Tag Archives: news and notes

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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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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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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Week 5 Recap: At a Disadvantage

After a 1 point out of 6 week…I want the team from October back.

11/5 at Hartford: 3-1 L

It was an early start to this week’s action as Albany traveled east to Hartford for a special school day morning special against the Wolfpack.  And early on it appeared the visitors were the ones who had their morning coffee.  Paul Thompson scored his league leading 9th goal just 45 seconds after the puck dropped for a fast 1-0 lead.  Joey Crabb would score unassisted two minutes later to tie things up at 1.  The Devils would outshoot their hosts 14-3 in the first.  A quiet second saw no goals but the Wolfpack gave Scott Clemmensen, in his first start since returning to Albany, a little work, as Hartford outshot the Devils 10-5.  Third period saw the Devils special teams emulate their parent club.  Ryan Haggerty and Oscar Lindberg would score back to back power play goals within 1:39 to pull away with the win, the Devils third straight defeat.  Clemmensen would finish with 16 saves, while Dan Kelly and Raman Hrabarenka would have the lone assists.

Highlights via AHL Live can be found here.

Lines:

Joe Whitney-Paul Thompson-Scott Timmins

Mike Sislo-Graham Black-Reid Boucher

Tim Sestito-Stefan Matteau-Ben Thomson

Rod Pelley-Chris McKelvie-Darcy Zajac

Extra: Kelly Zajac, Ben Johnson, Cam Janssen, David Wohlberg

Defense Pairings:

Seth Helgeson/Peter Harrold

Dan Kelly/Raman Hrabarenka

Brandon Burlon/Corbin McPherson

Extra: Mark Fraser, Reece Scarlett, Joe Faust

Thursday: With Adam Henrique sidelined due to an injury in Tuesday’s home loss to the Blues, Mike Sislo was recalled for the midwest swing through St. Louis and Detroit.

Saturday: Sislo was sent back to Albany after New Jersey returned from the road.  He did manage to get his first NHL point, an assist on Marek Zidlicky’s third period goal in a 4-3 loss to St. Louis on Thursday.

11/8 at Bridgeport: 7-2 L

It was south to Bridgeport, for the start of a two game set against the Sound Tigers.  Scott Wedgewood drew the start and…things went downhill from there.  Joe Whitney gets call for tripping just 54 seconds into the game, and Harry Zolnierczyk connects on the ensuing power play 1:02 later for a 1-0 lead.  Later in the period, David Wohlberg sits for a slashing call.  Alan Quine connects on that ensuing power play 1:55 later for a 2-0 lead.  Detect a pattern yet?  Things started out looking a little better in the second, as Peter Harrold would score on a power play to cut the lead in half.  Then Corbin McPherson sits for tripping…and 1:57 later Mike Halmo connects for a 3-1 lead.  Just 26 seconds later, John Persson would add an even strength goal for a 4-1 lead.  Exit Wedgewood, hello Scott Clemmensen.  A few minutes later, Rod Pelley would take a boarding call.  You can guess what happened next…44 seconds later Colin McDonald scores for a 5-1 lead.  Chris McKelvie would score his first of the season late in the period to cut the deficit to 5-2.  Third period…more of the same.  McPherson sits for holding at 1:41, 39 seconds later Kael Mouillerat scores for a 6-2 lead.  To top it off, Darcy Zajac takes a slashing call at 13:53.  Twenty-four seconds later…you guessed it, the 7th goal, the second of the night for Zolnierczyk.  To scare us further, the Devils got stuck with a 5 on 3 late and finished the game shorthanded…and they FINALLY managed to kill that.  So if you’re keeping score…that’s 6 PP goals for the Sound Tigers, which broke a franchise record.  And everyone complains about New Jersey’s PK…

Anyway…Wedgewood finished with 8 saves on 12 shots before making way for Clemmensen, who stopped 17 of 20.  Seth Helgeson, Scott Timmins, and Raman Hrabarenka each had a helper.

Highlights:

Lines:

Joe Whitney-Scott Timmins-Paul Thompson

Stefan Matteau-Graham Black-Reid Boucher

David Wohlberg-Tim Sestito-Ben Thomson

Chris McKelvie-Rod Pelley-Darcy Zajac

Extra: Kelly Zajac, Cam Janssen, Mike Sislo, Ben Johnson

Defense Pairings:

Raman Hrabarenka/Peter Harrold

Brandon Burlon/Corbin McPherson

Seth Helgeson/Reece Scarlett

Extra: Dan Kelly, Mark Fraser, Joe Faust

11/9 at Bridgeport: 4-3 L (SO)

About 17 and a half hours later, it was time for the rematch and a shot at redemption.  The fragile special teams got a very early test when Darcy Zajac was sent to the box just 21 seconds into the game.  But the penalty kill came through, and was tested yet again when Mark Fraser (in his first game since signing a PTO a week earlier) was called for a trip.  Second test passed.  But on a turnover, Scooter Vaughan would break away and score on Scott Clemmensen for a 1-0 lead.  It took till late in the second period for the Devils to finally rally, as Mike Sislo scored on a power play in his first game back since returning from New Jersey to tie the game at 1.  On another power play early in the third, Tim Sestito gave the Devils their first lead since early Wednesday morning.  Alan Quine would retie the game on…wait for it…a power play goal.  (Okay, okay, I’ll leave it alone now.  It was the only one for Bridgeport on the day.)  Harry Zolnierczyk would give the Sound Tigers the lead back, but Graham Black would tie it up again with a power play goal, the third for the Devils on the day.  A seven minute overtime session produced a very good chance by Scott Timmins early, but no goals.  It was on to the shootout, which needed five rounds after Paul Thompson and Kael Mouillerat scored in the second round.  Sislo, Joe Whitney, and Black were unable to come up with the second goal (Stefan Matteau was shut out in round 1), and Clemmensen was unable to stop C.J. Stretch, giving the Sound Tigers the extra point.  Clemmensen finished with 31 saves on 34 shots through 67 minutes.  Matteau added two assists.  Joe Faust finally saw his first professional game action, meaning every Devil on the roster has got into at least one game.

Highlights:

Lines:

Joe Whitney-Paul Thompson-Scott Timmins

Stefan Matteau-Graham Black-Mike Sislo

Tim Sestito-Ben Johnson-Ben Thomson

Rod Pelley-Chris McKelvie-Darcy Zajac

Extra: Kelly Zajac, Cam Janssen, Reid Boucher, David Wohlberg

Defense Pairings:

Seth Helgeson/Corbin McPherson

Peter Harrold/Joe Faust

Mark Fraser/Raman Hrabarenka

Extra: Brandon Burlon, Dan Kelly, Reece Scarlett

Pop Quiz: Before Wednesday, when was the last time Scott Clemmensen appeared in an Albany uniform?  The answer coming up.

Obligatory Fight of the Week:

Dance lessons courtesy of Seth Helgeson:

Bonus: I never thought I’d see the day where I saw Sislo and fight in the same boxscore line.

My Player of the Week:

Um…well…there weren’t any breakout performances this week.  So for the 4 players with a multi point week, I salute you.

Team Leaders:

Goals: Paul Thompson (9)

Assists: 3 tied with 8

Points: Paul Thompson/Scott Timmins (12)

+/-: Paul Thompson/Raman Hrabarenka (+8)

Penalty Minutes: Dan Kelly/Corbin McPherson (31)

Wins: Scott Wedgewood (2)

GAA: Scott Wedgewood (3.18)

Save Percentage: Scott Wedgewood (.879)

ECHL Update:

Myles Bell (Evansville): 6 GP, 7 points (6 G, 1 A), +3, 0 PIM

Maxime Clermont (Orlando): 1 GP, 0-1-0, 5.10 GAA, .833 Save Pct.

Injury Report: Kelly Zajac and Cam Janssen remain out.  I am curious about Dan Kelly’s status since he did not make the trip to Bridgeport.

This Week’s Schedule:

Three games coming up this week, and good news, no Bridgeport!  Wednesday the Devils return home to face Syracuse for the first time this season.  Then it’s off to Maine Friday and Saturday for a two game stint against Portland.

Pop Quiz Answer: The last time anyone saw Scott Clemmensen in an Albany uniform? January 29, 2006.  He was in goal for the River Rats in a 5-4 loss against…the Wolfpack in Hartford.  Talk about coming full circle.

 

 

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Week 4 Recap: Back to Earth

It was inevitable…after an amazing October, November got started on a rough note.  Three out of a possible six points, but still a standings point in 8 of the first 9 games is not bad.

10/29 vs. Springfield: 4-2 W

Albany got an early start to the week thanks to a schedule change, hosting the Falcons on Wednesday (the game’s original date was December 2nd, but got moved up due to a concert date at the TU Center).  The visitors took a very quick 1-0 lead on a Ryan Craig goal just 1:10 in.  Craig would add a second goal on a power play 6 minutes later.  Graham Black, back in the lineup for the first time since opening weekend in Adirondack, would score his first as a professional on a deflection late in the period to cut the deficit in half.  Mike Sislo would tie the game at 2 midway through the second with his fifth goal.  On a delayed penalty late in the second, Scott Timmins would extend his season long point streak to seven games with his fourth, putting Albany ahead for good.  Black would add his second goal on a power play midway through the third for insurance.  With the win, the Devils remained the only team in the league without a regulation loss and extended their win streak to 5.  Keith Kinkaid settled down after a shaky first period and stopped 30 of 32 shots in picking up his fourth win.  Stefan Matteau returned to the lineup after missing a week due to injury and contributed two assists.  Four other Devils each had a helper.

Highlights:

Lines:

Joe Whitney-Scott Timmins-Paul Thompson

Stefan Matteau-Mike Sislo-Graham Black

Tim Sestito-Chris McKelvie-Steve Bernier

Rod Pelley-Darcy Zajac-Ben Thomson

Extra: Cam Janssen, Kelly Zajac (both inj), Ben Johnson, David Wohlberg

Defense Pairings:

Brandon Burlon/Corbin McPherson

Dan Kelly/Raman Hrabarenka

Seth Helgeson/Peter Harrold

Extra: Reece Scarlett, Joe Faust

11/1 vs. Bridgeport: 4-1 L

The homestand continued as the calendar turned over to November, and Albany saw a familiar foe come in, facing Bridgeport for the third time in 8 games.  Paul Thompson would add to his league leading goal total, notching his 8th on a 5-on-3 power play midway through the first period (and with the assist, Scott Timmins extended his point streak to 8 games) for a 1-0 lead.  Bridgeport tied the game up halfway through the second on a lucky (or in Scott Wedgewood’s case, unlucky) bounce and a kick into the Albany net (goal credited to C. J. Stretch for those keeping score).  The visitors would essentially put the game away late in the period, scoring twice in 2:28 (the second on a 5-on-3 power play) to take a 3-1 lead.  Bridgeport would add a power play/empty net goal late in the third to seal the victory, the first regulation loss for Albany on the season (it had to happen sometime, unfortunately).  Wedgewood stopped 22 of 25 shots in the loss.

Highlights:

Lines:

Joe Whitney-Scott Timmins-Paul Thompson

Rod Pelley-Tim Sestito-Steve Bernier

Stefan Matteau-Mike Sislo-Graham Black

Darcy Zajac-Ben Thomson-Chris McKelvie

Extra: Cam Janssen, Kelly Zajac, Ben Johnson, David Wohlberg

Defense Pairings:

Dan Kelly/Raman Hrabarenka

Seth Helgeson/Peter Harrold

Brandon Burlon/Corbin McPherson

Extra: Reece Scarlett, Joe Faust

11/2 vs. Portland: 2-1 L (OT)

It was a very quick turnaround for Albany, as they hosted former Devil Mike McKenna and Portland for the first time this season.  And it was a very quick start out of the gate, as Joe Whitney scored his third of the year just 1:28 in for a 1-0 lead.  With the assist, Scott Timmins’s point streak hit 9 games.  A 20-25 minute delay due to ice conditions near the Zamboni entrance of the arena (or, the Devils Shoot Twice net) ended the first a little early, extending the second period.  The Pirates would tie the game up midway through the second on a power play goal by Dylan Reese.  After a penalty filled third period (nothing physical…or a typical Chris Brown called game) with nothing across, it was on to overtime, the second time for Albany this season.  The Devils had two very good chances early on–Mike Sislo just narrowly missed getting the puck across the line and Timmins had a great shot go wide.  But the Pirates would prevail 2:58 in, as Lucas Lessio scored the game winner to give Portland the win and the extra point.  Keith Kinkaid stopped 21 of 23 shots, while Paul Thompson had the other assist.

Highlights:

Lines:

Stefan Matteau-Mike Sislo-Graham Black

Joe Whitney-Scott Timmins-Paul Thompson

Rod Pelley-Darcy Zajac-Chris McKelvie

Tim Sestito-Ben Johnson-Steve Bernier

Extra: Kelly Zajac, Cam Janssen, David Wohlberg, Ben Thomson

Defense Pairings:

Seth Helgeson/Peter Harrold

Dan Kelly/Reece Scarlett

Brandon Burlon/Corbin McPherson

Extra: Raman Hrabarenka (resting?), Joe Faust

Pop Quiz: With Wednesday’s win, the Devils extended their streak of games without a regulation loss to 7.  When was the last time an Albany AHL franchise started a season with an unbeaten streak that long?  The answer is coming up.

Obligatory Fight of the Week:

So when did Brandon Burlon become a fighter?

My Player of the Week:

Splitting it between two players this week…Scott Timmins for being a constant presence on the scoresheet (he has registered at least one point in all 9 games thus far), and an honorable mention to rookie Graham Black for his first two goal game as a professional.

Team Leaders:

Goals: Paul Thompson (8)

Assists: Scott Timmins (7)

Points: Paul Thompson/Scott Timmins (11)

+/-: Raman Hrabarenka (+9)

Penalty Minutes:  Dan Kelly (29)

Wins: Keith Kinkaid (4)

GAA: Keith Kinkaid (1.95)

Save Percentage: Keith Kinkaid (.931)

ECHL Update:

Myles Bell (Evansville): 3 GP, 2 G, 1 A, 0 PIM

Injury Report: Cam Janssen (shoulder; indefinitely), Kelly Zajac (upper body; unknown timetable)

BREAKING: Just as I was finishing this up, the Devils throw me a curveball.  They have signed defenseman Mark Fraser to a professional tryout contract.  There are already two extra defensemen as it is, why throw in a third?  I get the feeling something is going on in New Jersey that has yet to play out.

This marks Fraser’s third stint in Albany, with the first coming in a 4 game stint in a River Rats uniform near the end of the 2005-06 season (the last season before Lowell) and 5 games with the A-Devils during the 2010-11 season.  He split last season between Edmonton and Toronto, appearing in 42 games and registering 2 points.

This Week’s Schedule:

The Devils hit the road this week for three games, all in Connecticut.  Wednesday morning (yes, morning) they make their second visit of the season to Hartford to take on the Wolfpack.  Then it’s back to Bridgeport for a two game set, Saturday evening and a quick turnaround on Sunday afternoon.

Pop Quiz Answer: The 1994-95 Albany River Rats started the season with 4 wins and 3 ties (remember those?) before taking a 6-2 loss to Binghamton on October 21, 1994 at the then named Knickerbocker Arena.  Oh by the way…this team went on to win the Calder Cup the following May.  A positive sign for this year’s group?  We shall see.

 

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