WILKES-BARRE/SCRANTON 4, ALBANY 3
Rookie Eric Tangradi scored two goals and added an assist, and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton punched its ticket to the playoffs with a 4-3 win over visiting Albany on Friday before 7,491 fans at the Mohegan Sun Arena.
The Penguins, who reached the Calder Cup Finals in 2001, 2004, and 2008, will make their eighth consecutive postseason appearance and will oppose either Albany or Hershey in the division semifinals.
The two goals and three points both marked season highs for Tangradi, who now shows 17 goals and 39 points in 64 games on the year.
Penguins captain Wyatt Smith, who registered a goal and two assists on the night, was credited with the eventual game-winning goal on a bizarre play.
Albany defenseman Tim Conboy slid the puck back to goaltender Justin Peters in an attempt to freeze it and take a face-off, but the puck slid past Peters and into the net, giving Wilkes-Barre a 4-3 lead at 8:45 of the third period. Neither team scored the rest of the way.
Albany is already locked into second place in the East Division and home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
With the victory, the Sound Tigers pulled into a tie with Lowell for fourth place in the Atlantic Division at 84 points apiece. Both teams now have a magic number of one to clinch a playoff spot.
Joensuu had registered only one goal in his previous 27 games prior to erupting for his first multiple-goal game of the season, let alone his first hat trick. The second-year pro scored once in the opening period and twice in the third frame, capped off by an empty-netter in the closing minute.
Bridgeport goaltender Nathan Lawson emerged with the win after making 31 saves on 34 shots.
HARTFORD 3, WORCESTER 2
Hartford pulled out a 3-2 road win at Worcester on Friday but was still eliminated from postseason contention courtesy of Bridgeport’s 6-3 win at Lowell.
The Wolf Pack, who won the Calder Cup in 2000, will miss the playoffs for the first time since joining the AHL for the 1997-98 season.
Corey Locke contributed two assists in the victory, including a helper on Brouillette’s eventual game-winner early in the third period.
Wolf Pack goaltender Chad Johnson stopped 23 of 25 shots between the pipes, as Hartford finished 5-3-0-0 against Worcester this season.
ROCHESTER 4, TORONTO 3 (SO)
Rochester coughed up a 3-0 lead in regulation but eventually captured a 4-3 shootout win over visiting Toronto on Friday before 6,995 fans at Blue Cross Arena.
With the victory, the Americans wrapped up second place in the North Division race, ensuring them home-ice advantage against either Abbotsford or Manitoba in the first round of the Calder Cup Playoffs.
Rochester netminder Alexander Salak, who made 35 saves through the first 65 minutes, denied Toronto’s other three shootout tries to earn his first victory since Mar. 13 at Syracuse.
Engel brought Toronto within 3-1 before the first period was out, and Hamilton and Andre Deveaux scored 1:25 apart in the third frame to tie it up.
PROVIDENCE 3, SPRINGFIELD 2 (OT)
Kirk MacDonald tallied his second overtime goal in a six-day span, lifting Providence to a 3-2 win over visiting Springfield before 10,125 fans at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center on Friday.
MacDonald now has 14 goals on the season, and five of them have been for game-winners.
However, Bridgeport’s win at Lowell ensured that the Bruins will miss the Calder Cup Playoffs for the first time since 1998.
Chris Minard and Ryan O’Marra notched goals for the Falcons, who are winless in seven straight games (0-4-2-1).
GRAND RAPIDS 6, LAKE ERIE 1
Grand Rapids closed out its home schedule in style, romping to a 6-1 win over Lake Erie on Friday before a sellout crowd of 10,834 fans at Van Andel Arena.
Mattias Ritola led the way with a pair of first-period goals for the Griffins, who will miss the playoffs this spring for the second time in three years.
Grand Rapids received multiple-assist performances from Jakub Kindl (0-3-3), Cory Emmerton (0-2-2), and Brad May (0-2-2), and goaltender Thomas McCollum earned his second straight win with 25 saves on 26 shots.
Defenseman Ray Macias notched the Monsters’ lone goal of the night.
HERSHEY 6, NORFOLK 1
Hershey used a four-goal second period to power past host Norfolk by a 6-1 count on Friday in the opener of a two-game set at the Scope.
AHL leading goal-scorer Alexandre Giroux netted his third hat trick of the season for the Bears, tallying his 47th, 48th, and 49th goals of the season. With one game to play, Giroux is just one score shy of his second consecutive 50-goal season for Hershey.
Hershey rookie goaltender Braden Holtby turned aside 23 of 24 shots to pick up his 24th victory of the season (24-8-2).
The Bears (60-16-0-3) became the first team in AHL history to reach the 60-win plateau, and with a win in Saturday’s rematch with Norfolk, they would finish with 125 points on the season and surpass the league-record 124 points attained by the 1992-93 Binghamton Rangers.
Mitch Fritz scored for the Admirals, who can now only make the playoffs if they beat the Bears on Saturday and either Bridgeport or Lowell loses both of its remaining two games in regulation.
HAMILTON 5, SYRACUSE 4 (OT)
Grant Stevenson, who hadn’t scored in his previous 12 contests, lit the lamp 1:37 into overtime to lift Hamilton to a 5-4 road win over Syracuse at the Onondaga County War Memorial.
Stevenson’s eighth goal of the season – and third game-winner – was assisted by Shawn Belle and J.T. Wyman, and it helped the Bulldogs avoid their first two-game regulation losing skid since Feb. 13-16.
Bulldogs goaltender Cedrick Desjardins (29-9-4) escaped with the victory after making 18 saves on 22 shots in net.
Maksim Mayorov registered a hat trick for the Crunch, giving the second-year pro 4-2-6 totals in his last two games on the heels of a 16-game points drought. Tyler Murovich added a goal and an assist in the losing effort.
MANCHESTER 4, PORTLAND 3
Defenseman Alec Martinez snapped a 3-3 tie with a power play goal at 9:24 of the third period, and Manchester held on for a 4-3 win over visiting Portland on Friday before 7,511 fans at the Verizon Wireless Arena.
With their season-high eighth straight victory, the Monarchs pulled within five points of the Pirates for second place in the Atlantic Division.
The teams appear destined for a first-round playoff match-up, but two more Manchester wins combined with two more Portland regulation losses over the regular season’s final two days would give second place to the Monarchs.
Monarchs 18-year-old goaltender Jean-Francois Berube earned the win with 18 saves in net, improving to 2-0-0 since joining the team.
Portland remains three points back of first-place Worcester with two games to play, including the regular-season finale against the Sharks on Sunday in Maine.
Despite the victory, the Senators were eliminated from playoff contention when Bridgeport took a 6-3 win over Lowell.
Eighteen-year-old goaltender Robin Lehner, a second-round draft pick by Ottawa in 2009, picked up the win in his professional debut with 22 saves between the pipes.
Phantoms forward Andreas Nodl, who scored the overtime game-winner in the teams’ last meeting on Wednesday, registered two more goals in this one. Shane Harper, Erik Gustafsson, and 2010 AHL All-Star Jon Matsumoto also had goals in the losing effort. Jonathon Kalinski recorded a pair of assists.
MILWAUKEE 8, CHICAGO 1
Dave Scatchard racked up four goals and an assist as Milwaukee rolled to an 8-1 laugher over visiting Chicago on Friday before 9,791 fans at the Bradley Center.
Scatchard became the fifth AHL player this season to record four goals in a game, joining Lowell’s Tim Sestito (Oct. 17), Springfield’s Chad Wiseman (Jan. 17), Peoria’s Derek Armstrong (Jan. 30), and Hershey’s Mathieu Perreault (Feb. 27).
Scatchard scored once in the second period and three more times in the third period for Milwaukee, which received a goal and an assist apiece from Marty Murray, Mike Santorelli, and defensemen Teemu Laakso and Alexander Sulzer, who was plus-5 on the night.
Kevin Doell scored for the Wolves, who surrendered as many as eight goals in a game for the first time in exactly two years, since an 8-3 loss at Toronto on Apr. 9, 2008.
Despite the loss, Chicago clinched the West Division title by virtue of Texas’s loss to Rockford. That ensures that the Wolves and Admirals will square off in the first round of the Calder Cup Playoffs for the second time in the last three years.
ROCKFORD 5, TEXAS 1
Rockford cruised to a 5-1 road win over Texas on Friday at Cedar Park Center, finalizing the West Division playoff picture in the process.
With the win, the IceHogs locked themselves into third place in the division while ensuring the Stars will finish second, which means the teams will square off in the division semifinals beginning next week in suburban Austin.
Division champion Chicago will meet Milwaukee in the West’s other semifinal.
Warren Peters notched the Stars’ lone goal of the night.
MANITOBA 3, PEORIA 2
Manitoba goaltender Cory Schneider tuned up for the playoffs with 42 saves on 44 shots as Manitoba edged visiting Peoria by a 3-2 count on Friday before 8,493 fans at the MTS Centre.
The Moose moved within one point of idle Abbotsford for third place in the North Division race, though the Heat have two games remaining to Manitoba’s one. Whoever finishes third will draw Rochester in the division semifinals, while the fourth place team earns a date with division-champion Hamilton.
Ex-Rivermen captain Yan Stastny tallied a goal against his former team, and the Moose also received markers from rookie Jordan Schroeder and Mario Bliznak. Captain Mike Keane contributed a pair of assists on the night.
Schneider, who ranks second among all AHL goaltenders in wins, improved to 34-23-2 in 59 appearances for Manitoba this season.