1. Medal dreams start in the AHL
All 12 countries participating in the men’s hockey tournament at next month’s 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, have submitted their 25-man rosters, and the lists include 149 former and current American Hockey League skaters.
AHL grads bound for the Olympics include 33 former AHL All-Stars (like Ryan Callahan, P.K. Subban, Slava Voynov and Zdeno Chara) and 13 former Calder Cup champions, including 2013 playoff MVP Tomas Tatar and 2012 champs Radko Gudas, Richard Panik and Ondrej Palat.
Nine players who have skated in the AHL in 2013-14 are headed to Sochi, including Syracuse goaltender Kristers Gudlevskis of Latvia, Grand Rapids forward Tomas Jurco of Slovakia and Milwaukee forward Simon Moser of Switzerland.
2. The "Heet" is on
Second-year pro Cal Heeter of the Adirondack Phantoms, the reigning CCM/AHL Player of the Week, is on a tear that has propelled him to the top of the AHL’s leaderboards.
Heeter, a 25-year-old St. Louis native and product of Ohio State University, stopped 86 of 87 shots in three starts last week and began 2014 with back-to-back shutouts, blanking Hershey and Albany on successive nights. Heeter’s shutout streak stands at 126:04, and he has allowed just one goal in his last 233:02 of action.
For the season, Heeter, who has allowed two goals or fewer in 11 of his last 13 starts, has moved into the league lead with a .932 save percentage, and his 2.03 goals-against average trails only his Northway rival Keith Kinkaid of Albany (2.02). Heeter and Kinkaid also share the AHL lead with four shutouts each on the season.
3. 500 for Mancari
Chicago Wolves forward Mark Mancari became the 87th player in AHL history to reach 500 career points with the first of his two assists in a 4-3 shootout win over Iowa on Saturday night.
Mancari, a seven-time 20-goal scorer and two-time All-Star during his AHL career, finished the week with 211 goals and 292 assists for 503 points in 594 career AHL games with Chicago, Rochester and Portland.
The next player in line to gain admission into the 500-point club is Adirondack’s Kris Newbury, who has 457 points in 624 career AHL games.
4. Aucoin climbs the ladder
Mark Mancari‘s milestone wasn’t the only significant achievement of the weekend by a Chicago forward. Keith Aucoin moved into sole possession of seventh place on the AHL’s all-time scoring list on Saturday, surpassing Harry Pidhirny with his 830th career point.
Aucoin has 3-7-10 in eight games since returning to the Wolves’ lineup on Dec. 21 after a month-long absence. He had just 1-5-6 over his first 17 games of the season.
The climb to the top gets much tougher from here on out. Aucoin’s 830 points are barely three-fifths of the way to Willie Marshall’s career record total of 1,375.
5. OT heroes
Just 34 games into the season, the Binghamton Senators have already won six times in sudden-death overtime.
The Senators are 6-0 in the extra frame (2-3 in shootouts), including wins last week over Manchester and Syracuse to run their winning streak to seven games. The Sens have dominated their 11 periods of overtime play, outshooting their opponents 36-11 during sudden-death time.
6. Best of ’13
The Springfield Falcons ran away with the Northeast Division last season and sit atop the overall standings so far in 2013-14, so it comes as little surprise that they owned the best regular-season record in the AHL while the calendar showed 2013.
The Falcons were 28-14-3-1 down the stretch last season and 22-5-1-3 through New Year’s Eve this year, good for a 50-19-4-4 mark and a .701 points percentage in 2013, tops in the league.
Providence (.694), Texas (.673), Grand Rapids (.639) and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (.638) rounded out the top five teams for the year.
Eric O’Dell of the St. John’s IceCaps led all skaters in regular-season scoring during 2013, tallying 75 points (36 goals, 39 assists) in 70 games. Matt Fraser led the league with 37 goals between Texas and Providence, and Martin Jones won a league-best 29 games in net for Manchester.
7. Shining Stars
Three of the top four scorers in the American Hockey League entering the new week call Cedar Park home.
Texas Stars forwards Travis Morin (19-27-46), Colton Sceviour (22-15-37) and Chris Mueller (15-19-34) have all seen action with the parent Dallas Stars this season, but during their time in Texas they have helped the AHL Stars become one of the most potent offenses in the league.
Texas is averaging 3.56 goals per game — second behind only Binghamton — and the Stars’ 30.3 percent efficiency on the power play is on pace to shatter the league record. Their 46 power-play goals so far are more than six AHL teams had all of last season.
Rookie Curtis McKenzie (11-20-31) is tied for 10th in the league in scoring. The last AHL team to place four skaters in the top 10 for a season was the 2006-07 Chicago Wolves with Darren Haydar, Brett Sterling, Cory Larose and Jason Krog.
8. Beware of Dogs
Hamilton rides a five-game winning streak into the new week after a two-game sweep during a weekend visit to Abbotsford.
On their hottest run since the 2010-11 season, the Bulldogs are just three points behind first-place Toronto in the North Division. The streak began with their Boxing Day victory over the Marlies at the Air Canada Centre.
Dustin Tokarski (13-7-2, 2.19, .926) is 4-0-1 in his last five decisions, allowing a total of seven goals in that time. Sixteen different Bulldogs skaters have recorded a point in the last five games, none totaling more than five points.
9. Filled to the brim
The St. John’s IceCaps have been playing to sold-out crowds since joining the AHL in 2011, selling every ticket for every home game in franchise history. Now, they have officially carved their name in the league’s record books.
Monday’s game against Portland (rescheduled from Saturday due to the Pirates’ travel delays reaching Newfoundland) was the 91st consecutive regular-season sellout at Mile One Centre, surpassing the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins’ record of 90 straight sellouts between Mar. 6, 2002 and Oct. 30, 2004.
10. Alumni watch
Congratulations to AHL call-ups Niklas Svedberg, Mike Sislo, Brad Hunt, Justin Florek, Alexey Marchenko and Eriah Hayes, who all made their National Hockey League debuts in the last week.
With Svedberg and Florek, five Providence Bruins have made their NHL debuts for the defending Eastern Conference champions in Boston in the last three weeks alone.
For the 2013-14 season, a total of 80 AHL players have now made their NHL debuts.