NORFOLK 8, BINGHAMTON 3
James Wright snapped a prolonged drought with three goals and an assist, and Norfolk’s offense continued to re-find its form on Friday in an 8-3 win over Binghamton at the Scope, earning the Admirals a sweep of the Senators’ two-game visit this week.
Norfolk (33-19-8-5, 79 points) earned its fifth win in seven games overall (5-2-0-0) and moved six points clear of Binghamton for the East Division’s fourth and final guaranteed playoff spot.
The Admirals outscored Binghamton 13-4 over these past two games, immediately following a stretch in which Norfolk had totaled just four goals in a three-game span. The eight goals marked a season high for the Admirals, who entered the night ranked third in the AHL in offense (3.28 goals per game).
Wright, who turns 21 years old later this month, had not scored a goal since Jan. 7 – a span of 28 games – prior to Friday night’s hat trick. The second-year pro scored all three of his goals in the third period to help the Admirals put the contest out of reach.
Paul Szczechura scored twice on the night for Norfolk; 2011 AHL All-Star Johan Harju chipped in a goal and two assists; while Marc-Antoine Pouliot (1-1-2) and defenseman Mark Barberio also found the back of the net.
Stefano Giliati and Alex Berry posted two assists apiece in the winning effort, and Admirals goaltender Dustin Tokarski (18-15-4) only had to make 14 stops to pick up the victory. Norfolk held a whopping 41-17 edge in shots on goal.
The Senators actually took a 2-0 first-period lead in this tilt on goals by Jim O’Brien and Cody Bass before surrendering six straight markers. Kaspars Daugavins also scored for Binghamton, which dropped its third straight game and fell to 1-5-0-1 in its last seven outings.
The B-Sens are now just one point up on Worcester for the crossover playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
LAKE ERIE 4, HAMILTON 2
Rookie defenseman Cameron Gaunce tallied a goal and added two assists as Lake Erie doubled up host Hamilton by a 4-2 count on Friday at Copps Coliseum.
Gaunce, a former second-round draft pick who was playing in his first game back with Lake Erie following a seven-game stint with parent-club Colorado, scored his second goal of the season 3:18 into the contest before assisting on markers by Julian Talbot (power play) and David Van der Gulik.
Lake Erie, which improved to 12-4-0-1 in its last 17 contests, pulled to within one point of Hamilton for the North Division’s third and final guaranteed playoff spot.
HERSHEY 2, CONNECTICUT 1
Kyle Greentree tallied a first-period goal and assisted on the eventual game-winner by Brian Willsie as Hershey got back on track with a 2-1 road win over surging Connecticut at the XL Center on Friday.
The Bears halted a three-game winless skid (0-2-0-1) – which had been their longest since mid-December – and collected their 40th victory of the season (40-22-1-4, 85 points).
Greentree gave Hershey a 1-0 lead with his 23rd goal of the season at 9:11 of the opening period. Andrew Kozek earned a helper in his Bears debut, and Willsie also assisted on the play.
Willsie then extended the advantage to 2-0 at 7:49 of the second frame, with Greentree earning the lone assist. That goal proved decisive when Kris Newbury finally put the Whale on the board 5:36 into the third period.
Goaltender Nolan Schaefer earned his second win in five appearances in a Bears uniform (2-2-1), stopping 23 of 24 shots on the night.
Hershey second-year head coach Mark French collected his 100th victory in 147 regular-season games coached, becoming the fastest man in AHL history to reach that milestone. French directed the Bears to 60 regular-season victories in 2009-10 before guiding the club to its 11th Calder Cup championship.
The Whale saw their four-game winning streak come to an end and dropped into a tie with Worcester for the Atlantic Division’s third and final guaranteed playoff spot. Both teams have 15 games left to play.
WORCESTER 2, MANCHESTER 1
Making their first visit to Manchester in nearly three months, Worcester moved into a share of third place in the Atlantic Division with a 3-1 win over the Monarchs at Verizon Wireless Arena on Friday.
Brandon Mashinter (power play), Tommy Wingels (shorthanded), and Dan DaSilva (empty net) netted goals for the Sharks, who earned improved to 5-4-1-0 against the Monarchs this season. It marked their first win in Manchester since an identical 3-1 triumph on Nov. 12.
Mashinter extended his goal-scoring streak to three games (3-0-3) and now has a point in five of his last six contests (3-3-6).
In his first appearance since Feb. 5, Sharks goaltender Carter Hutton earned his third straight win with 34 stops between the pipes.
Oscar Moller notched the lone goal for the Monarchs, who are winless in three straight games (0-2-0-1) and fell one point behind Portland for first place in the Atlantic.
PROVIDENCE 4, BRIDGEPORT 3 (SO)
Bridgeport battled back from third-period deficits of 2-0 and 3-1 to force overtime, but Providence received shootout goals from Zach Hamill and Jamie Arniel to prevail by a 4-3 final on Friday before 8,520 fans at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center.
The Bruins matched a season high with their fourth straight victory and moved back to the .500 mark overall at 30-30-3-2 (65 points). Providence is seven points back of Connecticut and Worcester, who are tied for the Atlantic Divisions’ final guaranteed playoff spot.
Arniel, Hamill, and rookie Jordan Caron tallied regulation goals for the Bruins, who appeared to be well in control of the tilt before Sound Tigers forward Jeremy Colliton erased a 3-1 deficit with two goals in the final four minutes of regulation, including the tying marker with 24 ticks left.
Rookie Rhett Rakhshani also scored for Bridgeport, which is now winless in seven straight outings (0-6-0-1).
Providence rookie Maxime Sauve chipped in two assists on the night, and goaltender Anton Khudobin made 20 saves through the first 65 minutes before stopping four of five in the shootout. Khudobin is now a perfect 4-0-0 since joining the Bruins from the Houston Aeros.
SYRACUSE 1, TEXAS 0 (SO)
A game which was scoreless through regulation and overtime suddenly featured a combined seven conversions in the shootout, but Syracuse emerged with a 1-0 win over visiting Texas on Friday at the Onondaga County War Memorial.
The Crunch scored on four of their five shootout tries, receiving goals from rookies Nick Bonino and Kyle Palmieri along with Josh Green and Patrick Maroon. Aaron Gagnon, Colton Sceviour, and Greg Rallo converted for the Stars.
Syracuse goaltender Jean-Philippe Levasseur (34 saves) and Texas counterpart Richard Bachman (25) were each credited with a shutout for their efforts through the first 65 minutes. Levasseur now has nine wins on the season, five of them via the shutout.
The Crunch earned their second straight win over the Stars, following a 3-1 decision in Cedar Park on Monday, and won their third consecutive game overall.
Texas continues a five-game road swing on Saturday in Hamilton before moving on to Toronto on Sunday.
PORTLAND 5, SPRINGFIELD 3
Portland moved back atop the Atlantic Division and dealt another blow to Springfield’s fading playoff hopes with a 5-3 road win over the Falcons on Saturday at the MassMutual Center.
Rookie forwards Luke Adam and Brian Roloff led the way with two goals apiece for the Pirates, while fellow rookie Mark Voakes added his third goal in as many games since joining the team from the ECHL.
Roloff set the tone with a goal 18 seconds after the opening face-off, and Portland entered the first intermission holding a 3-1 advantage. Defenseman Marc-Andre Gragnani chipped in two assists on the night, and goaltender David Leggio (19-4-0) stopped 24 of 27 shots in net.
With their fifth consecutive victory, Portland (39-17-5-2, 85 points) moved one point up on Manchester for first place and still holds four games in hand on the Monarchs, who dropped a 3-1 decision to Worcester on Friday.
TORONTO 6, ROCHESTER 5
Toronto used a whopping 20-11 shots advantage in the first period to take a 5-0 lead, extended that lead to 6-0 midway through the second period, and then survived a ferocious Rochester comeback attempt to eke out a 6-5 road win over the Americans on Friday at the Blue Cross Arena.
The Marlies extended their points streak to five games (4-0-1-0) and remained within one point of first-place Manitoba in the North Division, but it didn’t turn out to be easy.
Rookie forward Joe Colborne paced the Marlies with a goal and two assists on the night. Fellow rookie Nazem Kadri snapped a four-game scoreless drought with a goal and a helper, and Toronto also got goals from Greg Scott (1-1-2), Mike Zigomanis (1-1-2), Alex Foster, and Matt Caruana.
Caruana’s power play goal at 11:45 of the second period gave Toronto a 6-0 lead, but then the Amerks came to life. Defenseman Mike Kostka scored twice in a 1:40 span late in the second to make it 6-2, and Rochester followed up with third-period strikes by Mark Cullen (9:43), Jeff LoVecchio (15:15), and defenseman Colby Robak (16:32).
Rochester was unable to complete the comeback, though, and dropped its third straight game in regulation on the heels of an 8-1-0-1 surge.
Marlies goaltender Ben Scrivens survived the late push and took the victory after making 33 saves in net.
ALBANY 2, ADIRONDACK 1
Tim Sestito snapped a 1-1 tie at 4:21 of the third period, and Albany held on for a 2-1 road win over Adirondack on Friday at the Glens Falls Civic Center.
Louis Robitaille picked up the lone assist on the goal by Sestito, which lifted the Devils to their third win in a four-game span (3-1-0-0).
Chad Wiseman, coming off a four-goal performance in the third period of Wednesday’s 5-4 win over Bridgeport, picked up where he left off by putting the Devils on top just 4:22 into the game. Phantoms forward Eric Wellwood responded with a shorthanded goal at the 18:52 mark, and it remained 1-1 into the third frame.
Devils goaltender Mike McKenna earned the victory with 25 stops on 26 shots in net.
ROCKFORD 2, MILWAUKEE 0
Rockford netted a pair of third-period goals, and goaltender Hannu Toivonen made 28 saves for his third shutout of the season as the IceHogs collected a 2-0 road win over Milwaukee on Friday at the Bradley Center.
AHL All-Star defenseman Brian Connelly snapped a scoreless deadlock on the power play at 12:41 of the third period, with the goaltender Toivonen receiving the lone assist on the play. Igor Makarov added an empty-netter in the closing minute.
Toivonen improved to 14-13-4 on the season and has earned each of his three shutouts on the road, all of them by no more than a 2-0 final. As a team, Rockford moved to 6-1-1-1 in its last nine contests.
The West Division-leading Admirals have now lost back-to-back games in regulation for the first time since a three-game slide from Nov. 20-23.
PEORIA 5, CHICAGO 4 (SO)
Derek Nesbitt tied the game on the power play with just two seconds left in regulation, and Peoria went on to collect a 5-4 shootout win over host Chicago on Friday at Allstate Arena.
The win vaulted Peoria (36-24-2-5, 79 points) into sole possession of third place in the West Division race, one point up on Texas and one point back of second-place Houston with a game in hand.
The teams traded goals within 21 seconds of the opening face-off, as Wolves forward Tim Miller scored nine seconds in and Aliu answered for Peoria 12 seconds later. Graham Mink recorded his 20th goal of the season for Peoria, which also received a marker from Tyler Shattock.
Chicago is now two points up on San Antonio and Oklahoma City for the Western Conference’s crossover playoff spot.
OKLAHOMA CITY 6, GRAND RAPIDS 5 (OT)
Rookie defenseman Anthony Aiello picked a great time for his first career AHL goal, scoring 36 seconds into overtime to send Oklahoma City to a much-needed 6-5 win over visiting Grand Rapids in a back-and-forth tilt at the Cox Convention Center on Friday.
The overtime goal capped a three-point performance for Aiello (1-2-3), who entered the night with six assists in 17 games for the Barons this season.
Fellow rookie Mark Arcobello scored twice in regulation before assisting on Aiello’s game-winner, and Arcobello has now racked up five goals in 11 games since joining Oklahoma City’s lineup.
Teemu Hartikainen (1-2-3) also posted three assists for the Barons, while Chris Vandevelde (1-1-2) and Colin McDonald rounded out the offense. Veteran defenseman Bryan Helmer chipped in with a pair of assists.
Oklahoma City goaltender Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers (11-11-2) emerged with the victory after making 33 saves between the pipes.
The Barons, who had totaled just four goals during a two-game losing skid, moved within two points of Chicago for a playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Moose rookie goaltender Eddie Lack surrendered an opening-round goal to Houston’s Patrick O’Sullivan but then denied Casey Wellman, Robbie Earl, Jon DiSalvatore, and Cody Almond in succession. Lack (23-16-3) stopped 32 of 33 shots through the first 65 minutes of action.
Manitoba improved to 5-1-0-0 in its last six contests and remained one point up on Toronto for first place in the North Division race.
With the point gained in the shootout loss, the Aeros closed to within a point of first-place Milwaukee in the West Division. However, the Admirals still hold four games in hand on Houston.
WILKES-BARRE/SCRANTON 4, ABBOTSFORD 0
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton scored twice in the first period and twice more in the second frame en route to a 4-0 road win over Abbotsford in the opener of a two-game set at the Entertainment & Sports Centre.
Geoff Walker, Zach Sill (1-1-2), Bryan Lerg, and Brett Sterling netted goals for the Penguins, who improved to 3-0-0-0 against Abbotsford this season and moved their league-leading record to 46-18-0-0 overall (92 points).
Penguins goaltender Brad Thiessen collected his league-leading seventh shutout of the season with 26 stops in net and is now an impressive 28-7-0 in 37 appearances for the season.
The Heat, who have now been blanked in two of their last three home games, end the day four points back of Hamilton for the North Division’s third and final guaranteed playoff berth.