HAMILTON 1, SYRACUSE 0 (SO)
In a classic goaltending duel at Copps Coliseum on Friday, 2011 AHL All-Star Curtis Sanford of Hamilton and Jean-Philippe Levasseur of Syracuse battled to a scoreless tie through 65 minutes, but Sanford and the Bulldogs ultimately collected a 1-0 shootout victory.
Sanford made 22 saves through regulation and overtime, while Levasseur countered with a season-high 46 sops of his own. After surrendering an opening-round shootout goal to Syracuse’s Nick Bonino, Sanford stopped the Crunch’s next four shooters to preserve the win.
It marked Sanford’s third shutout of the season. The veteran netminder, who is set to make his first AHL All-Star appearance later this month in Hershey, improved to 15-7-1 in 25 outings for the Bulldogs on the year.
Levasseur was also credited with a shutout, his third of the season. The Crunch are now winless in three straight games overall (0-2-0-1).
The Bulldogs, who have now earned back-to-back wins for the first time since Dec. 17-18, moved three points up on idle Manitoba for first place in the North Division race.
OKLAHOMA CITY 4, PEORIA 1
A night after becoming the AHL’s all-time leading scoring defenseman, Bryan Helmer picked up right where he left off by nabbing a goal and two assists to lead Oklahoma City to another win at Peoria, this one by a 4-1 final.
Helmer, who recorded two goals and an assist on Thursday, has now recorded back-to-back three point nights. Prior to this two-day stretch, the 38-year-old had not registered a three-point effort since Nov. 30, 2006, as a member of San Antonio.
Helmer now shows 10 points (5-5-10) in just five games since signing with the Barons on Jan. 7.
Barons goaltender Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers stopped 33 of 34 shots between the pipes, helping his club collect its third straight victory. This marks the Barons’ longest winning streak since also winning three in a row from Nov. 21-26.
Derek Nesbitt recorded the lone goal for Peoria, which has now dropped back-to-back games to the Barons on the heels of winning four straight overall.
ALBANY 3, BINGHAMTON 2
Louis Robitaille snapped a 2-2 deadlock with 3:39 gone in the third period, and Albany held on from there for a 3-2 win over visiting Binghamton on Friday at the Times Union Center.
Robitaille, a former Calder Cup champion who notched just his second goal of the season in 25 games played, was assisted on the play by David McIntyre.
Rookie Jacob Josefson netted his first professional goal for the Devils, and 2011 AHL All-Star Matt Anderson scored a power play goal late in the second period. That marker tied the game at 2-2, setting the stage for Robitaille’s game-winner early in the third.
Devils goaltender Mike McKenna earned the victory with 27 saves, and Albany is now on its first three-game winning streak since Oct. 15-20, which were games two, three, and four of its schedule.
CHARLOTTE 6, MANCHESTER 5 (SO)
Manchester stormed back from three goals down in the third period to force overtime, but eventually Charlotte rebounded to take a 6-5 shootout win over the Monarchs on Friday in front of 10,221 fans at Time Warner Cable Arena.
Drayson Bowman, Jon Matsumoto, and Chris Terry all netted shootout goals for the Checkers, while Charlotte netminder Mike Murphy denied all three of Manchester’s bids after making 35 saves through the first 65 minutes.
Charlotte appeared well on its way to a regulation victory, holding a 5-2 lead with under 12 minutes to play in the third frame. But Viatcheslav Voynov and David Kolomatis notched power play goals for the Monarchs nearly six minutes apart, and Andrei Loktionov tied it up at the 16:21 mark.
Marc-Andre Cliche and Thomas Hickey also scored for Manchester, which is now 3-3-0-1 on its season-high nine-game road swing. The Monarchs will be in Binghamton on Saturday night before concluding the stretch at Providence on Jan. 21.
PORTLAND 3, CONNECTICUT 0
Portland goaltender David Leggio made 21 saves for his first career AHL shutout as the Pirates blanked visiting Connecticut by a 3-0 count on Friday at the Cumberland County Civic Center.
With the win, which was their first over Connecticut in three tries this season, the Pirates moved two points up on the Whale for second place in the Atlantic Division race.
Portland scored once in each period, with captain Matt Ellis providing all the offense Leggio would need in the final minute of the opening frame. Derek Whitmore then potted a pair of goals as insurance.
Leggio, who improved to 10-4-0 in 15 appearances this season, had to make 16 of his 21 stops during the second and third periods.
Connecticut suffered its fifth shutout of the campaign.
WILKES-BARRE/SCRANTON 2, PROVIDENCE 0
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton scored once in the second period and once in the third en route to its sixth straight win, a 2-0 road decision over Providence at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center on Friday.
The Penguins, who improved to a league-best 31-8-0-0 (62 points) through 39 games, have now won at least six straight games for the third time this season. Wilkes-Barre opened on a nine-game win streak and rattled off six in a row from Nov. 27 to Dec. 8.
Wilkes-Barre will conclude a grueling three-game road weekend by visiting Adirondack on Saturday night and Connecticut on Sunday afternoon.
The Bruins, who dropped a 2-1 overtime decision in Wilkes-Barre last weekend, were blanked for the first time since a 3-0 loss to Connecticut on Oct. 17. Providence is 0-2-1-0 in its last three contests.
WORCESTER 3, SPRINGFIELD 1
Worcester erupted for three third-period goals in a span of 2:40 and stunned Springfield with a 3-1, come-from-behind victory on Friday at the MassMutual Center.
The Sharks came back for the win on a night when coach Roy Sommer celebrated his 1,000th regular-season game as an AHL bench boss, all with the San Jose Sharks’ affiliates.
Tom Sestito put the Falcons on top with a power play goal early in the second period, and Springfield nursed that 1-0 advantage into the third.
But Worcester rookie Cam MacIntyre countered with a power play goal of his own with 12:17 gone in the third frame, and 2011 AHL All-Star Jonathan Cheechoo put the Sharks on top to stay at 14:22, another man-advantage marker. Just 35 seconds after that, Dan DaSilva provided insurance to cap the scoring.
Goaltender Alex Stalock earned the win with 21 saves in net for the Sharks, who won for just the fourth time in their last 12 outings (4-6-1-1).
Springfield’s brief two-game winning streak came to an end.
NORFOLK 5, BRIDGEPORT 2
Paul Szczechura snapped out of a prolonged offensive drought with two goals and an assist to propel Norfolk past visiting Bridgeport, 5-2, on Friday at the Scope in the opener of a two-game set.
Szczechura entered the night without a goal in 10 straight games and having scored just once in his previous 23 contests, that coming at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Dec. 11
But the 25-year-old snapped out of it on the power play midway through the second period before adding another man-advantage tally in the third. He also picked up an assist on a goal by Blair Jones early in the first period.
HERSHEY 3, ADIRONDACK 0
Hershey scored once in each period and collected a 3-0 road triumph over Adirondack at the Glens Falls Civic Center on Friday.
Zach Miskovic, Brian Willsie, and Steve Pinizzotto (empty net) all registered goals for the surging Bears, who extended their points streak to four games (3-0-1-0) and moved to 7-1-1-0 in their last nine contests.
Coupled with Norfolk’s win over Bridgeport, Hershey remains just one point back of the Admirals for third place in the East Division standings.
Bears goaltender Dany Sabourin stopped all 25 shots sent his way to nab his second shutout of the season and first since a 24-save effort at Syracuse on Nov. 13.
Michael Leighton was the tough-luck loser after making 25 saves in net for the Phantoms, whose season-best six-game points streak (4-0-0-2) came to an end. Each of Adirondack’s previous four games had extended to the shootout.
LAKE ERIE 3, ROCHESTER 1
A two-goal second period proved to be the difference as Lake Erie fought back from an early 1-0 deficit to claim a 3-1 road decision over Rochester at the Blue Cross Arena on Friday.
The Monsters outshot Rochester by a whopping margin of 18-4 in the opening 20 minutes but nearly went into the dressing room in a 1-0 hole. Bill Thomas put the Amerks on the board 6:34 into the contest, and Lake Erie rookie Mark Olver answered at 19:19 with his 12th of the season.
Lake Erie goaltender John Grahame made 31 saves in net to pick up the victory and stopped all 17 shots during a third period which saw his club get blitzed for a 17-2 disadvantage in shots on goal.
The Monsters moved three points ahead of the Amerks for sixth place in the North Division and are now just four points back of Toronto for third place and the division’s final guaranteed playoff berth.
ROCKFORD 3, TEXAS 1
Rookie Jeremy Morin snapped a 1-1 tie just over a minute after Texas had knotted up the game, and Rockford went on to post a 3-1 win over the visiting Stars at the MetroCentre on Friday.
The game was scoreless until fellow IceHogs rookie Kyle Beach put Rockford on top 2:10 into the second period. Stars forward Colton Sceviour tallied the equalizer at 1:38 of the third frame, but just 1:09 later, Morin restored Rockford’s one-goal advantage.
The IceHogs did not surrender the lead this time, and Ryan Potulny capped the victory with an empty-net, shorthanded goal, his 10th marker of the season.
Rockford goaltender Hannu Toivonen stopped 29 of 30 shots in net for his eighth win of the season (8-7-3). The IceHogs, who dropped a 4-2 decision to Houston on Wednesday, have still now lost back-to-back games in regulation since losing twice at San Antonio on Nov. 11-12.
Texas is now just 1-3-0-0 in its last four outings and has totaled three goals in the three losses in that span.
HOUSTON 4, CHICAGO 3 (SO)
Jon DiSalvatore netted the lone shootout goal for either side as Houston eked out a 4-3 road win over Chicago on Friday at Allstate Arena.
DiSalvatore beat Wolves netminder Peter Mannino in the fourth round of the shootout, while Aeros goaltender Josh Tordjman stopped all five Chicago attempts after making 21 saves through the first 65 minutes.
Making his second appearance of the season for Houston, Tordjman earned his first AHL win of the year (1-0-0).
DiSalvatore, Carson McMillan, and Chad Rau scored in regulation for the Aeros, and 2011 AHL All-Star defenseman Maxim Noreau chipped in two assists. Rau tied the game at 3-3 with 8:45 left in regulation.
Houston has now won three straight games, is 5-1-0-0 in its last six, and has moved one point up on Texas for sole possession of fourth place in the West Division, although the Stars still hold three games in hand.
The Wolves, who are winless in four straight (0-2-0-2), got regulation markers from Andre Deveaux, Jason Krog, and Nigel Dawes, who nabbed his league-leading 21st goal of the season. 2011 AHL All-Star Paul Postma posted two assists on the night.
ABBOTSFORD 3, TORONTO 2
Ryan Stone tallied a goal and assisted on the eventual game-winner as Abbotsford edged Toronto by a 3-2 final on Friday night at the Entertainment & Sports Centre in the opener of a two-game set between the teams.
Stone opened the game’s scoring with a power play strike at 16:26 of the first period, but Toronto veteran Jeff Cowan answered just 1:32 later to make it a 1-1 game heading into intermission.
The Heat pulled ahead again when rookie Lance Bouma lit the lamp 6:52 into the second frame, and John Armstrong stretched the lead to 3-1 early in the third. That goal proved decisive when Mike Zigomanis pulled the Marlies within 3-2 at the 13:44 mark.
Fabian Brunnstrom assisted on both Toronto goals in his Marlies debut after arriving to the organization via trade from the Dallas Stars.
Heat goaltender Leland Irving stopped 21 of 23 shots to pick up the win in net and help Abbotsford to its third consecutive victory.
The teams will go at it again on Sunday at 2:00 ET in a game to be nationally televised live on CBC (Canada) and NHL Network (U.S.).