HAMILTON 3, MANITOBA 0
Dustin Boyd scored all three goals and 2011 AHL All-Star goaltender Curtis Sanford made 31 saves for his third shutout in four appearances as the Bulldogs collected a 3-0 win over Manitoba before 10,270 fans in a Wednesday matinee at Copps Coliseum.
With its season-high sixth consecutive victory, Hamilton (27-13-1-4) opened a three-point cushion on second-place Manitoba (25-13-1-5) in the North Division race.
Boyd broke a scoreless deadlock at 8:18 of the second period before scoring twice more in the third period, including an empty-net marker with 1:34 left to play. Rookie forward Alexander Avtsin assisted on two of the goals, and 2011 AHL All-Star defenseman Mathieu Carle earned one helper.
An AHL All-Star as a rookie in 2007, Boyd scored a goal in eight of his first 10 games for Hamilton this season but had been without a goal in six straight outings prior to Wednesday’s outburst. It marked the second hat trick of the year for Boyd, who also scored three times on Dec. 28 vs. Chicago and now shows 14 goals – with no assists – in 17 AHL games.
Sanford (18-7-1) had to make 26 of his 31 saves over the final two periods as Manitoba pressed to get back into the game. The veteran goaltender picked up his fifth shutout overall, moving him into a tie for the league lead with Peoria’s Jake Allen and Binghamton’s Barry Brust.
Sanford continues to lead all AHL goaltenders in both goals-against average (1.66) and save percentage (.941), and his 18 victories are now tied for first along with Brad Thiessen of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and Leland Irving of Abbotsford.
The Moose, who were blanked for the first time since a 4-0 loss to Oklahoma City on Dec. 4, continue a seven-game road swing with weekend stops in Rochester and Toronto prior to the All-Star break.
SAN ANTONIO 4, ABBOTSFORD 2
2011 AHL All-Star Brett MacLean tallied the eventual game-winning goal and added an assist, helping San Antonio double up visiting Abbotsford on Wednesday afternoon in front of 8,415 fans at the AT&T Center.
MacLean, in his first game back following an NHL stint with Phoenix, notched his team-leading 17th goal of the year 3:52 into the third period to give the Rampage a 3-1 lead at the time. Each side added a late strike to account for the final margin.
Bracken Kearns also recorded a goal and an assist for the Rampage, while Alexandre Picard and defenseman Jonas Ahnelov rounded out the offense. San Antonio goaltender Al Montoya made 29 saves to pick up his third straight win in net.
Overall, San Antonio has collected a point in four straight outings (3-0-1-0) after suffering through a five-game regulation losing skid.
The Heat initially took a 1-0 first-period lead on Matt Keith’s team-best 14th goal of 2010-11. After San Antonio scored four straight times, Abbotsford rookie defenseman T.J. Brodie – an AHL All-Star this year – registered a late power play goal in the third.
Abbotsford continues its tour of Texas with a visit to Cedar Park on Friday before shifting over to Houston on Saturday.
MANCHESTER 4, NORFOLK 2
Manchester captain Marc-Andre Cliche scored twice and added an assist as Manchester captured a 4-2 win over visiting Norfolk on Wednesday night at the Verizon Wireless Arena.
The Monarchs battled back from first-period deficits of 1-0 and 2-1 in this one en route to snapping a three-game winless skid (0-2-0-1), which had sent them tumbling out of first place in the Atlantic Division.
With his second three-plus point effort of the season, Cliche has now recorded six goals and nine points in his last seven contests. Both of his goals came on the power play, and Oscar Moller also netted a man-advantage marker as Manchester finished 3-for-5 on the night.
Manchester (28-16-1-3) moved within one point of idle Portland for the Atlantic Division’s top spot.
HOUSTON 4, SYRACUSE 3 (OT)
Robbie Earl scored on the power play 1:43 into overtime to send Houston to a 4-3 road win over Syracuse on Wednesday in a back-and-forth tilt at the Onondaga County War Memorial.
The game-winner marked the second goal of the night for the fifth-year pro Earl, who now boasts a career-high 16 goals (16-17-33) in just 39 games for the Aeros this season. He was assisted in overtime by Nate Prosser and Chad Rau.
Houston jumped out to a 1-0 lead just 26 seconds into the game when Colton Gillies lit the lamp, and Earl made it 2-0 later in the opening frame.
But the second period belonged to the Crunch, as Nate Guenin notched a shorthanded goal at the 3:40 mark, followed by goals from Kyle Palmieri and Patrick Maroon 1:20 apart to give Syracuse a 3-2 edge entering the third.
Aeros forward Jon DiSalvatore netted the lone third-period goal for either side, an unassisted marker at 3:45.
Houston goaltender Anton Khudobin emerged with the victory after making 20 saves, and the Aeros improved to 7-1-0-1 in their last nine contests.
ADIRONDACK 4, BINGHAMTON 3
Adirondack grabbed a pair of first-period leads, then fell behind by a goal in the third period, and eventually rallied late for a thrilling 4-3 win over visiting Binghamton at the Glens Falls Civic Center on Wednesday.
Fellow first-year pro Rob Bordson tallied the Phantoms’ other two scores, which both came in the opening period. Defensemen Kevin Marshall (0-3-3) and Danny Syvret (0-2-2) contributed to the win with multiple assists apiece.
Adirondack goaltender Johan Backlund stopped 21 of 24 shots between the pipes and improved to 2-0-2 in his last four appearances.
Binghamton’s four-game points streak (4-0-0-1) came to an end, and the Senators lost for the first time in four tilts against Adirondack this season (3-1-0-0).
LAKE ERIE 4, TORONTO 2
In just his fourth AHL game since early November, Greg Mauldin tallied a goal and added two assists to help Lake Erie to a key 4-2 win over visiting Toronto on Wednesday at Quicken Loans Arena.
The Monsters’ victory pulled them into a tie with Toronto for third place in the North Division, which is the division’s final guaranteed postseason slot in 2010-11. Both squads show 51 points, though the Marlies still hold two games in hand.
Mauldin, who parlayed a quick start for Lake Erie this year into a 29-game stint with parent-club Colorado, was plus-4 on the night and now has 16 points (6-10-16) in just 18 AHL contests for the campaign.
Ben Walter netted a pair of goals in the winning effort, and rookie Mark Olver rounded out the offense with his team-leading 18th goal of the year. Julian Talbot and defenseman Travis Gawryletz each chipped in two assists and plus-4 efforts for the Monsters.
Lake Erie goaltender John Grahame stopped 17 of 19 shots in net, and his club ended up with 28-19 advantage in shots on goal.
WILKES-BARRE/SCRANTON 6, CHARLOTTE 4
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton received two goals from three different players and outlasted Charlotte for a 6-4 win over the visiting Checkers at Mohegan Sun Arena on Wednesday.
The Penguins, still smarting from a 9-5 loss to Charlotte just three days earlier, burst out of the gate with four goals in the first 16:11 of play but needed a pair of third-period strikes to break a 4-4 tie and come away with the win.
Captain Ryan Craig, alternate Tim Wallace, and 2011 AHL All-Star Dustin Jeffrey each scored twice for the Penguins, while Joe Vitale (0-3-3) and defenseman Robert Bortuzzo (0-2-2) helped out with multiple assists.
Craig tallied the game-winner on the power play 2:41 into the third period, and Wallace provided insurance at the 14:33 mark.
Penguins goaltender and fellow 2011 AHL All-Star John Curry stopped 34 shots in goal, improving his season mark to 17-7-0 in 25 appearances.
Wilkes-Barre, which improved to a league-best 35-11-0-0 (70 points) on the season, has now totaled 17 goals in its last three games.
Defenseman Brett Carson paced the Checkers with a goal and an assist, and Oskar Osala, Riley Nash, and Jerome Samson also scored in the loss. Charlotte has now alternated wins and regulation losses in each of its last 10 outings.
ROCHESTER 3, GRAND RAPIDS 2 (SO)
Rochester scored on each of its first three shootout tries and went on to post a 3-2 victory over visiting Grand Rapids at the Blue Cross Arena on Wednesday.
Michal Repik, A.J. Jenks, and Bill Thomas provided the shootout scores for Rochester, and Amerks goaltender Jacob Markstrom denied three of the Griffins’ four tries after making 34 saves on 36 shots through the first 65 minutes.
Coupled with a 35-save effort at Syracuse last Saturday, the rookie Markstrom has now put together back-to-back wins for the first time since beating Adirondack and Albany on Oct. 30 and Nov. 6.
The Amerks had to rally from a 2-0 deficit in regulation, receiving a second-period goal from rookie forward Scott Timmins before first-year defenseman Colby Robak tied it up with just 4:04 left in the third frame.
CHICAGO 5, OKLAHOMA CITY 4 (SO)
Ryan Garbutt sent the game to overtime with the tying goal at 19:26 of the third period, and Chicago went on to post a 5-4 shootout win over host Oklahoma City on Wednesday at the Cox Convention Center.
Michael Davies also registered a shootout marker for the Wolves, while goaltender Drew McIntyre turned aside nine of 10 Oklahoma City tries, with a fourth-round goal by 2011 AHL All-Star Colin McDonald serving as the lone exception.
Garbutt finished with a pair of goals and an assist in regulation to pace Chicago’s offense, and Pettersson and Andre Deveaux also found the back of the net. Defenseman Andrey Zubarev chipped in two assists in the winning effort.
With their fourth win in five games (4-1-0-0), the Wolves closed to within one point of Milwaukee for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.