AHL Central News: Standings Tighten as Admirals Extend Lead

As we are now fully engrossed in the holiday season, the eight teams of the American Hockey League’s Central Division are involved in quite the race for the postseason. They are not really into the spirit of giving unless it is giving out a hard check. Rather, they are in the mood of taking, as in taking as many wins and points away from their division rivals.

Admirals Start Another Winning Streak

The Milwaukee Admirals (19-4-1-2) may have had their long winning streak snapped this past week, but they rebounded with two more wins. With 15 wins in their last 16 games, the Admirals have a 13-point lead in the Central Division. Their 41 points are tops in the entire AHL, four more than any other team.

The week started with a 5-1 loss at the Texas Stars on Tuesday night. It was the Admirals’ first loss since Nov. 1 and ended their franchise record-setting 13-game winning streak.

After a scoreless first period, Yakov Trenin put the Admirals up 1-0, early in the middle frame, by swatting home a rebound off a Matt Donovan shot. The goal was Trenin’s team-high 14th of the season and third on the power play.

Yakov Trenin Milwaukee Admirals
Trenin’s play has earned him a trip to Nashville. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

It would be all Stars from here on out as they scored four times before the end of the second period, on just four shots. They added a fifth and final goal early in the third period to cap off the scoring.

On Friday afternoon, Trenin was recalled by the Nashville Predators for his second NHL stint. He scored his first NHL goal Saturday night against the New Jersey Devils. Mathieu Olivier was reassigned to Milwaukee in a corresponding move.

Later that evening, the Admirals returned home to take on the Iowa Wild in a meeting between the top two teams in the division. Despite having their top two scorers, Trenin and Daniel Carr, in Nashville, the Admirals rolled over their rivals to the west 7-1. There were some special guests in the crowd as the Admirals hosted their second annual Dad’s Trip over the weekend.

Colin Blackwell started his huge evening by setting up Alex Carrier for a power-play one-timer less than three minutes into the game. He helped double the lead by starting off a nice passing play that ended with Eeli Tolvanen scoring into a wide-open net. The Wild scored their lone goal, on the power play, about a minute and a half later.

Alexandre Carrier Milwaukee Admirals
Carrier helped in the blowout of the Wild on Friday night. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

Laurent Dauphin scored a shorthanded goal just 19 seconds into the second period to extend the lead to 3-1. Roughly eight minutes later, Tanner Jeannot and Olivier scored 27 seconds apart to build a four-goal advantage. Blackwell had the secondary assist on Tolvanen’s second goal of the night about two minutes later. Cole Schneider had the only goal of the third period, coming on the power play, with Blackwell picking up his fourth assist of the evening.

There was plenty of extracurricular activity as the two teams combined for 108 penalty minutes, including six majors, three misconducts and 16 total power plays. The penalty box attendants slept well that night, we are sure of that!

“I thought we started on time,” head coach Karl Taylor said of this team’s effort. “I thought we came out of the gates with lots of pep in our step. That’s been a calling card for us this year. Proud of that. Proud of our group for standing together.

“Our team has each other’s backs. We care about each other. It doesn’t matter what’s occurring, we are going to be standing together and whatever happens, we’ll deal with it.”

The Admirals and their dads got on the bus for a short trip southwest for Saturday’s game at the Rockford IceHogs. The feistiness followed them, as well, in a hard-hitting 5-2 win.

Lukas Craggs got the visitors on the board just over four minutes into the game. He found a loose puck during a crazy goalmouth scramble and shot it into the net for his first professional goal and point. Steve Santini gave the Admirals a 2-1 lead in the final minute of the first period by sneaking a shot into the top right corner for his first goal with the team.

Rookie Tommy Novak’s fourth goal of the season, a wrister from the left circle, extended the lead to 3-1. Olivier scored his second goal in as many nights when his shot at the side of the net hit off an IceHogs’ defender and bounced into the net.

Anthony Richard finished off a 2-on-1 rush, early in the third period, for the Admirals’ fifth and final goal. The IceHogs pulled within three, late in the game, but Troy Grosenick made sure they did not get any closer. He made 33 saves to improve to 9-2-2 on the season.

Player of the Week

Olivier started his week in Nashville and made an immediate impact upon his return. While he isn’t best known for his point production, he scored two goals and finished the week tied for the team lead with four points. His numbers were even more impressive because he wasn’t in the lineup for Tuesday’s game in Texas.

The Week Ahead

Tuesday, Dec. 10 @ IceHogs; Friday, Dec. 13 vs Chicago Wolves; Saturday, Dec. 14 @ Wolves

Iowa’s Offense Anything but Wild

The bad news for the Wild (12-9-2-2) was that they lost all three of their games last week. The good news is that, somehow, they are still in second place of the Central Division with 28 points. However, another bad week could have them out of a playoff spot altogether as they are just two points ahead of fifth place.

The week began with the Wild learning they would be getting veteran defenseman Greg Pateryn added to their roster. On Monday, the Minnesota Wild sent Pateryn to Iowa for a conditioning stint after he underwent core muscle repair surgery in October.

He was in the lineup when the Wild concluded their four-game trip through Texas on Wednesday afternoon with a 5-1 loss at the San Antonio Rampage.

For the seventh time in the last eight games, the Wild gave up the first goal of the game, just five minutes into the contest. Gerry Mayhew scored his team-leading 13th goal of the season, while on an early second-period power play, to draw the Wild even.

Gerald Mayhew, Iowa Wild
Hard to imagine where the Wild would be without Mayhew. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

From there, the Rampage took over by scoring the final four goals of the game. They added a pair of goals before the end of the second period to open up a 3-1 lead. They scored two more times in the third period to finish off the blowout.

The following morning, Minnesota recalled defenseman Brennan Menell. The 22-year-old blueliner led all AHL defenseman with 17 assists at the time of his promotion and will leave a huge hole in Iowa’s defense. There were more moves early Friday when Pateryn and forward Nico Sturm both headed up to the Twin Cities.

The shorthanded Wild traveled to Milwaukee on Friday and were beat up during a 7-1 blowout loss. The game was not only ugly in the lopsided score, but there was a constant parade to the penalty box with well over 100 total penalty minutes dished out.

After the Admirals jumped out to a 2-0 advantage less than nine minutes into the contest, the Wild cut the lead to a single goal shortly afterward. Gabriel Dumont converted on a power play by putting home a rebound off a Luke Johnson shot, who extended his point streak to four games with the assist.

Gabriel Dumont Minnesota Wild
Dumont was the only player not named Mayhew to score for the Wild last week. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

It would be all Admirals after that as they scored four goals in the middle frame and another one in the third period to win going away. This was the worst loss for the Wild since they lost 6-0 to the Grand Rapids Griffins on Jan. 29, 2015.

The Wild returned home on Saturday to host the Tucson Roadrunners, but they didn’t do much to change their luck in a 4-1 defeat.

The visitors set the tone by opening the scoring six minutes into the game and striking again just 76 seconds later. They added a third tally, while on the power play, late in the opening frame. The Roadrunners scored a fourth and final goal early in the second period.

Mayhew spoiled goaltender Ivan Prosvetov’s shutout bid with just over two minutes to play in the sandwich stanza.

Player of the Week

The Wild only scored three goals in their three games last week and Mayhew had two of them. His 14 goals on the season not only lead the team but also have him tied for second in the AHL. He is three goals behind league-leader Reid Boucher of the Utica Comets. ‘

“We’ve been through this before,” Mayhew said of the Wild’s current situation. “Guys have been called up. Guys have gotten hurt. When a guy comes in, you’ve got to take your opportunity and run with it. Right now, it’s just not going our way. I think we’re kind of waiting for everything to happen and we’re not working hard enough.”

The Week Ahead

Tuesday, Dec. 10 vs Roadrunners; Saturday, Dec. 14 @ Ontario Reign; Sunday, Dec. 15 @ Reign

IceHogs Keep Winning Despite Roster Changes

The IceHogs (13-9-0-1) continue to use a deep and balanced lineup paired with excellent goaltending to climb up the Central Division standings. They won two of their three games to find themselves tied for third place with 27 points, one point out of the runner-up spot.

The BMO Harris Bank Center continues to be kind to the IceHogs as they won for the ninth time in their last 10 home games by beating the Manitoba Moose 4-2 on Tuesday night.

MacKenzie Entwistle opened the scoring, just over four minutes into the game, by going forehand-backhand for goals in back-to-back games. The lead didn’t last long as the Moose had an answer just 34 seconds later.

Defenseman Joni Tuulola, who scored his first goal of the season in the previous game last Saturday, struck again with a one-timer off a feed from Tyler Sikura. The game went into the first intermission tied at 2-2 after a late-period goal by the Moose.

Brandon Hagel scored the eventual game-winning goal, late in the second period, by using his speed to get to the front of the net and putting home his sixth tally of the season. Nick Moutrey added a late empty-net goal to finish off the scoring. Goaltender Collin Delia made 37 saves in his first start since Nov. 15.

Brandon Hagel Rockford Icehogs
Hagel is adjusting to the AHL quite well. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

On Wednesday morning, defenseman Dennis Gilbert was recalled by the Chicago Blackhawks.  This is his third stint in the NHL this season.

On Friday, the IceHogs traveled to Grand Rapids for a spirited tilt with the Griffins, which they won 2-1 in a shootout.

The Griffins grabbed a 1-0, early in the second period, after neither team could find the back of the net during the opening frame. Dylan Sikura scored his team-leading ninth goal of the season to tie the game before the second intermission.

The game headed to a shootout after a scoreless third period and overtime. Tim Soderlund and Joseph Cramarossa both scored in the skills competition while Delia stopped both shots he faced.

Immediately after the game, the IceHogs recalled forwards Dylan McLaughlin and Matt Thomspon along with defenseman Dmitry Opsiov from the Indy Fuel of the ECHL.

The IceHogs’ four-game winning streak was snapped on home ice Saturday night with a 5-2 loss to the first-place Milwaukee Admirals.

Shortly after the Admirals scored first, Brandon Hagel got in behind the defense to tie the game with his seventh goal of the season. The tally sent 4,369 teddy bears and stuffed animals onto the ice which will all be donated local charities.

The Admirals regained the lead with a goal in the final minute of the first period. They followed that with two more tallies in the second period and a fifth goal early in the third. Philipp Kurashev potted his third goal of the season with just under four minutes to play, but it was too late to mount a serious comeback.

When the IceHogs take to the ice for Tuesday night’s rematch versus the Admirals, they are going to have a much different look. On Sunday, the Blackhawks recalled forward Dylan Sikura, who made his season debut that evening versus the Arizona Coyotes. The following morning, defenseman Adam Boqvist and forward Matthew Highmore were brought up to accompany the Blackhawks on their three-game road trip out west. Defenseman Bed Youds was signed to a professional tryout contract (PTO) to help fill the void. He’s played 13 games for the Fuel this season.

Dylan Sikura Rockford Icehogs
Dylan Sikura is back in the NHL. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

Player of the Week

The biggest story of the week was the return to form by Deila, who started the season as the team’s number-one goaltender. He was given a couple of weeks off after posting a goals-against average (GAA) of over 4.00 and a save percentage (SV%) well below .900. The time away from the game did wonders as Delia gave up just three goals on 68 shots in his two wins this past week.

“I try not to watch the goalies as much as I can,” head coach Derek King joked when I asked him about Delia’s play. “I think Pete (goaltending coach Peter Aubry) just broke it down for him. He simplified it again. It’s not like starting from scratch but working on the little things that got him here. I think he’s been doing a good job with that and its showing in his game.”

The Week Ahead

Tuesday, Dec. 10 vs Admirals; Friday, Dec. 13 @ Belleville Senators; Sunday, Dec. 15 @ Toronto Marlies

Rampage Struggle in Canada

The Rampage (10-9-5-2) stumbled a bit with back-to-back losses over the weekend. They are tied for third with the IceHogs and are only one point from falling out of a playoff spot.

Revenge was served on Tuesday night when the Rampage beat the visiting Wild 5-1 before they headed north of the border for the weekend.

Jordan Kyrou’s big night started when Niko Mikkola’s shot hit him on the way into the Iowa net five minutes into the game. The Wild came back to draw even early in the second period, but the Rampage quickly took control of the game after that.

Jordan Kyrou San Antonio Rampage
Kyrou netted his first career hat trick on Tuesday. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

Four minutes later, Kryou scored a power-play goal from the right circle to restore the Rampage’s lead. He doubled the advantage with another power-play tally late in the frame to finish off his first career AHL hat trick. However, there were no hats thrown on the ice because, at the time, Kyrou’s first goal was still credited to Mikkola. The scoring change was not made until later in the evening.

“I think it was just having the mentality to get my shot off quicker,” Kyrou said of his successful evening. “I was tending to hold the puck longer and try to pick my corner rather than just a quick release. It is definitely a big confidence boost.”

A pair of defenders scored in the third period to complete the blowout. Evan Polei scored off a deflection midway through the frame for his first goal of the season. Derrick Pouliot added an empty-netter late in the game.

Goaltender Ville Husso made 27 saves for the victory as the Rampage finished their six-game homestand with a 3-1-2 record.

Ville Husso San Antonio Rampage
Husso continues to play well for the Rampage. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

On Friday, the Rampage traded defenseman Rob O’Gara to the Springfield Thunderbirds for future considerations. He had no points and six penalty minutes in five games for San Antonio this season.

The Rampage began a two-game set in Toronto, versus the Marlies, on Saturday night with a hard-fought 3-2 loss.

Kyrou kept on rolling as he opened the scoring just eight minutes into the game with his fourth goal in the last four periods. The Marlies drew even about four minutes later. After a delay to pick up all the stuffed animals from the Teddy Bear Toss, Tanner Kaspick gave the Rampage a 2-1 lead just 57 seconds later.

The Marlies tied the game midway through the second period and the game remained even until the home team struck again early in the final frame. The Rampage had 15 shots on goal during the third period, but could not figure out goaltender Kasimir Kaskisuo for the equalizer.

Both teams were back on the ice Sunday afternoon and the Rampage had another tough time against a hot Marlies goaltender. This time it was Joseph Woll who made 40 saves in a 4-1 Toronto victory.

The Marlies grabbed a 1-0 lead just over a minute after the opening faceoff. They doubled their lead early in the second period. Jordan Nolan was awarded a penalty shot after being slashed on a shorthanded breakaway, but he was unable to convert.

The Rampage outshot the Marlies 31-10 over the final 40 minutes of play. Ryan Olsen scored their lone goal, late in the second period, when he redirected a Mitch Reinke point shot behind Woll for his third goal of the season.

Toronto responded with a third goal just 48 seconds later to regain the momentum and their two-goal lead. They finished off the scoring with an empty-net goal with just over a minute to play.

Player of the Week

It took a couple of games for Kyrou to get his feet under him once he returned from a knee injury, but he has been rolling of late with nine goals and 15 points in 16 games. He scored four of the eight Rampage goals this past week and his hot streak will now carry over into the NHL. On Sunday, Kyrou, along with forward Austin Poganski, was recalled by the St. Louis Blues, leaving a huge void in San Antonio.

The Week Ahead

Friday, Dec. 13 vs Roadrunners; Saturday, Dec. 14 vs Moose

Moose Look to Rebound Following One-Win Week

After winning just one out of their three games last week, the Moose (13-13-0-0) are back to .500 and have fallen to fifth place. Although they are on the outside looking in when it comes to a Calder Cup playoff spot, their 26 points are just one point out of third place.

The Moose began their week of games against teams from Illinois with a 4-2 loss to the IceHogs, in Rockford, on Tuesday night. They scored both of their goals in a busy first period which saw each team light the lamp twice.

Seth Griffith tied the game with this 10th goal of the season just 34 seconds after the IceHogs opened up the scoring early in the opening frame. The home team retook the lead a few minutes later and the Moose had an answer before the end of the period. Just over five minutes before the first intermission, J.C. Lipon hit the post, but gathered in the rebound and fed it over to Skyler McKenzie for his third tally and second in as many games.

Seth Griffith Manitoba Moose
Griffith leads the Moose with 10 goals. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

The IceHogs grabbed a 3-2 late in the second period and added an empty-net goal in the final minute to pull off the victory. Mikhail Berdin was strong in net with 27 saves in the losing effort.

The following day, the Winnipeg Jets reassigned forward Michael Spacek back to the AHL. He was in the lineup when the Moose returned home on Friday night to host the Wolves. They were able to hang on for the 3-1 victory; their third straight win over the Wolves.

The Wolves grabbed an early 1-0 lead and had two power plays before the end of the first period. However, the penalty kill unit stood tall and kept the deficit at just one goal heading into the first intermission.

Jimmy Oligny’s long-range shot evened things up midway through the second period. The defenseman has two goals on the season and both have come against his former team.

The Moose then used a 5-on-3 advantage, for a full two minutes, to score the eventual game-winning tally with the goal coming from Kristian Vesalainen. McKenzie iced the game with a late empty-net goal.

Kristian Vesalainen Manitoba Moose
Vesalainen had the game-winning goal on Friday. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

Berdin made 26 saves in the winning effort. He has won all three of his starts versus the Wolves this season with a sterling .963 SV%.

The Wolves got revenge on Saturday with a 4-2 victory to snap the Moose’s seven-game home winning streak.

Kristian Reichel’s first goal of the season, after missing 21 games due to injury, gave the Moose a 1-0 lead just past the midway mark of the opening period. Chicago answered with a pair of goals in the final 1:08 of the period to take a 2-1 advantage into the break.

Moments after Griffith was denied on a breakaway attempt, early in the middle frame, the Wolves grabbed a 3-1 lead. The Moose didn’t allow a shot on goal for over 15 minutes in the third period, but shortly after they did, the Wolves increased their lead to three goals. Lipon scored late in regulation by getting his stick on a Cameron Schilling shot as it whizzed by. Goaltender Griffen Outhouse made 32 saves in his home ice debut.

Player of the Week

McKenzie led the way with two goals and four points last week. He has three goals and seven points in his last eight games as he has been finding his offensive groove.

Skyler McKenzie Manitoba Moose
McKenzie is finding his offensive groove. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

“I’m really confident about myself right now,” McKenzie said about his recent play. “I think our whole line is playing well and that’s why I am doing so well right now. Last year I was new to the league and trying to learn the systems. This year, I am out there playing without having to think the game and I think that has a lot to do it.”

The Week Ahead

Wednesday, Dec. 11 @ Stars; Friday, Dec. 13 @ Stars; Saturday, Dec. 14 @ Rampage

Wolves Grab Four Well-Needed Points

The sixth-place Wolves (11-14-2-0) spent the week on the road and earned four out of a possible six points. The three-time and defending division champions find themselves just three points out of a playoff spot but only three points ahead of last place.

The Wolves have not had many easy victories on the season, but their 5-2 win at the Griffins on Wednesday night falls under that category.

Defenseman Jake Bischoff’s first goal of the season, with just 16 seconds left in the first period, gave the Wolves a 1-0 lead. Curtis McKenzie provided a great screen in front of the net to help his shot from the point find twine.

Another blueliner, rookie Brayden Pachal, doubled the lead with his first professional goal when his shot from just inside the zone made it to the back of the net. Midway through the second period, Brandon Pirri increased the lead to 3-0 with his third goal of the season and 300th point in his AHL career. Valentin Zykov’s first goal with the Wolves gave them a four-goal advantage heading into the locker room.

The Griffins scored a pair of goals late in the game to draw within two goals, but Tye McGinn sealed the deal with an empty-net goal with just three seconds to play.

The Wolves traveled north for a weekend series against the Moose which started with a 3-1 loss on Friday night.

Reid Duke scored the Wolves’ only goal of the night, just over two minutes into the game, by scoring off his own rebound. The Moose evened things up midway through the second period and grabbed the lead while on a 5-on-3 power play, with just over six minutes to play, when a shot hit off a Wolves’ skate and went in. They capped off the scoring with a late empty-netter.

Chicago got even on the following night with a 4-2 win, ending their three-game losing streak versus the Moose.

This time out, it was the home team who scored first just past the halfway mark of the first period. Jermaine Loewen drew the Wolves even with just over a minute to play in the opening frame with his first career AHL goal. It was a special moment for the 21-year-old forward who was born in Jamaica and was adopted by a family from Manitoba when he was five.

The Wolves weren’t done there as Dylan Coghlan scored just 32 seconds later to give them a 2-1 advantage heading into the first intermission. Duke doubled the Wolves’ lead, early in the second period, with his second goal of the weekend.

Dylan Coghlan Chicago Wolves
Coghlan had a big week for the Wolves. (Sarah Avampato / The Hockey Writers)

Lucas Elvenes gave the Wolves a 4-1 lead by going bar-down from the right circle with just over four minutes to play. The Moose got another past Oscar Dansk, about a minute and a half later, but were unable to get any closer. Dansk finished the game with 25 saves for his fifth win of the season. This was the Wolves’ first win of the season when outshooting their opponent.

On Monday night, the Vegas Golden Knights recalled Zykov. The Wolves also announced they have loaned Loewen to the Fort Wayne Komets of the ECHL.

Vegas Golden Knights Valentin Zykov
Zykov is back in Las Vegas. (Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports)

Player of the Week

The Wolves had nine different players score a total of 10 goals for them last week. Coghlan was one of those players, but he also added three assists to lead the team with four points. The 21-year-old defenseman now has 12 points on the season, which leads all Chicago blueliners and is tied for fourth on the team.

The Week Ahead

Friday, Dec. 13 @ Admirals; Saturday, Dec. 14 vs Admirals

Stars’ Surge Continues

Three weeks ago, the thought of the Stars (9-13-1-2) contending for a playoff spot would have been laughable. They have used a seven-game point streak to climb out of the Central Division cellar and are tied for seventh place with 21 points.

Their successful week began by ending the Admirals’ 13-game winning streak with a 5-1 win on Tuesday night. The Admirals struck first with and power-play goal early in the second period, after a scoreless opening 20 minutes.

The Stars only had four shots on goal in the second period but scored on all of them. Gavin Bayreuther found Jason Robertson all alone in the left circle, where he buried a one-timer to tie the game. Rhett Gardner broke to the tie a few moments later by finishing off a great passing play with Nicolas Caamano. Joel L’Esperance increased the lead by finishing off a 2-on-1 rush. Adam Mascherin joined the party with his third goal of the season before the clock ran out in the second period.

Rhett Gardner Dallas Stars
Gardner factored into the big win over the Admirals. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Michael Mersch scored his seventh goal of the season, four minutes into the third period, to give the Stars five goals on five consecutive shots. After giving up the early goal, Jake Oettinger made 39 saves for the win. It was his first appearance in net since Nov. 17 in Toronto.

“It feels amazing,” Oettinger said after his first win since Oct. 19. “I’d be lying if I said it didn’t feel great. The guys played so well in front of me. To get five goals makes my job so much easier. Once we got that lead, I feel like we did such a good job. We didn’t need to take any chances and we didn’t.”

From there, the Stars headed east a weekend series and first two games ever against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. They continued their winning ways with a 4-3 victory on Friday night to give the Penguins just their third loss on home ice this season.

Mersch picked up right where he left off by cashing in off a rebound to give the Stars a 1-0 lead about seven minutes into the game. The Penguins responded with a goal of their own about two minutes later and the score remained tied going into the first intermission.

Less than two minutes into the middle frame, Joel Kirvanta scored an easy tap-in goal off a great feed by Joseph Cecconi. He struck for a second time about 10 minutes later to increase the Stars’ lead to 3-1. However, the Penguins netted a pair of goals less than a minute apart before the period expired.

Caamano scored the eventual game-winning goal, just over a minute into the third period, with the primary assist going to Robertson. Oettinger had another big night with 26 saves, including 14 in the third period alone.

Oettinger came up big for the Stars this week. (David Banks-USA TODAY Sports)

The Stars completed the two-game sweep with a 5-3 victory on Saturday. After a slow start to the night, Robertson and the Stars struck twice in the final five minutes of the first period to build a 2-0 lead.

The first goal came when L’Esperance forced a turnover before feed Robertson, while on a 2-on-1 rush, for the tally. The rookie forward buried his second goal of the night with just 0.8 seconds left in the frame.

The Penguins had a quick response to cut the lead in half early in the second period. The Stars got in trouble when Parker MacKay and Dillon Heatherington were sent to the penalty box just 19 seconds apart. The Penguins capitalized with a goal on each power play to grab a 3-2 lead. The Stars and L’Esperance answered to even things up, while on a power play of their own, about three minutes later.

Kirivanta took advantage of a turnover to break the tie just 15 seconds into the third period. Caamano added on an empty-net goal for good measure in the final seconds of the game. Goaltender Landon Bow made 30 saves for his sixth win of the season.

On Tuesday, the Stars learned they would be losing their head coach, Derek Laxdal. After the Dallas Stars fired head coach Jim Montgomery, they appointed Laxdal as an assistant coach for the NHL club. Assistant coach Neil Graham will take over as head coach in the AHL, with Travis Morin serving as the new assistant coach.

Player of the Week

The Stars had seven players score at least three points last week, but Robertson led the way with three goals and five points. The 2017 second-round draft pick currently leads the Stars with 18 points, which has him ranked fifth among all AHL rookies. His big week earned him CCM/AHL Player of the Week honors on Monday.

The Week Ahead

Wednesday, Dec. 11 vs Moose; Friday, Dec. 13 vs Moose; Saturday, Dec. 14 vs Roadrunners

Griffins Endure Another Winless Week

The Griffins (9-13-1-2) started the season with one of the most talented rosters in the entire league. However, as life goes in the AHL, the roster has been in constant turnover with the Detroit Red Wings sending players back and forth. The Griffins have now lost seven games in a row; their longest losing streak since 2010. Their 21 points have them tied with the Stars for seventh place.

They started off their quiet week with a 5-2 loss at the hands of the Wolves on Wednesday night. The Wolves opened the scoring in the final seconds of the first period before scoring three more times in the middle frame to build a 4-0 lead.

Taro Hirose, who was making his AHL debut, scored his first goal to get the Griffins on the board early in the third period. Evgeny Svechnikov scored a power-play goal with just 59 seconds left to cut the Chicago’s lead down to 4-2. However, the Wolves quickly killed any idea of a miraculous comeback with an empty-net goal to ice the game.

Evgeny Svechnikov
Svechnikov was one of the few bright spots for the Griffins last week. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

On Friday morning, the Griffins signed veteran forward Eric Tangradi to a one-year contract. He was a member of the Griffins’ 2017 Calder Cup-winning team and was playing in the Kontinental Hockey League earlier this season.

Later that evening, the Griffins dropped a 2-1 decision to the IceHogs, in a shootout.

Tangradi’s return to Grand Rapids was a successful one when he broke a scoreless tie early in the second period. The goal was his 77th in a Griffins uniform. The IceHogs came back to tie the game with less than three minutes to go in the middle stanza.

The game headed to a shootout after a scoreless third period and overtime. In the shootout, Matt Puempel and Hirose failed to score while goaltender Calvin Pickard allowed two goals.

The Griffins will now head out on a six-game trip out west that will have them on the road for the next two weeks. Sometimes these long road trips can go a long way in bringing a team together and that is exactly what the Griffins need.

Player of the Week

Griffins only scored three goals all week so this was a bit of a tough call. We will split to honor between Hirose and Tangradi who both scored in their season debuts.

“It was a rough stretch for the last couple of months being away from family,” Tangradi said of his time playing in Russia. “But I got a call to come here, with all the great memories. I think I still have a lot of game in me. I still can provide a lot to this locker room and these young guys.”

The Week Ahead

Wednesday, Dec. 11 @ San Diego Gulls; Friday, Dec. 13 @ Bakersfield Condors; Saturday, Dec. 14 @ Condors