LAKE ERIE 7, GRAND RAPIDS 2
Despite playing just four times in the first 17 days of March, Ben Walter and his Lake Erie teammates showed no signs of rust, scoring a season-high seven goals and moving into a tie for third in the North Division with a 7-2 road win over Grand Rapids on Friday in front of 8,530 fans at Van Andel Arena.
The Monsters are now deadlocked with Toronto at 78 points apiece, two points up on fifth-place Grand Rapids. Only the top three teams in the North are guaranteed entry to the 2011 Calder Cup Playoffs.
Lake Erie’s leading scorer, Walter racked up a goal and three assists for his first four-point effort of the season. Walter (19-36-55) gave the Monsters a 2-0 lead 50 seconds into the second period before picking up his three helpers, and he now has a point in three straight games (1-5-6) and 11 of his last 12 outings (3-15-18).
Greg Mauldin extended his goal-scoring streak to three games (4-0-4) with a pair of markers, and the Monsters also received goals from Justin Mercier, Harrison Reed, Julian Talbot, and defenseman Travis Gawryletz.
Lake Erie torched Griffins goaltender Jordan Pearce for five goals on 14 shots during the second period alone and wound up with its greatest offensive output since, ironically, posting an identical 7-2 victory over the Griffins in Grand Rapids on Jan. 3, 2010.
David Van der Gulik (0-3-3) and rookie defenseman Cameron Gaunce (0-2-2) each contributed a pair of assists for the Monsters, and goaltender Jason Bacashihua (18-15-3) earned the victory with 23 saves on 25 shots between the pipes.
Lake Erie continues a five-game road swing in Milwaukee on Saturday before concluding the journey with a stop in Peoria on Sunday.
Tomas Tatar and Francis Pare lit the lamp for Grand Rapids, which had been 7-0-1-0 in the eight games since a 3-2 loss to Lake Erie on Feb. 26. The Griffins’ last regulation loss to a team other than the Monsters came back on Feb. 13 in a 3-1 setback at Rochester.
CHARLOTTE 3, BRIDGEPORT 2 (SO)
Jon Matsumoto converted in the sixth round of the shootout to send Charlotte to its second road win over Bridgeport in a three-day span, a 3-2 final on Friday at the Webster Bank Arena.
Charlotte goaltender Mike Murphy (21-11-3) turned aside 35 of 37 shots through the first 65 minutes before stopping four of six tries in the shootout, allowing conversions to Bridgeport’s Rob Hisey and David Ullstrom.
The Checkers, who collected a 2-1 shootout win over the Sound Tigers on Wednesday, appeared poised for a regulation victory this time when they held a 2-0 lead early in the third period. But Bridgeport used special teams to battle back, as rookie Rhett Rakhshani buried a power play goal at 10:02 and Hisey tied it with a shorthanded marker at 19:37.
Charlotte emerged with the two points, though, and remained one point up on Norfolk for third place in the East Division and six points back of second-place Hershey.
The Sound Tigers dipped to 1-7-0-3 in their last 11 games.
CONNECTICUT 1, MANCHESTER 0
Kris Newbury snapped a scoreless tie at 2:47 of the third period, and Connecticut took over sole possession of third place in the Atlantic Division with a 1-0 road win over division-leading Manchester on Friday before 7,490 fans at the Verizon Wireless Arena.
Coupled with Worcester’s 4-1 loss in Providence, the Whale moved two points ahead of the Sharks in the race for the Atlantic’s third and final guaranteed playoff berth.
Goaltenders Dov Grumet-Morris of Connecticut and Jeff Zatkoff of Manchester engaged in a 0-0 duel until Newbury put the Whale on the board with his 15th goal of the season and sixth in seven games since returning from a stint with the parent N.Y. Rangers. Brodie Dupont and Dale Weise picked up assists on the play.
Grumet-Morris (8-3-1) made the goal stand up and finished with 25 saves to record his first AHL shutout since Apr. 7, 2007, as a member of the Manitoba Moose.
The Monarchs, which lost for just the second time in eight meetings with Connecticut this season (6-2-0-0), saw their three-game overall winning streak come to an end. It marked Manchester’s first shutout against since dropping a 3-0 decision in Providence on Jan. 7.
PROVIDENCE 4, WORCESTER 1
Trent Whitfield kept the hot hand with a goal and an assist as Providence rebounded from two straight losses with a convincing 4-1 win over visiting Worcester on Friday in front of 9,185 fans at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center.
The Bruins kept up the pressure all night long and finished with 56 shots on goal, matching an AHL season high. Norfolk took 56 shots in a 7-2 victory over the same Sharks back on Oct. 16.
Whitfield extended his scoring streak to seven games (7-6-13), which comes on the heels of a stretch in which the veteran forward had produced only two points in 11 contests.
John McCarthy netted the lone goal for the Sharks, who dropped two points back of victorious Connecticut for the Atlantic Division’s third and final guaranteed postseason spot.
PORTLAND 3, BINGHAMTON 2
Derek Whitmore scored with exactly eight minutes left in regulation to break a 2-2 tie and send Portland on its way to a 3-2 road win over Binghamton at the Broome County Arena on Friday night.
The Pirates improved to 7-1-0-0 in their last eight games and closed to within one point of first-place Manchester in the Atlantic Division. Portland still holds five games in hand on the Monarchs over the course of the season’s final few weeks.
Portland goaltender David Leggio (20-5-0) made 19 saves between the pipes and joined teammate Jhonas Enroth (20-17-2) in reaching the 20-win plateau this year. The Pirates also earned a split of their season series with Binghamton, having dropped a 5-2 decision at home on Jan. 11.
Jim O’Brien notched his 19th and 20th goals of the campaign for the skidding Senators, who are now just 2-7-0-1 in their last 10 games but still hold a one-point lead on Worcester for the Eastern Conference’s crossover playoff spot.
The Pirates visit Hershey on Saturday in a clash of conference heavyweights before closing the weekend with a divisional game in Providence on Sunday.
SYRACUSE 1, TORONTO 0
Rookie forward Kyle Palmieri netted the game’s only goal at 11:45 of the third period, and Syracuse eked out a 1-0 win over visiting Toronto at the Onondaga County War Memorial on Friday.
Maxime Macenauer and defenseman Mat Clark picked up assists on Palmieri’s 15th goal of the season but first game-winner. The 20-year-old former first-round draft pick snapped a stretch of six straight games without a point.
Crunch goaltender Timo Pielmeier earned his first professional shutout with 30 stops between the pipes, and Syracuse picked up its sixth shutout as a team out of 25 total victories for the season (25-35-3-4).
The Marlies, who are now winless in four straight games (0-3-0-1), fell into a tie with victorious Lake Erie for the North Division’s third and last guaranteed playoff spot.
HERSHEY 5, SPRINGFIELD 1
Brian Willsie tallied two goals and an assist, and Andrew Kozek connected for his first two goals in a Hershey uniform as the Bears blitzed reeling Springfield for a 5-1 road victory on Friday at the MassMutual Center.
Willsie netted his team-leading 27th and 28th goals of the season, and his 62 points are now just one shy of the injured Keith Aucoin (15-48-63) for the team lead. Willsie now has a point in four straight games (3-4-7).
Kozek, obtained from Chicago prior to the AHL’s Clear Day deadline, opened the scoring 1:49 into the game and added another goal in the second period. The second-year pro now has four points (2-2-4) in four games with Hershey after totaling 12 points (7-5-12) in 57 outings for the Wolves this season.
Kyle Greentree capped off the Bears’ offense; defenseman Patrick Wellar chipped in two assists; and goaltender Nolan Schaefer made 29 saves to improve to 3-2-2 in seven appearances since joining Hershey’s lineup from the Providence Bruins.
The Bears extended their points streak to four games (3-0-0-1) and moved back within seven points of idle Wilkes-Barre/Scranton for first place in the East Division.
Maksim Mayorov provided Springfield’s lone offense of the night, as the Falcons tumbled to 0-8-1-0 in their last nine contests.
NORFOLK 4, ALBANY 1
Norfolk continued to round into form late in the season and opened up a five-game homestand with a 4-1 win over previously-surging Albany on Friday at the Scope.
The Admirals extended their winning streak to four games, improved to 8-2-0-1 in their last 11 outings, and remained just one point back of Charlotte for third place in the East Division race. Norfolk is now a comfortable eight points clear of Binghamton for the division’s final guaranteed playoff bid.
Matt Fornataro paced the Admirals with a goal and an assist on the night and now has a point in five of his last six games (2-6-8). Stefano Giliati, James Wright, and Tim Marks also scored for Norfolk, and Marc-Antoine Pouliot (20-38-58) added to his team-leading point total with a pair of helpers.
Goaltender Cedrick Desjardins, who had been out for an extended time due to injury, returned to the lineup and earned the win with 22 saves in his first action for the Admirals since Jan. 16.
Norfolk finished is now 6-0-1-0 against Albany this year, and the division rivals will conclude their season series on Saturday night.
Rookie Adam Henrique tallied the Devils’ only goal, as Albany saw its season-high five-game winning streak come to an end.
MILWAUKEE 4, SAN ANTONIO 1
Chris Mueller potted a goal and two helpers as West Division-leading Milwaukee got back into the win column with a 4-1 road triumph over San Antonio on Friday in front of 8,828 fans at the AT&T Center.
The Admirals, who overcame a 1-0 deficit to score four unanswered goals en route to the victory, also received tallies from defensemen Aaron Johnson and Teemu Laakso (1-1-2) along with forward Andreas Thuresson.
Milwaukee was coming off a 2-1 shootout loss to the Rampage on Wednesday night and salvaged one win out of its three-game trip to Texas, having also dropped a 3-2 overtime decision in Houston on Tuesday.
At 37-18-5-8 (87 points), the Admirals moved two points up on idle Houston for the West Division’s top spot.
After a scoreless first period, Bracken Kearns initially gave the Rampage a 1-0 lead at 3:12 of the second period. San Antonio is now one point back of both Chicago and Oklahoma City for a playoff spot in the Western Conference.
OKLAHOMA CITY 5, ROCKFORD 1
Fourth-year pro Colin McDonald scored three times for his first professional hat trick, and Oklahoma City rolled to a 5-1 road win over Rockford on Friday at the MetroCentre.
McDonald, who before this year had never scored as many as 20 goals in a season, passed the 30-goal plateau with his effort and now ranks third in the entire AHL with 31 tallies (31-14-45) in 69 games for the campaign.
Mark Arcobello recorded a goal and an assist for the Barons, and Philippe Cornet also found the back of the net to help Oklahoma City (35-25-2-7, 79 points) move into a tie with idle Chicago for the Western Conference’s crossover playoff spot.
That duo sits one point ahead of San Antonio, which lost to Milwaukee on Friday.
Brad Moran chipped in three assists in the winning effort; defenseman Alex Plante had two helpers; and Barons goaltender Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers (12-11-3) made a season-high 40 saves on 41 shots to earn the victory.
IceHogs rookie Kyle Beach broke up Drouin-Deslauriers’s shutout bid with a power play goal at 3:57 of the third period.
MANITOBA 4, TEXAS 3
Manitoba, which had totaled just four goals during a three-game losing skid heading into the weekend, matched that offensive output on Friday and edged visiting Texas by a 4-3 count before 9,129 fans at the MTS Centre.
Two-time AHL All-Star Sergei Shirokov scored what turned out to be the game-winning goal for the Moose at 13:05 of the third period, his team-leading 20th goal of the season. It marks the second time in as many AHL seasons that the 25-year-old Shirokov has reached 20 goals.
Moose goaltender Tyler Weiman (14-9-2) made 32 saves on 34 shots in net and improved to 3-1-0 in his last four appearances.
Aaron Gagnon and defenseman Dan Spang each posted a goal and an assist for the Stars, and Travis Morin cut Texas’ deficit to 4-3 with a power play goal at 15:34. But the Stars could not score again and lost for the fourth time in their last five games (1-3-0-1).
The teams will conclude their four-game season series on Saturday night in Winnipeg, with the Moose holding a 2-1-0-0 advantage thus far.
ABBOTSFORD 3, HAMILTON 2
Matt Keith’s unassisted goal snapped a 2-2 tie at 19:15 of the third period, giving Abbotsford a thrilling 3-2 win over visiting Hamilton on Friday at the Entertainment & Sports Centre.
Keith nabbed his team-leading 19th goal of the season and second game-winner for the Heat, who collected their second straight victory and moved within three points of Lake Erie and Toronto for the North Division’s final guaranteed playoff spot.
The division rivals will square off for a rematch in Abbotsford on Saturday night.