Bourque, Conacher win scoring races

SPRINGFIELD, Mass.Chris Bourque of the Hershey Bears has won the John B. Sollenberger Trophy as the leading scorer in the American Hockey League, while Cory Conacher of the Norfolk Admirals has won the Willie Marshall Award as the AHL’s leading goal scorer for the 2011-12 campaign.

A First Team AHL All-Star this season, Bourque scored 27 goals and set career highs with 66 assists and 93 points in 73 games for Hershey, helping the Bears to their seventh consecutive Calder Cup Playoff berth. Bourque had a 12-game scoring streak from Nov. 11 to Dec. 9 and recorded 23 multiple-point games, including two five-point performances.

This is Bourque’s first career scoring title. The 26-year-old Boston native has totaled 132 goals and 263 assists for 395 points in 398 AHL games over seven pro seasons, and is a three-time Calder Cup champion with the Bears (2006, 2009, 2010).

The AHL’s leading-scorer trophy was originally named after Wally Kilrea, who held the AHL’s single-season scoring record when the award was instituted in 1947-48. That year, Carl Liscombe broke Kilrea’s record, and the award was renamed in his honor. In 1955, the AHL Board of Governors voted to name the trophy after John B. Sollenberger, a long-time contributor to the league as manager and president of the Hershey Bears and former Chairman of the AHL Board of Governors. Previous winners of the John B. Sollenberger Trophy include Fred Glover (1957, ’60), Willie Marshall (1958), Bill Sweeney (1961, ’62, ’63), Don Blackburn (1972), Paul Gardner (1985, ’86), Bruce Boudreau (1988), Peter White (1995, ’97, ’98), Derek Armstrong (2001), Jason Spezza (2005), Darren Haydar (2007), Alexandre Giroux (2009), Keith Aucoin (2010) and Corey Locke (2011).

Conacher captured the AHL goal-scoring title with 39 goals, securing the Willie Marshall Award with a hat trick on the final day of the season. It’s the latest in a long line of accolades for the 22-year-old Conacher, who was also the AHL’s MVP, outstanding rookie and Second Team All-Star left wing in 2011-12 while helping Norfolk to the best record in the AHL and an incredible 28-game winning streak to close out the regular season. Conacher finished the season with 80 points and a plus-19 rating in 75 games for the Admirals.

The AHL’s goal-scoring award was established in 2004 to honor Willie Marshall, the AHL’s all-time leader in goals, assists, points and games played. During his 20-year AHL playing career, Marshall won three Calder Cup championships (1955, 1958, 1959) and one scoring title. Jeff Hamilton (2004), Mike Cammalleri (2005), Donald MacLean (2006), Denis Hamel (2006), Brett Sterling (2007), Jason Krog (2008), Alexandre Giroux (2009, ’10) and Colin McDonald (2011) were the first winners of the Willie Marshall Award; other previous yearly goal-scoring leaders include Bryan Hextall (1937), Lou Trudel (1942, ’45), Fred Glover (1951), Dunc Fisher (1958), Jimmy Anderson (1961, ’64), Yvon Lambert (1973), Gordie Clark (1980), Paul Gardner (1985, ’86), Jody Gage (1988) and Brad Smyth (1996, 2001).

In operation since 1936, the American Hockey League continues to serve as the top development league for all 30 National Hockey League teams. More than 85 percent of all players competing in the NHL are AHL graduates, and through the years the American Hockey League has been home to more than 100 honored members of the Hockey Hall of Fame. Sixteen clubs will continue to vie for the league’s coveted championship trophy when the 2012 Calder Cup Playoffs get under way Thursday.