Just as the hockey season finally, finally came to an end last night (and what an ending it was…I think the Bruins may still be trying to figure out what happened in those 17 seconds), an early hint for 2013-14 has come. Yesterday the Devils announced that the home opener for the 2013-14 season will take place on Saturday, October 12th. With other teams releasing their guaranteed home dates, I noticed that quite a few teams have their home openers on October 5th. So by process of elimination, it appears the Devils will be opening the season on the road for the first time in team history. And hence the return of the awkward looking WordPress Milestone Countdown Square at the bottom of the page!
In actual player news, per a couple of Twitter sources New Jersey has made a qualifying offer to restricted free agent forward Jacob Josefson. Much like his recently signed teammate Mattias Tedenby, Josefson had quite an up and down 2012-13 season. He started in Albany during the lockout, then joined the parent club upon the season resuming in January. He was sent back to Albany in February, only to be recalled for one appearance (which just happened to be the game I was at, Winnipeg on February 24th at The Rock). He sat out almost a month after taking a puck to the ear against Adirondack on March 10th, then after coming back on April 2nd in Springfield he was recalled to New Jersey for the remainder of the season. While his stats in the NHL weren’t much to write home about (1 goal in 22 games and a -10 rating), he played well here, with 10 goals and 15 assists in 38 games. Also like Tedenby, this may also be the last chance for the 2009 1st round draft pick to stick with the parent club. Now if only there were ways to keep him from getting injured all the time…
There is one last chance for you to win two tickets to the 2013 NHL Draft at The Rock on Sunday…another drawing will be held on Thursday for 25 more pairs of tickets. You can find the entry form here. For those who can’t get in but still want to be part of the fun, the Devils are holding a Fan Fest in Championship Plaza Sunday morning from 10:30-2:30, just before the Draft gets underway at 3 PM. I entered the second drawing after not winning the first time around…still don’t expect to get any tickets. So the chances of me making the trip down are, shall we say, slim at best?
A few updates to pass on:
-Congratulations to the Grand Rapids Griffins, your 2013 Calder Cup Champions. They finally finished off the Crunch last night in front of a packed house in Syracuse 5-2 to take the series in 6 games. Forward Tomas Tatar took home Calder Cup MVP honors after leading all scorers in the postseason with 16 goals. Our friends at Chairman How’s Glorious Army have a gracious sendoff here for one of the best seasons in Crunch history.
-In actual Devils signing news (yes, finally!), earlier today it was announced forward Mattias Tedenby signed a one year, one way contract. After starting the season in Albany during the lockout, he appeared in 4 games for New Jersey once the NHL resumed, notching one assist before returning to Albany on January 28th. In 37 games with the A-Devils, he notched 19 points (10 goals, 9 assists). He missed six weeks after taking an accidental skate to the face in mid-February in Adirondack, in his first game back since suffering what was termed as “soreness” after returning from New Jersey. Many think this is likely the last real chance for Tedenby, a 2008 first round draft choice of the Devils, to crack the lineup and stay there.
Before I head out to the ballpark and let these guys basically take over my Twitter feed till Labor Day (you’ve been warned), a couple of AHL related notes, just to get caught up:
-Remember when I said it wouldn’t surprise me if the Crunch would be hoisting the Calder Cup Friday evening? Well, yeah, about that…I kind of underestimated what Grand Rapids could do. After taking the first two at the War Memorial (with Game 2 slightly aided by a few referee, shall we say, mishaps?), the Griffins took Game 3 on home ice Wednesday evening, setting up what could become an improbable sweep. But the Crunch aren’t done just yet, taking Games 4 and 5 over the weekend to send the Finals back to the War Memorial for Game 6 tomorrow evening and a possible Game 7 on Thursday. There has already been a 0-3 to 4-3 comeback in these playoffs (Wilkes-Barre over Providence in the conference semifinals), what are the chances it could happen again?
-Friday the newest member of the AHL made its debut, the Utica Comets. After months of speculation, the Vancouver Canucks made it official, moving the former Peoria Rivermen and signing a 6 year lease (according to one source) to play at the 3800 seat Utica Memorial Auditorium, or The Aud. The website is in the works, but they are on Twitter (follow them at @UticaComets) and already at least 500 season tickets have been sold. With the new team just 83 miles west of Albany, I’m expecting to make a few trips out there during the season. No word on any realignment of divisions with this move, but one would think it would have to happen with a Western Conference team moving this far east.
-The only Devils note? Per the New Jersey PR Twitter, this year’s prospect camp is scheduled for July 15-19th at the AmeriHealth Pavilion. Once the list becomes available I’ll post it here.
Taking a break from checking the MLB Draft (only reason I pay attention is some of those players may be coming here for the summer next week…you’ll be hearing plenty about the Valleycats during the next 2+ months, trust me) and watching Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals to get an update out there…
-Tomorrow the Calder Cup Finals begin in Syracuse, as the Crunch take on the Grand Rapids Griffins for AHL bragging rights. I actually had the opportunity last Saturday to travel west to check out Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals between the Crunch and the Penguins, just as a casual observer. And the fact I’ve never been to a hockey game in June before. I had noted in my last post not to count out the Pens just yet despite being down 3-1 in the series, considering their comeback against Providence in the previous round. Well…that theory was pretty much out the window by the middle of the second period, as Syracuse jumped all over Penguins goalie Jeff Zatkoff (a surprise starter considering how well his teammate Brad Thiessen had been in net during the comeback against the Bruins) and never looked back, winning 7-0. The Griffins survived a tornado scare and a 3-2 series rally by Oklahoma City to win the Western Conference finals in 7 games. Having not seen Grand Rapids play (since the only Western team I see is Rochester), it’s hard for me to really give a prediction as to how well they’ll fare against Syracuse. But it wouldn’t surprise me, at the rate this team is going, if by next Friday evening former River Rat Mike Angelidis will be participating in another post game center ice ceremony. My counterparts from the Power Play Post Show and Chairman How’s Glorious Army will have it covered as the Finals play out.
If you are so inclined, AHL Live will actually be showing video free of charge for the duration of the Finals, just use the code CALDER2013. Hopefully the video will be functioning well.
-According to multiple sources in the Mohawk Valley and in Vancouver, the league will approve the move of the Canucks AHL franchise to Utica by the end of next week, putting an end to a months long rumor. We’ll have to wait and see on a team name and how it will affect the divisional alignment since the move is from the Western Conference to an Eastern location (Utica sits roughly 50 miles east of Syracuse and 80 miles west of Albany).
-The only piece of Devils news? Nothing official out of New Jersey, but it appears that Andrei Loktionov, a restricted free agent, will return to the Devils on a one year contract. He did appear in 3 games for Albany after coming over from Los Angeles/Manchester in early February, but spent the rest of the season with New Jersey, scoring 8 goals in 28 games.
It’s June! I think it’s time to update this thing…
–Fire and Ice had a free agent update earlier in the week. It appears that all players who are restricted free agents will indeed be qualified by the July 2nd deadline. It appears that former River Rat Steve Sullivan, acquired at the trade deadline in April, will not continue his second stint with the Devils. The report also stated that goaltender Jeff Frazee may be returning despite an offer to sign in Sweden, again creating a 4 goalie tandem in Albany and whichever ECHL affiliate will be used next season.
-Now for sale via Mei Gray for those interested in jerseys: the 2012-13 Albany game worns. Prices range from $295 (for J.S. Berube) to $995 (for Adam Henrique’s home jersey with an A). As of press time, Adam Larsson’s home and away jerseys are still available (for the bargain basement price of $750 each!), along with Cam Janssen’s road red and both of Jacob Josefson’s.
-Now for a Calder Cup update:
The Crunch (featuring former Devil Matt Taormina and former River Rat Mike Angelidis as the fearless captain) can close out the Penguins and earn a trip to their first ever Calder Cup final with a win at home tonight at the War Memorial. I wouldn’t necessarily count out the Penguins just yet, as they had to rally from a 3-0 series deficit and became just the third ever team to pull it off by eliminating the #1 seed Providence Bruins (and in dominating fashion, as they outscored the Bruins 14-2 over those four games). They are also the only team in the last two Norfolk/Syracuse playoff runs the last two seasons to manage a victory against this group. The series has been fairly close scoring wise, with a two goal deficit being the largest victory.
In the Western Conference, the series between Grand Rapids and Oklahoma City was put on the backburner last night as a strong series of tornadoes touched down in Oklahoma City and surrounding areas. While everyone in the Cox Convention Center stayed safe in an underground parking garage the arena was hit with flooding due to torrential downpours. The series will resume tonight with Game 4 and the Barons holding a 2-1 series lead.
-The first North American hockey champions were crowned earlier this week in the ECHL, as the Reading Royals hoisted the Kelly Cup with a 5 game series win over Stockton. Congrats to two former River Rats from the Carolina days, Yannick Tifu (who was the captain of the Royals) and Kirk Macdonald (also an RPI alum) for becoming the latest Rats alumni to hoist a Cup of some nature.