November 19, 2012

AHL Journal: New England teams the beasts of the East

By Jesse Connolly

Pirates goalie Chad Johnson allowed just two goals on 53 shots this past weekend, earning back-to-back victories to lift Portland into a playoff spot. (Photo by Chris Rutsch)

We’re now six weeks into the AHL season and things are looking pretty good for the league’s seven squads in New England. If the season ended today, five of them would be on their way to the playoffs.

Here’s a team-by-team look at how things have gone of late for each club:

Bridgeport Sound Tigers
4th in conference | 10-4-0-0, 20 points

After scoring 24 goals in just 40 games last year for Bridgeport, David Ullstrom began the 2012-13 campaign without a tally in his first eight games. He finally found the back of the net on Sunday, scoring two goals in a 6-2 win over Providence. The Sound Tigers won two of their three weekend tilts, including a 4-0 shutout victory over the Monarchs that saw Anders Nilsson stop all 25 shots he faced.

Leading scorer: Nino Niederreiter (9-8-17 in 14 games)

Worcester Sharks
3rd in conference | 7-6-1-1, 16 points

After a superb three-week stretch that saw him string together seven consecutive victories, Alex Stalock’s winning streak came to an end on Sunday against the Whale. The Sharks’ netminder stopped 21-of-23, but Worcester couldn’t bounce back after giving up two goals early in the third period and fell by a score of 2-1.

Leading scorer: Bracken Kearns (6-6-12 in 15 games), Tim Kennedy (5-7-12 in 15 games)

Connecticut Whale
11th in conference | 6-7-1-0, 13 points

With the win over Worcester, the Whale wound up splitting their weekend slate. Connecticut fell by a score of 2-1 on Friday night at home against Portland as their former backstop, Chad Johnson, stopped 29-of-30 to lead the Pirates to victory. Chris Kreider (Boxford, Mass.) scored his second goal of the season on Saurday and now has 2-6-8 totals through 13 games.

Leading scorer: Kris Newbury (5-9-14 in 12 games)

Portland Pirates
8th in conference | 6-6-1-1, 14 points

While Portland managed to win one on the road, they lost both of their home games last week. On Wednesday, Rob Klinkhammer’s two-goal game went to waste in a 4-2 loss to the Sharks. On Saturday, Mark Visentin stopped 24-of-26, but Portland fell, 2-1, in Providence.

Leading scorer: Alex Bolduc (9-5-14 in 14 games)

Providence Bruins
12th in conference | 6-7-0-1, 13 points

Niklas Svedberg continues to be the MVP for the P-Bruins. He stopped 36-of-37 in Providence’s win over Portland Saturday, which was preceded by a 30-save performance in a 3-2 win over Manchester that saw Chris Bourque notch a goal and an assist. Unfortunately, Providence coach Bruce Cassidy may have ridden the Swedish rookie a little too hard. Svedberg was back between the pipes for a third straight start on Sunday. He was yanked after allowing five goals in the first two periods of play, dropping his record to 6-3-1-1 on the year.

Leading scorer: Ryan Spooner (3-8-11 in 13 games)

Manchester Monarchs
7th in conference | 7-6-0-1, 15 points

After storming out of the gate with five wins in their first six games, the Monarchs are just 2-5-0-1 in their last eight contests, nabbing just five out of a possible 16 points. What’s to blame? Manchester’s struggles stem from both ends of the ice. Martin Jones had a strong opening month but has been on a rollercoaster in the month of November, eith blanking the opposition or getting lit up. With eight goals in the last five tilts, Manchester isn’t getting the job done offensively, either.

Leading scorer: Brandon Kozun (5-8-13 in 14 games)

Springfield Falcons
1st in conference | 10-2-0-2, 22 points

We’ve lauded him repeatedly ‘round these parts, but Curtis McElhinney’s superhuman start to the season has lifted the Falcons to the top spot in the Eastern Conference. Among goalies with five or more starts, the 29-year-old netminder leads the entire AHL in wins (9), goals-against average (1.41), save percentage (.953) and shutouts (4). Balanced production has certainly gone a long way, too. Springfield already has six players with double-digit point totals.

Leading scorer: Jonathan Audy-Marchessault (5-10-15 in 14 games)

Player of the Week

Matt Watkins, Bridgeport Sound Tigers

The former Portland Pirate tallied twice on Saturday in a 4-0 victory over Manchester and found the back of the net again on Sunday when Bridgeport walloped Providence by a score of 6-2. Furthermore, Watkins (pictured right) was plus-2 over the weekend and led Bridgeport in shots on goal in each of their last two contests.

The Week Ahead

Here’s how the schedule looks for the Seaside Seven:

Tuesday, Nov. 20

Manchester Monarchs @ Portland Pirates (7:00 p.m.)

Wednesday, Nov. 21

Bridgeport Sound Tigers @ Adirondack Phantoms (7:00 p.m.)

Friday, Nov. 23

Connecticut Whale @ Bridgeport Sound Tigers (7:00 p.m.)
Worcester Sharks @ Manchester Monarchs (7:00 p.m.)
Springfield Falcons @ Portland Pirates (7:00 p.m.)

Saturday, Nov. 24

Providence Bruins @ St. John’s IceCaps (7:30 p.m.)
Norfolk Admirals @ Connecticut Whale (7:00 p.m.)
Manchester Monarchs @ Springfield Falcons (7:00 p.m.)
Portland Pirates @ Worcester Sharks (7:00 p.m.)
Bridgeport Sound Tigers @ Binghamton Senators (7:05 p.m.)

Sunday, Nov. 25

Portland Pirates @ Manchester Monarchs (3:00 p.m.)
Connecticut Whale @ Springfield Falcons (3:00 p.m.)
Syracuse Crunch @ Worcester Sharks (3:00 p.m.)
Providence Bruins @ St. John’s IceCaps (4:30 p.m.)

Jesse Connolly can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @JesseNEHJ.