Tag Archives: AHL

2016 AHL All Star Wrap

While everyone else was watching John Scott rub it in the NHL’s face in Nashville, the American Hockey League had their own All Star events to tend to.  And for the second straight year, I was able to make the trip…hey, it’s just a 2 hour ride west down the Thruway, you can’t pass that up.  And it was a very interesting and fun time, as a new format was introduced along with the traditional skills (no Jagr impressions or little kids though).

Sunday, 1/31 Skills Competition: West 19, East 14

Ready for the introductions...

Ready for the introductions…

To get things started, Sunday night the All Stars competed in the annual skills competition.

First, the Puck Control Relay…where the East dominated the team competition (Mike Sislo was part of the winning second heat) and split the individual heat (the middle round was won by the West Youth Star selections).

Mike Sislo learning the course...

Mike Sislo learning the course…

Second round saw the Fastest Skater contest, where Stockton’s Derek Grant took home the individual title with a time of 14.307 seconds.  The West also took home the fastest average time award.

In the Rapid Fire round, the West won out again, stopping 28 shots while the East managed 24 saves.  Yann Danis had 5 of those in his round.

The East would finally get back in the win column during the Hardest Shot round, as Hartford’s Ryan Graves won the individual title with a 103.4 mph shot.  St. John’s Morgan Ellis and Bakersfield’s Brad Hunt were the only other players to break triple digits.

All set for Accuracy Shooting!

All set for Accuracy Shooting!

In the Accuracy Shooting round, Chicago’s Pat Cannone took home the individual title with 4 hits in 5 shots.  But the East won team honors after hitting the targets 18 times in 34 attempts.

Both conferences split the Pass and Score competition, as Yann Danis stopped 2 of 3 shots faced during round 3.  Mike Sislo faced off against Ontario’s Peter Budaj in round 6.

The final event was the Breakaway Relay…and it wasn’t the greatest round for Danis, as he allowed 4 of 6 shooters to score.  Sislo did score on Budaj in his round, but the West would dominate 10-5.

Manitoba’s Eric Comrie would take home the top goaltender award after stopping 17 of 19 shots faced.

And now a few more images from Sunday…

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Day 2 Events:
-First on the agenda: the annual State of the League address.  Topics discussed included the imbalanced schedule between the 5 California teams and the rest of the league (still sticking to the plan, but at some point it could get to an even schedule for everyone); the ultimate goal of having 2 referees for every game (due to small pool of referees available it will take time, but the two referee system will be in place for every playoff game come spring); and playoff financing structure for teams (instead of the league receiving a percentage of ticket sales, each team will “purchase” playoff dates from the league, giving them more flexibility for selling and pricing tickets).  Wrong Side of the Red Line has your full wrapup here.
-Now for the games!  A round robin 7 game tournament between all 4 divisions commenced, lasting 9:00 each (except for the final game of 6:00).  Both teams would play 4 on 4 for the first half, then switch sides and play 3 on 3 for the second half.  The final would be all 3 on 3 for 6 minutes, switching sides halfway through.
In the opening round, it took nearly the entire game before the first goal was scored…then Toronto’s Josh Leivo would score with just 27 seconds remaining to clinch it for the North.  Yann Danis and Syracuse’s Kristers Gudlevskis would split the shutout, with Danis picking up the win.  He only needed to stop 3 shots in 4:30, while Gudlevskis stopped 4 shots.  Morgan Ellis (St. John’s) picked up the lone assist.  Mike Sislo managed one shot on goal.
The second game was another defensive battle that saw some late dramatics.  Chicago’s Pat Cannone would put Central on the board with 3:30 left to go.  Then just as time was about to expire, Hershey’s Chris Bourque would get one past Michael Leighton (Rockford) to tie it up, sending it to the shootout.  Leighton would stop all three Atlantic shooters, while Portland’s Mike McKenna would give up one to Cannone, giving the Central the win.  Leighton went the distance and stopped 4 of 5 shots before the shootout.  2 skaters on each side would have assists.
The offense finally started picking up as the Central and North each played their second game.  Yann Danis would draw the start and struggled a bit, giving up two goals in 4:30.  Pat Cannone would score his second of the day 1:41 in, followed by Jake Dowell (Rockford) 36 seconds later.  Dowell would strike again against Kristers Gudlevskis 5:03 in for a commanding 3-0 lead.  But the North would get on the board with two goals in 31 seconds…Josh Leivo would score his second of the day, followed by Michael McCarron (St. John’s) to cut the lead to 3-2.  But an empty netter by Ryan Hartman (Rockford) would clinch a second win for the Central.  Manitoba’s Eric Comrie would go the distance in picking up the win, stopping 11 of 13 North shots.
In another defensive battle, the Atlantic scored twice in the first 2:32 and never looked back.  Bridgeport’s Alan Quine, a last minute replacement, would score on Bakersfield’s Laurent Brossoit 54 seconds into the contest.  Seth Griffith (Providence) would double the lead with his first of the night.  Sean Backman (Pacific) would break up the combined shutout bid with 1:30 left, but no more.  Mike McKenna picked up the win with 3 saves, while Anthony Stolarz (Lehigh Valley) would follow up with 7 saves on 8 shots.  Four different Atlantic skaters would add helpers.
Finally, some offense!  And it only took 12 seconds and a Derek Grant (Stockton) goal to get things started.  Xavier Ouellet (Grand Rapids) and Nick Ritchie (San Diego) would trade goals 25 seconds apart for a 2-1 Pacific lead, then Mikko Rantanen (San Antonio) would extend the Pacific lead to 3-1.  But just as the teams switched over to 3 on 3, the Central would rally.  West Captain Jeff Hoggan (Grand Rapids) would cut the lead to 3-2, only to have Ritchie score his second 4o seconds later for a 4-2 Pacific advantage.  Then Andre Benoit (Chicago) and Jake Dowell would score 2 minutes apart to tie the game up at 4.  But with 4 seconds left, Grant would score his second and Brandon Montour (San Diego) would add an empty netter three seconds later to give the Pacific the win.  T.J. Tynan (Lake Erie) would have two assists for the Central, while three Pacific skaters had two helpers each.
An intradivisional battle to determine who was going to face the Central in the final round.  Rob Schremp (Portland) would start the scoring 2:02 in against Yann Danis.  After both sides switched to 3 on 3 play, Chris Bourque would pick up his second goal of the day for a 2-0 lead.  The North would get on the board 25 seconds later thanks to a Mike Sislo goal, but that was as close as they would get.  Alan Quine would score his second of the day for a 3-1 lead, then Schremp would score an empty netter to seal the Atlantic win.  Danis stopped 3 of 4 shots, wrapping up a solid evening for him in net.
The final battle for division supremacy in the AHL…and it was absolutely no contest.  Jeff Hoggan would score 24 seconds in and the rout was on from there.  Derek Ryan (Charlotte) and Pat Cannone would score 38 seconds apart for a 3-0 lead, then Xavier Ouellet would seal the title with an empty netter with 16 seconds remaining.  Michael Leighton would go the distance and stop all 9 Atlantic shots.  Frederick Gaudreau (Milwaukee) would pick up 3 assists.
Although there were quite a few candidates for the night’s Most Valuable Player, Cannone would take home the honors.
Thank you to the AHL, the Crunch, and everyone involved for a fun 2 days!  It’s always a great time to meet up with friends from around the league and interact with mascots I never get to see (I’m looking at you, Western Conference).
And now some photos from Day 2:
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The Weekly Primer, Issue 15

Quick Hits:

The Devils begin the week with a 22-8-4-0 mark, 48 points and a .706 percentage.  They remain in second place in the North Division, 12 points and .083 percentage points behind first place Toronto.

It was quite the week for Mike Sislo: Monday and Wednesday, he was playing in New Jersey.  Thursday, he was named an AHL All Star.  Friday, he was reassigned to Albany and scored twice, adding an assist for good measure.  Saturday, another goal and two assists.  All of that was worthy enough for AHL Player of the Week honors on Monday, the first Devil to win the award this season.

Injury front: It appears Blake Coleman (shoulder) is done for longer than expected, as he tweeted Tuesday he is having surgery.

Wednesday, 1/13 vs. Rochester

Where: Times Union Center, Albany, NY.

When: 7:00 PM.

Season Series: Tied at 1.

Know Your Opponent:

Record: 17-16-2-1, 37 points, .514 pct, 6th place in North Division

Leading Scorers/Goaltending: 2 players tied with 23 points; Nathan  Lieuwen, 9-6-1, 2.97 GAA; Andrey Makarov, 6-7-2, 3.09 GAA; Robin Lehner, 1-1-0, 3.04 GAA

Notes: Robin Lehner, on a conditioning assignment from Buffalo, is expected to make his third start tonight; the Amerks finished 2-1 over a 3 in 3 last weekend, defeating Hershey and Binghamton before losing to Syracuse at home Sunday afternoon; team captain Cal O’ Reilly is Rochester’s lone All Star representative; the Amerks will face the Senators in a home and home series this weekend before hosting Syracuse Monday afternoon.

Listen: AHL Live, Fox Sports 1280

Tweet: @trace_1114, @AlbanyDevils, @AmerksHockey

Friday, 1/15 at Providence

Where: Dunkin Donuts Center, Providence, RI.

When: 7:00 PM.

Season Series: Devils lead 2-0.

Know Your Opponent:

Record: 16-15-5-1, 38 points, .514 pct, 5th place in Atlantic Division

Leading Scorers/Goaltending: 2 tied with 31 points; Malcolm Subban, 10-8-3, 2.65 GAA; Zane McIntyre, 6-6-3, 2.93 GAA

Notes: The Bruins have won their last 9 on home ice, dating back to December 4th against Portland; Providence is riding an overall 4 game winning streak into the weekend; the team is just .1% ahead of Albany for the overall power play lead (24.6%); forward Seth Griffith, the AHL Player of the Month for December, is the lone Bruin going to the AHL All Star Classic.

Listen: AHL Live

Tweet: @trace_1114, @AlbanyDevils, @AHLBruins

Saturday, 1/16 at Utica

Where: Utica Memorial Auditorium, Utica, NY.

When: 7:00 PM.

Season Series: Albany leads 3-0.

Know Your Opponent:

Record: 16-15-3-2, 37 points, .514 pct, 5th place in North Division

Leading Scorers/Goaltending: Hunter Shinkaruk, 27 points (15 G, 12 A); 2 tied with 19 points; Richard Bachman, 6-6-2, 2.54 GAA; Joe Cannata, 9-8-2, 2.67 GAA

Notes: The Comets have dropped six straight, its only standings point coming on December 30th, an overtime loss in Albany; they will host Toronto on Wednesday and travel west to Syracuse on Friday; forward Hunter Shinkaruk is the lone All Star representative; the Devils are 9-0 all time against the Comets.

Listen: AHL Live, WKLL 94.9 FM

Tweet: @trace_1114, @AlbanyDevils, @UticaComets, @CometsInGame

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Camping, Rule Changes, Etc. Etc.

After having to read about several NHL teams’ rookie development camps this week…starting on Monday, it will finally be New Jersey’s turn.  A total of 42 players will be taking the ice from July 13th-18th, culminating in a Red-White scrimmage on Saturday:

GOALTENDERS (4): Anthony Brodeur, Mac Blackwood, Ken Appleby, Colton Phinney.

FORWARDS (26): Brandon Baddock, Graham Black, Joseph Blandisi, Reid Boucher, Connor Chatham, Blake Coleman, Patrick D’Amico, J.D. Dudek, Matt Gaudreau, Artur Gavrus, Alexandre Goulet, Sergey Kalinin, Tyler Kelleher, Alexander Kerfoot, Ryan Kujawinski, Matt Lorito, Darcy Murphy, Max Novak, Blake Pietila, John Quenneville, Brett Seney, Brandon Shea, Blake Speers, Ben Thomson, Miles Wood, Pavel Zacha.

DEFENSEMEN (12): Joe Faust, Casey Fitzgerald, Raman Hrabarenka, Joshua Jacobs, Vojtech Mozik, Ryan Rehill, Steven Santini, Reece Scarlett, Damon Severson, Jacob Sweeney, Colton White, Tyler Wood.

A few fun facts about this group:

-8 players appeared in at least one game for Albany in 2014-15.  It could have been 9 if Brandon Baddock had seen action.

-25 players are Devil draft picks, going as far back as 2010.

-Family ties: Martin Brodeur’s son Anthony (a 2013 draft selection who was not signed) leads the goaltending corps.  Matt Gaudreau is the younger brother of Johnny Gaudreau, who just finished a stellar rookie campaign in Calgary.  Tyler Wood is the older brother of 2013 draft selection Miles Wood.

Fire and Ice has more information on the undrafted invitees.

In league news, the AHL announced their annual rule changes and playoff format for 2015-16:

-All teams will still play 76 games.  Unless you’re Bakersfield, Stockton, San Jose, Ontario, or San Diego, who will only play 68 (WHY????  Dumb dumb dumb…sorry.  Getting off topic.) games.  With an uneven schedule, playoff standings will now be based on points percentage instead of the actual point total (Math. Yay.).  The top 4 teams in each division will qualify for a playoff spot…however, if the 5th place team in either the Atlantic or Central Division finishes with a higher percentage than the 4th place North or Pacific Division team, they can cross over and grab that spot.  The divisional set up remains for the first two rounds of the playoffs.

-Overtime will now be 3 on 3 for 5 minutes, just like in the NHL and the ECHL.  The shootout remains if a game is still tied after that.  And also staying around…DRY SCRAPE!

-New for 2015-16: the coach’s challenge.  If a coach still has a timeout remaining, they can use the challenge to initiate a video review, but only for rules that use replay.

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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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