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Barons: Weekly Report 4/3
Barons clinch first-ever playoff berth
4/3/04 - by Craig Haueter

The Cleveland Barons clinched their first-ever AHL Calder Cup Playoff berth Friday night with a 3-1 victory over the Toronto Roadrunners at Ricoh Coliseum. With a record of 34-27-7-7, the Barons have clinched their first winning record in the three-year history of the franchise. Improving their overall point total by 30 points from last season, the Barons are the AHL's most-improved team. With the playoff spot clinched, the Barons playoff seed is still uncertain. Currently, the Barons sit in a third place tie with Rochester in the North Division standings. Syracuse, with 89 points, sits seven points ahead of the Barons and Americans, while Toronto sits just three points behind.

The playoff format requires the fourth and fifth place teams in each division to play a best-of-three series in the Qualifying Round at the fourth seed's home rink. The winner of that series then plays the division's top seed, with the second and third seeds facing off. All series, excluding the best-of-three Qualifying Round, will be a best-of-seven format. Cleveland has five games remaining in the regular season-tonight at division leader Hamilton, then back at Gund Arena to face Syracuse, Cincinnati and Utah, before finishing at Cincinnati next Saturday night.

In the Barons win Friday night at Toronto, Patrick Rissmiller recorded his first multi-point game since December 29th and Nolan Schaefer made 23 saves. Aaron Gill, making his professional debut, scored the game-winning goal. Due to injuries, Cleveland added two new forwards to their lineup for the game. Frank Littlejohn joined the Barons from Adirondack of the UHL and Gill signed an ATO agreement out of Notre Dame University. Gill closed his Notre Dame hockey career on Saturday night at the NCAA Midwest Regionals with a goal and an assist in the 5-2 Irish loss to the University of Minnesota. He is expected to remain with the Barons throughout the remainder of the season.

Barons notes

Cleveland heads into the final week of the regular season pretty banged up. Miroslav Zalesak and Ryane Clowe have groin injuries, Craig Valette has an ankle injury, and a couple of reserve defensemen are nursing injuries as well.

Known in recent years as a team that has looked towards the collegiate ranks and Germany for its prospects, the Sharks still had a solid corps of players in major juniors in 2003-04, headlined by two prospects who were two of the QMJHL's leading scorers. Moncton Wildcats right winger Steve Bernier registered 82 points in 66 games. Bernier ended the regular season on an 11-game scoring streak. Quebec Remparts center Josh Hennessy tallied 40 goals and 42 assists while serving as the Rempart's captain.

The Barons converted not one but two short-handed goals last Sunday at home versus the Syracuse Crunch. In the midst of a Cleveland comeback from a 4-1 deficit in the third period, both Marcel Goc and Shane Joseph scored on the penalty kill against Crunch goalie Karl Goehring.

Defenseman Matt Carkner has been named the Barons winner of the American Speciality/AHL Man of the Year award for his outstanding contributions to the Cleveland community and charitable organizations during the season. With twelve rookies on the roster, Carkner as Assistant Captain has accepted his position as a team leader and role model.

Rookie defenseman Garrett Stafford picked up some recognition of his own this week. Stafford was named to the AHL All-Rookie team and to the AHL Second All-Star team as voted by AHL players and media. Stafford is the first Barons player to be honored on the AHL All-Star team. Competing for roster spots at both the Los Angeles Kings and Dallas Stars training camps, Stafford was signed to a try-out contract by the Barons at the start of the season. After posting 14 points in the first 20 games, the Sharks inked Stafford to a standard player contract on December 9th.

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