ROCKFORD 2, LAKE ERIE 1
Rockford goaltender Corey Crawford stopped 32 of 33 shots as the IceHogs secured a playoff spot with a 2-1 win over Lake Erie visiting on Friday night at the MetroCentre.
The IceHogs, who moved to 3-3-0-0 on their six-game homestand, will take part in the Calder Cup Playoffs for the third time in as many AHL seasons.
It remained a 1-0 contest through the second period and into the third before Evan Brophey extended the IceHogs’ advantage to 2-0 at 8:45 of the final frame. Jake Dowell and Danny Bois picked up assists on Brophey’s 14th goal of the season but just his third in his last 19 contests.
Lake Erie was unable to put another puck past Crawford, however, and fell six points back of the victorious Manitoba Moose for the North Division’s fourth and final playoff spot.
Crawford moved to 4-2-0 in his last six contests and improved his season mark to 22-16-2 in 43 appearances for Rockford.
MANCHESTER 4, BRIDGEPORT 1
Manchester officially clinched its eighth Calder Cup Playoff berth in nine years with a 4-1 home-ice win over Bridgeport at the Verizon Wireless Arena on Friday.
The Monarchs, who matched a season high with their sixth straight victory, will return to postseason action after missing out last year for the first time in team history.
Making his professional debut, 18-year-old goaltender Jean-Francois Berube earned the victory for the Monarchs with 23 saves on 24 shots. Berube becomes the fourth different goaltender during the Monarchs’ current streak to pick up a win, joining Jonathan Bernier, Jeff Zatkoff, and Matt Lopes.
Bridgeport dropped to 1-3-0-0 in its last four contests and remains tied with Lowell for fourth place in the Atlantic Division.
ABBOTSFORD 4, GRAND RAPIDS 3
Abbotsford punched its ticket to the 2010 Calder Cup Playoffs on Friday with a 4-3 win over visiting Grand Rapids at the Entertainment & Sports Centre.
Heat forward David Van der Gulik broke a 3-3 tie with a minute to play in regulation, ensuring that Abbotsford would become the first Calgary Flames AHL affiliate to reach the postseason since 2007.
The teams will square off for a rematch on Saturday evening in Abbotsford.
NORFOLK 2, ALBANY 1
Justin Keller scored twice – including the game-winning goal with 6:31 to play in regulation – as Norfolk earned a much-needed 2-1 road win over Albany at the Times Union Center on Friday.
Albany grabbed a 1-0 first-period lead on a goal by Nicolas Blanchard at 12:37, but Keller responded for the Admirals less than four minutes later.
Rookie goaltender Dustin Tokarski earned the victory with 31 saves on 32 shots for the Admirals, who moved within two spots of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and three points back of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton for third place in the East Division.
Despite the loss, Albany still clinched a playoff berth by virtue of Lowell’s 5-2 loss at Hartford. The River Rats will head to postseason play for the third time in the last four years.
PEORIA 6, MILWAUKEE 5 (OT)
Pascal Pelletier scored unassisted at 3:17 of overtime to lift Peoria to a dramatic 6-5 road win over Milwaukee on Friday in a back-and-forth game at the Bradley Center.
By gaining an extra standings point courtesy of the overtime triumph, the Rivermen pulled within three points of the Admirals for the West Division’s fourth and final playoff spot.
Peoria held leads of 1-0, 2-1, 3-2, and 5-4, but could not close the deal in regulation. Milwaukee took a 4-3 advantage into the third period but was also not able to hold on.
Cam Paddock extended his goal-scoring streak to five games (5-1-6), while Derek Armstrong and defenseman Tyson Strachan also scored for the Rivermen. Peoria goaltender Joe Fallon emerged with the victory after making 29 saves in net.
Marty Murray salvaged a point for Milwaukee when he netted the game-tying goal at 19:55 of the third period. Murray finished with three points (2-1-3) for the Admirals, and Ryan Thang, Chris Mueller, and Andreas Thuresson also found the back of the net.
Milwaukee is now winless in four straight games (0-2-1-1) and visits Rockford on Saturday night before hosting the Rivermen again on Tuesday.
MANITOBA 3, TORONTO 1
Manitoba improved its playoff outlook and dealt a serious blow to Toronto’s hopes with a 3-1 road win over the Marlies at Ricoh Coliseum on Friday.
The teams will meet again on Saturday night in Toronto.
Mario Bliznak scored twice and Kevin Clark once for the Moose, who registered a goal in each of the three periods. Goaltender Cory Schneider picked up the victory after making 33 saves on 34 shots in net.
Schneider’s only blemish came courtesy of a Ben Ondrus goal for the Marlies with 4:05 left in regulation.
With the win, the fourth-place Moose moved seven points up on the sixth-place Marlies for the North Division’s final playoff spot. Lake Erie is in fifth place, between the two clubs.
Toronto climbed back into the race by virtue of a seven-game points streak (6-0-1-0) from Mar. 7-24, but the Marlies are just 1-4-0-0 in five contests since.
BINGHAMTON 6, WILKES-BARRE/SCRANTON 2
Binghamton netted a pair of goals in each period and cruised past visiting Wilkes-Barre/Scranton by a 6-2 count on Friday at the Broome County Arena.
The Senators, who kept their faint postseason hopes alive with the victory, reached the six-goal plateau for the fifth time this season and first since a 6-2 win at Portland on Mar. 13.
Senators goaltender Mike Brodeur stopped 35 of 37 shots to pick up the victory, improving to 3-1-0 in his last four decisions following a four-game losing skid.
ROCHESTER 3, HERSHEY 1
Ex-Bear Graham Mink tallied a pair of goals against his former team, and Rochester went on to a 3-1 win over visiting Hershey at the Blue Cross Arena.
Mink, who won Calder Cups with the Bears in both 2006 and 2009, tallied his 17th and 18th goals of the season just 2:43 apart in the second period, giving Rochester a 2-0 advantage.
It remained 2-0 well into the third frame before Francois Bouchard put Hershey on the board at 16:18 with his 20th goal of the campaign. But Mike York sealed the Americans’ victory with an empty-net marker in the closing seconds.
Amerks netminder Tyler Plante, the Reebok/AHL goaltender of the month for March, earned the win with 32 saves between the pipes.
Rochester collected its first win in four tries against Hershey this season (1-3-0-0), while the Bears’ four-game overall winning streak came to an end.
HARTFORD 5, LOWELL 2
Five different Hartford skaters found the back of the net as the Wolf Pack secured a 5-2 win over struggling Lowell at the XL Center on Friday.
Defenseman Ilkka Heikkinen put Hartford on top with a power play goal midway through the opening period, and the Wolf Pack took a 3-0 advantage into the final 20 minutes courtesy of second-period tallies by Ryan Garlock and Dale Weise, the latter coming unassisted.
Olivier Magnan and David McIntyre scored just 49 seconds apart early in the third period to pull the Devils within 3-2, but Hartford’s Paul Crowder and Bobby Sanguinetti iced the victory with goals later in the stanza.
The Devils have lost three straight games and sit just two points up on Norfolk for the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spot. Hartford is now seven points back of Lowell for that spot with five games to play.
PROVIDENCE 3, WORCESTER 1
Providence kept its slim playoff hopes alive with a 3-1 win over Atlantic Division-leading Worcester before 7,858 fans at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center on Friday.
Twenty-year-old Max Sauve, a native of France, tallied a pair of goals in his professional debut for the Bruins. Sauve, a second-round draft pick by parent-club Boston in 2008, scored on the power play in both the first and third periods.
Providence goaltender Dany Sabourin was strong in net, earning the win with 48 saves on 49 shots, including 19 stops in the third period alone.
Ex-Bruin T.J. Trevelyan notched the Sharks’ lone goal of the night.
PORTLAND 6, SPRINGFIELD 3
Portland torched Springfield for six goals on 19 shots and rolled to a 6-3 road win over the last-place Falcons at the MassMutual Center on Friday.
The Pirates entered the third period down 3-2 but scored four unanswered goals to claim the victory. Cody McCormick, Travis Turnbull, Brad Larsen, and defenseman T.J. Brennan notched third-period markers for Portland, with Brennan’s going into an empty net.
Goaltender J.P. Lamoureux earned the win with 24 saves on 27 shots, helping the Pirates move within three points of Worcester for first place in the Atlantic Division.
SYRACUSE 3, ADIRONDACK 2
Chad Kolarik snapped a 2-2 deadlock with 2:19 to play in regulation, and Syracuse held on for a 3-2 road win over Adirondack at the Glens Falls Civic Center on Friday.
Crunch goaltender Kevin Lalande turned aside 44 of 46 shots to pick up the win.
TEXAS 4, SAN ANTONIO 3 (OT)
Francis Wathier lit the lamp 1:08 into overtime as Texas crept closer to first place in the West Division with a 4-3 win over visiting San Antonio before 6,014 fans at the Cedar Park Center.
Aaron Gagnon registered a goal and two assists for the Stars, including the lone helper on Wathier’s overtime game-winner.
Texas also received regulation markers from Wathier – who scored shorthanded – and defenseman Garrett Stafford. Wathier added an assist to join Gagnon in posting three points on the night.
Stars goaltender Brent Krahn (17-3-0) earned the win with 33 saves between the pipes, helping his club move within four points of Chicago for the West Division’s top spot. Both teams have four games left to play.
HOUSTON 4, CHICAGO 3
Houston jumped out to a 2-0 lead after the first period and held off Chicago for a 4-3 win over the Wolves in the back end of a two-game set before 9,575 fans at the Toyota Center on Friday.
Colton Gillies tallied the eventual game-winning goal for the Aeros at 2:06 of the third period. Andy Hilbert posted a goal and an assist in the victory, while rookie Chad Rau and defenseman Jamie Fraser also scored.
Chicago saw its lead atop the West Division shrink to four points over Texas, which beat San Antonio in overtime.