Pre Holiday Updates

After a little, oh, two week break from any writing, time to get this thing updated.

Let’s start with a few signing announcements:

-On Tuesday a pair of 2012 draft picks, both names familiar in Albany, agreed in principle to entry level deals.  The first announcement was for forward Ben Johnson, a 3rd round selection who appeared in 5 games as an amateur tryout at the end of the regular season after finishing his third year with Windsor in the OHL.  The second is fourth round choice Ben Thomson, who participated in Albany’s training camp in September before returning to Kitchener in the OHL.  Thomson split the season between Kitchener and North Bay, scoring 45 points in 55 games and adding 14 points in 22 playoff games for North Bay.  There is a chance Johnson could return to Windsor next season for his overage year.  In Lou We Trust posted a scouting report earlier today on both Bens and also Graham Black.

-We have our first A-Devil moving on, as earlier this week forward Harri Pesonen signed a two year deal in Switzerland, for Lausanne in the NLA.

-As for the Calder Cup…we are down to the final four teams, as the Conference Finals get underway tomorrow in the West and Saturday in the East.  Here are the second round results:

Eastern Conference:

(4) St. John’s eliminated (8) Norfolk 4-2

(6) Wilkes-Barre/Scranton eliminated (7) Providence 4-3

Western Conference:

(1)Texas eliminated (4) Grand Rapids 4-2

(3) Toronto swept (2) Chicago 4-0

With the Griffins out, there will once again be a new Calder Cup champion.  All four remaining teams are looking for their first Cup, with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton being the closest, finishing as runners up in 2001 (Saint John), 2004 (Milwaukee), and 2008 (Chicago).  Toronto finished as the runner up to Norfolk in 2012.  Texas and St. John’s are looking for their first ever Finals appearance.

And to think, if only things had gone differently in the first round, Albany could have had home ice once again…

-Meanwhile over in Belarus, there is one A-Devil participating in this year’s World Championships.  Raman Hrabarenka (well, Roman Graborenko according to the official roster) has appeared in 7 games for the host country, posting 2 assists.

 

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Devils Season 4 in Review, Part 3: My Favorite Things

It’s that time again, the annual Year in Review.  As I have done the past three seasons, I will break down the year in 3 parts: the stats, some fun with numbers, and a few memories of the season gone by.

Welcome to the final part, My Favorite Things (formerly called What I Learned).  Considering the number of games I attended during the course of the season (about, oh, a lot), along with player events and post game interactions, there were quite a few interesting stories to remember this year by.  Here’s just a few of my memories:

Now, I’ve made it pretty obvious that Mike Sislo has grown to be my favorite Devil.  So, yeah, it was awesome to actually be on hand in Wilkes-Barre when he did this in November:

I’m still kicking myself for not going to Dunkin a month ago before the second job…then again if Dan Kelly saw me in line he’d probably make me pay up.  Just because that’s the way he is with me.

Still laughing over #JoeWhitneyFacts in honor of Joe’s NHL debut back in January.  Too bad most of them have disappeared since then.

Most awkward road trip?  The schoolday fail in Bridgeport.  Apparently half of Connecticut can’t drive in wet snow shower conditions.  And a bunch of us from upstate NY could.

Sweet golf visor, Seth. (from the Bowlathon in December)

Sweet golf visor, Seth. (from the Bowlathon in December)

-And now the best of That Awkward Moment…

...when the Joe Whitney bobblehead towers over the Tim Sestito one.

…when the Joe Whitney bobblehead towers over the Tim Sestito one.

-when you check in at the hotel in Wilkes-Barre you discover you’re on the same floor as the team.  During pregame naptime.

-when Brandon Burlon turns into Spiderman to retrieve a soccer ball in the ceiling.

41714 006 41714 007

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

-when watching soccer you volunteer to grab a loose ball…and end up kicking it further down Exhibition Hall.

-when half the team accidentally boards the wrong bus in Glens Falls.  Don’t think you want to go to Philly with the Phantoms, guys.

-when Alexander Urbom nearly walks in front of your car as you’re leaving the parking garage.  Pay attention, will you?

Then there was the easy way to replace the glass in the arena…and it happened twice in a month (first comes about :57 in):

Most adventurous road trip?  A tie…getting stuck in a snow squall in November coming home from Glens Falls and my 600 mile odyssey through 3 different cities in early April (Syracuse to Wilkes-Barre, Wilkes-Barre to Glens Falls).  I don’t know how these guys can play with that kind of travel…just driving it fried me.  And the fact Interstate 81 between Syracuse and Binghamton is essentially a black hole of nothing.

Favorite postgame activity: being a temporary babysitter for Tim Sestito’s two kids.  I couldn’t leave the building without at least a big hug from Sloane or having to chase Jude around to catch him.

Most used Twitter hashtag:

DSCN5141

 

When it gets to the point where Harry himself (who would jokingly roll his eyes at us if we dared forget the signs) came up with his own to get him in the lineup (Young Caged), you know it’s bad.  Other overused ones: #FreeHoeffel, #FreeScarlett, and very popular towards the end of the season, #whyisurbomstillhere.  And the usual #Blame (insert ref here…a few got that treatment this year too).

And now a few thank yous:

-To my fellow AHL bloggers/tweeters for the support and kind words, especially during tough losing streaks and down the stretch getting into the postseason.

-To my friends in New Jersey for the laughs and countless jokes about a whole variety of things…and certain photos of Swedish defensemen…and the support in the postseason as well.

-To the crew at home for helping me with tweets, keeping me laughing even on days when games were going badly, and keeping the players (and goalie coaches) in line.

-To the players, thank you for being awesome and for the most fun I’ve had in four years of having the Devils back in Albany.  Hopefully you can build on this going into next season.

And thank you for reading and following along!  Just under 5 months before Season 5 begins…

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Devils Season 4 in Review, Part 2: Fun with Numbers

It’s that time again, the annual Year in Review.  As I have done the past three seasons, I will break down the year in 3 parts: the stats, some fun with numbers, and a few memories of the season gone by.

Welcome to Part 2, where I have some fun with numbers.  All in random order (translation: as I think of them):

9: AHL cities I saw at least one game (Albany, Adirondack, Binghamton, Bridgeport, Hartford, Wilkes-Barre, Worcester, Syracuse, Springfield)

2: AHL Player of the Week awards (Keith Kinkaid in November, Scott Wedgewood in March)

35: Players who made at least one appearance this season.

10: Players who made at least one appearance in New Jersey.

4: Devils who made their NHL debut (Merrill, Boucher, Sislo, Whitney)

53: Shots in a 4-3 loss to Adirondack on April 6th.

1: Shots in the third period in a 4-3 shootout loss to Hartford on February 1st.

14: Combined goals by the Devils and Bridgeport on November 30th (Devils won 8-6).

45: Games in which Albany scored first.

14: 1 goal wins.

4: Wins against the Western Conference (all against Utica).

93: New franchise record for points in a season.

9: Players with 10+ goals.

4: Goalies used during the regular season.

2: Penalty shot attempts for Harri Pesonen on October 25th against Hartford.

2: Successful penalty shots during the season (Tim Sestito and Artem Demkov)

8,026: Attendance for Game 2 against St. John’s on April 26th (a new AHL Albany record)

0: Non-shootout overtime wins.

8: Most goals in a game, accomplished twice (11/30 vs. Bridgeport, 1/17 at Utica)

0: Wins in 4 Atlantic City “home” games.

9: Shutouts by Devils goaltending.

0: Wins against Worcester and Hershey.

7: Most goals allowed (2/16 vs. Bridgeport).

6: Longest winning streak, from December 4-21.

10: Rookies that made at least one appearance.

1: Goal scored on Michael Hutchinson in two games in St. John’s during the first round.

4: Power play goals scored in the first two games against St. John’s.

16: Years since a New Jersey AHL team won a playoff series (River Rats defeated Hamilton in the ’98 CC Playoffs).

 

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Playoffs Recap, Week 2: The Final Act

As the saying goes, all good things must come to an end.  Sadly this week, that came true for Albany, who saw their first round series with the IceCaps go off the tracks once they reached Canada, only managing one goal in their final two games.  On with the final recap of the season:

Game 3: St. John’s 1, Albany 0

The series shifted to Newfoundland on Wednesday night, where a sold out whiteout was in effect.   The Icecaps dominated in shots during the first period, outshooting the Devils 17-6.  But Keith Kinkaid was up to the challenge, making quite a few big stops early on.  But off a Darcy Zajac turnover, Kael Mouillerat would breakaway and score with 2:10 left in the period for a 1-0 lead.  And that goal would stand up for goaltender Michael Hutchinson, as he only had to stop 8 Devil shots in the second period.  Third period Albany would outshoot St. John’s 10-5, but with still nothing getting past Hutchinson, it was too little too late.  Hutchinson would stop all 24 Albany shots, and the Devils found themselves in a 2-1 series hole.  Kinkaid was outstanding in net, stopping 34 of 35 shots.  The penalty kill was a little busy thanks to 3 minors in a span of 8 minutes from Jon Merrill, among others, but managed to go 6 for 6.

Lines:

Joe Whitney-Tim Sestito-Mike Sislo

Reid Boucher-Scott Timmins-Harri Pesonen

Mattias Tedenby-Kelly Zajac-Stefan Matteau

Darcy Zajac-Chris McKelvie-Rod Pelley

Extra: Cam Janssen, Mike Hoeffel, David Wohlberg, Cam Janssen, Graham Black, Ben Johnson

Defense Pairings:

Jon Merrill/Alexander Urbom

Seth Helgeson/Corbin McPherson

Eric Gelinas/Adam Larsson

Extra: Brandon Burlon, Raman Hrabarenka, Reece Scarlett, Dan Kelly (inj.)

Game 4: St. John’s 4, Albany 1

Throw in all the must win cliches you want and they all would describe the Devils situation going into Friday night’s Game 4.  Unlike the night before, Albany outshot the hosts 12-6 in the first period.  But it was former River Rat killer Andrew Gordon (who was a key cog in sweeping the River Rats in their last ever playoff series while with Hershey) who got the IceCaps on the board 3:47 into the first.  He would then add a shorthanded goal 8 minutes into the second for a 2-0 lead.  Jon Merrill would answer less than 2 minutes later with a goal of his own, cutting the lead to 2-1.  But that was all the offense the Devils could muster.  Gordon would singlehandedly put the nail in the proverbial coffin by completing the hat trick on a power play late in the second for a 3-1 advantage.   John Albert would add a goal to make it a 3 goal lead.  And Michael Hutchinson took care of the rest, stopping 39 of 40 Devil shots on the night, and in turn ending the Devils season with a 3-1 series win.  Keith Kinkaid stopped 29 of 33 shots, but had no help offensively over the last two games.  Eric Gelinas was the only Devil to finish above even in plus/minus, but he was forced to leave in the second due to injury.

Lines:

Stefan Matteau-Kelly Zajac-Mattias Tedenby

Harri Pesonen-Scott Timmins-Reid Boucher

Chris McKelvie-Rod Pelley-Darcy Zajac

Mike Sislo-Joe Whitney-Tim Sestito

Extra: Cam Janssen, David Wohlberg, Mike Hoeffel, Ben Johnson, Graham Black

Defense Pairings:

Seth Helgeson/Corbin McPherson

Jon Merrill/Alexander Urbom

Eric Gelinas/Adam Larsson

Extra: Dan Kelly (inj), Brandon Burlon, Raman Hrabarenka, Reece Scarlett

Around the League:

Upset specials all over the Eastern Conference, as all 3 division champions are out. The top 4 seeds in the West all advance.

East: (1) Manchester eliminated by (8) Norfolk 3-1

(2) Springfield eliminated by (7) Providence 3-2

(3) Binghamton eliminated by (6) Wilkes-Barre/Scranton 3-1

West: (1) Texas sweeps (8) Oklahoma City 3-0

(2) Chicago eliminates (7) Rochester 3-2

(3) Toronto sweeps (6) Milwaukee 3-0

(4) Grand Rapids eliminates (5) Abbotsford 3-1

The second round gets underway tomorrow in St. John’s.  To think, if Albany had made it out of the first round, they would have been the top seed remaining in the East and have home ice.  Oh what could have been…

Playoff Stat Leaders:

Goals: Six tied with 1

Assists: Kelly Zajac (2)

Points: 4 tied with 2

+/-: 3 tied with +1

Penalty Minutes: Jon Merrill (10)

Keith Kinkaid final stats: 1-3, 2.26 GAA, .932 Save Percentage

Orlando Update:

Unfortunately for the Solar Bears, they saw their season come to an end Tuesday night on home ice against Cincinnati, falling in Game 6 2-1 and losing their first round series 4 games to 2.  Maxime Clermont did not play in the final game due to injury.  He finishes his season with a combined 11-12-2 record and a 3.35 GAA , and 1-2 with a 2.03 GAA and one shutout in 3 appearances in the postseason.

What’s Next?

The season may be over, but I have some unfinished business: the other two parts of my season review.  Look for those later this week.

I will also be bringing back the Free Agent Tracker in July and recapping this year’s NHL Draft class.

And keeping up to date with signings, schedule hints, and any other newsworthy items as the summer goes on.

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Photo Gallery: Calder Cup, Round 1

Mattias Tedenby

Mattias Tedenby

Jon Merrill

Jon Merrill

Eric Gelinas & Darcy Zajac

Eric Gelinas & Darcy Zajac

Alexander Urbom

Alexander Urbom

Stefan Matteau

Stefan Matteau

Adam Larsson

Adam Larsson

Joe Whitney

Joe Whitney

Mike Sislo

Mike Sislo

 

 

 

 

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Playoffs Recap, Week 1: Heartbreak and a Split

For the first time in 4 years, I finally got to experience playoff hockey without having to drive 2+ hours away and live vicariously through other teams.

And if the last two days are any indication, I want to do this for, oh, three more rounds, if possible.

Looking back at the beginning of a very intense first two games between the Devils and St. John’s, which ended in a split as the best of five shifts way north this week:

Game 1: St. John’s 2, Albany 1

The series began Friday night on home ice, but it was the visitors who drew the first strike.  Eric O’Dell would put the IceCaps up 1-0 4:29 into the first period.  Albany would respond early in the second on a power play goal by Joe Whitney to tie things up at 1.  It then turned into an offensive struggle as both teams locked in defensively and the intensity grew as the game carried into the third.  And not to mention quite a few questionable calls from the referees (which is standard for Chris Brown, but more so now in the postseason).  Just as all 6500 in the building were expecting the battle to carry over into overtime, Keith Kinkaid would misplay the puck by the net and Ben Chiarot would score with just 23.1 seconds left in the third period, giving St. John’s the win and a 1-0 series lead.  Kinkaid stopped 30 of 32 shots in the loss.  Jon Merrill and Mike Sislo had the lone assists.

Lines:

Rod Pelley-Darcy Zajac-David Wohlberg

Scott Timmins-Reid Boucher-Harri Pesonen

Joe Whitney-Mike Sislo-Tim Sestito

Kelly Zajac-Mattias Tedenby-Stefan Matteau

Extra: Chris McKelvie, Cam Janssen, Mike Hoeffel, Ben Johnson, Graham Black

Defense Pairings:

Dan Kelly/Adam Larsson

Seth Helgeson/Corbin McPherson

Eric Gelinas/Jon Merrill

Extra: Alexander Urbom, Brandon Burlon, Raman Hrabarenka, Reece Scarlett

Game 2: Albany 4, St. John’s 2

It was a quick turnaround for the Devils in Game 2, as they faced a virtual must win situation.  Much like in Game 1, it was the IceCaps who got the early lead, this time from Brenden Kichton 10 minutes into the first period.  But Reid Boucher would answer a minute later with his first postseason goal to tie the game at 1.  Stefan Matteau would then give Albany their first lead of the series with a power play goal late in the period for a 2-1 advantage.  Kichton would tie the game at 2 on a power play goal early in the second.  But less than 3 minutes later Mattias Tedenby would give the Devils the lead for good with a power play goal of his own.  Scott Timmins would add an insurance power play marker halfway through the third to seal the win for Albany, and in the process tying the series up at 1 apiece.  Keith Kinkaid got the start again and stopped 30 of 32 shots (that sounds like a pattern) and picked up #1 star honors.  Kelly Zajac added two assists.  And the power play finished at 3-for-9 (and there could have been more power play opportunities but the refs missed a few yet again).

Lines:

Chris McKelvie-Rod Pelley-Darcy Zajac

Joe Whitney-Tim Sestito-Mike Sislo

Stefan Matteau-Mattias Tedenby-Kelly Zajac

Scott Timmins-Harri Pesonen-Reid Boucher

Extra: Cam Janssen, Mike Hoeffel, David Wohlberg, Ben Johnson, Graham Black

Defense Pairings:

Adam Larsson/Eric Gelinas

Alexander Urbom/Jon Merrill

Seth Helgeson/Corbin McPherson

Extra: Brandon Burlon, Dan Kelly, Raman Hrabarenka, Reece Scarlett

Around the League:

So how are the rest of the conference quarterfinals going?  Here’s a quick update:

East: (1) Manchester-(8) Norfolk: tied at 1

(2) Springfield-(7) Providence: Springfield leads 2-1

(3) Binghamton-(6) Wilkes-Barre/Scranton: tied at 1

West: (1) Texas-(8) Oklahoma City: Texas leads 2-0

(2) Chicago-(7) Rochester: tied at 1

(3) Toronto-(6) Milwaukee: Toronto leads 2-0

(4) Grand Rapids-(5) Abbotsford: Grand Rapids leads 2-0

We could have our first team heading to the semifinals as early as Tuesday.

Orlando Update:

The Solar Bears are not done yet.  After falling 3-0 in their Kelly Cup Eastern Conference quarterfinal series vs. Cincinnati, they have won their last two to send the series back to Florida for Game 6 on Tuesday night.  Maxime Clermont played a huge role in extending the series by shutting out the Cyclones 2-0 on Friday evening, stopping all 25 shots.  He did not play in Saturday’s 3-2 overtime win.

This Week’s Schedule:

The series shifts 1600 miles to the northeast to Newfoundland.  Game 3 comes on Wednesday night at the always sold out Mile One Centre, with a 6 PM EST start (reminder: NST is 1 and a half hours ahead).  Game 4 follows on Friday evening, and if needed Game 5 on Saturday.  I will not be around for Game 3 due to work, but will have tweets for Game 4 and if needed, Game 5.

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Calder Cup Preview, Round 1: Albany (5) vs. St. John’s (4)

Where: Times Union Center, Albany, NY (Games 1 & 2); Mile One Centre, St. John’s, NFLD, Canada (Games 3-5).

When: 

Game 1 at Albany: Friday, April 25th, 7:00 PM.

Game 2 at Albany: Saturday, April 26th, 7:00 PM.

Game 3 at St. John’s: Wednesday, April 30th, 7:30 PM NDT (6:00 PM EST).

*Game 4 at St. John’s: Friday, May 2nd, 7:30 PM NDT (6:00 PM EST).

*Game 5 at St. John’s: Saturday, May 3rd, 7:30 PM NDT (6:00 PM EST).

*if necessary

Regular Season Series:

The two teams did not meet during the regular season.  St. John’s won the season series 3-1 during the 2012-13 season.

2013-14 Records:

St. John’s: 46-23-2-5, 99 points, 2nd place in Atlantic Division, 4th in Eastern Conference

Albany: 40-23-5-8, 93 points, 2nd place in Northeast Division, 5th in Eastern Conference

Rosters:

St. John’s IceCaps

Albany Devils

St. John’s by the Numbers:

Home: 23-10-2-3. Road: 23-13-0-2.

Power Play: 18.1% (13th in AHL). Penalty Kill: 83.5% (9th).

Goals For/Game: 3.39 (3rd). Goals Against/Game: 2.72 (10th).

Leading Scorers (top 5): Jason Jaffray (59); Jerome Samson/Andrew Gordon (56); Kael Mouillierat (53); Brenden Kichton (48).

Goals: Jerome Samson (27)

Assists: Jason Jaffray (41)

Plus/Minus: Ben Chiarot (+29)

Penalty Minutes: J.C. Lipon (136)

Wins: Michael Hutchinson/Eddie Pasquale (17)

GAA: Michael Hutchinson (2.30)

Save Percentage: Michael Hutchinson (.923)

Albany by the Numbers:

Home: 24-9-3-2. Road: 16-14-2-6.

Power Play: 16.2% (21st in AHL). Penalty Kill: 82.7% (14th).

Goals For/Game: 2.89 (16th). Goals Against/Game: 2.54 (6th).

Leading Scorers (top 5): Joe Whitney (53); Kelly Zajac (44); Mike Sislo (41); Scott Timmins (39); Reid Boucher (38)

Goals: Mike Sislo (23)

Assists: Kelly Zajac (32)

Plus/Minus: Corbin McPherson (+16)

Penalty Minutes: Seth Helgeson (100)

Wins: Keith Kinkaid (24)

GAA: Keith Kinkaid (2.29)

Save Percentage: Keith Kinkaid (.912)

Media/Blog Coverage:

St. John’s: The Telegram, Rinkside Report

Albany: Times Union, The Daily Gazette

Listen/Watch:

St. John’s: Official Website, Rogers TV/Eastlink TV

Albany: AHL Live

Twitter:

St. John’s: @IceCapsAHL, @telybrendan, @CharlesMDart

Albany: @AlbanyDevils, @Pete_Dougherty, @Bill_Cain_

Predictions?

I am no good at seeing how things will play out, especially with a team I did not see during the regular season.  But what I can say is, if the Devils want to advance to the second round (and they can do it), no worse than a 1-1 split on home ice (which, yes, is pretty obvious).  And the defense needs to keep the third best offense in the league at bay, which they have the ability to do.  And it doesn’t hurt that they come in riding a 5 game winning streak.  If they can play like they did during those five games, big things will happen.

I’m not expecting a 3-0 sweep from either side, but if you had to twist my arm…I’ll say Albany in 4.  But I also would not be surprised to see this go all 5 games.

 

 

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