LaBarbera, Valiquette share Holmes Award

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … The American Hockey League has announced that Jason LaBarbera and Steve Valiquette of the Hartford Wolf Pack have won the Harry “Hap” Holmes Memorial Award for the 2004-05 season. Since 1972, the award has been presented to the goaltender(s) appearing in at least 25 games for the team which allows the fewest goals in the regular season.

Hartford, which finished their regular season with a record of 50-24-3-3, allowed just 160 goals in 2004-05, tied for the third-lowest total ever in an 80-game AHL regular season. The Wolf Pack are on their way to an eighth consecutive trip to the Calder Cup Playoffs, as they open their Atlantic Division semifinal series against Lowell on Thursday night.

Valiquette (1.77) and LaBarbera (1.84) became the first teammates since Sherbrooke’s Jean-Claude Bergeron and Andre Racicot in 1989-90 to finish 1-2 in the AHL in goals-against average.

Steve Valiquette registered seven shutouts during the 2004-05 season for Hartford.

Winner of the “Baz” Bastien Award as top goaltender and the Les Cunningham Award as league MVP one season ago, LaBarbera came back in 2004-05 and posted a record of 31-16-2 with six shutouts in 53 appearances, finishing third in the AHL with a .934 save percentage. Valiquette went 19-11-1 with seven shutouts in his 35 appearances, and ranked second with a save percentage of .935.

The Harry “Hap” Holmes Memorial Award, which was first awarded in 1948 to the goaltender with the best goals against average in the AHL, is named for Hockey Hall of Famer Harry “Hap” Holmes, a prominent figure in early professional hockey and an outstanding goaltender of his time. Previous winners or co-winners of the award include Gil Mayer (1951, ’53, ’54, ’55, ’56), Johnny Bower (1957, ’58), Marcel Paille (1961, ’62), Gerry Cheevers (1965), Pete Peeters (1979), Pelle Lindbergh (1981), Byron Dafoe and Olaf Kolzig (1994), Mike Dunham and Corey Schwab (1995), Manny Legace (1996), Jean-Sebastien Giguere (1998), Martin Biron (1999), Mika Noronen (2001) and Martin Prusek (2002).

In operation since 1936, the AHL continues to serve as the top development league for all 30 National Hockey League teams. More than 6.6 million fans – an all-time league record – attended AHL games during the 2004-05 regular season, and 16 clubs will continue to vie for the league’s coveted championship trophy when the 2005 Calder Cup Playoffs get underway on Tuesday night.