Quite a few moves were made in the offseason for the NHL and AHL teams. With the loss of a parent team, a relocation and reassignment, the AHL had to adjust. Conferences are now split into three Divisions consisting of five teams, replacing the 2 Division, eight team format. The main focus of this blog will be the Western Conference, specifically the the West Division, but don’t be surprised to see any Midwest Division post thrown in.
A quick run down of the first two weekends for the West Division:
After ending the 2010-2011 season in game six of the first round, the Barons were ready to show they could maintain their momentum coming into the 2011-2012 season. After the season opener against Texas ended in a 7-0 pounding, Oklahoma City went on to win three in a row. While still on the road in San Antonio, the Barons would leave the Lone Star state with a 3-2 win. David LeNeveu would start in goal and earn his first win with the Barons, stopping 32 shots on goal. For Saturday’s home opener, the Barons gave their fans their revenge against the Texas Stars, bringing home a 10-1 win on Pink the Rink night.
The high tally also set 9 franchise records including goals in a game, goals in a period (6), and fastest 3 goals (:44). Yann Danis stopped 27 of the Stars’ shots for his first win as a Baron. Newcomers Triston Grant (Mil.) and Ryan Keller (Bing.) each netted 2 goals apiece in the win.
Continuing in their run on Texas teams, on Sunday the Barons hosted the Western Conference Champion Houston Aeros and again took the win 2-0. Yann Danis gets his first shut out of the season with the win. Houston out-shot the Barons 28-18 in the game, with OKC having just two scoring chances in the final period. The Barons went 6 for 6 on the penalty kill, keeping their 100% rating at home. Philippe Cornet had his second career multiple-goal game, scoring the games two goals. Ryan Keller had his chance to get on the board with a penalty shot late in the first period but couldn’t make the net.
Oklahoma City continues their home stand, hosting Grand Rapids on Friday and Saturday night.
Texas started their season in big fashion, beating the Oklahoma City Barons 7-0 in front of 6,295 home fans. Netminder Richard Bachman stopped all 21 shots he faced for his first shutout of the year. Four Texas players had a multi-point night, two being power-play goals within 15 seconds of each other in the first period. Oklahoma City would get only 3 shots on goal in the first period.
Things went downhill after the big win, taking a 5-2 loss from the Houston Areos on Friday. center Travis Morin reached his 100th career point with Texas, surpassing the previous record of 98 points set by Greg Rallo. Morin assissted on both of Texas’ goals. Richard Bachman stopped 26 of 30 shots in the loss.
Saturday the Stars traveled to Oklahoma City, and walked out with a 10-1 loss. The loss put Texas below .500 for the first time since 2009. Francis Wathier scored the team’s lone goal late in the third period. Goalie Tyler Beskorowany gave up five goals on 20 shots in 43:12 of work, relief Richard Bachman five goals on 13 shots in 16:48 of play.
Thursday Texas will travel San Antonio, Saturday to Peoria.
The 2011-2011 starts with a new parent team for the Rampage, dropping the Phoenix Coyotes and moving on to the Florida Panthers. The Rampage started their 10th anniversary season with a 3-2 shootout victory over the Chicago Wolves in front of a record-breaking home opening crowd of 9,062, previously set on the first franchise game. Bracken Kearns opened the scoring just 27 seconds into the game, making it the fastest Rampage goal. Brian Foster stopped 21 of the 22 shots he faced after coming in to start the second replacing Manny Legace who stopped 7 of 8. Jonathan Hazen netted his first professional goal in his AHL debut at the 16:36 mark of the second stanza, also getting one through later on the shoot out to help take the win.
Friday San Antonio hosted the Oklahoma City Barons, losing 3-2 in front of 7,113 home fans. Bracken Kearns again scored first for the Rampage, Scott Timmins getting his first goal of the season 12:25 into the second period. Foster would make 20 saves on 23 Barons shots.
San Antonio would go on to Houston for their first road game of the season and take a 4-3 win over the Aeros on Saturday. The Rampage would get the scoring started on a shorthanded goal by Mike Kostka. Evgeny Dadonov and Bracken Kerns would also get on the board, tying the game and sending the game in an OT and later shoout out. Angelo Esposito would make the goal in the 11th round of the shootout to bring the win home with San Antonio. Foster made 22 saves on 25 shots in his second start.
The Rampage will see Texas on Thursday then Peoria on Friday.
Abbotsford started the 2011-2012 season off strong with a 2-1 and 1-0 win over Lake Erie in their season opener weekend. Newcomers Dustin Sylvester and Paul Byron each scored over the weekend wins, along with second year Greg Nemisz, all scoring power play goals to give the Heat their wins.
Netminder Leland Irving continues this season strong in net for the Heat, allowing just a goal out of 42 shots over two games.
Getting off to the best start in franchise history, the Heat would take a 4-3 come-from-behind win over the Rockford IceHogs for their home opener. Irving would stop 26 of 29 shots in the win.
The good fortune came to an end on Sunday when the rematch with the Icehogs would lead to a 3-2 for the Heat. Abbotsford was able to hold Rockford to just 13 shots, the lowest total shots in a game in IceHogs history. Leland Irving stopped ten of thirteen shots, the Heat holding Rockford to just 3 shots in the third, except the game winner.
Abbotsford will next take on the Milwaukee Admirals on Friday and Saturday.
In front of a 9,117 sellout crowd, Houston would defeat the Chicago Wolves 4-1 in the Aeros season opener. Casey Wellman would score two goals in the win, Jed Ortmeyer and Jon DiSalvatore netting the other two. Netminder Matt Hackett made 24 saves for the win.
The Aeros defeated the Texas Stars 5-2 Friday in their first road game of the year. Matt Hackett earned his second straight win with 34 saves. This time, it would be David McIntyre scoring twice and Wellman netting only one. Warren Peters would also get on the board, with Ortmeyer sealing the win with an empty net goal.
Back at home on Saturday, Houston fell to San Antonio 4-3 in a shootout. Justin Fontaine would score his first professional goal in the loss. Jeff Penner and Wellman would score power play goals for Houston. Matt Hackett made 23 saves and stopped 9 of 11 shots in the shootout.
A quick turn around and travel to Oklahoma City proved to be too much for the Aeros, taking a 2-0 shut out loss. It was Houston’s first loss in regulation this season. Goaltender Dennis Endras, in his first start of the season, did turn aside a penalty shot attempt and made 14 saves in the loss.
The Aeros will visit Charlotte on Friday and Saturday, returning home on Sunday to take on Grand Rapids.