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Greg Boysen The Hockey Writers

Published on Tuesday, February 25, 2020





AHL Central News: No Changes at the Top

Another week as ticked off the calendar and the top two teams in the American Hockey League’s Central Division are counting the days until the Calder Cup playoffs begin. Meanwhile, the teams holding onto the final two playoff spots feel there are too many games left on the schedule while the four teams chasing them wish there were more to play.

More Smooth Sailing for Admirals

The first-place Milwaukee Admirals (37-12-4-3) spent the week on home ice where they won two out of their three games to maintain their seven-point lead in the division. They are the first team in the AHL to go over 80 points on the season.

The Admirals four-game homestand got off to a rocky start as they blew a two-goal lead in a 3-2 loss to the second-place Iowa Wild.

Freddy Gaudreau helped the Admirals strike first, while on the penalty kill, nine minutes into the game. His poke check sent Cole Schneider racing down in the other direction and he finished off the breakaway with a backhand shot for his 15th goal of the season.

Rem Pitlick doubled the lead three minutes into the second period when a deflected shot found him all alone at the right side of the net for the easy tap-in goal. Iowa responded with two quick goals to even up the score before the midway point of the period.

Rem Pitlick Milwaukee Admirals
Pitlick is having a big rookie season. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

The top two teams in the Central Division remained deadlocked until the Wild used a bounce off the end boards to aid their game-winning goal with just 1:10 left in the third period. Troy Grosenick made 33 saves in the losing effort.

On Friday, the Admirals wore the same red jerseys when they won the 2004 Calder Cup in honor of recent Hall of Famer Darren Haydar, whose number was retired before the game.

The Chicago Wolves were the perfect opponent to have on this night as Haydar starred on and won championships with both franchises.

After the Wolves scored an early first-period goal, the Admirals rattled off the final four tallies of the evening to win 4-1.

Defenseman Jeremy Davies tied the game late in the opening frame by creating some space for himself before banking a backhand shot from the right circle off the post and in.

Former Wolves MVP Daniel Carr broke the tie eight minutes into the second period by following up an odd-man rush and putting home a rebound for his 20th goal of the season.

Late in the third period, Pitlick gave the Admirals some insurance with a power-play goal from the high slot. Shortly after killing off a 6-on-4 disadvantage, Carr added an empty-net goal with just over a minute to play to seal the deal for Milwaukee.

On Saturday, the Nashville Predators traded forward Miikka Salomaki to the Toronto Maple Leafs for defenseman Ben Harpur. Salomaki had five goals and 15 points in 41 games for the Admirals, while playing in five NHL games. Harpur has played the entire season with the Toronto Marlies, putting up one goal and 11 points.

The Rockford IceHogs came calling later that night in a game that saw the Admirals put up seven goals and the very rare goalie fight. The cherry on top of the 7-2 win was a hat trick from Yakov Trenin.

Tommy Novak scored the lone goal of the opening period, his 10th of the season. Michael McCarron’s early second-period power-play goal doubled the Admirals’ lead. The IceHogs responded with their first goal of the night about four minutes later to cut the advantage in half.

Milwaukee took over the in the second half of the middle frame scoring three goals to build a 5-1 lead heading into the intermission. Mathieu Olivier and Eeli Tolvanen scored less than a minute apart before Trenin scored his first goal of the night about three minutes later.

Yakov Trenin Milwaukee Admirals
Trenin scored his first career hat trick versus Rockford. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

The IceHogs got one of those goals back in the opening minute of the third period, but Trenin responded just 48 seconds later.

The real excitement happened about nine minutes into the period when Grosenick skated to center ice and dropped the gloves against his mate from the other end of the rink. Leaving the crease and removing his helmet earned him some extra penalties to go along with his major for fighting and his game misconduct for being involved in a “secondary altercation.”

“I’m not sure what happened there,” head coach Karl Taylor said of the fight. “I’ll have to have a meeting with Goose. I’m pretty sure there wasn’t much going on there so maybe he just wanted to get one. The other gentleman was willing.”

Trenin added his third goal of the night and 19th of the season to complete his first career hat trick and cap off the scoring.

Player of the Week

Trenin had the big hat trick and Saturday and Schneider had a goal and four points, but Carrier gets the honor for his four assists on the week. He leads the Admirals with 32 assists on the season, which is the third-most in the AHL among all defensemen.

Alexandre Carrier Milwaukee Admirals
Carrier leads the Admirals in assists. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

The Week Ahead

Wednesday, Feb. 26 vs San Antonio Rampage; Saturday, Feb. 29 @ Colorado Eagles; Sunday, March 1 @ Eagles

Wild Keep the Pace

The second-place Wild (34-16-3-3) spent their week on the road that started with a big win up north before splitting their weekend in the Lone Star State. Their 74 points are the fourth-most in the entire league, but they were not able to gain any ground on the division leaders.

The Wild stopped in Milwaukee before heading south for the weekend, where they scored a huge come-from-behind victory over the Admirals.

The Admirals took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission thanks to a shorthanded goal nine minutes into the game. They doubled their lead, early in the second period, by scoring off a rebound.

Kyle Rau started the comeback less than two minutes later. Mason Shaw jumped on a turnover and made a great no-look pass, between his legs, to Rau in the right circle where he fired home a one-timer for his 12th goal of the season.

Kyle Rau Minnesota Wild
Rau had a three-point week. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

Dmitry Sokolov evened things up with his 13th goal of the season and second in as many games, four seconds shy of the midpoint of the period. He pushed his way through the defense to get to a rebound and bat it into the net.

With just over a minute to play in regulation, Matt Bartkowski ripped a slap shot from the point. Nico Sturm was in the right place to swat the rebound out of midair and into the net for the game-winning tally, stunning the home crowd.

The win was the Wild’s eighth on the season when trailing after the first period, the most in the AHL. It was also head coach Tim Army’s 70th with the team, setting a new franchise record.

The momentum from the big win in Milwaukee did not follow the team down to Texas as they dropped the first of two games against the Stars on Friday night.

The Stars struck first with a power-play tally midway through the first period, but the Wild answered less than four minutes later. Gerry Mayhew’s wrist shot from the circle was deflected by Sturm and stopped. As the puck lay in the crease, Sam Anas was the first to get to it and push it over the goal line for his 18th goal of the season.

Sam Anas, Iowa Wild
Anas’ fabulous season continued in Texas. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

The teams traded goals in the second period with the Stars regaining a one-goal lead exactly halfway through the game with another power-play conversion. Three minutes later, Sokolov fired a backhand shot into the net to extend his goal streak to three straight games.

Special teams play led to the Stars’ third goal of the game, early in the final frame, this time scoring while shorthanded. Rau’s second goal in as many games, once again, drew the Wild even with 4:30 left to play. However, Texas scored with 52 seconds left on the clock and the Wild were unable to make a fourth comeback.

The Wild came back strong in Saturday’s rematch as they picked up their first win at Texas since the end of the 2016-17 season with a 4-0 shutout.

After a scoreless first period, Luke Johnson scored the only goal the Wild would need just 1:22 into the middle frame. Four and a half minutes later, defenseman Hunter Warner doubled the lead with his first goal of the season.

Brandon Duhaime struck on the power play, 13 minutes into the third period, to increase Iowa’s advantage to 4-0 with his sixth goal of the season. Mike Liambas added an empty-netter for his first goal since Oct. 11.

Kahkonen made 30 saves to pick up his 23rd win and sixth shutout of the season to lead all AHL goaltenders in both categories.

Kaapo Kahkonen Iowa Wild
Kahkonen leads the AHL in wins and shutouts. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

On Sunday, the Minnesota Wild recalled defenseman Louie Belpedio and Mayhew to the NHL. Mayhew currently leads the AHL with 39 goals and 61 points.

Player of the Week

This section has been frequented by the likes of Anas, Kahkonen and Mayhew all season long, but this week it belongs to Shaw. He was one of five players to finish the week with three points. All of Shaw’s points came via the assist as he had a helper in all three games. He entered the week with zero assists in eight games with Iowa.

The Week Ahead

Tuesday, February 25 vs Wolves; Saturday, Feb 29 @ Stockton Heat; Monday, March 2 @ San Jose Barracuda

Griffins Cool Off on Home Ice

The Grand Rapids Griffins (26-24-3-4) had a busy and strange week. They started it off with back-to-back wins on the road only to come home and get swept over the weekend. Their 59 points are good enough for third place in the Central Division, two ahead of fourth place.

The trek through the Land of Lincoln continued on Tuesday night with a stop in Rockford. The Griffins took down the IceHogs 2-1 to take hold of third place all by their lonesome.

It appeared that the Griffins scored in the first period when Kyle Wood’s shot from the point made it over the goal line. However, the goal was waved off due to goaltender interference by Michael Rasmussen.

Defenseman Dennis Cholowksi got the scoring starting early in the second period when he fired home a laser beam of a wrist shot from the left circle. His third goal of the season pushed his point streak to four straight games. The IceHogs tied the game about six minutes later to even things up before the second intermission.

Dennis Cholowski Grand Rapids Griffins
Cholowski has spent time in both Grand Rapids and Detroit this season. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

The Griffins flat-out dominated the third period, getting 20 of their 40 total shots on goal during the final 20 minutes of play. They were only able to get one of them to the back of the net, but that was all they needed.

About nine minutes into the period, Tyler Spezia showed off his speed by getting a step on the defense and slipping a backhander into the net for his fifth goal of the season.

The Griffins spent the last two minutes of the game on a 6-on-4 disadvantage after a late penalty, but Pat Nagle and the penalty killers stood tall to hang onto the win.

They concluded their three-game swing in Illinois back where it started last Saturday; in Chicago. The Griffins used a big third period to take a 3-2 win in the early afternoon matinee.

The Wolves scored right off a faceoff, just over a minute into the game, to grab some early momentum. The Griffins only registered six shots on goal during the first period, mainly because the penalty kill was on the ice for six minutes.

They trailed 1-0 into the third period when they finally got on the scoreboard and took over the game. Shortly after they failed to convert on the power play, Joe Hicketts started a scoring play with a nice keep at the offensive blue line. His shot was deflected to Spezia, who raced around the net and beat the goaltender to the near post with a wraparound shot to tie the game.

Just over 10 minutes later, Wood scored his first goal with the Griffins since being reassigned on Dec. 12 by getting his shot from the right point through heavy traffic. Joe Veleno scored the game-winning goal two minutes later when the Griffins took advantage of a turnover and Taro Hirose set him up for an easy tap-in goal in front.

Joe Veleno Grand Rapids Griffins
Veleno had the GWG in Chicago. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

The Wolves cut the lead in half with just over two minutes to play in regulation. They kept pushing with an extra attacker, but their momentum was squashed with a late penalty against them. Nagle started in his career-high fourth straight game and made 28 saves for his fifth straight win.

The Griffins returned home on Saturday night to begin a two-game set with the Rampage, who spoiled “90s Night” and snapped Grand Rapids’ four-game winning streak with a 4-3 victory.

The opening period saw 28 combined shots on goal with Givani Smith getting the only one past the goaltender. With just over a minute to play in the frame, Smith set up shop at the right post and roofed a pass from captain Matthew Ford for his seventh goal of the season.

The Rampage tied the game with a second-period power-play goal, but the Griffins answered less than two minutes later when Chris Terry fired home his team-leading 19th goal of the season from the right circle. A defensive zone turnover ended up behind Nagle to even up the score late in the frame.

Chris Terry Grand Rapids Griffins
Terry leads the Griffins in scoring. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

Chase Pearson gave the Griffins their third one-goal lead of the night early in the third period by avoiding a poke check to rack up his eighth goal of the season. The Rampage stunned the big crowd at the Van Andel Arena with a pair of goals just 61 seconds apart to take a 4-3. The Griffins played the final two minutes with Nagle on the bench for an extra attacker but were unable to draw even.

To make matters worse, top defensive prospect Moritz Seider left the game in the second period and did not return after falling awkwardly following a hit along the boards.

The Griffins suffered another one-goal defeat the following afternoon when the Rampage squeaked out a 2-1 victory.

For the second straight game, neither team could find the back of the net during the first period. San Antonio got a fortunate bounce off a skate to break the scoreless tie early in the second period.

Rasmussen drew the Griffins even about 10 minutes later with a power-play goal. However, the Rampage needed just 48 seconds to regain their one-goal lead. They benefitted from some more puck luck when a rebound off a Calvin Pickard save hit a body in front and bounced in behind him.

That would be the final goal of the day despite the Griffins owning a 14-6 shot advantage during the third period.

“There wasn’t a lot that separated the teams,” head coach Ben Simon said after the winless weekend. They have a very mobile defensive corps and we had trouble containing them. I thought we did a pretty good job limiting their chances, but we’ve got to start to find a way, against this team, to generate chances.”

Player of the Week

The Griffins got goals from eight different players last week with Spezia being the only one to score twice. Both tallies were big ones in the team’s two wins. He had the game-winning goal in Rockford and started the three-goal third period in Chicago with the game-tying marker.

Tyler Spezia Grand Rapids Griffins
Spezia scored two huge goals last week. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

The Week Ahead

Friday, Feb. 28 @ Rampage; Saturday, Feb. 29 @ Stars

Roller Coaster Week for Wolves

The Wolves (26-24-3-2) had a rough week, but somehow found a way to earn a point with a makeshift lineup. They sit in fourth place with 57 points, two points behind the Griffins and two ahead of fifth place.

The Wolves hosted the Griffins in their third and final School Day game on Thursday morning. They had won seven School Day games in a row and were seeking revenge for last Saturday night’s loss on home ice to Grand Rapids. Unfortunately, that did not happen as things fell apart in the third period of a 3-2 loss.

Brandon Pirri scored his first goal since Jan. 31, just 70 seconds into the game, with a one-timer directly off a Patrick Brown faceoff win. The Wolves had plenty of chances to extend their lead as they received three power plays in the first period, but could not take advantage of them.

On one of those power plays, Cody Glass was stood up by a hit in the offensive zone. He hobbled back to the Chicago bench and did not return to the game. After the game, head coach Rocky Thompson confirmed that he hurt the same right knee he injured while with the Vegas Golden Knights and cost him over a month of the season.

Related – Glass Suffers Setback in AHL Stint

The Griffins built a 3-1 lead in the third period. Two goals came directly off of defensive zone turnovers while the other was a shot from the point through heavy traffic in front. Goaltender Oscar Dansk did not have much of a chance on any of them.

Dansk was on the bench for an extra attacker when the Wolves got within one goal late in regulation. With just over two minutes to play, Curtis McKenzie took the puck behind then the net and the rebound off his wraparound shot went right to Valentin Zykov in the slot, where he blasted it home for his ninth goal of the season.

Valentin Zykov Chicago Wolves
Zykov scored in his lone goal of the week. (Photo courtesy Chicago Wolves)

The Wolves continued to push with the extra attacker and nearly got a third goal, but the advantage was taken away when Pirri was called for holding in order to prevent a shot towards his empty net.

Trying to beat the Admirals with a full squad is a tall order, but trying to do it with just 17 skaters dressed is next to impossible. The Wolves found this out the hard way on Friday night as they were short a man after Gage Quinney and Zach Whitecloud were recalled by the Golden Knights and Zykov was out with an illness. The shorthanded Wolves fell 4-1 to the first-place Admirals.

For the second straight game, Pirri got the Wolves on the scoreboard first with an early goal. Jaycob Megna jumped on a pass and quickly got Pirri in behind the defense where he used his backhand for his 13th goal of the season.

The Admirals tied the game before the end of the first period. They scored the eventual game-winning goal, off an odd-man rush, about eight minutes into the second period. Milwaukee capped off the scoring with a late third-period power-play goal before adding an empty-netter.

The Wolves were able to dress a full 18 players on Sunday thanks to signing forwards Cam Maclise and Dan DeSalvo to professional tryout contracts (PTOs). Zykov missed another game due to illness, Brown was recalled by the Golden Knights while leading-scorer Lucas Elvenes and defensemen Jimmy Schuldt were injured. They took to the ice with eight of their 12 leading scorers absent.

Despite all the missing faces, the Wolves rolled over the IceHogs, 5-1, to break their tie for fourth place. It was just their second win over their in-state rivals in eight games this season.

Pirri opened the scoring just like he did against Grand Rapids and Milwaukee. This time, he followed up his own rebound to give the Wolves a 1-0 lead 4:31 after the opening draw. Seven minutes later, Paul Cotter fired home a wrist shot from the high slot for just his second goal of the season. Pirri capped off the huge first period with his second goal against his former team when he flipped a backhand into the Rockford net.

Defenseman Dylan Coghlan’s power-play goal from the point, midway through the second period, increased the lead to 4-0.

Dylan Coghlan Chicago Wolves
Coghlan is up to 10 goals on the season. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

Garrett Sparks had his shutout bid spoiled seven minutes into the third period as a close-range shot just squeaked in between his glove and the post. Cotter scored his second goal of the game, on the power play, by cashing in off a rebound about six minutes later.

“It shows that we’re ready,” Cotter said of the big win. “Coach came in a said to some of us younger guys who don’t get a lot of ice time that it was time to step up. We had a lot of new guys and nobody was comfortable. We came out with a lot of jump and fire. I think that was one of the best periods of the season.”

Player of the Week

If the Wolves are going to get to the Calder Cup playoffs, they will need Pirri to be the elite goal scorer he has shown he can be. He entered the week with no goals in the month of February, but he remedied that with four goals in three games. He is now tied with Tye McGinn for the team lead in goals with 15.

Brandon Pirri Chicago Wolves
Wolves will need Pirri to get hot down the stretch. (Chicago Wolves)

The Week Ahead

Tuesday, Feb. 25 @ Wild; Saturday, Feb. 29 @ Manitoba Moose; Sunday, March 1 @ Moose

IceHogs’ Offense Goes MIA

The IceHogs (26-28-1-2) had a rough week with just one win in their four games. Somehow, they are still just two points out of a playoff spot, but they are going to have to do better than five goals in four games if they want to participate in the postseason.

The busy week began by hosting the Griffins on Tuesday night, who they entered the game just two points behind in the standings.

The game had a playoff feel to it and after a scoreless first period, things were amped up a bit. A feisty shift that ended with all 10 players mixing it up sent six players to the penalty boxes with 24 penalty minutes dished put between them.

The Griffins struck first, about five minutes later, to seize the momentum. Lucas Carlsson extended his point streak to seven games to tie the game six minutes later by firing into the top left corner of the net. Dylan Sikura had the primary assist to push his point streak to 11 games.

Dylan Sikura Rockford Icehogs
Dylan Sikura had points in 11 straight games. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

The IceHogs struggled through the third period as they gave up 20 shots on goal during the final frame. The Griffins scored the game-winning goal with just over 11 minutes to play and could have easily had a handful more if it wasn’t for Collin Delia in the net. He made 38 saves on the night with half of them coming in the third period.

On Friday, the IceHogs were held to just one goal for the second straight game. However, this time, it was enough to beat the Rampage 1-0 thanks to another big night from Delia.

Alexandre Fortin’s first-period shorthanded goal was the only scoring on the evening. The play started with Tyler Sikura winning a footrace to a loose puck near the benches and getting it to Fortin, who fired a quick shot to the glove side for his second shorthanded goal of the season.

Delia took control of the game from that point as he made 28 saves, including a handful on odd-man rushes, for his second shutout of the season. The penalty kill was a perfect 4-for-4 on the night.

Carlsson had his point streak snapped, but he wasn’t too upset as while his teammates heading to Milwaukee, he was getting on a plane to Dallas to meet the Chicago Blackhawks for his NHL debut.

Lucas Carlsson Rockford IceHogs
Carlsson made his NHL debut on Sunday. (Todd Reicher)

“His skating has gotten better,” head coach Derek King said of Carlsson. “He’s gotten stronger. He’s always been a smart player, but now adding the strength and skating, it makes him a better player. He’s got some pretty good hands and he’s got a good shot.

The IceHogs have had a hard time containing the Admirals’ offense this season and Saturday night was no different. Milwaukee rolled to a 7-2 victory, scoring seven goals for the third time in the last four games against the IceHogs.

Garrett Mitchell scored his third goal with the IceHogs to cut the Admirals two-goal lead in half, midway through the second period. The Admirals scored the next three goals before Joseph Cramarossa made it a 5-2 game in the opening minute of the third period.

The Admirals added two more goals before the end of the game, but it was what happened in between the two tallies that got the most attention. Matt Tomkins skated to center ice and dropped the gloves in an always entertaining goalie fight.

This was not the first fight of Tomkins’ professional career. He got into one while he was a member of the ECHL’s Indy Fuel. The incident ended his evening and he was replaced by Delia, who surrendered the final Milwaukee goal.

Matt Tomkins Rockford Icehogs
Tomkins will drop the gloves if provoked. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

Things did not get much better the following afternoon at the Wolves. Despite getting both Anton Wedin and Phillip Kurashev back in the lineup and outshooting Chicago 31-22, they lost 5-1.

The Wolves started fast and finished the first period with a 3-0 lead. The IceHogs held them to just two shots on goal during the middle frame, but one of them went in for their fourth goal of the day.

Nick Moutrey ended his 30-game goal drought to get Rockford on the board about seven minutes into the third period. Chicago responded with a fifth and final goal on a late-period power play.

On Monday, the Blackhawks made a trade to help out the IceHogs’ playoff push. They sent forward Nathan Noel to the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for veteran defenseman T.J. Brennan. This will be Brennan’s second stint with the IceHogs. He is a two-time Eddie Shore Award winner as the league’s top defenseman and his regarded as one of the best offensive blueliners to ever play in the AHL.

Player of the Week

The IceHogs offense really struggled with just five goals, coming from five different players. Tyler Sikura was one of two players to pick up assists on two of those goals. Through all the roster turnover this season, he has been one of the few constants on the ice. He is second on the team with 20 assists and leads the IceHogs in scoring with 33 points.

Tyler Sikura Rockford Icehogs
Tyler Sikura leads Rockford in scoring. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

The Week Ahead

Wednesday, Feb. 26 @ Stars; Friday, Feb. 28 @ Stars; Sunday, March 1 @ San Antonio

Rampage Making Late Push

The Rampage (21-21-7-5) are making a late-season push while they are on a 10-game road trip in which they found out the team was sold to the Golden Knights and will move to Nevada next season. Despite the long bus trips and the uncertainty about the future, San Antonio is in sixth place and just three points out of the final playoff spot.

The season-long road trip returned to where it started on Friday night when the Rampage paid another visit to Rockford. The power-play let them down by going 0-for-4 in a 1-0 loss to the IceHogs. A first-period shorthanded goal was the only blemish on goaltender Ville Husso’s night, who made 24 saves in the losing effort.

The Rampage moved on to Grand Rapids where they swept a weekend series against the red-hot Griffins. Their unwillingness to quit led to a 4-3 win on Saturday night. The victory snapped the Griffins’ season-high four-game winning streak. It also was their first win at the Van Andel Arena since Oct. 17, 2015, ending a nine-game losing streak.

Trailing 1-0 midway through the second period, Cam Darcy scored a power-play goal with a one-timer from the left circle to even up the score. The Griffins regained the lead just over a minute later, but the Rampage tied the score before the second intermission. With just 2:40 left on the clock, Mike Vecchione cleaned up a rebound to tie the game at 2-2.

Mike Vecchione San Antonio Rampage
Vecchione was a key to victory Friday. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

After the Griffins went up 3-2 early in the third period, the Rampage scored the final two goals of the night, just 61 seconds apart, to grab the win. The tying goal came when Austin Poganski followed up Vecchione’s breakaway and put home the rebound. Moments later, Klim Kostin scored a power-play goal to give the Rampage the only lead they would need on the evening.

Adam Wilcox was under heavy fire all game long and he finished his victorious night with 39 saves.

A pair of fortunate bounces and some great goaltending helped the Rampage to a 2-1 win on Sunday afternoon. San Antonio has climbed back to the .500 mark for the first time since Dec. 16, when its record stood at 10-10-5-3.

The Rampage grabbed a 1-0 lead in early in the second period when Joey LaLeggia’s shot from the right circle hit Nick Lappin’s skate and deflected into the net. Just 48 seconds after the Griffins tied the game, a rebound hit off Kostin’s upper body and landed over the goal line for the eventual game-winner.

From there on, Husso took over. He finished the day with 31 saves after stopping all 14 shots he faced in the third period.

Ville Husso San Antonio Rampage
Husso came up big last week. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

Player of the Week

As good as Husso was giving up just two goals on 57 shots, the nod goes to Kostin who scored the game-winning goals in both games over the weekend. The former first-round pick, who has had to deal with some injuries this season, also had an assist to finish the week with three points. He is up to sixth in team scoring with 27 points.

The Week Ahead

Wednesday, Feb. 26 @ Admirals; Friday, Feb. 28 vs Griffins; Sunday, March 1 vs IceHogs

Stars Need a Winning Streak

The Stars (23-25-2-3) split their weekend series on home ice and toil in seventh place. They are still within six points of the final playoff spot, but they are going need to start stringing some wins together if they want to play beyond the regular season.

There was plenty of news off the ice before the Stars got back to business. The offense got a boost as both leading-scorer Jason Robertson and left winger Joel Kiviranta were both reassigned to the AHL by the Dallas Stars.

Additionally, the league announced that the originally forfeited game against the Toronto Marlies will be made up on March 2.

The Stars spent the weekend hosting the second-place Wild and they got a jump on their visitors from Iowa with a 4-3 win on Friday night. Both Robertson and Kiviranta played huge roles in the back-and-forth affair.

Robertson struck on the power play, midway through the first period, with his 21st goal of the season and his 10th in his last 15 AHL games. Iowa tied the game before the intermission by cashing in on a rebound.

Jason Robertson Texas Stars
Robertson scored in his first game back. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

Josh Melnick set up defenseman Reece Scarlett’s third goal of the season, exactly 10 minutes into the second period, to move ahead 2-1. Once again, the Wild had a quick response, this time tying the game just three minutes later.

Melnick picked up a second assist in the third period by setting up Riley Tufte’s shorthanded goal with a nice pass off the wall. The Wild applied heavy pressure after the Tufte goal and finally even things up again with less than five minutes to play.

Kiviranta broke the tie with just 51 seconds left in regulation when Tufte found him all alone at the left post. Jake Oettinger made 33 saves in the win, including this absolute beauty to rob the AHL’s leading goal scorer.

Saturday’s rematch did not go well as the Wild capped off the season series with a 4-0 win. The Stars went 0-for-5 on the power play while giving up a goal on four penalty kill attempts. They finished the season with a 4-3-0-1 record against the Wild.

On Monday afternoon, defenseman Emile Djuse was traded to the Florida Panthers for a sixth-round pick in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. He led the team with 25 assists at the time of the deal and was tied for third on the team with 29 points.

Player of the Week

Tufte was moved up from the fourth line to the top line for Friday’s game and he responded with a huge night. He had the game-tying goal on the penalty and assisted on Kiviranta’s game-winning goal in the third period.

“I’ve playing well and coach though I could bring a little jam to that line,” he said moments after the win. “I’ve got to keep playing the same way. I can’t play that first-line ‘skill guy’ role because I’m not that kind of guy. I try to stick to what I’m good at and not get away from my game.”

The Week Ahead

Wednesday, Feb. 26 vs IceHogs; Friday, Feb. 28 vs IceHogs; Saturday, Feb 29 vs Griffins, Monday, March 2 vs Toronto Marlies

Time Running Out in Manitoba

The Moose (24-32-1-0) took three out of a possible six points during a road trip against Eastern Conference foes. They scored nine goals in their three games, which is an offensive explosion for them. They sit in last place with 49 points, eight points behind the Wolves and need to jump over four teams to make the Calder Cup playoffs. A tall order, for sure.

The three-game trek through eastern Canada began with the first of two games at the Laval Rocket on Wednesday night. They got the week off on the right foot with a 5-4 shootout win over the Montreal Canadiens’ farm team.

Moments after Mikhail Berdin made a big save at one end of the ice, Seth Griffith gave the Moose an early 1-0 at the other by finishing off a 2-on-1 rush. He became the first Moose player to score 20 goals this season.

Seth Griffith Manitoba Moose
Griffith has 20 goals on the season. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

Less than two minutes later, David Gustaffson took advantage of a fortunate bounce off a defender’s skate for the first goal of his AHL career to double the Moose’s lead.

The Rocket came back hard in the second period by scoring three goals in just over eight minutes to take a 3-2 lead into the final frame.

Defenseman Leon Gawanke tied the game midway through the third period, but the home team came back to regain their lead just over three minutes later. Michael Spacek forced overtime with just over a minute to play in regulation by cashing in off a Cameron Schilling rebound.

The Moose were outshot 3-0 during the overtime session, but Berdin got the game to a shootout where he stopped all three Laval shooters. Griffith scored the only goal of the shootout to give the Moose the extra point and the big win.

The Rocket got some revenge in Friday night’s rematch with a 4-1 victory. The scored the lone goal of the opening frame to take a 1-0 lead into the first intermission.

Laurent Dauphin nearly doubled the lead in the opening minute of the second period, but Eric Comrie made a great save to keep it a one-goal game. Kristian Reichel tied the game, less than five minutes later, by blasting home a C.J. Suess faceoff win for his eighth goal of the season.

C.J. Suess Manitoba Moose
Suess had four assists on the week. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

Dauphin redeemed himself by scoring the eventual game-winning goal, while on the penalty kill, late in the second period. Laval added a pair of goals in the final two minutes of the game to make the game seem not as close as it actually was.

The weekend concluded with a game at the Belleville Senators, the top team in the Eastern Conference. They could not hold onto a three-goal lead and lost 5-4 in overtime, marking the first time have lost a game that has gone beyond regulation this season.

Reichel continued his big week by putting the Moose up 1-0, less than three minutes into the game, with a shot through heavy traffic. Two minutes later, Ryan White scored just his second goal of the season, off a rebound, to double the lead.

Logan Stanley’s wrist shot extended the lead to 3-0 just over four minutes into the second period. The Senators began their comeback with a Darren Archibald tally just 44 seconds later. Pat Kelly scored a shorthanded goal to bring his team to within one goal in the final minute of the frame.

Jordan Szwarz tied the game with a power-play tally six minutes into the third period. Reichel was rewarded for his hard work in front of the net with his second goal of the night to give the Moose a 4-3 with just over eight minutes to play.

Rudolfs Balcer sent the game to overtime with just 34 seconds remaining in overtime. Alex Formenton’s 24th goal of the season ended the game two minutes into the extra session.

Player of the Week

Reichel was the only player to score more than one goal during the week, leading the team with three. After scoring the lone goal in Laval on Friday, he had the first multi-goal game of his career in Belleville on Saturday. He has 10 goals on the season, adding to his career-high.

The Week Ahead

Saturday, Feb 29 vs Wolves; Sunday, March 1 vs Wolves

The post AHL Central News: No Changes at the Top appeared first on The Hockey Writers.


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