CALDER CUP UPDATE:
The first three nights of the 2006 Calder Cup Playoffs were all about the Eastern Conference… Tonight, the West gets their turn, as all four semifinals in the North and West Divisions get underway… At Van Andel Arena, Grand Rapids begins the postscript to their 115-point regular season as Toronto visits for Game 1 (7:00 ET)… The Griffins finished first overall in the AHL, but lost four of their last six games following an 11-game win streak… League MVP Donald MacLean and his 56 goals are back with Grand Rapids after finishing the regular season in the NHL with Detroit… J.S. Aubin has returned to the Marlies after going 9-0-2 in 11 starts down the stretch for the parent Maple Leafs.
Manitoba and Syracuse drop the puck at the War Memorial tonight (7:30 ET)… The Crunch got a huge lift when leading scorer Mark Hartigan cleared waivers and was assigned by NHL Columbus yesterday; Hartigan had a 14-game scoring streak intact (12g, 12a) before his recall to the Blue Jackets last month… Syracuse’s Andy Delmore led all AHL defensemen in goals (17), assists (55) and points (72) this season… Moose goalie Wade Flaherty was the MVP of the 2004 Calder Cup Playoffs with Milwaukee… Jesse Schultz, who played all 80 games for Manitoba this year, ranked sixth in the league with 37 goals.
West Division champion Milwaukee hits the Bradley Center ice for Game 1 against Iowa tonight (7:00 CT)… The Admirals finished the regular season 5-0-0-2 in their last seven games, while the Stars won 11 of their final 13 matches to gain the fourth and final playoff spot in the division… Milwaukee’s Darren Haydar, with eight points and a plus-6 rating in his last three games, finished fifth in the AHL with 92 points in the regular season… Loui Eriksson recorded 28 points (14g, 14a) and a plus-22 rating over his last 23 games for Iowa… The Admirals dominated the season series between the teams, going 7-1-0-2 against the Stars.
Tonight’s final lid-lifter sees Houston entertain Peoria (7:35 ET)… The Aeros boasted three of the top four point-getters in the AHL during the regular season, including scoring champion Kirby Law (110 points)… Patrick O’Sullivan scored 47 goals for Houston, the most by an AHL rookie in 15 years… Josh Harding returned from the parent Minnesota Wild and won his last two starts for the Aeros, finishing the season at 29-8-0… Peoria got six players back from St. Louis when the NHL season ended, including team goal-scoring leader Mike Glumac and 2004 Calder Cup champ Timofei Shishkanov… Houston is 0-5 in home playoff games since moving into the Toyota Center following its 2003 Calder Cup championship season.
Norfolk tries to get in the win column as Hershey visits Scope for Game 2 tonight (7:15 ET)… The Bears took Wednesday’s opener, 3-2, on the strength of a Boyd Gordon goal in the third period… Hartford and Manchester play Game 3 at the Verizon Wireless Arena tonight (7:35 ET)… The Wolf Pack evened the series on Martin Sonnenberg’s overtime goal on Wednesday night… Last night, Bridgeport took a 2-1 win from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in their series opener, with Wade Dubielewicz making 24 saves in the victory… Portland got a goal and four assists from Maxim Kondratiev in a 6-0 rout of Providence in Game 1 last night.
BY THE NUMBERS:
32 — Times in 69 seasons that the AHL team finishing first overall in the regular season has won the Calder Cup… Most recent occurrences were 2004 (Milwaukee), 2000 (Hartford), 1999 (Providence) and 1998 (Philadelphia).
AHL ON B2 NETWORKS:
B2 Networks brings all the action of the 2006 Calder Cup Playoffs to your computer with live video webcasts of every game… Click here for details.