AHL Weekly: The envelopes, please…


SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … Ballots from coaches, players and media are due today, and the American Hockey League will begin handing out individual awards this week in recognition of its outstanding performers during the 2009-10 season.

The race for the Dudley “Red” Garrett Memorial Award, given annually to the AHL’s outstanding rookie, is once again an intriguing one. After Nathan Gerbe claimed the honor a year ago, Portland has another frontrunner in Tyler Ennis, whose 23 goals, 42 assists and 65 points are all tops among AHL rookies. Worcester boasts three strong candidates in Logan Couture (20-33-53 in 42 AHL games), Benn Ferriero (19-30-49 in 52 games) and Alex Stalock, whose 37 wins are an AHL record for a rookie goaltender. Peoria’s Lars Eller (16-36-52), Texas’s Travis Morin (20-28-48) and Albany’s Chris Terry (17-29-46) and Jamie McBain (7-33-40) have all had impressive freshman seasons in the AHL.

P.K. Subban of Hamilton (18-35-53, +43 in 71 games), John Carlson of Hershey (4-35-39, +37 in 48 games) and Matt Taormina of Lowell (10-36-46) are getting notice for the Garrett Award as well as for the Eddie Shore Award as the AHL’s top defenseman. Rochester’s Clay Wilson has taken over the league scoring lead among blueliners with 60 points, Worcester’s Danny Groulx has 11-48-59 while playing all 73 games for the Sharks, Maxim Noreau’s 18-32-50 totals tie him for Houston’s team scoring lead, and Chicago’s Arturs Kulda shares the overall league lead with his plus-43 rating, garnering consideration as well.

Hamilton’s duo of Cedrick Desjardins (26-8-3, 1.93, .923) and Curtis Sanford (23-11-3, 2.13, .916) have backstopped the Bulldogs to the top-ranked defense in the league, and are both in the discussion for the Aldege “Baz” Bastien Award as the AHL’s outstanding goaltender. Jonathan Bernier (29-20-6) of Manchester leads the league in shutouts (eight), minutes played, shots faced and save percentage (.936) while ranking second in goals-against average (2.07), and Chicago’s Peter Mannino is a remarkable 23-3-1 while ranking in the top five in GAA (2.23) and save percentage (.922). Hershey rookie Braden Holtby (23-6-2, 2.36, .917) has had an excellent season for the league-leading Bears.

The winner of the Louis A.R. Pieri Award as the AHL’s outstanding coach traditionally parlays the honor into further success; recent winners include current NHL head coaches Peter Laviolette, Scott Gordon, Claude Julien, Claude Noel and Barry Trotz, as well as current NHL assistants Mike Haviland, Randy Cunneyworth and Geoff Ward.

The award announcements began last week when the AHL revealed the 29 teams’ finalists for the Yanick Dupre Memorial Award as the AHL’s Man of the Year. The 2009-10 AHL All-Rookie Team will be announced on Wednesday, and the First and Second All-Star Teams will be unveiled on Thursday.

AHL standings
Scores and schedules
League leaders

10 PLAYOFF BERTHS UP FOR GRABS … Ten of the 16 berths in the 2010 Calder Cup Playoffs are still unspoken-for with two weeks left in the regular season, and 20 teams are still mathematically alive in their bid to reach the AHL postseason.

Worcester punched its ticket on Friday night, securing their second consecutive playoff appearance. The Sharks’ 97 points are one shy of the most ever by a San Jose AHL affiliate, set by Kentucky in Roy Sommer’s first season as head coach in 1997-98. Portland followed Worcester onto the RSVP list on Saturday night, the third straight postseason berth for the Pirates and their fourth in five seasons under Kevin Dineen. Then on Sunday, Texas added an “x” next to its name on the standings page with a 5-0 win in Chicago, sending the Stars and rookie head coach Glen Gulutzan to the Calder Cup Playoffs.

MORE MILESTONES IN HERSHEY … A season of accomplishments in Hershey added another one on Sunday, when left wing Alexandre Giroux became just the 18th player in AHL history to score 300 career regular-season goals. More than one-third of those goals have come in the last 18 months, as Giroux has followed up his 60-goal campaign from a year ago with a league-leading 42 so far in 2009-10. The ninth-year pro also 53 assists this season, bettering his previous career high of 37 from 2008-09, and he is five points away from his first 100-point season.

The Bears sit at 56-14-0-3 (115 points), needing one win and nine points in their final seven games to match the all-time records held by the 1992-93 Binghamton Rangers, and Hershey’s 32 home victories are one off the AHL mark held by the 1987-88 Fredericton Express and the 1998-99 Providence Bruins. Hershey has secured the Frank Mathers Trophy as the Eastern Conference’s regular-season champions for the third time in four years, and is four points away from wrapping up the Macgregor Kilpatrick Trophy (overall points title).

ETC. … A week removed from ending his sophomore season at Ohio State University, Zac Dalpe had five goals and an assist in three games for Albany last week, including a hat trick in Saturday’s 5-2 win over Syracuse… Ian Cole, the 18th overall pick by St. Louis in the 2007 NHL draft, registered a goal, three assists and a plus-5 rating in his first three pro games for Peoria over the weekend… Warren Peters scored twice in the second period, assisted on the game-tying goal late in the third and netted the decisive tally in the shootout to give Texas a 4-3 win at Chicago on Friday night… Rookie Andrei Loktionov, injured during his NHL debut with Los Angeles on Nov. 25, returned to action over the weekend and recorded two goals and an assist in three games for Manchester… Monarchs defenseman Alec Martinez notched seven points in those three games, including the overtime goal in Sunday’s 4-3 win at Providence… Jon DiSalvatore’s goal output in his seven AHL seasons are 22, 22, 22, 21, 22, 20 and now 21 with seven games remaining in Houston… Albany’s Jerome Samson has 21-18-39 in his last 26 games… Corey Locke set a career high with his 80th point of the season for Hartford on Saturday, then was recalled by the parent New York Rangers on Sunday night… Propelled by a 15-2-0-1 run in its last 18 games, Hamilton has tied a franchise record with 49 wins on the season and is two shy of the AHL record of 28 road victories, set by Providence in 2007-08… Rockford has not lost more than two games in a row since a five-game slide from Oct. 24 to Nov. 1… Hershey has drawn crowds in excess of 10,000 fans for each of its last eight home games, and the Bears’ season average of 9,524 is on pace to be the highest in the AHL in the last 10 years… Providence, which had not topped the 10,000 mark for a game since March 2007, has done so for three of its last four home dates, while Grand Rapids has gone over 10,000 three straight times at Van Andel Arena.