Some of us thought it would never end, but at long last, the NHL lockout is over! The two sides have agreed to a deal that should be ratified within the week. The plan is to begin a 48-game season on Sat., Jan. 19. That means our AHL experiment officially ends now.
Week 12 will be the final week using AHL players and stats. Week 13 will pick up as soon as the NHL begins play and will be operated through our League Offices as ESPN.com (links above). The IceHL will take a short hiatus in the interim. For now, a look at our final week of AHL action.
Our final week with the AHL came with more than its share of surprises. For one thing, we saw a lot of underdogs do some damage. The last-place Gators surprised the second-place Winterhawks with a 64-55 victory. New Orleans was powered by a combined 54 points from Jordan Eberle and Richard Panik who, together, earned 9 goals and 3 assists. Simply outstanding efforts from these two.
After an unbelievable start that kept them at the top of the league standings for seven straight weeks, the Winterhawks have now lost three in a row. But it wasn't all bad news. Winnipeg's defense put their forwards to shame with the blue line pair uniting for 32 points, including 2 goals and 6 assists.
Also making noise from the bottom of the standings were the Sharpshooters, who slammed the Renegades 65-33. Radko Gudas added an assist to his 19 penalty minutes for 22 points while Chris Bourque picked up a goal and 2 assists on his way to 14 points for Saskatoon. Mark Mancari led the way in Regina with 2 goals and 2 assists.
The Hellcats had their best week of the season as they shot down the Narwhals 72-40. Houston got double digit points from four players, a feat last accomplished 10 weeks ago. Eric Selleck and Ryan Stanton each contributed 12 PIMs while goalie David Leggio backstopped two wins and a shutout for 16 points. Tomas Tatar was the star for the Narwhals with 2 goals, 3 assists and a minor penalty for 19 points.
Not surprisingly the Aviators led the IceHL WEST with the most points this week, knocking off the Cavalry 78-61. Penalty minutes were the name of the game for Seattle with a combined 40 of them between Peter Holland and Cameron Gaunce. Calgary got a 32 total PIMs from Eric Tangradi and Bobby Robins and, despite a 16-point week from netminder Ben Scrivens, couldn't hang on for the win.
The week's closest match saw the Beasts edge the Kodiaks by two points, 56-54. Brendan Smith put 4 assists toward an 18-point effort for Boulder as Mike Sgarbossa and Mikael Granlund each talled 11 points. Taylor Hall, meanwhile, was a "beast" for Edmonton, collecting 2 goals, 3 assists and 4 penalty minutes for 21 points. Mark Arcobello added 5 assists as the Kodiaks really showed their offensive teeth in this one.
Elsewhere, the Wave squashed the Scorpions 32-27 with help from James Sheppard's 13 points. The Huskies stopped the high-ranked Outlaws with a 65-54 win as Jonathan Audy-Marchessault and goalie Dustin Tokarski came together for 42 points themselves. And Pioneers beat the Lumberjacks 51-45 with impressive offensive numbers.
Now back east.
Back in the IceHL EAST, the top teams were reinvigorated. The Barracudas moved back into sole possession of first place with a 71-38 thumping of the struggling Mammoths. Jason Zucker made big noise with 33 points on 2 goals, 5 assists and 10 PIMs this week for Tampa Bay. That combined with 3 wins and a shutout from Dustin Tokarski helped the Barracudas run away with this one.
Under new management, Minnesota was starting to turn its luck around before the AHL portion of the season came to its conclusion this week. Tim Erixon led the way from the blue line with 3 assists and 6 penalty minutes for 15 points.
Two high-powered, high-scoring teams created fireworks in the final week of AHL action. The Nighthawks defeated the Hitmen 90-75 — a whopping 165 points between them. Jordan Eberle was the big man for North Carolina, tallying 5 goals and 3 assists for 29 points! The defense united for another 33 points — thanks in part to 15 PIMs from Mark Fraser. The Hitmen had all but one player in double digits as Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist each picked up 19 points. Perhaps most impressive for Chicago was that only 4 of its 75 points came from penalty time.
Sure, that one was high-scoring but this one was high-scoring and tight! The Blue Crabs edged out the Olympiques 78-72 in another offensive slugfest. Richard Panik's 4 goals helped him toward an amazing 25 points. Only Slava Voynov was in single digits, but at least his stat was a goal. On the Montreal side, two players topped 20 points! Peter Holland relied on time in the box while Taylor Hall was a scoring machine. Definitely an exciting one to watch here.
The streaking Guardians were brought down by the Colonials this week, 51-44. Boston got a combined 4 goals and 8 penalty minutes for 24 points from Alexandre Bolduc and Sean Couturier. Curtis McElhinney led New York from the crease on a pair of wins. No player in this match-up was left off the scoresheet.
The week's top-scoring player helped the Armada to a 61-34 stunner over the Steelcats. New addition Brandon Bollig earned 31 points for Quebec on a goal and 27 penalty minutes. Hamilton, meantime, got 12 points each from Brett Connolly and Nino Niederreiter in the defeat.
Elsewhere, the Sentinels topped the Mariners 59-53 with Joe Colborne grabbing 2 goals and 3 assists toward 19 points for Washington. The Arsenal broke a five-game losing streak with a 41-38 win over the Lagers and have Jonathan Audy-Marchessault to thank for it. And in a surprising twist, the Archers were felled by the Motorheads 48-45 as the 4-7 team beat the 7-4 team. Detroit got four double-digit performances this week.
And so that wraps things up for now. The IceHL will now take a 12-day break — think of it as an extended All-Star break without the All-Star Game. The season will pick up with Week 13 match-ups on ESPN as soon as the 2013 NHL season gets underway.
Here's a quick look at our Week 13 opponents:
- IceHL EAST: Barracudas vs Colonials; Hitmen vs Blue Crabs; Armada vs Archers; Nighthawks vs Olympiques; Lagers vs Sentinels; Guardians vs Mammoths; Arsenal vs Mariners; Motorheads vs Steelcats
- IceHL WEST: Kodiaks vs Wave; Cavalry vs Beasts; Winterhawks vs Hellcats; Pioneers vs Aviators; Scorpions vs Lumberjacks; Gators vs Renegades; Narwhals vs Outlaws; Sharpshooters vs Huskies