Going To The Dogs

Happy Sunday morning…

Time to recap last night’s events…just to remind the Devils that yes there was a game last night. At least the Amerks knew to come and play. Rochester dominated from start to finish, with only Vladimir Zharkov breaking up Jacob Markstrom’s shut out late in the 3rd period, in a 6-1 win. The Devils went 0 for 7 on the power play, didn’t even get to 10 shots till late in the second period, and basically just couldn’t get anything going till the third. Six different Amerks scored goals and at one point had a 15-5 shot advantage in the first. Attendance was good for a change last night, about 4100…which may or may not have included the 50-75 dogs in attendance as part of the first ever Pucks and Paws Night. For an extra price, fans could bring their dog to the game and sit upstairs. There was even a photo opportunity with Devil Dawg in between periods for dogs and their owners. Between periods I got to meet goalie Mike McKenna’s dog Bauer (his girlfriend Rachel brought him to the game). The one thing I remembered from when I followed Mike on Twitter (sadly he had to discontinue his account…thanks Lamoriellos) was he talked a lot about his dog, even posting a couple of phone pics.

Now I need to go on a little rant here (apologies in advance) about our fan base here. It is horrible how the minute things start to go downhill it turns into a Philly like atmosphere in the building. The constant booing is getting so annoying. People, how many times do I have to say it booing will NOT make them play any better. I will never, ever boo my own team (just the referees, but that’s the norm), they themselves should know how bad they are performing, it is up to them to turn it around and the constant negativity in the building does not help. If you don’t like what you are seeing, STAY HOME. Yes I know there’s very little fan base for the Devils as it is (Friday night proved that), but if you’re going to just sit there and bitch about how the team sucks, there are other things you can spend your money on. I do sort of see the same thing go on in other arenas (Adirondack and Binghamton are examples of this) and I just shake my head. When I was in Wilkes-Barre last weekend and watched Charlotte dismantle the Penguins, there wasn’t a lot of it. The fans knew the team was having an off day, Wednesday night they got right back on track. They were too busy booing Justin Pogge for his meltdown (sadly, if you try to fight two Penguins you have no business going after, you do have it coming). And by the way fans everywhere, if you team is on the power play, yelling “SHOOT” every five seconds doesn’t help. Incase you haven’t noticed, there is an opposing player covering each man (well if you have a good defense anyway), it is hard to get a wide open shot. How easily one of those guys can steal the puck, go on a breakaway and score a shorthanded goal. The guys know this, they wouldn’t be getting paid the big bucks to play if they didn’t.

Okay, I feel much better now getting that out. Kind of a frustrating night last night, seeing a dad go after a security guard for yelling at his misbehaving kid (maybe if you actually were a parent and told him to stop banging his souvenir hockey stick on the bar in front of the seats every 10 seconds) just added to it.

Albany-Rochester Pregame Notes

What you need to know before the Devils and Americans take to the Times Union Center ice:

-Season: This is the 4th and final meeting between the two teams, with Albany holding a 2-1 edge. Last meeting was on December 4th in Rochester, with the Devils and Jeff Frazee getting the 2-0 shutout. The road team has won each game: Rochester won 6-4 in Albany on November 6th, and Albany took a 4-0 win (also a Jeff Frazee shutout) on November 20th in Rochester. The Amerks are the only Western Conference opponent the Devils face this season.

-Standings: Rochester begins the day in 7th (and last) place in the North Division, checking in with a record of 20-23-3-2, good for 45 points. They sit 3 points behind Grand Rapids for 6th. After a loss to the first place Penguins, the Devils remain in 6th place in the East Division, with a record of 18-24-0-3, good for 39 points, 1 ahead of Syracuse and 12 behind Binghamton for 5th.

-Scoring: The Amerks are lead by winger Michal Repik, with 40 points (8 G, 32 A) and defenseman (and All Star) Clay Wilson with 30 points (8 G, 22 A). Jacob Markstrom and Tyler Plante are the goaltending tandem, Markstrom leading the way with 15 wins. On the home side, no change at the top…Matt Anderson still leading all skaters with 31 points (16 G, 15 A) followed by Michael Swift with 28 points (16 G, 12 A). Mike McKenna will be looking to rebound from being yanked from his second straight Friday start, but I wouldn’t be too surprised if Dave Caruso gets the starting nod at some point, considering he has done well in relief.

-Miscellaneous: Very interesting game promotion tonight at the TU Center. It’s Pucks and Paws Night. For an extra 5 bucks (I believe that is the fee, not bringing a dog because I have cats), you can bring your dog to the game. The upstairs curtains will actually be turned up so dogs and their owners can sit upstairs. The big question is, if the dogs have “business” to do, where do they go? Wonder if there’s room in the visitors penalty box…anyway curious to see how many dogs come out…and how the attendance shakes out.

Game time 7:00. I will be in attendance doing it all as normal…

March Of The Penguins

Greetings on this cloudy Saturday morning!

Let’s recap last night’s events in Albany. As I expected, about 95% of my group I go to games with jumped ship and went to Adirondack to see Charlotte. There were a couple of people very surprised that I stayed home. First of all, I had a ticket for this game I wasn’t wasting it. Second, I had already seen them live in Wilkes-Barre Sunday and watched them online Wednesday. As one fan put it (not my quote), tonight the “real Albany fans” stayed.

But anyway on to game action. First period was rather uneventful to start. Then Brett Sterling boards Brad Mills hard into the corner and takes a 5 minute major. Mills left the ice with some help, but he was back later on in the game. The Devils did not fare so well with the extended power play time…the Pens held them to 2 shots and Mattias Tedenby took an elbowing penalty in between, relegating it to a 4-on-4 at one point. The Pens got on the board twice towards the end of the period on goals by Carl Sneep and newly minted All Star Eric Tangradi. Then things got a little physical…first was a scrum between Dan Kelly and Joe Vitale, give them a draw. I must say Joe got lucky, the last guy Dan fought was MA Bourdon in Adirondack…TKO. 40 seconds later came round 2…sort of. Louis chirped Keven Veilleux, not a good idea. They start to fight, Louis goes down in what can only be called a turtle position (so that’s why he’s the turtle…I’d never have known LOL) and Veilleux rained punches.

Second period…Carl Sneep scores his second of the game 2 minutes into the period. That saw Mike McKenna exit in favor of Dave Caruso, who held the Pens at bay for the rest of the period. Meanwhile the Devils finally get on the board on a Dan Kelly goal, cutting the deficit to 3-1. After that goal, All-Star John Curry turned into a brick wall. At one point on a Devil power play, he stopped 4 or 5 shots into the pads in one sequence. No matter what the Devils offense tried, he stopped it.

Third period was rather uneventful…however with Olivier Magnan in the box on a tripping call, Nick Johnson scores on the power play to complete a 4-1 victory for the Pens. Afterwards, a friend of mine was staying to give a gag gift to Michael Swift (an original Swift Heart Rabbit figurine. It’s a Care Bear Cousin from the ’80s for those who have no clue what that is), so I stayed to keep her company. I was very impressed with the Penguins staff, everyone was very nice. Coach Nasreddine actually almost gave me his Pens knit cap that I complimented him on, but “he didn’t have another one, otherwise he’d give it to me.” Eric Tangradi was very appreciative when I congratulated him on the All Star selection. Corey Potter laughed at my Harry Potter joke (our resident autograph guy was looking for a few Penguins, when he asked for last name and Corey said “Potter,” I said it’s not Harry it’s Corey), too bad Carl Sneep can’t be Snape. Then that would make for some jokes.

Now for the all important numbers: the attendance figures for last night. As I pretty much expected, Adirondack pretty much doubled Albany’s, 3866-2029. But they did get a good game, Mike Murphy out-dueled Michael Leighton and Charlotte won 2-1. I just hope the Checkers can forgive me, I wanted to go but sorry, home game here. Still haven’t decided on February 19th yet (next time the Checkers are this way, in Adirondack), it all depends on the weather and my work schedule.

One more home game for the Devils tonight against Rochester, then everyone gets a break…except Matt Anderson, who is off to Hershey as the lone All Star representative. Skills competition on Sunday, game on Monday.

Albany-Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Pregame Notes

What you may need to know before the Devils and Penguins take to the ice at Times Union Center tonight:

-Season: This is the 6th meeting between the two teams this season, with the Pens going undefeated in all 6 matchups. Last meeting, on January 22nd in Wilkes-Barre, the Pens got past an early 1-0 deficit and cruised to a 6-2 victory. The Devils franchise (Lowell and Albany) are still looking for their first ever win against the Penguins. The teams face off two more times, on February 7th in Atlantic City (makeup game from December 12th) and on March 23rd in Wilkes-Barre.

-Standings: Not much of a change since the last meeting. The Penguins remain in first place in the East Division, Eastern Conference and American Hockey League, checking in with a record of 35-10-0-0, good for 70 points and a 13 point lead over second place Norfolk. After a victory over Bridgeport on Tuesday night, the Devils sit in 6th place in the division with a record of 18-23-0-3, good for 39 points and a one point lead over Syracuse.

-Scoring: The Penguins are lead in scoring by center Dustin Jeffrey with 43 points (17 G, 26 A) and winger Brett Sterling with 34 points (17 G, 17 A). With All Star starter Brad Thiessen out due to injury, All-Star replacement John Curry has become the main starter, with recent callup Alexander Pechurskiy backing up. On the home side, Matt Anderson continues to lead the Devils in scoring with 31 points (16 G, 15 A), followed by Michael Swift with 28 points (16 G, 12 A). With Jeff Frazee out for at least two weeks after arthroscopic knee surgery, Mike McKenna will take over in net, looking to build on the 6-4 win in Bridgeport on Tuesday. I am sure at some point backup Dave Caruso will get some game action other than the relief appearance in Hershey on Friday night.

-Miscellaneous: on Thursday, two more Penguins were added to the All Star roster as replacements: forward Eric Tangradi and defenseman Robert Bortuzzo, joining teammate John Curry. Brad Thiessen and Dustin Jeffrey were original picks, but will not play. Ex-Rat Jesse Boulerice is slated to return from a 10 game suspension received in early January. The Devils received 4 reinforcements from New Jersey while the NHL is on All Star Break: forwards Nick Palmieri, Vladimir Zharkov, and Mattias Tedenby, along with defenseman Mark Fraser, back down for what is being termed as another “conditioning” stint.

Game time 7:00. I will of course be in attendance with the usual…

Dodging The Storm

Finally, a snowstorm on the East Coast that didn’t hit the Capital Region! I had to breathe just a little sigh of relief when I went out early this morning and not a flake was on the car. Meanwhile south and east of here got absolutely nailed, apparently some mid-Atlantic states lost power. I had a small heart attack this morning when I saw a Twitter post about Norfolk’s bus spinning out and getting stuck in the snow. After what happened to the River Rats almost 2 years ago I worry when there’s bad weather and I know teams have to travel by bus through it to get to the next stop (i.e. Charlotte earlier this month traveling from Albany to Springfield in crappy conditions…right past the accident site I might add). The one team I felt sorry for yesterday was the Springfield Falcons. Already in town to play Hershey and surprise, the game gets moved to Thursday night. Really? The only time the Rats ever canceled a game due to weather was way back in ’01, because St. John’s (really dating myself here) couldn’t get past Buffalo after a lake effect storm dumped a ton of snow and closed the Thruway down. Usually if the other team is able to travel, the game is played no matter what. The three NY NHL teams played through the post Christmas blizzard, but the Bears wouldn’t play in 4-6 inches of wet snow (at least that was the one forecast I saw I’m not sure overall how much they did get). Another reason to despise Hershey (other than the obvious).

Today I (along with the rest of the world) was introduced to the newest AHL mascot: Dax, who replaces Phlex in Adirondack. It’s a 7-foot orange/green beaver with a tail. Yeah if you say so. It looks like the Philly Phanatic ate too many carrots. But that wouldn’t explain the redneck Tow Mater-esque teeth. At first I thought why the name Dax? Kind of weird. But someone on Twitter did figure it out…Dax is in a way short for “Adirondacks” or “‘dacks”. So the theory is the rumored move to Allentown when an arena there is built isn’t happening anytime soon. Not sure when I’ll meet this monstrosity, I don’t think my next trip north is till the end of February.

Last night since the Devils were off (more on them in a minute), I bought the video feed of Checkers-Penguins, take 2. I figured why not, just incase Justin Pogge has another meltdown after the one I saw Sunday afternoon. Well…his game more than he melted down, yanked after allowing 4 goals to the Pens. I do give the Checkers a lot of credit for taking over in the 2nd and coming back to tie the game. And to Mike Murphy for keeping his team in it, he was standing on his head making some very good saves. It wasn’t meant to be, the Pens took the lead in the 3rd and held on for the win, splitting a 2 game set.

Now to the weekend ahead. 2 home games coming up for the Devils, WBS on Friday and Rochester on Saturday. Not sure what to expect tomorrow considering how the last matchup went (the 6-2 beating I saw on Saturday), but today the Devils did get some help from New Jersey with the NHL on All Star Break: 4 players sent down, Nick Palmieri, Mattias Tedenby (in what may be the last time he’ll wear an Albany uniform…just a hunch), Vladimir Zharkov, and Mark Fraser (another “conditioning” stint…he’d have to be put on waivers otherwise). The one number I cannot wait to see is attendance, not just in Albany but in Adirondack. Tomorrow night while Albany plays host to the Penguins, Charlotte will be playing the Phantoms. I have a feeling it’s going to be a lonely night for me, many people are planning to see the former Rats. Here’s the thing: I would have liked to see my former team, which is why I went to Wilkes-Barre last weekend, but there is a team here that needs support more. I’ll have the same conflict come up again in February, the next time Charlotte comes to Adirondack: the same day the Devils travel to Binghamton. I would actually rather go to Binghamton (I do have a few friends out there that I visit) for the Devils, but if my schedule and the weather out there work against me, I’ll go north. But we’ll see what happens.

Albany-Bridgeport Pregame Notes

A few things you may need to know before the Devils and Sound Tigers take to the Webster Bank Arena at Harbor Yard (there’s a mouthful) ice tonight:

-Season: This is the second meeting of the season between the two teams. Last meeting was on December 28th in Albany, with the Sound Tigers prevailing 4-3 in a shootout. After tonight, they meet two more times: March 9th in Albany and April 10th in Bridgeport.

-Standings: The Sound Tigers are currently locked in a 3-way tie for 5th place in the Atlantic Division with Providence and Springfield. They check in with a record of 19-20-3-3, good for 44 points. They are only 4 points behind Worcester for 4th place. After Saturday night’s loss to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, the Devils now stand in a tie for 6th place in the East Division with Syracuse, with a record of 17-23-0-3, good for 37 points. They are 14 points behind Binghamton for 5th and ahead of Adirondack by 6 points.

-Scoring: Bridgeport is lead in scoring by winger Rhett Rakhshani with 32 points (10 G, 22 A) and center Rob Hisey with 23 points (6 G, 17 A). Rookie Mikko Koskinen has assumed the #1 goaltender role with both Nathan Lawson and Kevin Poulin on recall to the NY Islanders. I expect him to be in net. On the Devils side, Matt Anderson continues to lead the team in scoring with 28 points (15 G, 13 A), following him is Michael Swift with 27 points (16 G, 11 A). With Jeff Frazee now on the shelf after knee surgery, Mike McKenna (in my eyes) becomes the #1 goaltender. He will be looking to add to his 7 wins after a disasterous weekend in Pennsylvania.

Game time is 7:00. I will be checking in late with tweeting from home due to a Devils Booster Club meeting.

Wilkes-Barre Wrap-Up

Happy frozen Monday!

It is FREEZING in the Capital District today. Woke up to a -11 reading, got all layered up and got the car going. Good news is this will go away by tomorrow, bad news is more snow comes with it. But only an inch or so, nothing to panic over.

Anyway, on to other things…let’s review the weekend that was for me in Wilkes-Barre. I make an annual trip here, but I wish I could go more often. Myself, along with my friend Amy (my loyal sidekick for a majority of my trips) left the Capital Region around 11 and arrived in Wilkes Barre Township around 3:15 (after a lunch/Starbucks run). After settling in at the hotel, first stop was Wegmans (dear Capital Region: get with the program and open one of these here. I don’t care if I have to drive all the way to Glens Falls, just open one somewhere) for snacks (read: my brownie bites), then Walmart. Then it was back to the hotel and off to game #1 of the weekend, Devils vs. Penguins. Well…at least we got a good ticket deal. For one price ($21), we had seats 3 rows from the bench, plus a voucher for a free hat and another one for a hot dog, soda and popcorn. No wonder the place sold out (I believe the final attendance count was around 8200; like I said, culture shock compared to home). The game did have its share of entertainment thanks to Louis. He played the audience up as only he can, chirping anyone that came across his path. He wasn’t chirping too much after Joey Mormina fought him and won. The game did get off on the right foot for the Devils, Patrick Davis got an early 1-0 lead. It basically went downhill from there after that, the Pens took over and won it 6-2. Probably the only thing the Devils did right was in the fight department, Pierre-Luc Leblond and Harry Young both won their bouts. Afterwards, we were invited by friends to the casino. Not a gambler, but why not? So it was off to Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs, only about 2-3 miles from the hotel. I played the slots quite conservatively, only spent $30 on the machines and knew to stop halfway through my credits. So I walked away with $16, only lost half my money. The place is amazing, lots of video slots to choose from, along with the poker/blackjack tables. There were quite a few dining options as well: Johnny Rockets, Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, and where we went, Bar Louie (not bad, only problem was with the band playing live in the background you can’t hear yourself think). We get back to the hotel and I think I finally crashed around 1:30.

Sunday was the better of the two days. I was greeted to a little surprise when I went to go downstairs to see what the breakfast selection was. I got to the elevator around the same time Bryan Rodney (ex-Rat and current Checkers captain) did. Surprise, the Checkers were staying at the same hotel, on my floor. So I got a little pregame reunion with a few of them. Somehow Mike Murphy knew I was at the casino (hmmm…then I realized my friend had told him she was there, he must have automatically assumed I went too), and it was weird to see Zack Fitzgerald, normally a ball of energy, just half awake. Amy and I get checked out and were off to do some shopping. Then game time…well talk about opposite ends of the spectrum. Charlotte stormed out of the gate with 4 goals in the first period, taking a 4-2 lead into first intermission. I expected the Pens to jump right back in the game after being down because, well, they’re the Penguins. They have the best record in the league for a reason, right? Well as I expected they did come back to tie the game at 4, but then the Checkers turned on the jets…and then there was Justin Pogge. The boy needs to be careful with that short fuse of his. First he practically holds a Penguin hostage (and neither of the two refs, Ryan Fraser or Ian Croft, saw it. You’d think with 7000 or so people yelling at them they’d notice something was up…wait I forgot they’re AHL referees never mind), then at the end of the second period he decides to punch Robert Bortuzzo (Penguins D-man) and pick a fight with Joe Vitale, the one he held hostage earlier. He only got a double minor for all of that, we were surprised he didn’t get the gate like he did after his last meltdown in Hershey. Third period the Checkers basically took over, four more goals on John Curry (and his replacement Patrick Killeen). Zach Boychuk had a hat trick (and was just rewarded with a recall to the Hurricanes), Zac Dalpe contributed four assists. The Checkers won it 9-5. And oh by the way the same two teams play each other on Wednesday night. If coach Daniels is smart, he’d put Murph in over Pogge. Just saying. After the game, time to say goodbye for now, and on the way home we went. We actually booed the Welcome to New York sign on I-84 as we crossed the state line. Got home around 10:15 and was greeted by the arctic cold (it wasn’t too bad in PA, I actually got away with my fleece pullover for a little while…with my hat and gloves).

A few overall observations from the weekend:

-I can see how the Pens are scary good. But when they’re off…I’m sure the rest of the league wants yesterday’s game tape.

-The Wilkes-Barre fans were wonderful to us. Even that tall guy three rows behind me on Saturday night that booed…

-Tux is probably the most energetic mascot in the AHL. He could give N.J. Devil a run for his money. And he can do some tricks a lot of mascots couldn’t get away with (I’m looking at you, Devil Dawg).

-Attention Pennsylvania DOT: I-84 between the state line and Scranton is in horrible shape. If I want to ride a roller coaster I’ll stick to I-88 thank you very much.

-I like how Wilkes-Barre is very much like Clifton Park and Rt. 50 in Saratoga: all the businesses are within a 2 mile radius of each other, including the arena and where we stayed. Very easy to get to everything. Except for all those u-turn lanes, still not used to that after 3 trips. If it wasn’t so cold out, I could have easily walked to Walmart or Starbucks.

-And the last thing about Wilkes-Barre? Everything cost less (or so it seemed to me anyway). Gas is about 20 cents cheaper (and thanks to my Price Chopper card I got 60 cents more off when I filled the tank yesterday…27 bucks lot better than 42 that’s for sure), no tax on clothes and 6 percent on everything else. Another reason I look forward to this trip every year.

So now it’s back to reality…and hopefully the Devils can wake up this week, the Penguins come calling again Friday night, along with a quick road trip to Bridgeport on Tuesday. At least with the Amerks coming in on Saturday there’s a chance at a somewhat ok week. It can’t get any worse than last week…right?