Tag Archives: AHL

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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Week 17 Primer

Devils Quick Hits:

-Albany returns from the All Star Break with a 20-14-4-5 mark, good for 49 points and 4th place in the Northeast Division (9th in the Eastern Conference).

-On Monday, Tim Sestito was placed on waivers by New Jersey.  Tuesday he cleared and was returned to Albany.  He appeared in 15 games with two assists and 33 penalty minutes.

-The AHL announced Wednesday that defenseman Seth Helgeson will sit out Thursday’s game in Lehigh Valley due to suspension, thanks to an elbowing incident in Worcester on Friday night.

-Defenseman Mike Keenan, on a PTO since December 4th, was officially signed to an AHL contract on Wednesday.  He has one assist in 15 games and 15 penalty minutes.

1/29, Game #44 at Lehigh Valley

Where: PPL Center, Allentown, PA.

When: 7:00 PM.

Season Series: Albany leads 3-0.

Standings:

Lehigh Valley: 20-16-4-1, 45 points, 3rd place in East Division

Phantoms Leading Scorers/Goaltending:

Nick Cousins, 30 points (13 G, 17 A); Brandon Manning, 26 points (7 G, 19 A); Andrew Gordon, 25 points (13 G, 12 A)

Rob Zepp, 11-5-4, 2.57 GAA; Anthony Stolarz, 6-9-1, 2.91 GAA

Notes:

-The Phantoms broke a 3 game losing streak just before the break with a win at home against St. John’s on Saturday.

-Lehigh Valley is also starting a 3 in 3 week, hosting Hershey on Friday before traveling to Wilkes-Barre on Saturday.

-The Phantoms got a boost in goal when Philadelphia sent Rob Zepp back on Wednesday.

Listen: AHL Live, The Fox 1470 AM

Twitter: @trace_1114, @AlbanyDevils, @LVPhantoms, @BobRotruck

1/30 & 1/31, Game #45 & #46 vs. St. John’s

Where: Times Union Center, Albany, NY.

When: 7:00 PM (1/30), 5:00 PM (1/31).

Season Series: First 2 meetings of 4.  Future matchups: March 6th & 7th @ St. John’s

Standings:

St. John’s: 18-21-5-1, 40 points, 5th place in Atlantic Division

IceCaps Leading Scorers/Goaltending:

John Albert, 28 points (10 G, 18 A); Carl Klingberg, 26 points (14 G, 12 A); Chase Balisy, 25 points (10 G, 15 A)

Connor Hellebuyck, 18-13-2, 2.48 GAA; Peter Budaj, 0-7-4, 3.69 GAA

Notes:

-This is a rematch of last year’s first round Calder Cup playoff series, won by the IceCaps in 4 games.  They would make it all the way to the Calder Cup Finals before losing to Texas in 5 games.

-The IceCaps are finishing off a 5 game road swing, so far going 1-2 against East Division opponents with their only win in Binghamton on Friday evening.

-Connor Hellebuyck, the lone St. John’s representative at Monday’s AHL All Star Classic, got the starting nod for the Eastern Conference and stopped 9 of 13 West shots in his one period of work.

-Local ties: Former River Rats forward Nicolas Blanchard is in his first season with St. John’s and first outside of the Carolina organization.

-The first 1500 in attendance on Saturday get their very own Dan Kelly bobblehead doll.

Listen: AHL Live, stjohnsicecaps.com

Twitter: @trace_1114, @AlbanyDevils, @IceCapsAHL

 

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2015 All Star Wrap

Hard to believe, but the All Star weekend in Utica is over.

This was my first time going to any All Star event at any level, and it was an awesome experience.  Always fun to visit with friends from around the league and see players I never get to see live (translation: anyone in the Western Conference not a Comet or a Flame).  Without further delay, let’s recap the last two days!

Getting ready for the intros!

Getting ready for the intros!

1/25, All Star Skills: East 15, West 11

The slate of events began on Sunday evening, as both teams took to the ice at The Aud for the Skills Competition.

Both teams split the four rounds of the Puck Control Relay.  Joe Whitney was part of the second heat, which the West won.

In the second event for Fastest Skater, Manchester’s Colin Miller won the individual title with a time of 13.805 seconds.  The West won the team average title at 13.9 seconds.

The West goaltending dominated during the Rapid Fire competition, as goaltenders Richard Bachman (Oklahoma City), Jacob Markstrom (Utica) and Magnus Hellberg (Milwaukee) combined for 23 saves over 30 chances.  In the final heat, Utica’s Bobby Sanguinetti owned St. John’s goaltender Connor Hellebuyck, burying 4 out of 5 shots on net to the delight of the hometown crowd.

The East took the Hardest Shot round, thanks to a new AHL All Star record off the stick of Miller, who registered a shot of 105.5 MPH.  His three shots on net all broke 103 easily.

Paul Thompson took part in the Accuracy Shooting, getting all 4 targets on 8 attempts.  Hartford’s Chris Bourque and Texas’s Maxime Fortunus tied with 4 targets out of 6 attempts.  The West took the team point by hitting 14 targets out of 30 chances.

In the Pass and Score Competition, Whitney and Thompson teamed up with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s Derrick Pouliot, but were unable to get the puck past Bachman.  The East took the round by scoring 4 times over 6 heats.

The East clinched the competition during the Breakaway Relay, scoring 5 goals over three rounds.  Thompson and Whitney were shut out on their attempts.  Hellebuyck and Manchester’s J.F. Berube stopped all 6 of their attempts to clinch the win.

Colin Miller (Manchester) receiving his awards.

Colin Miller (Manchester) receiving his awards.

Post Skills, everyone was signing by the boards.  Nice touch.

Post Skills, everyone was signing by the boards. Nice touch.

Before the actual game on Monday, the State of the League address took place at Turning Stone.  Full audio from the Power Play Post Show can be found here.  The Times Union has a brief summary of topics, such as the rumored Pacific Division and schedule adjustments.

1/26, All Star Classic: West 14, East 12

And now, for the actual game.

More intros...

More intros…

Things got off to a good start for the East, as Portland’s Brendan Shinnimin got the first goal of the evening.  But the West would rattle off three straight tallies, off the sticks of Rockford’s Mark McNeill, Milwaukee’s Brendan Leipsic, and Hamilton’s Charles Hudon.  Shinnimin would add his second to get back to within one, only to have Chicago’s Ty Rattie restore the two goal lead as the period ended.  But the star was the hometown goalie, Jacob Markstrom, as he stopped 16 of 18 shots, with some just point blank robbery.

First intermission entertainment: mascot broomball!

First intermission entertainment: mascot broomball!

 

Second period was all about the offense, as both teams combined for 12 goals.  The East would score the first four to take a 6-4 lead, as Springfield’s Austin Madaisky, Joe Whitney, Providence’s Alexander Khokhlachev, and Bourque all connected.  But not to be outdone, the West would score six straight to go up 10-6.  Hudon would get the hat trick, McNeill and Leipsic each had their second, and Rockford’s T.J. Brennan and Grand Rapids’ Teemu Pulkkinen scored one each.  But the East wasn’t done quite yet, as Binghamton’s Shane Prince and Manchester’s Jordan Weal got on the board to make it a 2 goal West lead going into the third.  Rochester’s Phil Varone was awarded a penalty shot late, but was denied.

Second intermission: Mascot danceoff, aka the Tux invitational.

Second intermission: Mascot danceoff, aka the Tux invitational.

In the third, Prince (with his second) and Adirondack’s Emile Poirier traded goals early on.  Then, a second penalty shot was called, and Norfolk’s Chris Wagner connected to bring the East back to within one goal.  But Leipsic and McNeill would each complete their hat tricks to make it a 13-10 contest.  The other Adirondack representative, Drew Shore, would score the 14th goal for the West.  Prince would complete the hat trick late in the period and Syracuse’s Jonathan Marchessault would get the final goal to finish off a very offensive game (but aren’t all All Star games like that?).  The East outshot the West by an astonishing 59-40 margin.

Your co-MVPs: Utica's Jacob Markstrom and Hamilton's Charles Hudon.

Your co-MVPs: Utica’s Jacob Markstrom and Hamilton’s Charles Hudon.

Whitney finished with a goal on one shot and a -3.  Thompson had one assist, two shots and a -3 rating, as both he and Whitney were on the same line (why break up a good thing?).  Shinnimin lead all skaters with 10 shots on goal, he just could not get that third goal after a strong first period.  The 26 combined goals were an All Star record.

Thanks to the Utica Comets, the AHL, and everyone else involved for an awesome two days and a great first time experience for me!  Even got in my first ever visit to Turning Stone (on Sunday night for the Post Skills party).  Hopefully it’s a close location next season so I can travel there and do it again.

And a few more photos from the two days:

East Captain Tom Kostopoulos (Wilkes-Barre/Scranton) being interviewed on ice during Monday's game

East Captain Tom Kostopoulos (Wilkes-Barre/Scranton) being interviewed on ice during Monday’s game

DSCN1572

The captains and AHL president Dave Andrews with the ceremonial puck drop.

Thompson, Whitney, and Chris Bourque

Thompson, Whitney, and Chris Bourque

 

 

 

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Not A Bad Week…

I must say, the end of 2014 and beginning of 2015 is going quite well for Joe Whitney.

-After a week that saw his first NHL goal in Detroit on Wednesday, then notching two goals and three assists in two games in Bridgeport, Whitney was awarded the AHL Player of the Week on Monday.  He is the first Devil to win the award since Scott Wedgewood took the honors the week of March 16, 2014, and the first skater since Matt Anderson in February 2013.

-To add to the accolades, he was the lone Devil named to the AHL’s Eastern Conference All Stars, announced earlier today.  There are a few former Devils that will be joining him: Matt Taormina (Worcester), Tom Kostopoulos (Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, also the East Captain) and Bobby Butler (San Antonio).  The full rosters can be found here.  The game will be held in Utica on Monday, January 26th, with the Skills Competition on Sunday the 25th.

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