The Weekend That Was: April 10th-12th

AHL

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Photo via Lake Erie Monsters

-Though they have an very slim chance to make the playoffs, the Lake Erie Monsters aren’t going down without a fight. The Monsters swept the Adirondack Flames, despite being outshot 85-59 in the two games. Calvin Pickard made 82-saves throughout the weekend, while Tomas Vincour led the way offensively with a goal and assist in each game. Kenny Ryan had two goals on the weekend, while Troy Brouke had a goal and an assist. The Monsters are three points out of the last playoff spot in the Western Conference, but the Toronto Marlies– who hold the 8th spot now– have a game in hand.

-One team to look out for in the Eastern Conference will be the Hartford Wolf Pack. With three wins this weekend, which added to their five-game streak, the Wolf Pack are hitting their stride at the right time. Most of this could be due to the play of Yann Danis, who only allowed two goals in three games; posting a 31-save shutout Friday, saved 25 of 26 Saturday, and 30 of 31 shots on Sunday. Chris Bourque had a goal and three assists on the weekend, Dylan McIlrath had a goal and two assists, while Danny Kristo potted two goals on Friday. With the wins, the Wolf Pack overtook the Syracuse Crunch for 1st in the Northeast Division.

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ECHL

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-In the Eastern Conference, the hottest team going into the playoffs is the Wheeling Nailers, who won three straight this weekend as they took two games from Elmira and won their last game against Brampton. Riley Brace had five assists on the weekend, with Sahir Gill being the second set-up guy with four assists, while David Gilbert had three goals to be the top goal-scorer on the weekend. In net, Franky Palazzese got the two wins over Elmira with Eric Hartzell getting the win in Brampton. Whether or not they can keep the hot streak alive against the Toledo Walleye in the first round remains to be seen; but they have the tools to have a major upset happen.

-Despite a slow start, the Indy Fuel were able to save face and barely come up short for the playoffs. They finished the season on a 4-0-0-1 clip and will have a lot to grow on from the end of the season and the last couple of months. Coach Scott Hillman worked his magic once again and was able to turn a possible trainwreck into a respectable outcome, even with all the roster changes that were made to bolster the line-up. Mac Carruth went 16-3-3 after January 17th, while Garett Bembridge and rookie Kyle Stroh were clutch for the Fuel after being acquired in two separate trades, combining for 43 goals and 42 assists in Indy.

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SPHL

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-It’s still amazing to me that the Mississippi RiverKings won’t be hosting a game in the President’s Cup Finals due to the Landers Center having the circus there. Despite exhausting the options they had, they will be on the road in Knoxville for all three games. Whether or not this creates bad blood between the arena and team remains to be seen; the RiverKings coach Derek Landmesser reached out to the fans to explain and maybe hope to get some people to make the trip to Knoxville and to shame the Landers Center just a bit.

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The Weekend That Was: April 3rd-5th

AHL

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Photo via Texas Stars Facebook

-After a mediocre start to the season, which could be chalked up to the Calder Cup hangover feeling, the Texas Stars have gotten their act together and put themselves in a playoff position with six games remaining in their season. They are currently on a three-game win streak; which includes the two wins in the Midwest this weekend beating the Milwaukee Admirals and Chicago Wolves. Jack Campbell got both wins on the weekend, stopping 70 of 74 shots thrown at him. Justin Dowling had two goals and an assist, with Greg Rallo putting up a goal and two assists on the weekend. Since coming back from Idaho, Campbell has gone 8-4-1 and seems to be playing with more confidence, something the Stars will need down the stretch.

-It was a heck of a time for the Rockford IceHogs offense to come alive with 13 goals in two games, which also allowed for them to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2010. Ryan Hartman had three goals and two assists, Garret Ross had three goals and an assists, while Alex Broadhurst had two goals and four assists. Antti Raanta and Michael Leighton split the weekend set, while the IceHogs outshot the Rochester Americans and Grand Rapids Griffins 76-43.

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ECHL

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Photo from Utah Grizzlies Facebook

-In a huge pair of games against the Alaska Aces, Igor Bobkov was the story for the Utah Grizzlies– stopping all but one of the 77 shots that the Aces threw at him on the weekend. The wins put the Grizzlies over the Aces for the last playoff spot in the Pacific Division. Mathieu Aubin had a goal and two assists this weekend, with Howard Lenz posting two assists and Alex Krushelnyski putting up a goal and assist. Conversely, the Aces are on a three-game losing skid, which has seen them put up one goal in that losing streak.

-Thanks to two wins and two Wheeling Nailers’ losses, the Cincinnati Cyclones pushed themselves into the last playoff spot in the North Division. Both Geoff Irwin and David Pacan put up two goals and two assists on the weekend, with Jack Downing having two goals and an assist. Rob Madore is coming through for the Cyclones again with a shutout and stopping 35 of 37 shots on the weekend. Though the Nailers have a game in hand, the Cyclones are up by three points going into the last week.

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SPHL

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Photo by John Coffin via Mississippi RiverKings Facebook

-With their series win, the Mississippi RiverKings are now in the President’s Cup Finals and have gotten the scoring in the series from unlikely sources. Matt Harrington lead the way (and the SPHL playoffs) with a goal and four assists, while Bryon Paulazzo— who recently returned from a stint in Stockton in the ECHL and hasn’t played for Mississippi since the end of January– put up three goals to lead the RiverKings in goals for the series. Coupled with Peter Di Salvo getting the call in net over Adam Courchaine and leading the way for goalies after the first round– the RiverKings will be fresh and ready for the winner of Knoxville and Louisiana; which starts later this week.

The Weekend That Was: March 27th-29th

AHL

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Photo by Chris Marion/Springfield Falcons

-With their backs against the wall during a huge freefall on the the season, the Springfield Falcons were only able to muster one point in their three games; losing two of those to the Worcester Sharks; who have passed them for the 8th spot in the Eastern Conference standings. A lot of this could be attributed to the injuries that the Falcons have had, as well as their parent club in Columbus. One of the main injuries was to Anton Forsberg, who was lights-out in net for the Falcons. The trio of Oscar Dansk, Scott Munroe, and newcomer Joonas Korpisalo haven’t gotten the job done as of yet. With the addition of Sonny Milano to the offense to help combat those call-ups and injuries; the Falcons will really have to dig in to make sure this collapse from the regular season won’t be the last memory of the year.

-With the Eastern Conference having the Sharks surging; the Chicago Wolves have made their way into a playoff spot, despite only being five points up on 12th place Lake Erie. The Wolves swept the home-and-home with the Milwaukee Admirals this weekend and then came back home to beat the Iowa Wild. Jeremy Welsh had three goals and three assists this weekend, with Magnus Paajarvi notching a hat-trick Saturday night, and Ty Rattie putting up two goals and five assists on the weekend. Matt Clime had two book-end wins with Jordan Binnington putting up the win on Saturday.

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ECHL

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-The Stockton Thunder were swept over the weekend against Alaska. The Bakersfield Condors have lost eight-straight. For two of the three teams leaving the ECHL next season, they are going out with a whimper rather than fanfare, as they would have hoped. Luckily, the Ontario Reign were able to go ahead and make the most– they even swept Bakersfield this weekend, as Judd Blackwater had a hat-trick on Friday, then another goal on Saturday. Rocco Carzo (1g, 3a), Matt White (2g, 1a), and Gary Nunn (3a) played a supporting role as Jussi Olkinuora won both games in turning up for the playoffs.

-There’s something about the East Division. The South Carolina Stingrays finally had their 23-game win streak broken by the Indy Fuel, but were able to get back on the horse the next day. The Reading Royals had a 12-game winning streak earlier in the year and now the Florida Everblades have gotten points in 14 straight games, only losing in a shootout last weekend. All three of those teams have clinched a playoff spot, only leaving one left for Orlando and Greenville to fight over.

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SPHL

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Photo from Huntsville Havoc Facebook

-Despite having the worst record in SPHL history, the Huntsville Havoc beat the Columbus Cottonmouths twice this weekend– even though the Cottonmouths were possibly thinking ahead to the playoffs. Jordan Reed put in three goals on the weekend, while Stuart Stefan and Nick Wheeler added two assists. One of the big performances was Kevin Genoe‘s play on Saturday, as he stopped all 51 shots on Saturday night, his first of the year in the last game of the year.

-As the playoffs start on Wednesday, you can check out my first round primer for the SPHL action.

The Weekend That Was: March 20th-22nd

AHL

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-As they fight for the final playoff spot in their final season in Worcester, the Sharks are getting a great boost from Aaron Dell, the goalie who has turned his “brief” call up from the Allen Americans into a NHL contract from San Jose. With two wins this weekend for the Sharks, Dell improved his record to 10-5-2 with a 1.87 GAA and .931 save percentage. The wins kept the Sharks in the hunt as they are a point out of a playoff spot with three games in hand over eighth-place Springfield. In their wins this weekend against St. John’s and Lehigh Valley, captain Bryan Lerg put up three goals, with Rylan Schwartz having two goals, and Jimmy Bonneau put up two assists on Sunday.

-With new acquistion Sven Baertschi putting up four goals in their three wins, the Utica Comets have all but sealed the North Division title, which will put them in the top-three spots in the Western Conference. The three wins this weekend extends the point streak for the Comets to six games. To match the four goals by Baertschi, captain Cal O’Reilly added four assists, with Joacim Eriksson winning Friday and Sunday with Joe Cannata winning Saturday’s game.

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ECHL

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Photo from Allen Americans Facebook Page

-Despite going through a bit of a slump, the Allen Americans kicked it back into shape this weekend with two big wins; helping them clinch the Central Division. Gary Steffes put up two goals and three assists on the weekend while league leading scorer Chad Costello had two goals and two assists. Aaron Gens and Tyler Ludwig added from the blue line with Gens having four assists and Ludwig putting up a goal and two assists. The two wins also put Riley Gill as the first goalie in the ECHL to record 30 wins and the first of his career.

-The Toledo Walleye clinched a playoff spot this weekend with three big wins thanks to Shane Berschbach contributing two goals and four assists, as well as Troy Schwab‘s two goals and three assists and potential rookie of the year Tyler Barnes adding three goals and three assists. Jeff Lerg stopped 56 of 58 shots taken at him in two of the games, with Neil Conway stopping 22 in his win on Saturday. The Walleye have had an amazing turnaround as they currently are 43 points better than they were last season, with that number sure to grow in the last month of the season.

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SPHL

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-The dismal season for the Huntsville Havoc is near a close, as they will go down in history as the worst SPHL team to date. With only three games remaining, the Havoc can only max out at 12 wins, with the old lowest win total being at 14 with the Winston-Salem Polar Twins. One of the few bright spots for the Havoc has been the play of Stuart Stefan, who sits second in goals (10) for defensemen in the league and is fourth in points with 28. While it is well off his career-high pace from last season, Stefan has been a decent story for the Havoc.

-With one week until the playoffs starts, the SPHL has all the contenders into the playoffs with only Fayetteville and Huntsville not making the cut. The only thing to be determined is the positioning of the teams. Peoria needs three points in their weekend set against the Mississippi River Kings to clinch first-overall or need the Columbus Cottonmouths to drop one of their last three games, as they play Louisiana once and Huntsville on the weekend.

The Weekend That Was: March 13th-15th

AHL

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Photo by Michael McSweeney, Portland Pirates

-Despite only winning two of their three games– the Providence Bruins only allowed two goals this entire weekend. Malcolm Subban had a 19-save shutout on Saturday with Jeremy Smith stopping 54 of 56 shots in a shootout loss and win Friday and Sunday, respectively. Cory Kane had two goals and an assist on the weekend, Zack Phillips had a goal and two assists, and Tommy Cross had three assists. This weekend extended the points streak for the P-Bruins to nine games, putting them to second in the Atlantic Division, seven points behind Manchester, and fifth overall in the Eastern Conference.

-With three wins this weekend, the Hartford Wolf Pack are in the top-8 in the East. Chris Bourque put in two goals Sunday to help cap the weekend’s wins, but it started off by a thrilling overtime game which saw Conor Allen pot the winner helping Yann Danis‘ 26-save performance. Danis followed that up with a 37-save performance in Saturday’s win with Ryan Haggerty scoring two goals (as well as adding two assists this weekend). The Wolf Pack are four points up on 9th place and one point ahead of eighth place Springfield.

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ECHL

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Photo by Gary Bassing, Orlando Solar Bears

-In one game, Garret Sparks almost matched what his tandem partner Maxime Clermont had in two games this weekend. The Orlando Solar Bears won all three, but in Sparks game– the defense didn’t show up; but the offense did. On Saturday, the Solar Bears won 10-3 over Evansville with Brock Montgomery putting up two goals and Brady Vail having three assists. However, the Solar Bears gave up 56 shots, which Sparks was able to stop 53. On Friday and Sunday, the Solar Bears gave up a total of 63 with Clermont stopping all but three in those two games. In all three games Patrick Watling shined by posting four goals and two assists this weekend, with Peter Sivak adding a goal and three assists. Orlando is three points up on Elmira for the final spot in the East Division, with the Solar Bears having a game in hand.

-Thanks to Winston Day Chief‘s two goals and assist on Friday, coupled with Jesse Schultz and Kale Kerbashian putting up a goal and three assists each helped the Rapid City Rush get into a better playoff position; especially coming at the expense of the Central Division leading Allen Americans. Danny Battochio got both the wins in net stopping 26 on Friday and 39 on Saturday. The Rush are now third in the Central, but will have to fight off an equally hot Tulsa team that will be jockeying for position to stay away from Allen in the playoffs.

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SPHL

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-With points in 25 of his 32 games, Jake Hauswirth has revitalized his career in Louisiana after bouncing around the past couple years all amongst minor league hockey. With two goals and an assist this weekend, Hauswirth extended his point streak to four games and has 17 points in his last 13 games since February 13th. Hauswirth will be under a bit of a spotlight as they are still jockeying for position, despite being up nine points on 7th place Fayetteville.

-Five of the six playoff spots have been clinched in the SPHL, with the fight for the sixth spot almost all but done as the Fayetteville FireAntz look defeated by getting swept this weekend only getting a goal in each game against Mississippi. The only possible saving grace of the FireAntz is that they play the league-worst Huntsville Havoc this weekend after playing the Knoxville Ice Bears Thursday. The team they are battling, the Louisiana Ice Gators, have two games against the floundering Pensacola Ice Flyers this weekend. By this time next week, it could be only the positioning to be determined in the SPHL.

The Weekend That Was: March 6th-8th

AHL

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-It was a five-alive weekend for the Portland Pirates, as they scored five goals in each of their three wins this weekend; taking down Syracuse, Lehigh Valley, and Hershey– all on the road. Jordan Martinook had two goals and five assists, Henrik Samuelsson had two goals and three assists, and Dylan Reese had two goals and two assists for the defensive contribution. Mike McKenna took the wins on Friday and Saturday, with newcomer David Leggio getting the decision on Sunday. Currently, the Pirates sit in 6th and are two points up from 9th place in the tight Eastern Conference. They have points in their last six games and have won seven of their last ten.

-While it might be too little, too late; the Binghamton Senators aren’t going out without a fight. Despite losing Andrew Hammond to Ottawa, the B-Sens put up two wins this weekend, but sit 10 points back of the 8th playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Though they have points in their last five games, the goaltending has been facing an insane amount of rubber– this weekend having Scott Greenham stop 49 of 51 on Friday and Peter Mannino stop 38 of 40 on Sunday. Carter Camper had two goals and an assist this weekend, while Shane Prince chipped in three assists of his own. Though it’s a long-shot, the hits that the B-Sens have taken with call-ups and injury will be the undoing of the team if they can’t find a miraculous comeback in this season.

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ECHL

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Photo by Al Larson

-The Florida Everblades continue to expand their lead in the East Division and keep up with 1st overall in the Conference with three wins over the weekend– two against Greenville and one against lowly Gwinnett. Adam Brace had a goal and four assists, Brent Harris had four goals on the weekend, and Cameron Burt had a goal and three assists; as Andy Iles had two wins and Anthony Peters won his first professional win with a shutout in his first game out of Canadian University (St. Mary’s). The Everblades are tied with Reading for tops in the East Division and tied with Fort Wayne and Reading for first overall in conference.

-If not for the South Carolina Stingrays’ torrid pace, the Idaho Steelheads would be the talk of the ECHL with nine straight wins, which includes the two against the ECHL cellar dweller Stockton Thunder. Brett Robinson had a goal and four assists, which compliment Rob Linsmayer‘s goal and three assists. The wins were split by Henri Kiviaho and Chris Rawlings, who have filled in solidly for the injured Olivier Roy. The Steelheads three more games against the Thunder, which could help them keep top spot in the Pacific Division.

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SPHL

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-A split was enough for the Peoria Rivermen to clinch the first playoff spot in the SPHL playoffs. The Rivermen won Friday, but lost Saturday to Mississippi. Josh Harris had two goals and two assists with newcomer Ryan Raven having a goal and three assists. The Rivermen threw a total of 91 shots at Adam Courchaine and Peter Di Salvo of Mississippi, but only were able to get five past them. Luckily, Kyle Rank stopped 45 of the 49 shots he faced and with the win Friday, tied him with Max Strang of Pensacola with the SPHL lead in wins with 24.

-Though they took a split in a home-and-home, the Fayetteville FireAntz have the worst luck when it comes to their team being picked apart. Matt Robertson had a goal and two assists in the series with Josh McQuade chipping in two goal in Friday’s loss. As I mentioned last week, the FireAntz really took a hit with Kevin Murdock getting called-up to the ECHL, McQuade being suspend Saturday, four season-ending injuries, and as they are six points out of a playoff spot and do-or-die three-game set with the Mississippi RiverKings coming up– the FireAntz could be looking at their hopes going out the window.

The Weekend That Was: February 27th-March 1st

AHL

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-Expect Petr Mrazek to be named the Player of the Week in the AHL as he only let in two goals this week and shutout both the Milwaukee Admirals and Chicago Wolves this weekend in his three games played. A taste of the NHL has gotten Mrazek a more competitive edge to his game since returning to Grand Rapids and shows he could be ready for the prime time next season. However, Mrazek got some solid help from Tomas Nosek and Landon Ferraro, who potted two goals this weekend in the victories. The Griffins sit first in the Midwest Division and second in the Western Conference after this weekend.

-With three wins this weekend, the Hershey Bears moved to the top spot in the Eastern Conference and AHL. Each weekend’s game had different offensive stars, with Friday having Casey Wellman pot two goals and an assist, Saturday showed off Chris Conner having a goal and two assists, finished on Sunday by Dustin Gazley and Stanislav Galiev having the only markers in the game. Philipp Grubauer let all but one of the 66 shots he faced in two games in, while Pheonix Copley 24 of the 26 shots he faced on the weekend.

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ECHL

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-If not for a subpar start, the South Carolina Stingrays could be running away with the East Division. Yet, their 13-game winning streak, which is fourth-longest and ties a franchise record that was set in 2009, has bolstered them back into playoff position and only seven points out for tops in the division. The team their chasing, in the Reading Royals, strung together a 12-game win streak earlier in the season and pulled a bit away from the rest of the field. The Stingrays took care of the Florida Everblades this weekend, closing the gap between those two teams in 2nd and 3rd in the division. Andrew Rowe and Brandon Wong both had a goal and two assists this weekend for the Rays, with Jeff Jakaitis getting both wins in net while only facing 47 shots all weekend.

-In their sixth attempt this season, the Brampton Beast finally beat the Allen Americans on Saturday in overtime 6-5. Previous to this, the Americans outscored the Beast 29-6. On Saturday, however, Chad Painchaud’s hat-trick with Jason Pitton’s two goals and an assist help lead the way. Jeff Brown had two assists and Bobby Hughes added a goal and two assists. It has been a forgettable season for the Beast– who lost Friday to Wichita– but with less travel next year; it could be a set-up for a solid 2015-16 campaign.

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SPHL

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-As the last month of the season starts for the SPHL, there is plenty of room for teams to bandy back and forth between spots in the standings. Though the Peoria Rivermen have a nine-point lead on the second place Columbus Cottonmouths; there’s still very little breathing room between second and seventh– 11 points being that margin. With the top-six getting in and an odd playoff format where the highest seed who wins after the first round getting a bye into the Finals, you can bet teams want to be able to improve their standing and hope they don’t get upset in the process.

-Though they are pulling away, the Rivermen are still digging to make sure they are at the top of the table when the season is over. With 18 goals in three games against Fayetteville this weekend (two of which were win), the Rivermen are showing they have the offensive firepower to beat teams week after week. Josh Harris led the charge this weekend with three goals and five assists, Matt Summer had six assists, and Grant Vermeersch potting a hat-trick with four total goals on the weekend and two assists. Though Dustin Carlson got knocked around Friday, he bounced back with a 27-save win Sunday. Kyle Rank came in for Carlson relief on Friday and stopped 27 in his win on Saturday.