News | 5/16/2012 9:59:27 AM | ROCHESTER AMERICANS
The American Hockey League’s final four is set, with both the Eastern Conference Finals and Western Conference Finals now underway. In the East, the record-setting Norfolk Admirals face off with the expansion St. John’s IceCaps, while the West will see the Toronto Marlies, who defeated the Amerks in round one, take on the top-seeded Oklahoma City Barons. The winner of each series, which pits the top two seeds from each conference against one another, will meet in the Calder Cup Finals.
Norfolk, the AHL affiliate of the Tampa Bay Lightning, entered the postseason riding an unprecedented 28-game winning streak, setting a record for North American pro hockey, and the team was rewarded with plenty of postseason accolades. Leading the way was forward Cory Conacher, who was named the AHL’s Most Valuable Player (Les Cunningham Award), Rookie of the Year (Dudley ‘Red’ Garrett Memorial Award) and a member of the All-Rookie Team and the AHL Second All-Star Team. The first-year pro, who had a brief two-game stint with the Amerks in 2010-11, led the AHL with 39 goals (Willie Marshall Award) and ranked second with 80 points in 70 games. In addition, Mark Barberio took home the Eddie Shore Award as the League’s Most Outstanding Defenseman after recording 61 points to lead all AHL blueliners, while Head Coach Jon Cooper was named AHL Coach of the Year for leading the Admirals to a League-best 55-18-1-2 mark and a record-setting win streak. After knocking off the Manchester Monarchs (Los Angeles Kings) in round one, the Admirals dispatched the Connecticut Whale (New York Rangers) in the second round. Alexandre Picard currently leads the team in playoff scoring with six goals and six assists.
The IceCaps finished second in the Eastern Conference during the regular season by going 43-25-5-3 in their first season on “The Rock” and as the Winnipeg Jets’ affiliate. Spencer Machacek led the team in scoring, recording 50 points on 18 goals and 32 assists, while Paul Postma (13-31-44), Jason DeSantis (11-32-43) and Jason King (22-19-41) each topped the 40-point mark. Postma was named to the AHL First All-Star Team. Goaltender Eddie Pasquale got the bulk of the work in net during the regular season, going 23-12-1 with a 2.41 goals-against average and four shutouts in 38 games on his way to being named to the AHL All-Rookie Team. The expansion team won the Atlantic Division crown in its first year of existence by going 43-23-5-3 and defeated the Syracuse Crunch (Anaheim Ducks) three games to one in the opening round of the Calder Cup Playoffs. In the second round, it took seven games for St. John’s to advance past the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (Pittsburgh Penguins). Forward Brock Trotter paces the team in playoff scoring with 10 points (5+5) in 11 games.
Over in the Western Conference, the Oklahoma City Barons claimed the top seed by going 45-22-4-5 in the regular season to win the competitive West Division, which saw four of its five teams qualify for the postseason. The Barons, the AHL affiliate of the Edmonton Oilers, were led this season by goaltender Yann Danis, who claimed the Aldege “Baz” Bastien Award as the AHL’s Most Outstanding Goalie and was named to the First All-Star Team. Danis posted a record of 26-14-0 with a 2.07 goals-against average, a .924 save percentage and five shutouts. In the postseason, he is 7-2 with a 2.01 goals-against average. Offensively, the team was paced by Ryan Keller (21-28-49) and Mark Arcobello (17-26-43). Oklahoma City began the playoffs by downing the Houston Aeros (Minnesota Wild) in four games before defeating the San Antonio Rampage (Florida Panthers) in five games.
The Toronto Marlies began the 2012 Playoffs by defeating the Rochester Americans (Buffalo Sabres) in three games, and now they enter the Conference Final with a 7-1 record through two rounds after beating the Abbotsford Heat (Calgary Flames) in five games. The Marlies, who are affiliated with the Toronto Maple Leafs, won the North Division with a record of 44-24-5-3 to earn the second seed in the West. Goaltender Ben Scrivens, who is 7-1 with a 1.61 goals-against average in eight playoff games, won the Harry “Hap” Holmes Award in the regular season for backstopping the Marlies to the fewest goals against in the AHL. Mike Zigomanis (19-42-61) led an offensive attack that featured nine players with at least 15 goals during the regular season, but it has been Jerry D’Amigo leading the way in the postseason, with nine points (6+3) in eight games.
The schedules for the Calder Cup Playoff Conference Finals Series are as follows:
Eastern Conference Finals
1-Norfolk Admirals vs. 2-St. John’s IceCaps
Game 1 - Thurs., May 17 - St. John’s (1) at Norfolk (6)
Game 2 - Sat., May 19 - St. John’s (1) at Norfolk (3)
Game 3 - Mon., May 21 - Norfolk (1) at St. John’s (0), OT
Game 4 - Tue., May 22 - Norfolk (4) at St. John’s (0)
NORFOLK WINS SERIES, 4-0
Western Conference Finals
1-Oklahoma City Barons vs. 2-Toronto Marlies
Game 1 - Thurs., May 17 - Toronto (5) at Oklahoma City (0)
Game 2 - Fri., May 18 - Toronto (1) at Oklahoma City (5)
Game 3 - Mon., May 21 - Oklahoma City (3) at Toronto (5)
Game 4 - Wed., May 23 - Oklahoma City (0) at Toronto (3)
Game 5 - Fri., May 25 - Oklahoma City (1) at Toronto (3)
TORONTO WINS SERIES, 4-1