Alums Shine in AHL
College players have a long history of success at the American Hockey League level, and as the Calder Cup playoffs enter their second round, more than 60 NCAA alums are in the hunt for the AHL championship.
The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, who swept their first-round series, lead the way with 15 former college players who have appeared in the Calder Cup playoffs already. They meet the Providence Bruins, who led the league with 105 regular-season points and boast 12 former college players in their lineup.
Alums starred in the AHL regular season as well, led by the Penguins' Jeff Zatkoff (Miami) and Brad Thiessen (Northeastern), who shared the Hap Holmes Award for the fewest goals against. Former RPI star Brandon Pirri won the John B. Sollenberger Award as the league's top scorer, while Justin Schultz, a rookie out of Wisconsin, won the Eddie Shore Award as the league's best defenseman.
The top four scorers in the league were all former college players. Schultz and former Maine star Gustav Nyquist were first-team All-AHL selections, while goaltender Curtis McElhinney (Colorado College), defenseman Adam Clendening (Boston University) and forward Jeff Taffe (Minnesota) were second-team honorees.
Perhaps most impressive, 20 of the 30 players named their teams' AHL Man of the Year came from the college ranks (complete list below). The awards honor players for their contributions to the local community and charitable organizations.
Back in the playoffs, the Penguins-Bruins series gets underway Friday, with Zatkoff potentially facing off against his former Miami teammate, Carter Camper. Camper and Chris Bourque (Boston University) are the top two scorers for the Bruins. Chad Kolarik (Michigan), who finished third in scoring in the regular season, shares the Penguins lead with three points in the first round.
Joining Camper and Bourque among the league's top 20 playoff scorers are Mark Arcobello (Yale), Justin Fontaine (Minnesota Duluth), Peter LeBlanc (New Hampshire), Joey Crabb (Colorado College), Jerry D'Amigo (RPI) and Matt Bartkowski (Ohio State). Crabb and Bartkowski have already been summoned to their NHL teams.
Arcobello and the Oklahoma City Barons hold a 1-0 lead on the Texas Stars in the only second-round series that has already started. The Stars feature rookies Alex Chiasson (Boston University), Curtis McKenzie (Miami), Jamie Oleksiak (Northeastern) and Reilly Smith (Miami) among their former college players.
Grand Rapids and Toronto start their series tonight. The Griffins, Detroit's farm team, saw regular-season leading scorer Nyquist recalled to the Red Wings, but still feature Luke Glendening (Michigan), Riley Sheahan (Notre Dame), Chad Billins (Ferris State) and others. Toronto's lineup include's D'Amigo, Spencer Abbott (Maine) and veteran defensemen Mike Komisarek (Michigan) and Mike Mottau (Boston College).
The Springfield-Syracuse matchup features McElhinney in the Springfield net, with two Miami RedHawks (Trent Vogelhuber, Will Weber) and three Wisconsin Badgers (Matt Ford, Cody Goloubef, Andrew Joudrey) among those protecting him. They face a Syracuse team that includes Dan Sexton (Bowling Green), Matt Taormina (Providence) and rookie Andrej Sustr (Nebraska Omaha).
|AHL Man of the Year Awards|
|Chicago||Brett Sterling||Colorado College|
|Grand Rapids||Chad Billins||Ferris State|
|Houston||Drew Bagnall||St. Lawrence|
|Lake Erie||Barry Goers||UMass Lowell|
|Milwaukee||Mark Van Guilder||Notre Dame|
|Peoria||Mike McKenna||St. Lawrence|
|Portland||Brett Hextall||North Dakota|
|Providence||Bobby Robins||UMass Lowell|
|Rochester||Evan Rankin||Notre Dame|
|Rockford||Jimmy Hayes||Boston College|
|San Antonio||Justin Vaive||Miami|
|Texas||Toby Petersen||Colorado College|
|Worcester||Nick Petrecki||Boston College|