AHL Weekly: Taking it outside


SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … American Hockey League history is about to be made as the Syracuse Crunch host the Mirabito Outdoor Classic on Saturday afternoon, the first outdoor game ever staged in the AHL. The game between the Crunch and the Binghamton Senators will be televised live in high definition on NHL Network in the United States and Canada as well as on Time Warner Cable Sports in central New York, with coverage beginning at 12:30 p.m. ET.

It promises to be a memorable event both on and off the ice around the New York State Fairgrounds Grandstand, where the AHL’s single-game attendance record (20,672) expects to be challenged. The Crunch organization has prepared a large number of pre-game festivities for the crowd to enjoy. “The Star-Spangled Banner” will be performed by Mercury recording artist Jessie James, whose self-titled debut album – headlined by the hit lead single “Wanted” – rose to the top of the iTunes pop and Amazon MP3 charts last year.

Skydiver Ray Maynard is scheduled to parachute onto center ice prior to the game and deliver a puck to United States Senator Charles E. Schumer and New York Governor David A. Paterson for the ceremonial puck drop. The special puck to be delivered is from the National Hockey League’s first-ever outdoor game, a preseason match-up between the Los Angeles Kings and the New York Rangers in Las Vegas on Sept. 27, 1991.

Prior to face-off, there will be a flyover by the 174th Fighter Wing, a Syracuse-based New York Air National Guard unit which previously participated in a flyover at Yankee Stadium during the 2009 World Series.

Several former stars with ties to hockey in New York are slated to participate in the pre-game activities, including ex-Buffalo Sabres forward Danny Gare, who will also serve as color commentator for the television broadcast. Also scheduled to be on hand are former Sabre Rob Ray, N.Y. Islanders legend Bobby Nystrom and former Crunch fan favorites Dan Smith and Jean-Francois Labbe.

On Saturday morning, the members of the Syracuse fire and police departments will battle Binghamton fire and police personnel in a pick-up game at the Fairgrounds, and the entire afternoon will feature on-site VIP tents, fan zones, local cheerleading teams, bands, ice sculpting and hot tubs to help provide a party-like atmosphere for fans attending this historic event.

Located just west of downtown Syracuse, the New York State Fairgrounds spans 375 acres and annually hosts the Great New York State Fair in late August and early September. In addition, the Fairgrounds provides the setting for hundreds of year-round events, drawing approximately one million visitors to an incredible variety of non-fair attractions. Beyond the pomp and circumstance, the Mirabito Outdoor Classic will be a critical meeting in the East Division playoff race. The Crunch enter the week five points out of the last playoff spot in the conference, and the Senators sit eight back.

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XM DISHING OUT AHL ACTION … A schedule of 12 games to be carried on XM Satellite Radio’s NHL Home Ice channel (XM 204, Sirius 208) begins tonight at 7:00 ET when the Worcester Sharks visit the Springfield Falcons in an Atlantic Division battle.

Other games on the XM slate this week include Adirondack at Binghamton (Wednesday), Hamilton at Grand Rapids (Friday), Lake Erie at Hershey (Saturday), Hartford at Bridgeport (Sunday) and Houston at Peoria (Sunday).

FIVE ALUMS ADDED TO OLYMPIC ROSTERS … The final rosters for the 2010 Olympic Winter Games were published on Monday, and five more players with AHL ties will be participating in the tournament. These 23-man rosters are final and no changes will be possible during the event, not even in a case of injury.

Current Grand Rapids Griffins defenseman Sergei Kolosov has been added by Belarus, which begins preliminary-round play on Wednesday. Jochen Hecht (Germany), former AHL All-Star Sven Butenschon (Germany), Ivan Baranka (Slovakia) and Konstantin Zakharov (Belarus) will also represent their countries in Vancouver.

The final rosters now feature 132 AHL alumni who will be competing in the Olympics, including 16 for the United States and 12 with Canada.

500 FOR KROG … With his game-winning goal at Texas on Friday, Chicago center Jason Krog became the 79th player in league history to reach 500 points for his AHL career. After adding four more points to close the weekend, Krog now shows 169 goals and 335 assists for 504 points in 429 career regular-season AHL contests.

The AHL’s regular-season and Calder Cup Playoffs MVP in 2008 when he helped Chicago to its second AHL championship, Krog is currently tied for the AHL lead with 44 assists and tied for fourth 56 points in 52 games for the Wolves.

Seven players have joined the AHL’s 500-point club in just over a year, beginning with Darren Haydar on Feb. 7, 2009 and including Keith Aucoin (Feb. 14, 2009), Denis Hamel (Mar. 25, 2009), Trent Whitfield (Dec. 5, 2009), Alexandre Giroux (Dec. 19, 2009), Bryan Helmer (Jan. 29, 2010) and now Krog.

ETC. … Referee Terry Koharski and linesmen Dan Murphy and Tim Kotyra have been named the on-ice officials for Saturday’s Mirabito Outdoor Classic in Syracuse… Rochester enters the week with 1,999 regular-season wins in franchise history… Hershey’s home winning streak stands at 18 games, one shy of the AHL record held by the 1996-97 Philadelphia Phantoms; the Bears are at Giant Center this weekend to face Lake Erie on Saturday and Albany on Sunday… Hershey has won 23 straight games and 25 of 26 total with Chris Bourque (15-25-40) in the lineup… Lowell’s Nick Palmieri scored his 18th goal of the season on Saturday night at Norfolk, surpassing Rod Pelley’s franchise record for a rookie… Former AHL All-Star and NHL goal-scoring champion Jonathan Cheechoo had a goal and an assist in Binghamton’s 4-2 win over Rochester on Sunday… Rookie Zach Boychuk, who has 27 points (12-15-27) in 44 games for Albany this year, beat Martin Brodeur for his first NHL goal on Saturday to help Carolina to a 5-2 victory over New Jersey… Randy Rowe, who had 11 career AHL goals over his first eight professional seasons, has five goals (and five assists) in his last five games for Lake Erie… Greg Mauldin tied a Bridgeport team record with five points in a 6-4 win at Hartford on Saturday… Chicago swept a three-game weekend at Texas and Houston and has gone 20-3-0-2 since Dec. 19, vaulting from sixth place to first in the West Division with 70 points overall… After scoring once in its previous two games combined, Syracuse set a season high for goals on Sunday in a 7-4 win at Providence… San Antonio has earned a point in eight of nine games (6-1-0-2) to begin its 14-game, 29-day road trip, including three wins in as many days last weekend… After starting 4-0-0-0 on Sundays this year, Adirondack is 0-4-0-0 in its last four Sunday contests… Abbotsford has matched a season high with a four-game winning streak to move into third place in the North Division.