BINGHAMTON 2, NORFOLK 1 (OT)
Former first-round draft pick Jim O’Brien scored 3:48 into overtime as Binghamton halted a lengthy postseason drought by clinching a spot in the 2011 tournament with a 2-1 win over visiting Norfolk on Wednesday at the Broome County Arena.
The Senators (41-29-3-5, 90 points) assured themselves of no worse than the Eastern Conference’s crossover playoff berth, and they’ll be heading to the Calder Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2005, when Binghamton was anchored by league MVP Jason Spezza and goaltender Ray Emery.
The B-Sens also closed to within one point of fourth place in the East Division, a slot which would draw a first-round playoff match-up with league-leading Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. As it stands now, Binghamton would cross over to the Atlantic Division and take on Manchester in the division semifinals.
Second Team AHL All-Star defenseman Andre Benoit staked Binghamton to a 1-0 lead with a power play goal midway through the first period, and that stood up until Admirals forward Mattias Ritola knotted it up late in the second frame.
Ritola has now netted a goal in five consecutive games (6-6-12) since returning from a stint with the parent Tampa Bay Lightning.
PORTLAND 6, MANCHESTER 5 (OT)
2011 AHL All-Rookie forward Luke Adam capped off a four-point effort (2-2-4) with the game-winning goal at 4:29 of overtime, putting Portland on the verge of the Atlantic Division title with a 6-5 win over visiting Manchester at the Cumberland County Civic Center on Wednesday.
The Pirates (46-23-6-2) reached the 100-point plateau for the season and can clinch their first division title since 2006 by earning one point in any of their final three games, or if Manchester fails to win either of its last two.
With his third four-point performance of the season, Adam reached 60 points for the season (28-32-60) and pulled within two points of AHL rookie scoring leader Rhett Rakhshani of Bridgeport. Adam’s 28 goals lead all first-year pros, and his plus-22 rating is second to Chicago’s Ryan Garbutt.
Adam assisted on a pair of power play goals by Paul Byron before burying a man-advantage marker of his own midway through the third period. Byron then picked up the lone helper on Adam’s overtime tally to complete a three-point effort.
Colin Stuart and Derek Whitmore rounded out Portland’s offense; defenseman Dennis Persson (0-3-3) and forward Mark Parrish (0-2-2) each had multiple assists; and goaltender Jeff Jakaitis emerged with the win after making 27 saves.
Monarchs leading scorer Bud Holloway and defenseman David Kolomatis recorded a goal and an assist apiece, while John Zeiler and rearguard Patrick Mullen also found the back of the net. Justin Azevedo contributed three helpers in the loss.
LAKE ERIE 3, TORONTO 2
Rookie defenseman Julien Brouillette broke a 2-2 deadlock with a power play goal with six minutes left in regulation, and Lake Erie held on for a 3-2 win over visiting Toronto on Wednesday at Quicken Loans Arena.
The playoff-bound Monsters notched all three goals on the power play – finishing 3-for-6 on the night – and won for the 10th time in their last 12 contests (10-2-0-0).
Lake Erie (42-27-3-5, 92 points) also moved within one point of North Division co-leaders Hamilton and Manitoba and still holds a game in hand on that duo, which faces one another twice in Winnipeg this weekend to close the regular season.
Greg Mauldin and defenseman Shawn Belle also scored for the Monsters, and captain Ben Walter finished with two assists. Matthew Ford and Julian Talbot helped out on the game-winner by Brouillette, which was just his second tally of the season.
Monsters goaltender Jason Bacashihua (22-16-3) earned the victory with 32 saves in net.
GRAND RAPIDS 2, MILWAUKEE 1
Grand Rapids kept its slim playoff hopes alive for another night on Wednesday by taking a 2-1 road win over Milwaukee at the Bradley Center.
Griffins forward Tomas Tatar notched the eventual game-winning goal at 2:36 of the second period, with assists going to Ilari Filppula and Jamie Tardif. It marked Tatar’s team-leading 24th goal of the season.
Cory Emmerton put Grand Rapids on top midway through the opening period, and Milwaukee’s Andreas Thuresson tied it up 2:02 into the second frame. But Tatar struck just 34 seconds later, and the Griffins maintained that slim 2-1 lead to the end.
Grand Rapids rookie goaltender Jordan Pearce secured the victory with 31 saves on 32 shots, helping his club remain mathematically alive to both finish fourth in the North Division and prevent a crossover from West Division clubs.
The Admirals’ magic number to clinch the West Division title remained at one point over Houston, which does not play again until the regular-season’s final day on Sunday.
PEORIA 3, TEXAS 2
Peoria struck for a pair of third-period goals to erase a 2-1 deficit and claim a huge 3-2 win over visiting Texas on Wednesday at Carver Arena, further thickening the plot in the West Division playoff race.
Rivermen defenseman Nathan Oystrick tied the game 2-2 at 9:54 of the third frame, and second-year rearguard Jake Gannon struck with 1:55 left in regulation for just his fourth career AHL goal in 69 games. Derek Nesbitt and Ian Cole assisted on the game-winner.
The victory extended Peoria’s points streak to four games (3-0-1-0) and pulled the Rivermen (41-29-3-5, 90 points) into a share of third place with Texas in the West Division. Texas has three games remaining to Peoria’s two.
Nicholas Drazenovic put Peoria on top midway through the opening stanza, but the Stars then grabbed a 2-1 lead on a first-period tally by defenseman Philip Larsen and a second-period strike off the stick of 2011 AHL All-Star Francis Wathier.
Rivermen rookie goaltender Jake Allen persevered for the victory, finishing with 20 saves and improving to 24-18-3 in 45 appearances this season.
The Stars missed a chance to clinch a playoff spot and will have another chance on Friday night when they visit first-place Milwaukee to begin the regular season’s final weekend.
ADIRONDACK 4, ALBANY 1
Michael Ryan scored three straight goals for his second hat trick of the season as Adirondack bounced back from a 1-0 deficit to cruise past visiting Albany by a 4-1 count on Wednesday at the Glens Falls Civic Center.
Ryan, who also registered a hat trick on Jan. 29 at Syracuse, has now collected seven goals in his last four games (7-3-10) and moved into a tie with Denis Hamel for the team lead with 25 markers (25-18-43) on the season.
After Ryan’s eruption gave the Phantoms a 3-1 advantage, Matt Read (1-1-2) sealed the victory with an empty-netter late in the third period.
Adirondack wrapped up its 12-game season series with Albany at 6-4-1-1.