Cunneyworth, Krog and Darche revel in early-season AHL success

The Amerks have won 12 of 13 games for 24 of a possible 26 points by playing the diligent two-way hockey that head coach Randy Cunneyworth preaches. They don’t have a player among the AHL’s top 20 scorers. What they do have are four solid lines that provide a heap of lineup balance, a strong defence corps, and impressive goaltending.

Clarke MacArthur of Lloydminster, Alta., a second-year pro out of the WHL’s Medicine Hat Tigers, and American-born forwards Michael Ryan, Drew Stafford and Drew Larman have supplied most of the goals up front.

The nucleus of the defence corps is comprised of Brandon Smith of Hazelton, B.C., rookie Mike Funk of Abbotsford, B.C., via the WHL’s Portland Winter Hawks, Czech Martin Lojek, who is a team-best plus-12 on the plus-minus scale, and Russian Alexei Semenov, who the Edmonton Oilers gave up on last November.

American Craig Anderson, Adam Dennis of Toronto and Quebecer Jean-Marc Pelletier each have four goaltending wins for the Amerks. Dennis, who helped the London Knights win the Memorial Cup in 2005, has a 2.40 goals-against average and a .937 save percentage.

Jason Krog of the Chicago Wolves leads the AHL scoring race with 29 points (10-19). The 31-year-old centre from Fernie, B.C., spent the last two years playing in Austria, Switzerland and Sweden. He signed with the Atlanta Thrashers last July.

Mathieu Darche of the Worcester Sharks has scored 14 goals in 13 games. The 29-year-old native of St-Laurent, Que., played in Germany last winter. He was a free agent when he signed with San Jose last July.

The winningest goaltender is the Norfolk Admirals’ Corey Crawford, the Montrealer who played in the QMJHL for the Moncton Wildcats, with an 8-2 record, 2.34 goals-against average and .922 save percentage. The Hershey Bears’ Frederic Cassivi of Sorel, Que., who had cups of NHL coffee with Atlanta and Washington, is 7-1 with a 2.38 GAA and .925 save percentage.

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Troy Brouwer of Vancouver is the leading rookie goal-scorer in the AHL with 10 in 14 games with Norfolk. Brouwer scored 49 goals last season for the WHL’s Moose Jaw Warriors. The six-foot-three right-winger was Chicago’s 13th pick, 214th overall, in the 2004 entry draft.

In the ECHL, Brad Schell of Scott, Sask., leads all point-getters with 24 (5-19) for Georgia’s Gwinnett Gladiators. The third-year pro was the Thrashers’ sixth choice, 167th overall, in 2002 out of the WHL’s Spokane Chiefs.

Arpad Mihaly of Pennsylvania’s Reading Royals has scored 11 goals in 10 games. The six-foot-four forward is the first Romanian-born pro to sign and play in North America.

Goaltender Steve Silverthorn of Owen Sound, Ont., is off to a sensational 8-1 start with the Idaho Steelheads. The second-year pro via Colgate University has a .928 save percentage.

“It all started last year with him,” coach Derek Laxdal reported. “He went 15-5 down the stretch for us.

“He’s just a super kid and he’s got a terrific work ethic. He’s one of those guys that has a terrific head on his shoulders.”

Former NHL forward Greg Pankewicz of Drayton Valley, Alta., 36, is having another all-star season in the Central Hockey League with 14 goals in his first eight games this season with the Colorado Eagles.

American goalie Larry Sterling tops the Central with a 6-0 record with a 2.04 GAA and .924 save percentage with the Memphis RiverKings.