Tag Archives: AHL

On The Market

Before the free agency frenzy begins on Wednesday, two last pieces of business to tend to:

-All teams had until 5 PM today to tender qualifying offers to any restricted free agents.  New Jersey did just that with Stefan Matteau and Seth Helgeson.  However, qualifying offers were not in the cards for Maxime Clermont or Corbin McPherson, making both of them unrestricted free agents.

-Here’s another list to keep an eye on for organizational depth: the annual AHL Big Board is out.  With the original author moving on to greener pastures in Pittsburgh, our friends over at Chirps from Center Ice took over the project and enlisted several other bloggers, including myself, to help put the list together.  Unlike in past years where you had to nearly scroll all the way to the bottom to find any Devils, there are quite a few Albany UFAs in the top 100: Joe Whitney sits at 10, Paul Thompson at 21 (just behind former Devil Bobby Butler at 20), Scott Timmins at 47, Darcy Zajac at 68, and Scott Clemmensen at 72.  The Patriot News (who cover the Hershey Bears) did their own Top 100 list, complete with videos.

Unless anything earth shattering happens before Wednesday…the first Free Agent Tracker goes live at noon sharp on the 1st!

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It’s Been Awhile…

…since I last updated this thing.  Before I jump head first into local baseball season (which begins on Friday…those that follow me on Twitter have all been duly warned), how about some updates?

-Congratulations go to the Manchester Monarchs, who in their final season as an AHL franchise captured their first Calder Cup on Saturday evening by defeating Western Conference (now new division rival) Utica in 5 games.  Since I wasn’t able to get to the Aud for a game (when there’s a line around the corner hours before the box office opens, attempting Ticketmaster is pretty much going to be a fail), I did take advantage of the free AHL Live feed and watched parts of 3 of the games…and I have to tip my cap to the Comets fanbase.  You will never find a louder, more loyal group than that in any arena, whether minor or major league.  I even saw it first hand during the All Star festivities (and I’ll confess to jumping in on a few UTICA chants).

-When the first edition of this year’s Free Agent Tracker comes out on July 1st, you will notice that I have added a new list to go with who’s signed and who is up for free agency: those that have signed to entry level deals.  Since my last post, two more names have been added, with both names coming from overseas:

-Back on May 29th, New Jersey signed Russian forward Sergey Kalinin (terms as always undisclosed), who comes to North America after spending the last 5 seasons with Avangard Omsk of the KHL.  In 58 games last season he scored 25 points (12 G, 13 A) while serving as the team captain.

-Earlier today, a signing completely out of left field, as Czech defenseman Vojtech Mozik was signed to an entry level deal.  He spent the last 3 seasons with HC Plzen in the Czech Extraliga, where last season he notched 29 points in 51 games.  His 10 goals (a career high) lead the league among defensemen.

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Joining the Ranks

It’s been a relatively quiet month of May after a new general manager in New Jersey took the reins and after a sixth Albany season became official.

But…things are starting to pick up a little bit, and today saw the first wave of draft pick signings.  New Jersey announced earlier this afternoon that forwards Ryan Kujawinski and Blake Pietila have been signed to entry level contracts.

Kujawinski was drafted in the 3rd round and 73rd overall in 2013 by the Devils, and split last season between Kingston and North Bay of the OHL, appearing in 61 games and posting 59 points (34 G, 25 A), while adding an additional 9 points (6 G, 3 A) in 15 playoff games with North Bay.

Pietila, a 2011 5th round draft selection (129th overall), just completed a four year collegiate career at Michigan Tech.  He tied a career high with 14 goals during his senior season in 40 games while serving as co-captain of the Huskies.

Meanwhile, in other league news:

-Manchester can finish off the Eastern Conference finals as early as tonight with a victory over Hartford, which would finish off a sweep of the Wolfpack.  In the West, Utica and Grand Rapids are tied at 1, with the series shifting to Michigan beginning on Thursday.

-The 2016 AHL All Star Classic is a go…with Syracuse hosting the event on January 31st and February 1st.  Tickets for both the Skills Competition and the game officially went on sale earlier today.  No, I did not order my ticket…yet.  But all signs point to me making the trip west for the second straight event.

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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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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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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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Week 26 Recap: Not Going Away Quietly

A four out of six point week to start the month of April and the proverbial homestretch of the 2014-15 season.  But are these points going to be too little, too late?

4/1 vs. Manchester: 2-1 L

The April slate began on Wednesday with the final ever visit by the league leading Monarchs, fresh off clinching the first Calder Cup playoff spot the weekend before.  Even without the services of a few key players, the Devils held their own during the first…and got a gift goal towards the end of the period.  On a power play, Manchester goaltender J.F. Berube attempted the clear the puck, only to have rookie Matt Lorito steal it and score his second as a professional for a 1-0 Devil lead.  The Monarchs would take over in the second, outshooting the hosts 18-6 and tying the game up on a Nick Ebert tally.  Third period was literally all Monarchs, as it took Albany nearly 16 minutes to register a shot on goal.  Manchester would take the lead shorthanded on a Michael Mersch goal early in the period.  Albany could only manage 3 shots in the final period, all within the last 3:23, and lost ground to the Sharks and Falcons in the playoff chase.  Scott Clemmensen played well in taking the loss, stopping 27 of 29 shots.

Highlights:

Lines:

Matt Lorito-Scott Timmins-Paul Thompson

Tim Sestito-Graham Black-Mike Sislo

Chris McKelvie-Rod Pelley-Ben Thomson

Ben Johnson-Darcy Zajac-Cam Janssen

Extra: Joe Whitney, Kelly Zajac, David Wohlberg, Max Novak

Defense:

Dan Kelly/Raman Hrabarenka

Seth Helgeson/Reece Scarlett

Brandon Burlon/Corbin McPherson

Extra: Joe Faust, Mike Keenan

Thursday: Stick taps go to defenseman Dan Kelly, who was named the Albany recipient of the IOA/American Specialty AHL Man of the Year award, given for “outstanding contributions to the local community and charitable organizations.”  He is one of 30 players nominated for the league wide award, to be presented at a later date.

4/3 at Springfield: 1-0 W (SO)

In a scenario that affected not just the two teams involved, the Devils headed east for one last matchup against the Falcons, who were just barely on the outside looking in.  Much like the last time the two teams squared off, it became a scoreless duel between the goalies, as Scott Wedgewood and Scott Munroe were not allowing anything to get past them.  The only action at all during regulation?  A fight between Cam Janssen and Josh Anderson.  After a combined four play chances–3 for Albany, 1 for Springfield–didn’t produce anything, it was on to overtime.  Springfield had a huge opportunity to end the game on a 4 on 3 when Mike Sislo would get called for a hook with 2:16 to go, but the Devils would manage to kill it off and go to the shootout, where Springfield had a 5-0 record going into the night.  After Paul Thompson and Sislo were stopped, Wedgewood stopped T.J. Tynan and Sean Collins.  Then finally in round 3, it was the rookie again to the rescue…Matt Lorito would finally break the scoreless deadlock.  Wedgewood would stop Michael Chaput and earn his second shutout of the season, stopping all 32 shots in the first 65 minutes then 3 more in the bonus round.  The game also marked the pro debut for Max Novak, who managed 2 shots on goal while playing on the third line.  The Devils second shootout win of the season had an effect on the Eastern Conference playoff picture, as it enabled Syracuse to be the third East team to get an X next to their name, even after melting down in a 6-4 loss to the Wolfpack.

Highlights:

Lines:

Matt Lorito-Scott Timmins-Paul Thompson

Ben Thomson-Graham Black-Mike Sislo

Max Novak-Rod Pelley-Ben Johnson

Chris McKelvie-Darcy Zajac-Cam Janssen

Extra: Joe Whitney, Kelly Zajac, Tim Sestito, David Wohlberg

Defense:

Dan Kelly/Raman Hrabarenka

Seth Helgeson/Reece Scarlett

Brandon Burlon/Mike Keenan

Extra: Joe Faust, Corbin McPherson

4/4 vs. Binghamton: 4-1 W

It was back to home ice to wrap up the week, as the Devils played host to the Senators on what has become an annual event, Military Appreciation Day.  Everyone was thinking a physical beginning was coming, when both Cam Janssen and Binghamton’s Darren Kramer (who leads the league in penalty minutes with 240) were lined up next to each other…and were seen talking…prior to puck drop.  But no Devils-Rangers triple feature type activities went down, and the game went on as normal.  Binghamton would grab a 1-0 lead with under 6 minutes to go in the first thanks to former Devil Brad Mills.  But Albany…well, really the top line…would take over in the second period and not look back.  Paul Thompson would reach the 30 goal mark with a power play goal midway through the second period to tie it up, then follow it up with an encore power play tally just 2:25 later for a 2-1 lead.  He would then complete the hat trick, his second in the last 8 days, with 5 minutes to go in regulation for a 2 goal cushion.  The goal also tied him with Chris Minard for the Lowell/Albany season record, set in 2006-07. Linemate Scott Timmins would put the cherry on top late with an empty netter to seal Albany’s second straight win and keep pace in the playoff race.  Scott Clemmensen had another strong day in net, stopping 26 of 27 shots.  Matt Lorito, who stepped into Joe Whitney’s spot on the top line after he was injured in Norfolk, had a career day assisting all 3 Thompson goals, while Timmins and Mike Sislo added helpers.

Highlights:

Lines:

Matt Lorito-Scott Timmins-Paul Thompson

Mike Sislo-Graham Black-Ben Thomson

Max Novak-Rod Pelley-Ben Johnson

Chris McKelvie-Darcy Zajac-Cam Janssen

Extra: Joe Whitney, Kelly Zajac, David Wohlberg, Tim Sestito

Defense:

Dan Kelly/Raman Hrabarenka

Seth Helgeson/Reece Scarlett

Brandon Burlon/Corbin McPherson

Extra: Joe Faust, Mike Keenan

Conference Standings:

Where everyone stands after Saturday’s action:

8. Portland–81 points

9. Springfield–81

10. Albany–77

11. St. John’s–70 (eliminated)

The magic number to clinch is at 19, while the tragic number remains 9.  So yes, I’m saying there’s still a chance.

Pop Quiz: On Saturday, Paul Thompson reached the 30 goal mark (and then 31 and 32).  Who is the last Albany player to reach the 30 goal plateau for a season?  The answer is coming up.

Obligatory Fight of the Week:

So not much was going on Wednesday evening…then Cam and Josh Gratton happened.  Or as I call it, fights from 2005.

My Player of the Week:

This one was a very easy choice…have to give it to Matt Lorito.  He gets to play on the top line, and ends up producing…1 goal, 3 assists, and the shootout winner on Friday.  Not bad for someone who a month ago was still playing for Brown.

Team Leaders:

Goals: Paul Thompson (32)

Assists: Joe Whitney (29)

Points: Paul Thompson (61)

+/-: Paul Thompson/Graham Black (+9)

Penalty Minutes: Dan Kelly (130)

Wins: Scott Wedgewood (12)

GAA: Scott Clemmensen (2.37)

Save Percentage: Scott Clemmensen (.914)

ECHL Update:

Myles Bell (Evansville): 41 GP, 10 G, 9 A, 19 Pts, -22, 25 PIM

Eric Baier (Orlando): 52 GP, 9 G, 12 A, 21 Pts, +8, 20 PIM

Alexandre Carrier (Orlando): 14 GP, 0 G, 1 A, 1 Pt, -1, 26 PIM

Maxime Clermont (Orlando): 20 GP, 9-6-2-2, 3.01 GAA, .900 Save Pct.

Injury Update:

Joe Whitney and David Wohlberg missed the weekend due to injuries sustained on the Norfolk trip, no time table given for return.  Tim Sestito missed both Friday and Saturday, no reason given.

This Week’s Schedule:

One last 3 in 3 weekend looms, and it’s all away from the Capital Region.  Friday the Devils head west to Binghamton for a rematch with the Senators.  Saturday it’s due east to Hartford to take on the Wolfpack, then on Sunday the final visit for what could be awhile to Worcester to take on the Sharks.  Also this week, the annual STH party on Tuesday, including team awards.  I should have that annual post up by Wednesday.

Pop Quiz Answer:

Prior to Paul Thompson on Saturday, the last Albany player to reach 30 goals in a season was Jerome Samson, who potted 37 for the 2009-10 River Rats.

 

 

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