL Weekly Release: Winning ways in Winnipeg


mtb_200.jpgSPRINGFIELD, Mass. … The Manitoba Moose have made six trips to the Calder Cup Playoffs in their first seven AHL seasons and have twice reached the 100-point plateau. This year, boosted by one of the league’s most potent offenses and top-notch goaltending, the Moose have shot to the league’s best record.

Manitoba’s 14-3-0-0 record translates to an .824 points percentage, ahead of Portland (.812), Bridgeport (.750), Hershey (.725) and Chicago (.722) for the best mark in the AHL. Since dropping a pair of home games to Hamilton to open the season, the Moose have reeled off 14 wins in 15 outings, including a nine-game winning streak from Oct. 17 to Nov. 7. And since Feb. 28 of last season, Manitoba is 29-6-1-2 in its last 38 regular-season games.

A familiar face to fans in Winnipeg has been the leading contributor to a Manitoba offense that is averaging 3.53 goals per game, the fifth-best mark in the AHL. Coming off two straight 20-goal seasons for the Moose, Jason Jaffray already shows a team-high 12 goals and 17 points in 2008-09. Jaffray, who posted his 200th point in a Moose uniform vs. San Antonio on Nov. 21, has netted six goals over his last three outings and has a point in 12 of 13 games since going scoreless in two games over opening weekend.

Manitoba’s offense has also benefited from some high-scoring newcomers, most notably reigning league and Calder Cup Playoffs MVP Jason Krog. Krog has 15 points (2-13-15) in 11 games for the Moose while adding one goal in four NHL games with the parent Vancouver Canucks. Michel Ouellet, who has nearly 200 games of NHL experience along with an appearance in the 2004 Calder Cup Finals with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, has registered 13 points (4-9-13) in 14 games with Manitoba, and Mark Cullen, a 2003 Calder Cup titlist as a rookie with Houston, has eight goals and eight assists in 17 contests for the Moose. And rookie forward Mario Bliznak has chipped in seven points (1-6-7) and a team-high plus-10 rating in 14 matches.

The Moose have also gotten key contributions from unlikely sources. Veteran Mike Keane’s eight points (3-5-8) are already halfway to his total from all of 2007-08. Guillaume Desbiens has scored five goals, matching his output from 80 career AHL games entering this season. And Darryl Bootland has four goals in 12 games this year after scoring four in 63 games between Portland and Bridgeport a year ago.

Goaltender Cory Schneider ended his rookie campaign on a 13-2-1 run last year and has picked up right where he left off. After taking the loss in Manitoba’s 2008-09 opener, the former first-round draft pick has rattled off 10 straight wins en route to the AHL lead in goals-against average (1.37) and a recall to Vancouver on Saturday. Counterpart Karl Goehring is 4-2-0 (2.53, .916) thus far, and all told, Manitoba is allowing a league-low average of 1.88 goals per game through 17 contests.

Manitoba is also benefiting from a secondary affiliation agreement with the Dallas Stars, who are placing some of their prospects in Winnipeg. James Neal, Mark Fistric, Raymond Sawada, Trevor Ludwig and Maxime Fortunus have all helped the Moose cause so far this season.

Winners of five in a row overall and eight straight at the MTS Centre, head coach Scott Arniel’s Moose host the Iowa Chops this coming Friday and Saturday to close out a six-game homestand.

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AHL MOBILE SITE REVAMPED … The American Hockey League has relaunched its AHL Mobile site, giving fans around the world a portable means of accessing real-time scores and game stats, the latest news headlines and up-to-date standings, all generated from the AHL’s official Web site, theahl.com.

AHL Mobile (mobile.theahl.com) can be accessed from the Web browser of any WAP-enabled wireless device. (Standard data rates apply; check with your mobile service provider for more information.) Live scores and up-to-date standings on AHL Mobile are provided via LeagueStat, the AHL’s official real-time scoring provider, and the News page offers links to the latest features, previews and recaps from around the league, updated simultaneously with theahl.com.

The site also features a downloadable BlackBerry shortcut icon which puts a link to AHL Mobile right on the user’s home screen.

OLD HOME WEEK … Several AHL players and coaches made returns to their old haunts last week.

At Van Andel Arena on Friday, West Michigan native Dan Bylsma led his Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins into battle against the Grand Rapids Griffins. Adam Berkhoel, who spent the 2007-08 season with the Griffins, made 35 saves in the Pens’ 3-2 shootout victory.

On Saturday, Darren Haydar scored a goal in the Griffins’ 6-3 loss at Chicago. It was Haydar’s first game at Allstate Arena since captaining the Wolves to the Calder Cup championship in 2008.

John Paddock stood behind the visitors’ bench at the Broome County Arena for the first time since 1989 on Saturday and guided his Philadelphia Phantoms to a 4-3 overtime win over the Senators. Paddock has coached both the Sens (2002-05) and the Binghamton Rangers (1990-91) during his illustrious AHL career.

Also Saturday, Rob Murray made his first visit to the MassMutual Center as a head coach with the Providence Bruins. Murray played eight seasons for the Falcons (1994-2000, 00-01, 02-03), and his number 23 has been retired by the club.

HEROES AND ZEROES … Two games on Saturday ended scoreless through 65 minutes, and in both, one goaltender continued to keep the puck out of the net throughout the shootout as well.

Manchester’s Jonathan Bernier and Lake Erie’s Tyler Weiman (27 saves each) dueled to a scoreless draw in Cleveland before Weiman blinked first, allowing a Justin Azevedo goal in the third round of the shootout as the Monarchs grabbed a 1-0 victory. Bernier was 5-for-5 following his shutout in regulation and overtime.

Syracuse’s Dan LaCosta (36 saves) and Albany’s Justin Peters (43 saves) then duplicated the feat later that evening, with LaCosta staying perfect through the shootout. Peters surrendered a goal to Derek MacKenzie in the fourth round as the Crunch won, 1-0.

There have now been six games in AHL history in which a goaltender has stopped every shot he faced in regulation, overtime and a shootout.

ETC. … Springfield’s Gilbert Brule and Carl Corazzini scored five seconds apart during the Falcons’ 7-6 win over Norfolk on Friday, tying the AHL record for fastest two goals by one team… Philadelphia defenseman Danny Syvret has already set a career high with five goals this season, and his 20 points tie his outputs from each of his three previous AHL campaigns… Of Tim Brent’s 14 points for Rockford this season, 13 have come on the power play and the other was a shorthanded goal… Portland rookie Nathan Gerbe sports an eight-game scoring streak (5-8-13)… Rookie Matt Beleskey posted back-to-back three-point nights for Iowa over the weekend… Hamilton scored five third-period goals – three while skating 4-on-4 and two while shorthanded – in Saturday’s 7-4 win at Peoria… Lowell’s shooters are 10-for-20 in shootouts this season, including a 5-for-6 effort in Friday’s 4-3 win at Hartford… Binghamton’s 2-1 win at Syracuse on Sunday ended the Crunch’s 18-game regular-season home winning streak… Chicago is 5-0-0-1 on home ice this season after winning its last seven home games during the 2008 postseason… After participating in an AHL-record 18 shootouts in 2007-08, Quad City played its first of this season on Saturday and dropped a 5-4 decision to Rockford… Two AHL games are being held in NHL rinks this week, as Philadelphia hosts Springfield at the Wachovia Center on Friday night and Hamilton takes on Binghamton at the Bell Centre in Montreal on Sunday.