AHL’s conference finals matchups set


SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … Only four teams remain in the hunt for the 2008 Calder Cup championship after two Game 7’s in the Western Conference brought the curtain down on the second round this week.

The Chicago Wolves were the last team to advance to the final four, finishing off the West Division Finals with a 4-1 win over Rockford in Tuesday’s Game 7. Led by league MVP Jason Krog, three-time AHL playoff scoring champion Darren Haydar and standout rookie goaltender Ondrej Pavelec, the Wolves are in the conference finals for the second year in a row and the fourth time in seven AHL seasons, and will take on the Toronto Marlies for the Robert W. Clarke Trophy, which goes to the Western Conference playoff champions.

The Marlies made some AHL history in the North Division Finals with their seven-game triumph over Syracuse. Toronto’s 3-2 win in Game 7 on Monday made them the 14th AHL team ever to win a best-of-seven series after trailing three games to one, and the sixth to come back and win after losing the first two games on home ice. Sparked by John Mitchell, who scored five goals in the series vs. the Crunch, the Marlies became the fourth consecutive team to claim the North Division playoff championship after having missed the playoffs the previous season.

The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins are in the Eastern Conference Finals for the third time in franchise history after defeating the Philadelphia Phantoms in five games. The Penguins, who reached the Calder Cup Finals in 2001 and 2004, claim the top playoff scorer in the AHL in Tim Brent (9-8-17) and the top-scoring rookie and defenseman Alex Goligoski (3-11-14), and are now 8-2 in the playoffs after finishing the regular season on a 15-2-3-1 run.

Brent, who played in Portland from 2005-07, will lead the Penguins against his former Pirates teammates as the clubs battle for the Richard F. Canning Trophy, which represents the Eastern Conference championship. The Pirates have already eliminated the top two teams in the conference in the Hartford Wolf Pack and the league-leading Providence Bruins, erasing a 2-0 series deficit to rally past the B’s in six games in the Atlantic Division Finals. Jean-Sebastien Aubin, who played 40 games (1999-2000, 2002-04) in Wilkes-Barre, has won eight consecutive starts in net for Portland.

DIVISION FINAL NOTES … All eight of Portland’s wins this postseason have been by one goal, as have seven of Toronto’s eight victories… Home teams are 4-0 in Game 7’s this spring… Toronto is the first team to win two Game 7’s on home ice in the same postseason since the 1981 Maine Mariners… Wilkes-Barre/Scranton is averaging 4.30 goals per game in the playoffs, up dramatically from its average of 2.79 in the regular season… Chicago’s Jason Krog tallied 11 points in the seven-game series with Rockford to finish with 32 points (10-22-32) in 17 meetings with the IceHogs on the season… Chicago was 13-for-44 (29.5 percent) on the power play in the series vs. Rockford after going 22-for-71 (31.0%) against them in the regular season… None of the top eight AHL goaltenders ranked by playoff GAA are still alive in the postseason… There was only one shutout in the entire second round: Tuukka Rask’s 28-save effort for Providence in Game 1 vs. Portland. 


Conference Finals Series Previews: Eastern || Western

Eastern Conference Finals – Series “M” (best-of-7)
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins vs. Portland Pirates
Game 1 – Wed., May 14 – Portland at W-B/Scranton, 7:05
Game 2 – Thu., May 15 – Portland at W-B/Scranton, 7:05
Game 3 – Sun., May 18 – W-B/Scranton at Portland, 4:05
Game 4 – Tue., May 20 – W-B/Scranton at Portland, 7:05
*Game 5 – Wed., May 21 – W-B/Scranton at Portland, 7:05
*Game 6 – Fri., May 23 – Portland at W-B/Scranton, 7:05
*Game 7 – Sat., May 24 – Portland at W-B/Scranton, 7:05
Western Conference Finals – Series “N” (best-of-7)
W1-Chicago Wolves vs. N1-Toronto Marlies
Game 1 – Fri., May 16 – Toronto at Chicago, 8:30
Game 2 – Sun., May 18 – Toronto at Chicago, 4:00
Game 3 – Tue., May 20 – Chicago at Toronto, 7:30
Game 4 – Wed., May 21 – Chicago at Toronto, 7:30
*Game 5 – Fri., May 23 – Toronto at Chicago, 8:30
*Game 6 – Sun., May 25 – Chicago at Toronto, 4:00
*Game 7 – Tue., May 27 – Toronto at Chicago, 8:00
*if necessary… All times Eastern