1. East Division crowded at the top
The division that has produced the last 10 Eastern Conference representatives in the Calder Cup Finals is delivering a heated race for first place as the regular season enters its final month.
Binghamton, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and Norfolk all spent time atop the division during the last week. The Senators (36-20-1-4, 77 pts.) swept their three-game weekend slate and have both a one-point lead and a game in hand on the rest of the pack. The Penguins (34-20-3-5, 76 pts.) are 6-1-1-2 in their last 10 contests, and the Admirals (33-21-1-7, 74 pts.) kick off a five-game homestand on Wednesday that will include two games each against Binghamton and Wilkes-Barre.
Close behind that trio is Hershey (31-23-4-4, 70 pts.), just seven points out of first place in the division but currently ninth in the conference. The Bears finish the regular season playing 10 of their final 14 games on the road, where they are below .500 this year (11-13-3-1).
Wilkes-Barre (2004, 2008), Philadelphia (2005), Hershey (2006, 2007, 2009, 2010), Binghamton (2011), Norfolk (2012) and Syracuse (2013) have all advanced to the Calder Cup Finals out of the East Division in the last 10 years.
2. Penguins finally beat Norfolk at home
The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins’ 4-0 win over Norfolk on Saturday night wasn’t just important in the race for first in the East Division. It ended the Admirals’ dominance of the Penguins on their own ice.
Norfolk had won 12 consecutive visits to the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza over the last three seasons and had allowed two goals or fewer to their hosts in 11 straight.
Before Saturday, Wilkes-Barre’s last home win over Norfolk had been a 3-2 shootout decision on Feb. 26, 2011.
3. Wedgewood blanks opposition
Albany Devils goaltender Scott Wedgewood wasn’t tested much, but he couldn’t have done any better than he did in earning the CCM/AHL Player of the Week award last week.
Wedgewood, a third-round pick by New Jersey in the 2010 NHL draft, defeated Hartford (2-0 on Saturday) and Syracuse (3-0 on Sunday) on consecutive days to become the first goaltender in franchise history with back-to-back shutouts. He finished the week with a personal shutout streak of 126:50.
Wedgewood, 21, faced just 36 shots combined in the two games — Albany ranks second in the league allowing 25.6 shots per game for the season — but made 16 of those stops in the third period Saturday to preserve the win over Hartford.
Wedgewood (11-12-3, 2.54, .894) has three shutouts this season, his first full AHL campaign.
4. IceCaps, Pirates slug it out
With one meeting still left in their 12-game season series, St. John’s and Portland have already combined to score 87 goals head-to-head in 2013-14.
The IceCaps (52 goals) have won nine of 11 meetings from the Pirates (35 goals) to date, including final scores of 7-4, 7-5 and 6-5. Portland earned a 7-4 decision last Friday at Mile One Centre.
The IceCaps have seen seven different skaters record at least 10 points in the season series with Portland, led by Andrew Gordon (6-10-16), Jason Jaffray (3-11-14) and J.C. Lipon (5-8-13). The Pirates’ top scorer against St. John’s is Lucas Lessio with 6-4-10.
The clubs go at it one last time at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee in Lewiston on Apr. 19.
5. Stars clip Wolves’ streak
Chicago returned home from a two-game sweep in Abbotsford looking to extend its 17-game home points streak, but the Texas Stars had other plans.
The Stars defeated the Wolves 3-0 on Saturday night, Chicago’s first home regulation loss since Dec. 7, 2013. The Wolves had gone 15-0-2-0 at Allstate Arena over the previous three months.
Texas prevailed in Sunday afternoon’s rematch also, taking a 3-2 overtime decision to pull back into a first-place tie with Grand Rapids atop the Western Conference.
6. Sommer set to break coaching record
In his 16th season at the helm of the San Jose Sharks’ top affiliate, Roy Sommer is poised to make AHL history in the coming days.
Sommer is set to tie and pass AHL Hall of Famer Frank Mathers to become the league’s all-time leader in games coached. Mathers guided the Hershey Bears from 1956-73 and again in 1984-85, serving as bench boss for 1,256 regular-season games.
Sommer, who has coached the Kentucky Thoroughblades (1998-2001), Cleveland Barons (2001-06) and Worcester Sharks (2006- ), will tie Mathers in Providence on Sunday before coaching in his 1,257th regular-season game on Mar. 26 when Worcester visits the Portland Pirates.
7. Calder Cup champs in Hockeytown
With the recall of Landon Ferraro on Monday, the Detroit Red Wings’ roster included 11 members of the 2013 Calder Cup champion Grand Rapids Griffins.
Joining Ferraro on Detroit’s active roster were Petr Mrazek, Gustav Nyquist, Riley Sheahan, Joakim Andersson, Tomas Tatar, Brian Lashoff, Tomas Jurco, Luke Glendening, Teemu Pulkkinen and Danny DeKeyser, who all helped the Griffins to their first title last spring.
8. Arcobello on fire
Mark Arcobello has been nearly unstoppable since returning to the AHL last month.
Arcobello, who spent the first four months of the 2013-14 season in the NHL with the Edmonton Oilers before being assigned to Oklahoma City on Feb. 1, has recorded a point in each of his 15 games with the Barons, totaling 10-18-28 while putting together the longest scoring streak in the AHL in more than two years.
Arcobello, who had just one game of NHL experience entering the season, tallied four goals and 14 assists in 41 games with Edmonton. He finished tied for third in the AHL in scoring in 2012-13, amassing 22-46-68 in 74 contests for Oklahoma City.
The Barons, 10-4-0-1 with Arcobello in the lineup, sit just three points out of eighth place in the Western Conference.
9. Chuck Scherza (1923-2014)
The Providence Journal reported that former Providence Reds fan favorite Chuck Scherza passed away over the weekend at the age of 91.
A member of the Reds’ Calder Cup championship team in 1949, Scherza played 11 seasons in the AHL with Hershey (1944-45) and Providence (1945-55) and totaled 145 goals and 300 assists for 445 points in 676 games.
10. Alumni watch
Congratulations to AHL call-ups Brandon Gormley, Oscar Klefbom, Paul Carey, Teemu Pulkkinen, Johan Sundstrom, Matt Lindblad and Nathan Lieuwen, who all made their National Hockey League debuts in the last week.
For the 2013-14 season, a total of 107 AHL players have now made their NHL debuts.