B’s buzzing back into playoff chase

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … A busy month of December gave the Providence Bruins an opportunity to get back in the hunt in the Atlantic Division, and a 9-2-0-0 run to close out 2005 accomplished just that.

Nathan Robinson drove the Providence offense during the last three weeks, recording nine goals and 11 assists for 20 points – along with a plus-13 rating – during an 11-game scoring streak from Dec. 9-30. Included in that stretch was a natural hat trick during a four-point game against Springfield on Dec. 11, and back-to-back three-point efforts on Dec. 21 and 23.

Robinson is second in team scoring only to Eric Healey, recently named captain of the PlanetUSA team at the upcoming 2006 Rbk Hockey AHL All-Star Classic. Healey recorded 15 points in 14 games during December, including three of his league-leading five game-winning goals. Rookie Tyler Redenbach has 25 points and a team-leading plus-14 rating on the year, and has more multiple-point games (nine) than single-point games (six). Sixth-year pro Ben Guite has scored 12 goals already, just two shy of his career high established in 2001-02.

Ben Walter, son of 15-year NHL veteran Ryan Walter, doubled his goal total with a hat trick on Dec. 27; the Bruins rookie has 10 points in his last seven games entering the new year. Pascal Pelletier, signed to a try-out contract on Dec. 16, has recorded eight points in nine games since joining Providence for his first career stint in the AHL.

Captain Jay Leach anchors a young group of defensemen that includes Mark Stuart, Boston’s first-round draft pick in 2003, and Jonathan Sigalet, 2005 draftee and younger brother of Providence’s rookie goaltender Jordan Sigalet.

Tim Thomas has gotten most of the work in net for the Bruins, posting a record of 13-10-0 in 23 appearances on the season. Thomas ranks third in the AHL in both goals-against average (2.12) and save percentage (.928).

Head coach Scott Gordon (96-84-21) is closing in on his 100th career win as Providence returns to action with three games this weekend, including battles with division leaders Manchester (Friday) and Portland (Saturday).

PENGUINS FIRST IN ’05 … Thanks in large part to a record start to the 2005-06 season, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton finished with the American Hockey League’s best regular-season record during calendar year 2005, earning 108 points in 81 games (.667).

Manchester, which finished third in the league in 2004, ranked second in 2005 with 105 points in 80 games (.656). Houston led Western Conference teams with 109 points in 84 games (.649), followed by Milwaukee and Rochester.


AHL Team Records – 2005

1. Wilkes-Barre 81 49 22 5 5 108 .667
2. Manchester 80 48 23 3 6 105 .656
3. Houston 84 49 24 5 6 109 .649
4. Milwaukee 82 48 25 4 5 105 .640
5. Rochester 82 49 27 2 4 104 .634
6. Hartford 79 44 25 4 6 98 .620
7. Portland 79 44 26 6 3 97 .614
Binghamton 79 43 25 4 7 97 .614
9. Manitoba 85 47 28 3 7 104 .612
10. Hershey 82 45 27 3 7 100 .610


DECEMBERS TO REMEMBER … December is traditionally a time for friends and family, and several sets of AHL teammates used the opportunity to pad their scoring totals.

Portland rookies Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf were the top two scorers in the AHL during December, combining for 47 points (18g, 29a) in 13 games. Mike Glumac, Trent Whitfield and Jon DiSalvatore picked up 60 points (25g, 35a) among them in 14 games for Peoria; Denis Hamel and Steve Martins combined for 39 points (17g, 22a) in 14 games for Binghamton; and Kirby Law and Erik Westrum needed just 10 games to record 35 points (12g, 23a) for Houston.

Five AHL players bring double-digit scoring streaks into 2006: Perry (17 games), Whitfield (14), Westrum (11), Bridgeport’s Jeff Hamilton (10) and Syracuse’s Andy Delmore (10). Perry’s run, recording at least one point in every AHL game he has played this season (15g, 17a), is the longest in Pirates history; Whitfield registered a point in each of his 14 games in December (9g, 12a); Westrum (3g, 13a) and Hamilton (9g, 9a) each picked up points in all 10 of their AHL games on the month; and Delmore had 18 points (2g, 16a) in his last 10 games before finishing 2005 in Columbus.

ETC. … Six AHL players found new homes last week as the NHL holiday freeze on trades expired: Stephen Peat and Krys Kolanos landed in Lowell, Pavel Brendl and Eric Chouinard wound up in San Antonio, Kiel McLeod went to Philadelphia and Colin Forbes returned to Hershey, where he began his pro career in 1996… Tim Thomas stopped 49 of 50 shots in Providence’s 3-1 win in Hartford on New Year’s Eve, two years to the day after David LeNeveu’s 55-save effort in a 4-1 Springfield win at Hartford to ring out 2003… Grant Potulny scored four times for Binghamton in a 6-3 win in Rochester on Friday… Behind the goaltending of Nolan Schaefer, Cleveland posted back-to-back shutouts of San Antonio last week… Mike Sgroi, with six goals in 135 career AHL games entering the contest, recorded a hat trick in Albany’s 7-6 overtime win over Portland last Tuesday… Manny Legace made 20 saves and recorded an assist in Grand Rapids’ 7-2 win over Hamilton on Friday, his first AHL appearance since 1998… Chicago and Peoria combined for 16 goals on just 52 shots in the Wolves’ 11-5 victory on Friday night… Omaha snapped a seven-game home winless streak with a 3-2 win over Milwaukee on Friday… Twelve games on New Year’s Eve drew more than 83,000 fans to AHL arenas, including crowds of 12,352 in Manitoba; 10,004 in Grand Rapids; and 9,815 in Hershey; as well as sellouts in Manchester, Wilkes-Barre, Portland and Binghamton.