AHL Western Conference: West Division

Today concludes an early season look at the Western Conference of the AHL with a view of the West Division.

For any long time followers of the AHL, it's hard to believe that the league has grown to 30 teams. Especially considering that back in the 1976-77 season the league was down to just six teams, and barely so at that.

The leadership of Jack Butterfield and Gordie Anziano through those difficult times and the strong leadership of current AHL President Dave Andrews have seen the league flourish as never before.


Houston Aeros (MIN) 7 4 1 0 2 10 19 14
Oklahoma City Barons (EDM) 6 4 1 0 1 9 21 14
Abbotsford Heat (CAL) 7 4 3 0 0 8 12 16
San Antonio Rampage (FLA) 5 3 2 0 0 6 13 16
Texas Stars (DAL) 7 3 4 0 0 6 28 31


More info on the teams that comprise the West Division follows after the jump:

Houston Aeros

Franchise History-
The Aeros are another of the six franchises that came to the AHL from the IHL in 2001. The Aeros have been successful in both leagues, winning the IHL's Turner Cup in 1999, when they defeated the Orlando Solar Bears. It didn't take them long to duplicate the feat in the "A", as they claimed the Calder Cup in 2003, by defeating the Hamilton Bulldogs.

After falling short of the playoffs in 2010, the Aeros made it all the way to the Calder Cup finals last season, when the Binghamton Senators defeated Houston 4 games to 2 to win their first ever Calder Cup.

A thorough history of the Houston Aeros can be found here.

Players to Watch-
Forward - Casey Wellman, David McIntyre, Justin Fontaine
Defense - Jeff Penner, Kris Fredheim, Jordan Hendry
Goal - Matt Hackett, Dennis Endras

Aeros Snapshot
NHL Affiliate - Minnesota Wild
Head Coach - John Torchetti
Assistant Coach - Sebastien Laplante
Assistant Coach - Mike Van Ryn
Home Ice - Toyota Center
Website - aeros.com


Oklahoma City Barons

Franchise History-
The Barons franchise dates back to the 1968-69 season, when the Montreal Voyageurs entered the AHL. After two season in Montreal, the team was relocated to Nova Scotia, remaining there until 1984. After Halifax, the team was known as Sherbrooke Canadiens, Fredericton Canadiens, Quebec Citadelles, Toronto Roadrunners and Edmonton Roadrunners.

The franchise only played one season ('03-'04) in Toronto. The team was moved to Edmonton for the "04-'05 season, to ensure there would be hockey in Rexall Place in the event of the NHL lockout.

After the lockout was resolved, the Oilers allowed the franchise to become dormant, and it remained so until finding a new home in OKC for the 2010-11 season.

Players to Watch-
Forward - Philippe Cornet, Ryan Keller, Josh Green
Defense - Bryan Helmer, Colten Teubert, Kevin Montgomery
Goal - Yann Danis, David LeNeveu

Barons Snapshot
NHL Affiliate - Edmonton Oilers
Head Coach - Todd Nelson
Assistant Coach - Gerry Fleming
Assistant Coach - Rocky Thompson
Home Ice - Cox Convention Center
Website - okcbarons.com


Abbotsford Heat

Franchise History-
With roots back to the 1977 Maine Mariners, the Abbotsford Heat are the westernmost team in the AHL. Their nearest geographic rival is the Oklahoma City Barons, located some 1500 miles away.

The Heat started play in the "A" in the 2009-10 season as the primary affilate of the Calgary Flames.

After a decade in Portland, the franchise has had stopping points in Utica, Saint John, Omaha and Quad City. You didn't realize reading about the American Hockey League could be a primer in North American geography now did you?

Players to Watch-
Forward - Greg Nemisz, Paul Byron, Ben Walter
Defense - Brendan Mikkelson, Clay Wilson, TJ Brodie
Goal - Leland Irving

Heat Snapshot
NHL Affiliate - Calgary Flames
Head Coach - Troy Ward
Assistant Coach - Cail MacLean
Assistant Coach - Luke Strand
Home Ice - Abbotsford Entertainment & Sports Centre


San Antonio Rampage

Franchise History-
The franchise dates back to 1979, when the Adirondack Red Wings joined the "A" as an expansion team. After 20 years in Glens Falls, NY, the franchise went dormant until 2002 when the Florida Panthers and San Antonio Spurs of the NBA partnered and bought and relocated the franchise to San Antonio.

Originally, the name of the team was to be San Antonio Stampede, but there was an issue with a local football team and the name was then changed to San Antonio Rampage.

The club has not been particularly successful on the ice, making the playoffs just twice in its nine year existence, eliminated in the opening round both times.

Players to Watch-
Forward - Michael Repik, Bracken Kearns, Scott Timmins
Defense - Colby Robak, Tyson Strachan, Mike Kostka
Goal - Brian Foster

Rampage Snapshot
NHL Affiliate - Florida Panthers
Head Coach - Chuck Weber
Assistant Coach - Jason Cipolla
Home Ice - AT&T Center
Website - sarampage.com


Texas Stars

Franchise History-
Entering their third season in the AHL, the Texas Stars were formed after the purchase of the suspended Iowa Chops franchise.

The franchise itself moved around quite a bit in its only decade of existence. An expansion franchise in 1999, the Louisville Panthers lasted just two seasons in Kentucky before being moved to Iowa and becoming known as the Stars. Threee seasons later, the team was rebranded as the Iowa Chops, lasting just one season, but having an interesting logo.

Players to Watch-
Forward - Travis Morin, Matt Fraser, Raymond Sawada
Defense - Dan Spang, Philip Larsen, Jordie Benn
Goal - Richard Bachman, Tyler Beskorowany

Stars Snapshot
NHL Affiliate - Dallas Stars
Head Coach - Jeff Pyle
Assistant Coach - Jeff Truitt
Home Ice - Cedar Park Center Arena
Website - texasstarshockey.com

Tonight in the American Hockey League, back in the Eastern Conference, the Springfield Falcons host the Hershey Bears at 7:30PM. This is the only visit of the season by the Bears to Springfield. I'll have a recap of the game here on The Cannon.

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