Boucher, Stephens, Sparks grab AHL monthly honors

Photos: Chris Rutsch, Scott Thomas, Christian Bonin

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … The American Hockey League announced today that Utica Comets forward Reid Boucher, Syracuse Crunch forward Mitchell Stephens and Toronto Marlies goaltender Garret Sparks have been selected as the league’s award winners for January.

Boucher, the CCM/AHL Player of the Month, tallied nine goals and five assists for 14 points in 11 games during January.

Boucher began the month in the National Hockey League, completing a three-game stint with the Vancouver Canucks. In his return to the Utica lineup on Jan. 7, he recorded his first career hat trick as part of a four-point performance in the Comets’ 5-1 win at Hartford. He assisted on both the game-tying and game-winning goals in Utica’s 3-2 overtime decision at Binghamton on Jan. 13, and scored twice in a 4-2 win vs. Syracuse on Jan. 20. Boucher’s goal with 39.2 seconds remaining in regulation forced overtime vs. Hartford on Jan. 24, and he finished the month by representing the host Comets at the 2018 AHL All-Star Classic, scoring three goals in the All-Star Challenge on Jan. 29.

Boucher is tied for first in the AHL with 22 goals and tied for 10th with 39 points in 36 games skating with Utica this season, his fifth professional campaign. The 24-year-old native of Grand Ledge, Mich., has appeared in 205 regular-season AHL games with Utica, Milwaukee and Albany, totaling 85 goals and 64 assists for 149 points. A fourth-round pick by New Jersey in the 2011 NHL Draft, Boucher has also played 115 NHL games with Vancouver, Nashville and the Devils, notching 17 goals and 20 assists for 37 points.

Stephens, the CCM/AHL Rookie of the Month, registered eight goals – including three game-winners – and six assists for 14 points in 12 games for Syracuse in January.

After scoring the decisive goal in Syracuse’s 3-2 win over Hartford on Jan. 6, Stephens sparked a third-period comeback with the tying goal in an eventual 4-3 victory at Providence on Jan. 7. He recorded his first three-point game as a professional on Jan. 13, picking up a goal and two assists in a 4-0 win over Rochester. Stephens made it four consecutive games with goals by scoring on Jan. 15 vs. Binghamton, Jan. 17 at Belleville and Jan. 19 vs. Toronto, then picked up three more points including the game-winning tally in a 3-2 win at Laval on Jan. 24. Stephens closed out January as the Crunch’s lone representative at the 2018 AHL All-Star Classic, picking up two goals and three assists for the victorious North Division squad.

A second-round pick (33rd overall) by Tampa Bay in the 2015 NHL Draft, Stephens has notched a team-high 16 goals to go with 11 assists and a plus-13 rating in 44 games for Syracuse in 2017-18. The 20-year-old native of Peterborough, Ont., made his pro debut with Syracuse late in the 2015-16 season, tallying one goal in five games, and also appeared in three contests for the Crunch during the 2017 Eastern Conference Finals vs. Providence.

Sparks, the CCM/AHL Goaltender of the Month, was 5-0-1 in six starts during January, allowing just six goals on 177 shots for a 0.98 goals-against average, a .966 save percentage and two shutouts.

Sparks began the month by recording 22 saves in Toronto’s 5-2 win at Laval on Jan. 3. He stopped 33 shots in a 3-2 shootout win over Lehigh Valley on Jan. 5, then denied 26 of 27 attempts in a 4-1 victory at Charlotte on Jan. 12. After a 28-save effort in a win at Syracuse on Jan. 19, Sparks authored back-to-back shutouts for the first time in his AHL career, making 31 saves in a 1-0 shootout loss at Bridgeport on Jan. 21 and then 31 more as the Marlies defeated Rochester, 2-0, on Jan. 26. Sparks ended January having shut out opponents over his last 154:01 of play.

Sparks, 24, has appeared in 25 games for the Marlies this season and ranks first in the entire AHL in goals-against average (1.60), save percentage (.944) and shutouts (4, tied), while his 17-6-1 record puts him one off the lead in wins. The native of Elmhurst, Ill., has a record of 66-25-6 with a 2.13 GAA, a .928 save percentage and 13 shutouts in 103 career AHL appearances, all with Toronto. Sparks is in his fifth season in the Maple Leafs organization after being selected in the seventh round of the 2011 NHL Draft, and has appeared in 17 NHL games with the Leafs.

Each monthly award winner will be presented with an etched crystal award prior to an upcoming home game in recognition of his achievement.