WEEKLY RELEASE #20
Jason LaBarbera posted back-to-back shutouts for the third time in the last five weeks, and John Slaney became the most prolific scoring defenseman in AHL history as the league’s record books continued to be rewritten last week.
The veteran Slaney scored his 125th career American Hockey League goal on Saturday night, establishing a new standard for a defenseman. Slaney’s goal was the game-winner in Philadelphia’s 4-1 win over Hershey, as the Phantoms improved to 10-0-0 against the rival Bears on the season. Fellow blueliner Freddy Meyer recorded a hat trick as Philly scored four times in the third period to earn the win.
Slaney, a four-time AHL All-Star and two-time Eddie Shore Award winner, surpassed the record of 124 held by Jim Wiemer, who played between 1981 and 1995. The ninth overall pick in the 1990 NHL Entry Draft finished the week with 125 goals and 244 assists for 369 points in 399 career AHL games since 1992.
Steve Kraftcheck, one of the top defensemen in AHL history, is the league’s all-time leading scorer among blueliners with 453 points in 13 seasons from 1949-64.
LaBarbera did his part to rewrite league annals when he shut out Bridgeport and Worcester over the weekend, continuing his breakthrough season and extending his own AHL record to 12 shutouts on the year. The goose eggs also allowed the Wolf Pack to set a league mark with 15 shutouts – and counting – as a team. (In 1992-93, by contrast, there were 15 shutouts total in the entire AHL.)
Overall, LaBarbera is 23-7-7 on the year, ranking first in the league in wins, fourth in minutes played (2,458), second in GAA (1.44) and fourth in save percentage (.939).
LaBarbera hung one of four zeroes on AHL scoreboards Friday night, as the league surpassed the previous high of 136 shutouts in a single season. By weekend’s end, the 2003-04 total was up to 140.
Jim Craig, who backstopped the 1980 U.S. Olympic team to a gold medal in Lake Placid, will be on hand at the Hartford Civic Center on Saturday to make a presentation to LaBarbera in recognition of his record-setting season.
GOALIE CAROUSEL … The Worcester IceCats employed five different starting goaltenders for their five games between Feb. 14 and Feb. 22.
Brent Johnson got the call on Feb. 14 and made 27 saves in a 2-1 win over Philadelphia. Curtis Sanford started the next night against San Antonio, but both he and Johnson soon found themselves on the injured list. Jake Moreland was signed to a try-out contract and stopped 17 of 18 shots at Bridgeport on Tuesday, then head coach Don Granato turned to a pair of fellow University of Wisconsin alumni in Kirk Daubenspeck and Mike Valley to work this past weekend.
Sanford and Johnson are expected to be healthy when the IceCats hit the ice against Lowell on Friday.
HAMILTON TO NAME CITY’S ALL-TIME TEAM … Hamiltonians are invited to vote for the Heroes of Hometown Hockey All-Time Team, made up of players and coaches from the Hamilton area or who made significant contributions to Hamilton hockey. Three forwards, two defensemen, one goalie and one coach will be recognized; among the nonimees are Dave Andreychuk, Harry Howell, Marty McSorley, Pat Quinn, Dick Irvin, Ken Dryden and Harry Neale.
Fans can vote at Hamilton area Pizza Pizza locations, and the team will be announced on Heroes of Hometown Hockey Night on Mar. 26, when the Bulldogs host St. John’s.
OFF THE ICE … Last weekend’s home-and-home series between Philadelphia and Hershey drew a total of 22,687 fans, including a Bears franchise record of 10,812 at the Giant Center on Saturday… Auctions of AHL and NHL memorabilia and game-worn jerseys will highlight Team Jennifer Night in Springfield on Mar. 13, to raise money for the Jennifer Ferraro Foundation to assist cancer patients… Mullet Night, which garnered national attention last season, returns to Manchester when the Monarchs host Worcester on Mar. 12.
ETC. … Brandon Reid scored the first four goals in Manitoba’s 5-0 win over San Antonio on Friday night… Kari Lehtonen returned to the Chicago lineup and made 33 saves on Wednesday night as the Wolves ended Milwaukee’s seven-game winning streak with a 3-1 decision… Cincinnati forward Alexei Smirnov played three weekend games on defense for the Mighty Ducks… Cleveland’s Miroslav Zalesak became the AHL’s first 30-goal scorer this season when he capped the Barons’ five-goal first period in St. John’s on Saturday… Portland has earned a point in 13 straight games (6-0-4-3)… The Pirates’ 23 overtime games this season (5-7-11) are three shy of the AHL single-season record… Grand Rapids defeated its two closest pursuers in the Western Conference – Hamilton and Milwaukee – over the weekend to extend its home unbeaten streak to 14 games (11-0-3-0)… Utah’s 4-1 win over Chicago on Friday snapped the Grizzlies’ 11-game losing streak against the Wolves… Albany ended a 14-game road winless skid (0-9-2-3) with a 2-0 win in Rochester on Saturday… With its win in Hershey on Saturday, Philadelphia is 6-5-1-0 when trailing after two periods on the road this season (7-12-2-0 overall)… Three-time AHL All-Star Jean-Marc Pelletier earned his first career NHL win on Friday, making 26 saves in a 3-2 Phoenix win over Columbus… San Antonio rookie Petr Taticek has been whistled for a single penalty in 47 games this season: a hooking minor on Jan. 16… Hartford is unbeaten in its last seven (6-0-1-0), outscoring the opposition, 19-5… Cleveland Barons forward Brad Boyes will chat live on theahl.com, Wednesday at 1:00 p.m. ET.