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POTULNY LEADS BINGHAMTON INTO THE DIVISION FINALS

By: Mike Peck
Photo courtesy of JustSports Photography
AHL’s second round to get underway on Wednesday

Just two-days into an 11-day road trip for the Rockford IceHogs, Ryan Potulny was taking advantage of some down time in sunny Houston, Texas when he was notified that he’d been traded.

The National Hockey League trade deadline was hours away from passing on Feb. 28 and the Chicago Blackhawks dealt Potulny to the Ottawa Senators for defenseman Chris Campoli. At the time, Potulny was the second-leading goal scorer for the IceHogs while centering the team’s top line.

The Grand Forks, North Dakota native has made the most out of his new opportunity skating in seven regular season tilts with Ottawa in the NHL and now leading the AHL’s Binghamton Senators into the AHL’s Atlantic Division Finals.

Potulny, 26, skated in 13 regular season games in Binghamton, notching 3g-5a after playing in 58 contests in Rockford and registering 18g-23a. In the East Division Semifinals, Potulny paced all AHL players with eight goals and 14 points, capping off the opening round with a five-point effort in the B-Sens 6-5 Game 7 overtime win at Manchester on Saturday.

The centerman scored the game-winning goal in OT on Saturday to clinch the series and added four assists in the win.  Despite playing in 122 career NHL games and 243 AHL regular season contests, this is just the second time in Potulny’s five-year career that he’s been to the postseason and he’s making a mark in the Calder Cup Playoffs.

Binghamton was the fifth place team in the AHL’s East Division in 2010-11, but earned the Eastern Conference’s carry over playoff spot and jumped to the Atlantic Division. Because they had more points than the Connecticut Whale, the B-Sens avoided a first round date with the Atlantic Division champion Portland Pirates. Binghamton won all four of their first-round games in overtime over the Monarchs.

The Senators can’t escape the Pirates now as they will battle Portland in the best-of-seven, Atlantic Division Finals. Portland boasted the AHL’s best home record in 2010-11, going 25-8-6-1 at the Cumberland County Civic Center.

Binghamton and Portland are one of four Division Finals series set to get underway in the Calder Cup Playoffs and it kicks off on Wednesday night in Portland.

Also out east, the East Division Finals will feature this season’s MacGregor Kilpatrick Trophy winner as the league’s top regular season team, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, will be pitted against the Charlotte Checkers. Charlotte knocked off the two-time defending Calder Cup Champion Hershey Bears in six-games in the East Division Semifinals, while the Penguins topped the Norfolk Admirals in six games as well.

The last Division Finals series to get settled in the Calder Cup Playoffs was in the north. The Manitoba Moose battled back from a three-games-to-one deficit against the Lake Erie Monsters and toppled Lake Erie in Game 7 on Tuesday night in Cleveland to advance to the North Division Finals.

Manitoba’s second round opponent is the Hamilton Bulldogs who disposed of the Oklahoma City Barons in six-games in the opening round. Hamilton, the North Division champs in the regular season, will have the home-ice advantage. The series begins on Thursday at Hamilton’s Copps Coliseum.

Finally, in the West Division, the Houston Aeros will have to shake off some rust from some extended time off. The Aeros swept the Peoria Rivermen out of the Calder Cup Playoffs in the Division Semifinals round and have played just five games since April 3, a span of 26 days leading into Friday’s Game 1 face-off against the Milwaukee Admirals. Houston has been idle since the April 19th series clincher over Peoria

The Admirals will have the home-ice advantage in the West Division Semifinals after winning the Division title in the regular season. Milwaukee outlasted the defending Western Conference champion Texas Stars in the West Division Semifinals in six games.

Every AHL Calder Cup Playoff game can be viewed through www.ahllive.com. For up to the minute scores and stats, visit www.theahl.com.

Season Tickets On Sale For 2011-12: It'll be a long summer without IceHogs hockey and season ticket packages for the 2011-12 season are now on sale. To find a ticket package that quenches your hockey thirst, call (815) 847-6399.



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