Welcome to the North

The first steps to the new look AHL arrived yesterday afternoon, as the league announced a divisional realignment for the 2015-16 season.  Three divisions in each conference were reduced to two, with one 7 team division and one 8 team division per conference.  With several teams moving west, a few Western Conference teams were moved east to make room.  Here are the new look divisions:

Eastern Conference

Atlantic Division: Bridgeport, Portland, Springfield, Providence, Hartford, Lehigh Valley, Hershey, Wilkes-Barre

North Division: Albany, Syracuse, Binghamton, Rochester, Utica, St. John’s, Toronto

Western Conference

Central Division: Charlotte, Lake Erie, Rockford, Grand Rapids, Iowa, Chicago, Manitoba, Milwaukee

Pacific Division: San Antonio, Texas, Stockton, San Jose, Bakersfield, San Diego, Ontario

My take: I got my wish of an all New York division, like in the late 1990s!  For the first time in a few years, Albany will finally get to face old Thruway rival Rochester, and more matchups with Utica look likely (and since the teams are about 80 miles apart…I expect to be going there a lot next season). It’s also an added bonus of having Toronto move over along with St. John’s, who had to fit in somewhere.  Having the New England and Pennsylvania teams grouped together is, well, interesting.  It also breaks up a little of the East Division/I-81 rivalry with Binghamton, Wilkes-Barre and to an extent Syracuse.  Most were expecting the Checkers to move back to the East with closest rival Norfolk gone (more on that in a bit), but it looks like more of  the usual air travel for the former River Rats once again next season.  The two Texas teams join with the new Western teams, who have been rumored to receive an unbalanced schedule due to travel and other factors, but we will have to wait until mid to late summer to find out if that comes to fruition.

So how did this come to be?  Here’s a quick review of all the moves/silly season happenings:

-Manchester will move to Ontario to become the Reign.  The Monarchs will switch to the ECHL and remain a Kings affiliate.

-Norfolk moves to San Diego and become the Gulls.  The Admirals will also switch to the ECHL, but as a Oilers affiliate instead of Anaheim.

-Adirondack moves to Stockton to become the Heat, while Glens Falls receives the Thunder as a Calgary ECHL affiliate. (Side note: I will not be surprised if Albany sends players there instead of Orlando next season.)

-Worcester moves to San Jose and will play as the Barracuda.  As of now no team has replaced the Sharks.

-Oklahoma City moves to Bakersfield to become the Condors.  No replacement for the Barons.

-St. John’s switches affiliations from Winnipeg to Montreal.  Hamilton leaves to join the OHL as the Bulldogs, while the old IceCaps return to Manitoba and bring back the Moose.

-A four way affiliation switch between San Antonio, Portland, Springfield, and Lake Erie: Florida switches from the Rampage to the Pirates; Columbus switches from the Falcons to the Monsters; Phoenix switches from the Pirates to the Falcons; and Colorado switches from the Monsters to the Rampage.

Got all that?  Good.  There will be a pop quiz later.

Anyway, back to the current postseason:

Manchester was the first team to punch its ticket to a conference final, finishing off the Penguins in 5 games last night.  Hershey and Hartford are tied at 2, with Game 5 coming this evening in Chocolatetown.  In the West, Grand Rapids leads Rockford 2-0 (Game 3 tonight), and Utica leads Oklahoma City 2-1 (with Game 3 also tonight).  Bears and Wolfpack fans will also be keeping an eye on Game 7 in New York this evening, as whoever loses between Washington and the Rangers will most likely get help back before Game 6 Friday night in Hartford.

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Sign on the Dotted Line…

Finally, the news most of us locally have been waiting for to become official has come.

Earlier today it was announced that the Devils have agreed to a new lease with Albany County and the Times Union Center.  What was hopefully going to be a multi year agreement is rumored to only be for the 2015-16 season.  I’m trying hard not to read too much into that, but with the recent upheaval of several AHL teams to be closer to their parent club (most recently Winnipeg moving their AHL team from St. John’s to Manitoba and bringing back the Moose), you have to at least think about what the future of professional hockey in the Capital District beyond next season will look like.  There are so many variables that will come into play for season #6 that could determine that, like on ice performance, marketing, visibility in the community, the arena itself, etc.  With the recent changing of the guard in New Jersey, one also wonders what kind of influence that will have on the roster.

Also announced in the press release: this year’s home opener, coming up on October 24th.  Judging by how late in the month that is, it appears the team will be starting the season on the road for the third straight year.  The awkward WP countdown square returns for the next 5 months!  Or, 169 days, 24 weeks, etc.

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Getting Caught Up…

Hello May.

Time to get up to speed on how the postseason is going for the AHL and ECHL…

-Orlando saw its season come to an end on Monday, dropping Game 6 of their East Division Semifinal series to Florida 1-0 in overtime.  Ben Johnson played well after returning to the roster after Albany’s season ended, notching 4 points (2 goals, 2 assists) and a +4 in 4 games.  Eric Baier scored a goal in Game 3 of the series, while Mike Keenan was held scoreless.  Alexandre Carrier did not make an appearance during the series, while Maxime Clermont managed to only make one relief appearance, stopping all 10 shots he faced in 24 minutes of work in Game 2.

-As for the Calder Cup playoffs?  Here’s where we stand after the first round:

Eastern Conference

(1) Manchester eliminated (8) Portland 3 games to 2

(2) Hershey eliminated (7) Worcester 3 games to 1

(3) Hartford eliminated (6) Providence 3 games to 2

(4) Wilkes-Barre/Scranton swept (5) Syracuse 3 games to 0

Unlike last year, when all 3 division winners were bounced after the first round, the top four seeds all advanced.

Manchester will face the Penguins while Hartford takes on Hershey in round 2, with both series beginning on Wednesday (both schedules can be found here).  You may notice that Hartford’s first two home games, Games 3 and 4 of the series, were moved to the DCU Center in Worcester.  Ringling Brothers is finishing up its run at the XL Center during that weekend, therefore the games had to be moved to another location.  It’s not the first time Hershey has had to play road games in a neutral location: back in the first round of the 2007 playoffs, the River Rats home games had to be moved to the Glens Falls Civic Center due to the same circus taking over the then Pepsi Arena.  If Albany had earned a spot this year, it may have run into the same scheduling conflict, as Ringling Brothers just finished its annual late April visit to the Times Union Center.

Western Conference

(1) Utica eliminated (8) Chicago 3 games to 2

(2) Grand Rapids eliminated (7) Toronto 3 games to 2

(6) Oklahoma City swept (3) San Antonio 3 games to 0

(4) Rockford swept (5) Texas 3 games to 0

With the Stars out of the running, that means we will again have a new Calder Cup champion come June.

And stick taps to the Griffins, who overcame a 2-0 deficit to win the final 3 games on home ice to move on.

Utica will take on the Barons starting on Thursday in New York while the Griffins will take on Rockford, their series begins Wednesday in Michigan (full schedule is here).

There is some local news, though:

-An interesting article out of the Daily Gazette popped up earlier this week about the economic impact the Devils have on the Capital Region.  It’s just one of the many factors to think about regarding the future of pro minor league hockey in the area.  Even though nothing has officially been signed for next season, it’s a safe bet that the Devils will at least be around for next year (I just finally renewed my season tickets if that’s any indication).

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Devils Season 5 in Review, Part 3: My Favorite Things

Welcome once again to the annual Season in Review.  As I have done the past four years, the review will be broken down into three parts: statistics, fun with numbers, and my favorite things from the season gone by.

Here it is, the final part, my favorite things (formerly called What I Learned).  There is always more to this hockey thing than tweeting, photo taking, recapping, etc.

While I was driving to Wilkes-Barre last weekend for my last road trip of the season, I started thinking about just how I wanted to look back on the last few months (and when you have 3 hours in the car you have a lot of time to think).  People, moments, things that happened on and off the ice.  Then it came to me…taking a page from In Lou We Trust I came up with some superlative awards to sum up the year for me.  So without further delay:

You’re Not Allowed to Leave. Ever.

Given to Graham Black for probably being the most well rounded Devil I have probably ever met in 5 years.  I felt sorry for the rookie, who played quite well for his first pro season despite injuries and illness limiting him to 46 games.

You’re Also Not Allowed to Leave. Ever.

Given to Matt Lorito who showed up on an amateur tryout in March, got a chance to play when Joe Whitney got hurt in Norfolk, and immediately made an impact playing on the top line.  Game winning goal in his pro debut, a shootout winner in Springfield in early April, and a record tying 5 points in his last game on April 15th.  He is already under an AHL contract for next season, and I hope the New Jersey brass was paying attention.

Best 1 Game Cameo Performance

Remember when Adam Larsson showed up for one game in December after getting over the mumps?  Not really?  It was because it was on the road in Wilkes-Barre on December 19th.  He contributed two assists in a 4-2 Devil win.

Best Multi Game Cameo Performance

Remember earlier in the season when Steve Bernier and Peter Harrold were here?  That lasted oh, about a month or so before both were summoned back to New Jersey.

Where Did This Guy Come From?

When I first saw Paul Thompson’s name on the training camp roster, I didn’t know much about him, so I asked my friends in Wilkes-Barre and Springfield for a scouting report.  Nowhere in that was just how much offense he would create.  Who would have guessed he would score 4 times in the season opener and go on to set the season franchise record for goals with 33?  And he will be re-signed in July to a 2 way deal, a well deserved one at that.

Best Player Performance That Ticked Off An Opposing Fanbase

Mark Fraser fighting J.P. Cote in Syracuse on December 20th…well the fight wasn’t the problem.  It was Fraser raising the roof as he skated to the penalty box after the fight.  He had his own “fan club” upon returning to the Salt City the day after Christmas (and had to answer to Eric Neilson in the first period).

Tough Building Award

The Broome County/Floyd Maines Veterans Memorial Arena in Binghamton has been a house of horrors for the Devils in recent years.  This year alone, they were outscored 13-3 in two games.  But when the Senators came to Albany, no issues in sweeping them.

Most Overused Hashtag

Of course it involved trying to get someone playing time.  This year’s campaign? #FreeFaust for rookie Joe Faust, who was stuck in the #7 defenseman slot, but filled in nicely when he actually did get to play.  Here’s to more playing time for him next season so I don’t have to wave to him from the concourse in Springfield.

Obligatory Fight of the Year, Bronze Medal

April 17th in Wilkes-Barre, Cam vs. PL3.

Obligatory Fight of the Year, Silver Medal

December 7th against Adirondack, Cam vs. Trevor Gillies.

Obligatory Fight of the Year, Gold Medal

November 28th in Atlantic City, Mark Fraser vs. Jay Rosehill.

Smartass Little Brother Award:

A few of us have been calling Dan Kelly this for awhile.  Battles for you on ice, has a sarcastic answer for everything off of it.  From the bobblehead reveal in January to bowling with him in February, we could always count on the 5 time voted Defensive Player of the Year (by the Booster Club) and the Albany choice for the AHL Man of the Year. (If you happen to read this, I mean it as a term of endearment.  Seriously. I do.)

Most Likely to be Found at a Thruway Rest Stop:

Given to Tim Sestito for being called up and sent down more times than necessary in a span of a week and a half.

Best Road Trip, Bronze Medal

February 27th in Syracuse, where the offense finally came alive in a much needed 7-6 win, only their second win in the month of February.

Best Road Trip, Silver Medal

April 17th in Wilkes-Barre.  All they did was put a four-spot on the league’s Rookie and Goaltender of the Year and shut out the Penguins in another tough building.

Best Road Trip, Gold Medal

I had maintained for years that I would never, ever set foot in Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall for a “home” game.  Well…this year things were different.  I had the time to actually make the trip there, and ended up witnessing the first OT win by a Devil team in nearly three years (a 4-3 overtime win over Lehigh Valley on December 14th).  And got a mini vacation on the Boardwalk as a nice bonus prize.  Heck, I may even do it again next year if the opportunity arises…well, at least this time I’ll pick a hotel that’s not next to an abandoned casino.

And now time for my favorite Game Break!  (The Rock as Darcy Zajac?  Nope.  But Channing Tatum as Corbin McPherson…where do I sign up as an extra?)

Now for a few thank yous:

-To my AHL friends, for the support and therapy sessions during the year (and for also making my first AHL All Star experience in Utica a lot of fun).

-To my New Jersey friends, for the support, the endless laughs, and also for the many therapy sessions during coaching changes, questionable callups, and goal droughts.

-To my friends at home for the help and keeping up with gameday habits like Moose calling and Instagramming certain announcers, among other things.

-Finally, to you the reader for following along and making me want to continue doing what I do!

Only a few months before Season 6 begins…that is, when the lease is finally signed.

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Devils Season 5 in Review, Part 2: Fun with Numbers

Welcome once again to the annual Season in Review.  As I have done the past four years, the review will be broken down into three parts: statistics, fun with numbers, and my favorite things from the season gone by.

Here we go with Part 2 and some random numbers from the season:

4,011: Attendance for the home opener, a 3-2 win on October 18th.

4: Goals by Paul Thompson in the season opener October 11 at Adirondack.

6: Shootout losses.

37: Players to appear in at least one game.

2: Players who made their NHL debut (Seth Helgeson & Raman Hrabarenka).

4: Goaltenders to appear in at least one game.

7,012: Season high attendance on January 24th, a 2-1 overtime loss to Worcester.

13: Players who appeared in at least one game for both Albany and New Jersey.

77: Most penalty minutes in one game, on February 22nd at Springfield (a 4-2 loss).

10: Different cities I saw at least one game (Albany, Atlantic City, Newark, Binghamton, Syracuse, Springfield, Worcester, Hartford, Bridgeport, Wilkes-Barre).

2: Penalty minutes in a 2-1 overtime loss at St. John’s on March 6th.

8: Number of times Tim Sestito was either called up or sent back from New Jersey between December 15th and January 27th.

3: Devils to earn their first NHL points (Seth Helgeson & Mike Sislo with assists, Joe Whitney with a goal)

1: Penalty shots awarded (Mike Sislo on 11/26) and also faced (Scott Wedgewood on 12/26).

3: Hat tricks, all by Paul Thompson.

10: Rounds for the longest shootout of the season, a loss to Syracuse on January 2nd.

7: Most goals allowed in one game, on November 8th in Bridgeport and November 22nd in Binghamton.

4: Wins against Lehigh Valley in a series sweep.

5: Total goals scored in 8 shootouts.

33: Times Albany scored the first goal.

6: Power play goals allowed in a 7-2 loss to Bridgeport on November 8th.

5: Wins against Bridgeport, the most against any opponent.

0: Wins against Hershey and Manchester.

33: Goals for Paul Thompson, a new franchise record.

79: Goals scored in the third period.

17: 1-goal victories.

10: Home point scoring streak for Scott Timmins, between October 18th and November 28th.

6: Road goal scoring streak for Stefan Matteau, starting from February 27th through the end of the season.

-5: Plus/minus rating for Raman Hrabarenka on November 22nd in Binghamton.

1: Shot allowed in the second period on January 31st vs. St. John’s.

0: Players to appear in all 76 games (Paul Thompson was the closest with 73).

7: Most goals scored in one game, on October 24th in Hartford (7-3 win), January 3rd in Bridgeport (7-4 win), and February 27th in Syracuse (7-6 win).

6: Shutouts by Devil goaltending.

26: Most penalty minutes by one player…Mike Sislo on February 22nd at Springfield (two abuse of official misconducts for arguing did the trick).

3: Shootout losses for Scott Wedgewood.

13: Majors for Ben Thomson (tied for first in the league among rookies).

42: Most saves in one game, by Scott Wedgewood on 12/30 vs. Providence.

5: Points for Matt Lorito, tying a franchise record, in a 6-2 win over Syracuse on April 15th.

I may add more to this list as I think of them…

 

 

 

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Monday Night Updates

It may be Day 2 of the offseason, but there’s quite a few news items to pass along:

-Congratulations to Joe Whitney, who was named the final AHL Player of the Week for his seven point performance in 3 games this week.  This is the second time this season he was given the honor…he also won for the week ending January 4th.

-Mike Keenan and Ben Johnson were sent to Orlando to help the Solar Bears with their Kelly Cup playoff run, which resumes Tuesday night at home against Florida.

-Stefan Matteau will be joining Team USA for the World Championships, which will take place in the Czech Republic from May 1st-15th.  Raman Hrabarenka is expected to join Team Belarus in the coming days.

-And finally if you’re interested, the full first round Calder Cup playoff schedule can be found here.  The postseason gets underway Wednesday night.

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Devils Season 5 In Review, Part 1: The Stats

Welcome once again to the annual Season in Review.  As I have done the past four years, the review will be broken down into three parts: statistics, fun with numbers, and my favorite things from the season gone by.

Here are the final numbers for the Devils for the 2014-15 season:

Record: 37-28-5-6, 85 points.  Home: 20-12-2-4.  Road: 17-16-3-2.

Leading Point Scorers (Top 5): Joe Whitney (60), Paul Thompson (55), Mike Sislo (40), Brandon Burlon (36), Reid Boucher (30)

Goals: Paul Thompson (33)

Assists: Joe Whitney (37)

Plus/Minus: Stefan Matteau/Graham Black (+9)

Penalty Minutes: Dan Kelly (130)

Power Play Goals: Paul Thompson (13)

Short Handed Goals: 6 tied with 1

Game Winning Goals: Joe Whitney/Paul Thompson (5)

Wins: Scott Wedgewood (13)

Shutouts: Scott Wedgewood/Scott Clemmensen (2)–both share a shutout

Minutes: Scott Wedgewood (2014:15)

Save Percentage: Keith Kinkaid (.923)

Goals Against Average: Keith Kinkaid (2.19)

Full listings of individual stats: Skaters. Goalies.

League Rankings:

Record: 37-28-5-6, 4th in Northeast Division, 10th in Eastern Conference, 18th overall.

Attendance: 3,323 average, 27th.

Penalty Minutes: 1,368 for an average of 18.00 per game. 8th.

Power Play: 19.2%, 5th.

Penalty Kill: 82.3%, 20th.

Shorthanded Goals: 6, tied for 8th.

Goals For/Game: 2.62, 24th.

Goals Against/Game: 2.64, 11th.

Shots For/Game: 28.93, 24th.

Shots Against/Game: 28.25, 5th.

Stay tuned for Parts 2 and 3, coming up later this week!

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