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Hartford Wolf Pack Update - April 5 to 11

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers

The Hartford Wolf Pack closed out their 2003-04 regular season on Sunday with a 2-1 win over the Providence Bruins to finish their 80-game schedule at 44-22-12-2 for 102 points. With the win, the Pack clinched the Eastern Conference regular season championship and the Frank S. Mathers Trophy. The Pack also finishes the year with just 22 losses - best in the league.

Hartford's 44 wins were tied for the third most in the AHL, while their 102 points and .638 winning percentage were tied for the league lead.

The Wolf Pack will hold home ice advantage through the entire Eastern Conference playoffs. The Calder Cup 2004 Playoffs get underway on Wednesday as Hartford awaits the winner of the best-of-three Atlantic Division Qualifying Round series between the Providence Bruins and Portland Pirates.

* 6-2, 202-pound defenseman David Liffiton, who was acquired by the Rangers in the March 9 trade that sent forward Matthew Barnaby to the Colorado Avalanche, will sign an Amateur Tryout Agreement (ATO) and join the Wolf Pack for practice this week. Liffiton, posted 12 penalty minutes in nine playoff games with the Plymouth Whalers (Ontario Hockey League) during the 2003-04 playoffs after collecting two goals and nine assists for 11 points, along with 85 penalty minutes in 44 games with the Whalers during the regular season. Plymouth was recently swept by the Guelph Storn in four games during the OHL Western Conference Semifinals.

TEAM LEADERS - FINAL STATS: (includes totals with other NHL teams)
GOALS - Jozef Balej (26), Chad Wiseman (25), Alexandre Giroux (25)
ASSISTS - Cory Larose (36), Jozef Balej (36), Chad Wiseman (27)
POINTS - Jozef Balej (62), Chad Wiseman (52), Alexandre Giroux (51)
PENALTY MINUTES - Martin Grenier (250), Jeff Paul (212), Garth Murray (159)
SHOTS ON GOAL - Alexandre Giroux (226), Layne Ulmer (202), Cory Larose (196)
PLUS/MINUS - Matt Kinch (+22), Jozef Balej (+19), Lawrence Nycholat (+18)

WINS - Jason LaBarbera (34)
SHUTOUTS - Jason LaBarbera (13)
GOALS AGAINST AVERAGE - Jason LaBarbera (1.59)
SAVE PERCENTAGE - Jason LaBarbera (.936)

Community Service Award - Phil Osaer
Bob Girouard Character Award - Ken Gernander
American Specialty/AHL Man of the Year - Ken Gernander
Wolf Pack Booster Club Fan Favorite Award - Ken Gernander
Wolf Pack Booster Club Rookie of the Year - Dominic Moore
Wolf Pack Booster Club Unsung Hero Award - Craig Weller
Best Defenseman - Lawrence Nycholat
MVP (as voted by the team) - Jason LaBarbera
MVP (as voted by the fans) - Jason LaBarbera

The Wolf Pack will face the winner of the best-of-three Atlantic Division Qualifying Round series between the Providence Bruins and the Portland Pirates.
Game 1 - Thursday, April 15 - Portland at Providence, 7:05 PM ET
Game 2 - Friday, April 16 - Portland at Providence, 7:05 PM ET
*Game 3 - Sunday, April 18 - Portland at Providence, 4:05 PM ET

April 11, 2004 - Hartford Wolf Pack 2, Providence Bruins 1
Ken Gernander scored the go-ahead goal late in the third period to lift the Hartford Wolf Pack over the Providence Bruins, 2-1. Gernander collected his second power-play goal in 77 games this season with 4:02 remaining, breaking a 1-1 tie. Fedor Tyutin opened the scoring 3:57 into the second period for Hartford, which won for the seventh time in its last nine games, finishing tied with the Milwaukee Admirals for the most points in the AHL this season (102). Jason LaBarbera turned away 21 of 22 shots to post his league-leading 34th win of the season. Darren VanOene knotted the contest at one goal apiece with 8:46 remaining in the second period for Providence, which will enter the postseason as the fourth seed in the Atlantic Division. Tim Thomas made 30 saves in defeat.

April 10, 2004 - Hartford Wolf Pack 3, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins 2 (OT)
Jozef Balej scored with 25 seconds left in overtime to lift the Hartford Wolf Pack to a 3-2 victory over the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. Balej, playing in his fifth game with the club since being dealt to the New York Rangers organization by the Montreal Canadiens, beat goaltender Andy Chiodo for his first goal as a member of Hartford. Lawrence Nycholat produced a goal and an assist for the Wolf Pack, who became the first team in the Eastern Conference to reach the 100-point plateau. Jason LaBarbera, who was named the league's Most Valuable Player on Friday, made 23 saves to improve to 33-9-9. Ondrej Nemec, who assisted on a goal by Michel Ouellet in the first period, tied the score at 2-2 with 11:48 left in the third for Wilkes-Barre. Chiodo made five of his 30 saves in overtime for the Penguins, who have gone 4-1-1-2 over their last eight games.

April 8, 2004 - Hartford Wolf Pack 5, Lowell Lock Monsters 2
Lucas Lawson and Cory Larose both had a shorthanded goal to help the Hartford Wolf Pack beat the Lowell Lock Monsters, 5-2. Lawson collected his third goal in 30 games this season with 6:17 remaining in the second period, supplying Hartford with a 4-0 lead. Larose added his third shorthanded goal of the season with 3:33 left in the third. Ken Gernander contributed a goal and an assist for the Wolf Pack, who notched their fifth win in their last seven games (5-2-0-0). Jason LaBarbera turned away 29 shots for his league-leading 32nd win of the season. Jim Henkel and Chad LaRose both scored in the third period for Lowell, which is winless over its last six games (0-5-0-1). Patrick DesRochers finished with 28 saves in defeat.

April 7, 2004 - Hartford Wolf Pack 2, Worcester Ice Cats 5
Blake Evans and Peter Senja each recorded a goal and an assist as the Worcester IceCats rallied past the Hartford Wolf Pack, 5-2. After Hartford took the lead with back-to-back goals in the second period, Evans answered with his 21st goal just 5:17 later to retie the score with Senja assisting. Mike Glumac recorded the eventual game-winner with 36 seconds left in the second period and Senja added an insurance marker midway through the third. Jay McClement opened the scoring in the second period and Aris Brimanis added an empty-netter for Worcester, which have averaged over five goals a game during its current three-game winning streak. Curtis Sanford turned aside 20 shots in the win for the IceCats. Fedor Tyutin and Alexandre Giroux scored 54 seconds apart for the Wolf Pack, who are winless in their last three meetings with Worcester (0-2-1-0). Steve Valiquette stopped 31 shots in the loss.

April 9, 2004 - The American Hockey League announced that Hartford Wolf Pack goaltender Jason LaBarbera has been named the winner of the Les Cunningham Award as the AHL's most valuable player for the 2003-04 season, as voted by players and members of the media in each of the league's 28 cities.

Already named a 2003-04 First Team AHL All-Star and winner of the "Baz" Bastien Award as the AHL's top goaltender, LaBarbera has put together one of the most impressive seasons in league history, rewriting the record books along the way. He ranks among the AHL's leaders with his 1.60 goals-against average (second), .936 save percentage (third) and 13 shutouts (first), all marks which had never been surpassed in the league's first 67 seasons of play. LaBarbera, who appeared in four games with the New York Rangers this season and earned his first NHL win on Mar. 5, also has a league-high 32 wins and ranks fifth with 3,268 minutes played.

Only two other players have ever captured all three AHL goaltending honors: Jean-Francois Labbe (Hershey, 1997) and Martin Brochu (Portland, 2000).

April 8, 2004 - The Hartford Wolf Pack captured the Emile Francis Trophy as the champions of the American Hockey League's Atlantic Division with a 5-2 win over the Lowell Lock Monsters.

It is the Wolf Pack's second division title in their seven-year history. They won the New England Division in 2000 en route to a Calder Cup championship.

Ken Gernander and Cory Larose each collected a goal and an assist for Hartford, which scored a pair of shorthanded markers on the night. Jason LaBarbera made 29 saves for his 32nd win of the season.

With the win, the Wolf Pack became the first AHL team to clinch a divisional title.

The Emile Francis Trophy was created by the AHL in 2001 and recognizes a Hockey Hall of Fame goaltender who played more than 300 games in the AHL, including a Calder Cup championship run in 1954. Francis served as both head coach and general manager of the Wolf Pack's parent club, the New York Rangers.
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