AHL Weekly Release #8
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … News and notes from around the American Hockey League, where things were looking a little different in several places:
TORONTO ROLLS BACK TO THE ROCK … More than six years after the Toronto Maple Leafs’ top affiliate left their St. John’s home, the Toronto Marlies paid a visit to Mile One Centre’s new tenants over the weekend in a two-game battle of division leaders.
Before moving to Toronto’s Ricoh Coliseum and becoming the Marlies in 2005, the St. John’s Maple Leafs played 14 seasons in Newfoundland, winning three division titles and reaching the Calder Cup Finals in their inaugural season of 1991-92.
In the opener on Nov. 25, Nazem Kadri notched two goals and two assists and Jeff Finger scored with 28.7 seconds remaining in overtime to give the Marlies a 4-3 win over the IceCaps. A night later, Toronto erased three separate one-goal deficits and scored the final four goals of the game in a 6-3 victory, extending its winning streak to six games and holding its four-point lead atop the North Division.
The AHL’s return to St. John’s has been a tremendous success to date. The IceCaps have sold out each of their first 12 home games, averaging 6,306 fans per contest – above capacity at the 6,247-seat Mile One Centre. The team also owns the best record in the Eastern Conference (12-4-4-0) entering the new week and rookie head coach Keith McCambridge has seen eight of his players also get playing time with the parent Winnipeg Jets to date.
STREAK BUSTERS … The Charlotte Checkers did something over the weekend that no AHL team had done in more than 10 months: defeat the visiting Milwaukee Admirals in regulation. And the Checkers did it twice.
Milwaukee brought the longest road points streak in AHL history – 23 games (16-0-4-3) – into the Time Warner Cable Arena on Nov. 26, but dropped a 3-2 decision to Charlotte as Zach Boychuk scored twice and Mike Murphy made 28 saves. Milwaukee also lost the rematch the next afternoon, a 5-1 setback that left the Admirals seven points in back of the Midwest Division-leading Checkers.
The Admirals’ previous regulation loss on the road had been 317 days earlier, a 3-0 defeat at Manitoba on Jan. 13. Not included in the streak but still worth noting were Milwaukee’s six road games during the 2011 Calder Cup Playoffs – three wins and three overtime losses.
GOING TO CAROLINA … The two losses in Charlotte to Carolina’s top affiliate weren’t enough to keep Milwaukee head coach Kirk Muller from being tabbed as the new head coach of the Hurricanes on Nov. 28. Muller becomes the 16th AHL head coach in the last four years to be promoted directly to an NHL head coaching position.
Under Muller, the Admirals went 10-6-0-1 and tied for seventh in the league in goals against (2.65 per game) despite a roster that regularly sees eight or more rookies in the lineup. Assistant coach Ian Herbers, a Calder Cup champion with Cape Breton (1993) during his playing career, was elevated to Milwaukee’s head coaching job.
PHIL-ING THE VOID, PHIL-ING THE NETS … Drafted by Edmonton in 2008, left wing Philippe Cornet scored seven goals in 60 games as a rookie for Oklahoma City last season. But with several top scorers not returning to the Barons this season, Cornet has filled the void at a league-leading pace.
Cornet has scored 15 goals in his first 20 games, three more than any other player in the AHL has scored entering the week. Not coincidentally, Oklahoma City owns the best record in the league at 15-5-0-1 (.738) and enters December in first place in the West Division.
The Barons’ top four scorers in 2010-11 – Colin McDonald (42), Alexandre Giroux (32), Brad Moran (20) and Liam Reddox (18) – accounted for 46.7 percent of the team’s regulation goals, but none are back with the team this season. The 21-year-old Cornet’s 15 goals include a league-best four game-winning tallies, and have come on just 38 shots (39.5 percent).
DOV FOR HIRE … Dov Grumet-Morris returned to San Antonio last week and promptly backstopped the Rampage to consecutive wins over Abbotsford, knocking the Heat out of first place in the West Division.
Grumet-Morris, who has made previous AHL stops in Connecticut, Milwaukee, Manitoba, Hamilton and Portland since his first stint with the Rampage in 2005-06, allowed just one goal on 52 shots in the two games combined, including a 5-0 shutout in his season debut on Nov. 25. It was the fourth time in his AHL career that Grumet-Morris earned a shutout in his first start with a team.
The Harvard product and former Philadelphia Flyers draft pick (2002) has a 23-17-5 record, a 2.32 goals-against average, a .920 save percentage and six shutouts in 51 career AHL games.
QUICK HITS … Derek Whitmore’s four-goal game for Rochester on Nov. 26 was the first in the AHL this season; eight players scored at least four goals in a single contest in 2010-11… Brandon Pirri notched five consecutive multiple-point games for Rockford from Nov. 16-25 (6-5-11), including a hat trick vs. San Antonio on Nov. 23… Iiro Tarkki made an AHL season-high 49 saves in Syracuse’s 7-5 win at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Nov. 23… After starting the season with six straight losses, Lake Erie got back to the .500 mark (9-9-1-1) with a 5-4 win in Hershey on Nov. 26 as Brad Malone scored the winning goal with 20.9 seconds remaining… Connecticut fell behind 2-0 in four consecutive games from Nov. 20-26, but rallied to win three of them… Chicago has still not allowed a power-play goal on home ice this season, killing off all 20 shorthanded chances in seven games… Manchester finished the week on a six-game winning streak, while Atlantic Division foe Portland has points in seven straight (6-0-1-0)… Houston has put together points in six straight contests (3-0-2-1) despite a recent stretch of more than 126 minutes without scoring a goal.