SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … From now until January 8, American Hockey League fans logging on at theahl.com will be able to help decide which players will earn a trip to the 2006 Rbk Hockey AHL All-Star Classic, to be held in Winnipeg on January 31 and February 1.
Fan balloting will determine the starting lineups for both the Canadian and PlanetUSA AHL All-Star teams, and a committee of AHL coaches will help complete the rosters, which will be announced in mid-January. By virtue of leading Philadelphia to the 2005 Calder Cup championship, Phantoms head coach John Stevens will guide one team; the coach whose club owns the best points percentage in the AHL after play on Jan. 15 will lead the other.
The host Canadian AHL All-Stars had a five-game winning streak snapped in a shootout loss in 2005, but should bring plenty of firepower to Winnipeg for this year’s event. Top candidates for the Canadian squad include Houston’s Kirby Law, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s Michel Ouellet, Peoria’s Mike Glumac, Rochester’s Jason Pominville, and top rookies like Eric Fehr of Hershey, Jeff Tambellini of Manchester, Geoff Platt of Syracuse, Nigel Dawes of Hartford and Tyler Redenbach of Providence.
Canadian-born defensemen having note-worthy seasons include Rochester’s Nathan Paetsch, Omaha’s Mark Giordano, Bridgeport’s Bruno Gervais and Philadelphia’s four-time All-Star John Slaney. Goaltenders up for consideration include Wilkes-Barre’s tandem of Marc-Andre Fleury and Dany Sabourin, Hershey’s Frederic Cassivi, Houston’s Josh Harding, Portland’s Nathan Marsters and Manitoba’s Wade Flaherty.
The PlanetUSA AHL All-Stars, made up of players born outside Canada, rallied from a 4-0 deficit to win last year’s contest. This season, four of the top five scorers in the AHL through Sunday’s action would qualify for the PlanetUSA team: Houston’s Erik Westrum, Grand Rapids’ Jiri Hudler, Peoria’s Peter Sejna and Lowell’s Keith Aucoin. Springfield rookie Ryan Vesce, Wilkes-Barre’s Tomas Surovy and Houston’s Roman Voloshenko are also among the league’s top 15 in scoring.
Top defensive candidates for the PlanetUSA roster in Winnipeg include Wilkes-Barre’s stellar rookie duo of Ryan Lannon and Noah Welch, as well as Manchester’s Denis Grebeshkov, Hartford’s Thomas Pock and Sven Butenschon of the hometown Manitoba Moose. Among the goaltenders in the running for the three PlanetUSA roster spots are Milwaukee’s Pekka Rinne, Peoria’s Jason Bacashihua, Lowell’s Vitaly Kolesnik, Manchester’s Adam Hauser and Springfield’s Gerald Coleman. Other forwards available for the PlanetUSA club include standout newcomers Patrick O’Sullivan of Houston, Ryan Shannon of Portland, Valtteri Filppula of Grand Rapids, Petr Vrana of Albany and Josh Hennessy of Cleveland.
Of the 364 players to take part in the AHL All-Star Classic since 1995, more than 93 percent have competed in the National Hockey League, including current NHL stars like Patrice Bergeron, Pavol Demitra, Rick DiPietro, Patrik Elias, Miikka Kiprusoff, Kari Lehtonen, Ryan Miller, Martin St. Louis, Jason Spezza, Eric Staal and Steve Sullivan.
MOOSE BITE PENS, PENS BITE BACK … In a series pitting two of the top teams in the American Hockey League, the Manitoba Moose put an end to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s 23-game points streak with a 3-1 victory on Friday night, the Penguins’ first regulation loss of the season. Wade Flaherty, who with Milwaukee was named MVP of the 2004 Calder Cup Playoffs following a four-game sweep of the Penguins in the Finals, improved to 10-2-0 lifetime against Wilkes-Barre with a 27-save effort.
The Penguins weren’t long for losing, however, scoring four times in the first period of Saturday’s rematch en route to a 7-1 victory over the Moose. Rico Fata had three points for Wilkes-Barre, including his first two goals in 27 combined AHL and NHL games this season.
BULLDOGS TAKE CUP REMATCH … In their first meeting since Game 7 of the 2003 Calder Cup Final, the Hamilton Bulldogs handed the Houston Aeros a 7-1 defeat at Copps Coliseum on Saturday night.
Fourteen different Bulldogs recorded a point in the game, led by Marc-Antoine Pouliot, Corey Locke, Francis Lemieux and Maxim Lapierre with a goal and an assist apiece. Hamilton set a franchise record in the third period, scoring their final three goals of the night in a 57-second span.
SLANEY ON THE BRINK … Philadelphia captain John Slaney had three points in two games over the weekend, leaving him one shy of Steve Kraftcheck’s AHL record of 453 career points by a defenseman. Slaney takes aim at the mark Friday when the Phantoms host Hamilton.