1. Alumni bring home medals
The 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, drew to a close on Sunday with Canada’s 3-0 win over Sweden in the gold-medal match of the men’s ice hockey tournament.
Including injury replacements, a total of 160 American Hockey League alumni were named to the rosters of the 12 nations who participated in Sochi, and 49 former AHL players took home medals representing either Canada (gold), Sweden (silver) or Finland (bronze).
The performance that everyone was still buzzing about belonged to Syracuse Crunch goaltender Kristers Gudlevskis, who put forth a remarkable 55-save effort for Latvia in a 2-1 quarterfinal loss to Canada. Gudlevskis, 11-8-2 (2.69, .900) in 22 appearances for Syracuse this season, will begin the post-Olympic schedule in the NHL with the parent Tampa Bay Lightning.
2. AHL games draw big crowds
The final weekend of the NHL’s Olympic break saw 260,577 fans attend 37 AHL games, an average of 7,043 fans per game and an increase of 35.5 percent over the league’s previous season average to date.
Friday’s notable turnouts included sellouts in Grand Rapids (10,834), Rockford (6,007) and Syracuse (6,293), more than 10,000 fans in Lake Erie (11,055) and Milwaukee (10,277); and 8,771 spectators at Bell Centre in Montreal to see Hamilton take on Binghamton.
On Saturday, with all 30 teams in action across the league, 17,585 fans turned out at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia to watch Adirondack take on Bridgeport, while Lake Erie (15,258), Chicago (13,027), Hershey (10,373) reached five figures and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Texas, Rockford and Binghamton were at or near capacity.
Sunday’s attendance was led by a crowd of 15,763 at Verizon Center in Washington to see Hershey battle Syracuse.
3. 600 helpers for Aucoin
Chicago Wolves forward Keith Aucoin reached yet another milestone on Saturday night, picking up his 600th career AHL assist in the Wolves’ 5-3 win over Abbotsford.
Aucoin became just the fifth player in AHL history with 600 assists, and he achieved the feat while playing in his 750th regular-season AHL game.
4. IceCaps rolling along
Facing a six-game New England road swing coming out of the AHL’s All-Star break, the St. John’s IceCaps earned nine of a possible 12 points and climbed to fourth place in the Eastern Conference standings.
Kyle MacKinnon led the IceCaps’ offense during the trip, posting three goals and six assists for nine points in the six games — including four consecutive multiple-point games last week. MacKinnon, a third-year pro who spent the last two seasons with the Providence Bruins, has 4-11-15 in his last 14 games after starting the season with 3-8-11 in his first 36 contests.
John Albert took home CCM/AHL Player of the Week honors after notching five goals and an assist in four games last week, including three shorthanded markers and one game-winner. Albert, who played eight games in the NHL with Winnipeg earlier this season, now leads the AHL with six shorthanded goals, five of them coming in his last eight games.
St. John’s scored 21 goals over the last four games of its road trip last week, including 11 in just two periods at Portland. The IceCaps scored six times in the second period of last Tuesday’s 7-5 win over the Pirates, and then struck for five goals in the third period of Sunday’s 6-5 victory.
5. Rampage ready to return home
San Antonio closes out its 10-game road trip in Utica on Wednesday night and finds itself in the thick of the race for a Western Conference playoff berth thanks to its success so far.
On their annual lengthy road swing while the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo takes over the AT&T Center, the Rampage are 6-2-0-1 thus far and enter the week just four points out of eighth place in the West.
Rookie Vincent Trocheck is San Antonio’s leading scorer on the trip so far with seven points (2g, 5a), while Drew Shore had five goals and an assist before his recall by the Florida Panthers over the weekend.
The Rampage will finally return home on Saturday night when they host Texas.
6. Hogging all the points
The Rockford IceHogs entered the new week on a nine-game points streak, going 8-0-0-1 so far during the month of February.
That run has moved the IceHogs up to sixth place in the Western Conference as they bid for their first Calder Cup Playoff appearance since 2010.
Jeremy Morin has led the IceHogs with 15 points (seven goals, eight assists) and a plus-9 rating during the streak, picking up at least one points in all nine games, while Pierre-Marc Bouchard has tallied 1-8-9 in his six games since joining Rockford. Goaltender Jason LaBarbera has put together a personal six-game winning streak as the IceHogs have closed to within six points of first place in the Midwest Division.
7. Bridgeport on the rise
The Bridgeport Sound Tigers have won six in a row and 11 of their last 13, climbing above .500 for the first time all season.
Rookie Ryan Strome, who returned to Bridgeport on Jan. 15 after six weeks in the NHL, tallied 4-12-16 in 14 games before being recalled by the New York Islanders on Sunday. Strome has 49 points in 37 games with the Sound Tigers this season.
8. Comets turn it around
After going winless through the first 10 games of their inaugural season, the Utica Comets enter the new week just seven points out of a playoff spot with 23 games still remaining.
Utica has gone 22-16-2-3 beginning with the franchise’s first win on Nov. 8, including an 11-4-1-1 record in their last 17 games.
Heading into the week, no team in the Western Conference was more than nine points out of a potential playoff spot.
9. Scoreless draw
Grand Rapids and Milwaukee dueled for 65 scoreless minutes on Sunday evening before the Griffins prevailed, outscoring the Admirals 4-3 in the five-round shootout to take the victory.
It was the third 1-0 shootout game in the AHL this season, and the 37th since the shootout was reintroduced in 2004.
The Griffins have now won three 1-0 shootout games; Jimmy Howard backstopped wins on Feb. 24, 2007, and again on Jan. 24, 2009.
The Admirals lost their second 1-0 shootout decision; Pekka Rinne was on the losing end on Mar. 16, 2007.
10. Twenty is plenty for Brennan
It’s been five games since he added to the total, but Toronto Marlies defenseman T.J. Brennan has already joined some exclusive company with his 20 goals this season.
Brennan is the first AHL blueliner with 20 goals in a season since 2008-09, when Johnny Boychuk totaled 20-45-65 with the Providence Bruins en route to winning the Eddie Shore Award as the AHL’s outstanding defenseman.
Joel Kwiatkowski, with 21 goals for Chicago in 2007-08 and 20 goals between San Antonio and the St. John’s Maple Leafs in 2004-05, is the only other defenseman to score at least 20 in the last decade.
Brennan is also tops among AHL defensemen with 53 points in 52 games for the Marlies in 2013-14.