One more for the road

With two goals in the Toronto Marlies’s 5-0 win over the Grand Rapids Griffins on Sunday afternoon, center Keith Aucoin hit a rare American league milestone, becoming just the 11th player in league history to record 800 points.

The milestone marker came on a 2-on-1 rush to open the scoring 18 seconds into the second period as the Waltham, Massachusetts native tapped a pass from Ryan Hamilton passed Grand Rapids goalie Thomas McCollum. In scoring the goal, Aucoin passed Bruce Boudreau, who coached Aucoin in Washington for 22 games over three seasons.

A slick playmaker since his days at Norwich University, Aucoin’s most successful seasons came with the Hershey Bears where he played from from 2008-09 until last season. In four years, he put up 89 goals and 344 points in only 238 regular season games while leading them to consecutive Calder Cup championships. Even he was surprised the point came on a goal due to his clear preference to pass the puck. As he told the Toronto Star:

“It’s a great accomplishment,” said Aucoin of hitting the 800-point plateau. “It’s moments like this that I’ll look back on and remember what a career it was. I was just hoping (the 800th point) would be an assist because I pass the puck more than I shoot it.”

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This is shaping up to be a big season for Aucoin, who is quickly rising among the ranks of the most prolific scorers in American League history. He started the season in 16th place with 777 points and is already 11th just 24 games in. Within his sights are Bill Sweeney (804 points), Mitch Lamoureux (816 points), Jim Anderson (821 points) and Harry Pidhirny (829 points), all of whom should be no problem to reach for the 34-year-old. Add another point-per-game season next year and he is a top-five point scorer in league history.

Though he has never been able to hold down a spot in the NHL, he has played 102 career games including a season-high 38 with Carolina in 2007-08. He has likely earned himself a spot in the Hall of Fame for the second-best league in the world. All in all, it’s not a bad career for a player who went undrafted.

Aucoin is currently tied with Nazem Kadri for the team lead in scoring with 24 points and playing with the youngster, who is finally hitting his stride on the professional level, is keeping Aucoin feeling fresh at an age where many careers are in decline. He told the Toronto Sun earlier this season that he feels 10 years younger than he is which is excellent news for the Marlies, who made it to the Calder Cup final last season due to a strong defense, but were swept by the Norfolk Admirals because they only managed four goals in the series.

A game-breaker with experience going deep into the playoffs and winning is a welcome addition for any team and should make for many exciting moments in the Big Smoke.

Meanwhile, Aucoin’s mark was not the only milestone hit this past weekend. Ben Duffy scored his 122nd and 123rd career goals for the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s Prince Edward Island Rocket. The goals came during a 6-3 victory over the Saint John Sea Dogs on Sunday night as Duffy became the team’s all-time leading goal scorer.

Duffy, a 20-year-old from Sackville, Nova Scotia, passed David Laliberte, who recorded 121 goals from 2002-03 through 2006-07 and, in typical hockey fashion, was very humble and passed credit to his teammates after the game. From the Rocket’s official website:

“It’s pretty special,” said Duffy. “I’ve been here for four and a half years and to get rewarded for your hard work over the years is pretty cool.”

Duffy is having a career year in his fifth season of major junior, on pace to record career highs of 46 goals, 70 assists and 116 points. He, along with Josh Currie who has 30 goals and 61 points this season, are the top two scorers in the league this season, six points up on Halifax’s Nathan MacKinnon. They have led PEI to a dramatic turnaround as they already have as many wins as they did all last season. They now have a 19-13-2 record, moving them into eighth place overall in the QMJHL with 40 points.

This is Duffy’s last eligible season of major junior and this about-face from last year must have him excited for the playoffs. During his tenure, the Rocket have not only failed to win a series, but have won only three playoffs games in four seasons, missing the tournament last year entirely.

It was a solid weekend for Aucoin and Duffy, who both hit rare marks, but you can bet they aren’t satisfied with their individual numbers. From Aucoin helping the Marlies finish the job they started last season to Duffy trying to reach heights he has yet to see with the Rocket, their personal accomplishments will only matter if their teams are just as successful too.

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