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Three Stars of the Week: April 18-24, 2013

by Emerald Gao / Chicago Blackhawks
(Greg Hamil/Rockford IceHogs)

1st Star: C Ben Smith, Rockford (AHL)
The Line: 2GP, 4G, 2A, +4 plus/minus

In an injury-plagued season, Ben Smith has nevertheless provided Rockford with an offensive boost whenever he’s in the lineup. Case in point: After missing seven games, Smith returned with a vengeance, netting his first career hat trick and adding an assist in the IceHogs’ 7-3 win over Chicago on April 12. The next night, in Milwaukee, Smith lit the lamp again, notching his second consecutive game-winner.

(Tony Longworth/WHL)

2nd Star: G Mac Carruth, Portland (WHL)
The Line: 2GP, 2-0-0, 1 shutout

Carruth won all two of his playoff starts last week as the Winterhawks completed their four-game sweep over the Spokane Chiefs. Carruth allowed just one goal on 56 shots, notching his second shutout of the series and the postseason in Game 4 on April 10. The 2010 seventh-round draft pick improved his stat line to a 1.74 goals-against average (ranked third in the league) and a .925 save percentage. Portland will face the Kamloops Blazers in the Western Conference Championship series, with Game 1 scheduled for April 19.

(Mackenzie McCluer)

3rd Star: C Brandon Pirri, Rockford (AHL)
The Line: 3GP, 1G, 6A, +3

Pirri set a club record with his six-point performance on April 12 against the Wolves, scoring a goal shorthanded and collecting a franchise-best five assists, including one on Smith’s game-winner in the second period. Pirri reached the 70-point plateau last week, tying the league lead for points and becoming just the second player in Rockford’s AHL era to reach the mark (Martin St. Pierre, 88 points in 2007-08).

Honorable mentions: C Alex Broadhurst, London (OHL); D Dillon Fournier, Rouyn-Noranda (QMJHL)

Broadhurst continues to impress in his first major-junior postseason, notching four points (1G, 3A) in three playoff games for London last week. The Knights wrapped up their second-round series 4-1 against Kitchener and will face the Plymouth Whalers in the OHL Western Conference Final.

Fournier and the Huskies took care of their own playoff matchup in the QMJHL, defeating the Quebec Remparts 4-1 in the second round. The 2012 draft selection picked up a goal and two assists in three appearances last week, including the game-winning goal in Game 3 on April 9. Rouyn-Noranda will take on Halifax in the league semifinal series beginning this weekend.

Around the system:

  • Rockford had another big week, winning two of their three tilts to claim the eighth and final playoff position in the conference entering the last weekend of regular-season action. Jeremy Morin registered four points (1G, 3A) in three games last week, three of them in the 7-3 win over Chicago... Rostislav Olesz also notched a goal and three helpers, bringing his season total to 16 points (7G, 9A) in just 12 games.

  • Rookie Adam Clendening opened the scoring for Rockford on April 13 at Milwaukee, tallying for the eighth time this season, and currently shares second in the league in defenseman scoring with 44 points (8G, 36A)... Fellow first-year Klas Dahlbeck is known primarily for playing a shutdown role, but dented the net for his first professional goal on April 13.

  • Garret Ross, with a freshly inked entry-level deal, made his AHL debut on April 13 in Milwaukee, collecting his first professional fighting major in the first period... Carter Hutton won both of his starts last week, making 54 saves on 58 shots for a .931 save percentage. Hutton is tied for fourth in the league with 26 wins so far this season.
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