Calder Cup Recap, Week 1: A Dominant Start

If the first two games of Albany’s first round series against Utica are any indication…we’re in for a great postseason ride.

Game 1, 4/22: Albany 3, Utica 2

Scott Wedgewood would get the nod as the first round kicked off on Friday night.  And it didn’t take long for Albany to get on the board, courtesy of the fourth line…Ben Thomson would score 6:27 in for a 1-0 Devil lead.  The defense on both sides stepped it up, only allowing 7 shots each in the period.  Second period was all Devils–literally.  On Albany’s third power play opportunity of the game, Reid Boucher would score to double the Devil lead.  As for the Comets?  They managed to get in the Devil defensive zone, but…every shot they attempted was either blocked by an Albany defender, went wide, or was not close to getting to Wedgewood.  The result?  Zero shots on goal for the Comets in the period.  That’s right, a giant goose egg.  But the Comets would not be going away quietly after that…just 27 seconds after the puck dropped for the third, on a screen in front, Darren Archibald would cut the Albany lead in half.  But halfway through the period, Joe Blandisi would restore the two goal cushion with a goal of his own.  Jordan Subban would cut the lead back to one with 4:19 remaining in regulation, but the Comets could not come up with the equalizer late, giving the Devils a 1-0 lead in the best of 5.  Wedgewood did not have much work to deal with, only needing to stop 12 of 14 shots to pick up the win.  Six different Devils–Vojtech Mozik, Nick Lappin, Pavel Zacha, Jim O’Brien, Mike Sislo, and Matt Lorito–all had assists in a very balanced offensive attack.

The Lineup:

Matt Lorito-Joe Blandisi-Mike Sislo

Reid Boucher-Jim O’Brien-Brian O’Neill

Ryan Kujawinski-Pavel Zacha-Paul Thompson

Ben Thomson-Rod Pelley-Nick Lappin

Seth Helgeson/Vojtech Mozik

Dan Kelly/Damon Severson

Marc Andre Gragnani/Reece Scarlett

Scott Wedgewood/Yann Danis

Scratches: Brandon Burlon, Blake Coleman, Max Novak, Chris McKelvie, Blake Pietila, Graham Black, Raman Hrabarenka, Pierre-Luc Leblond, Corbin McPherson, Josh Jacobs, Ryan Rehill, Colton White, Blake Speers

Power Play: 1 for 5.  Penalty Kill: 2 for 2.  Penalty Minutes: 4.  Shots on Goal: 29.  Shots Allowed: 14.


Game 2, 4/23: Albany 5, Utica 1

About 20 hours and no Devil lineup changes later, Game 2 got underway.  This time it was the visitors getting off to a good start, as a Cole Cassels goal 9:04 into the contest gave Utica their first lead of the series.  But that lead would only last for 7:23…Ben Thomson’s second goal in as many days would tie the game up at 1.  Second period was all Devils once again, as the hosts broke out for four straight goals.  Jim O’Brien would get things started with his first goal of the series on a power play to put the Devils ahead 2-1.  Reid Boucher would pick up a somewhat questionable shorthanded goal to make it a 3-1 lead–Comets goalie Richard Bachman felt he was interfered with but the referees did not agree.  Barely 40 seconds later, Pavel Zacha would pick up a power play goal to make it 4-1, chasing Bachman out of the net in favor of Joe Cannata.  But the scoring did not stop there…O’Brien would score his second of the period with 3:06 remaining for a 5-1 Devil advantage.  Albany would survive a 4 minute penalty kill early in the third, and held on to take a 2-0 lead in the series.  Another great performance in net from Scott Wedgewood, as he stopped 22 of 23 shots.  Damon Severson would have 3 assists, while Boucher had two helpers.

The Lineup:

Matt Lorito-Joe Blandisi-Mike Sislo

Reid Boucher-Jim O’Brien-Brian O’Neill

Ryan Kujawinski-Pavel Zacha-Paul Thompson

Ben Thomson-Rod Pelley-Nick Lappin

Seth Helgeson/Vojtech Mozik

Damon Severson/Dan Kelly

Marc Andre Gragnani/Reece Scarlett

Scott Wedgewood/Yann Danis

Scratches: Brandon Burlon, Blake Coleman, Max Novak, Chris McKelvie, Blake Pietila, Graham Black, Raman Hrabarenka, Pierre-Luc Leblond, Josh Jacobs, Ryan Rehill, Colton White, Blake Speers

Power Play: 2 for 3.  Penalty Kill: 3 for 3.  Penalty Minutes: 8.  Shots on Goal: 28.  Shots Allowed: 23.


Around the Playoff Picture:

So how are the other series going?  After Saturday night, here’s where they stand:

Eastern Conference

(N1) Toronto 1, (A5) Bridgeport 0

(A1) Hershey 1, (A4) Portland 1

(A3) Wilkes-Barre/Scranton sweeps (A2) Providence 3-0

Western Conference

(C2) Lake Erie sweeps (C3) Rockford 3-0

(C4) Grand Rapids 2 (C1) Milwaukee 0

(P1) Ontario 1 (P4) San Jose 1

(P2) San Diego 1 (P3) Texas 1

Up North with the Thunder:

Adirondack finished off Manchester with a 4-1 series win.  The Monarchs would stave off elimination on Monday with a 2-1 win in Glens Falls, as former Albany PTO Doug Carr outdueled Ken Appleby.  Appleby would stop 34 of 36 while Greg Wolfe assisted on the lone Thunder goal.  Appleby would rebound nicely on Wednesday in New Hampshire, stopping all 33 Monarch shots in a 3-0 shutout win.  Adirondack will take on South Carolina in the second round, with the Stingrays getting home ice.  Game 1 will be on Friday, followed by Game 2 on Saturday.  The Thunder will return home for Games 3 and 4 on May 3rd and 5th, and if necessary Game 5 will be May 7th.

What’s Next?

It’s off to Utica, where the Devils can finish off the sweep with a win on Tuesday.  If the Comets win, Game 4 will be at The Aud on Thursday night.  Game 5, also if needed, would be Saturday afternoon in Albany.


Playoff Preview, First Round: Albany vs. Utica

Where: Times Union Center, Albany, NY (Games 1, 2, 5); Utica Memorial Auditorium, Utica, NY (Games 3 & 4)


Game 1 at Albany: Friday, April 22nd at 7:00 PM

Game 2 at Albany: Saturday, April 23rd at 5:00 PM

Game 3 at Utica: Tuesday, April 26th at 7:00 PM

Game 4 at Utica: Thursday, April 28th at 7:00 PM*

Game 5 at Albany: Saturday, April 30th at 5:00 PM*

*if necessary

Regular Season Series:

Albany took 6 of 8 matchups with Utica:

October 31st @ Albany: Devils 6, Utica 1:  Mike Sislo scored twice, Joseph Blandisi had 4 assists, and Yann Danis stopped 20 of 21 shots.

December 30th @ Albany: Devils 3, Utica 2 (OT): Jim O’Brien scored twice, including the overtime winner and Yann Danis stopped 24 of 26 shots.

December 31st @ Utica: Devils 4, Comets 1: In a balanced scoring attack, four different Devils scored and Scott Wedgewood stopped 24 of 25 shots.

January 16th @ Utica: Comets 1, Devils 0 (OT): In a rare off night for the Devil offense, they could only manage 14 shots on goal against Comets goaltender Richard Bachman.  Scott Wedgewood stopped 43 of 44 shots, but the 44th shot off Carter Bancks 3:05 into overtime proved to be the game winner.  It was the first Utica win in the all time series, dating back to 2013.

January 29th @ Albany: Comets 4, Devils 3 (OT): Despite 2 goals from Reid Boucher, Mike Zalewski would pick up the game winner just 46 seconds into overtime.  Yann Danis stopped 25 of 29.

February 20th @ Utica: Devils 3, Comets 2 (OT): In the third straight overtime matchup, the Devils would finally come out on top, as Matt Lorito scored the overtime winner with 1:54 to go in the extra frame.  Yann Danis stopped 21 of 23 shots.

March 12th @ Albany: Devils 4, Comets 3: Trailing 2-1 entering the third period, Albany exploded for three unanswered goals, including Nick Lappin’s first as a pro.  Scott Wedgewood stopped 16 of 19 shots.

March 19th @ Utica: Devils 5, Comets 1: Jim O’Brien would score twice and Scott Wedgewood stopped 21 of 22 shots.

2015-16 Records:

Utica: 38-26-8-4, 88 points, .579 points percentage, 3rd place in North Division.

Albany: 46-20-8-2, 102 points, .671 points percentage, 2nd place in North Division.


Utica Comets

Albany Devils

Utica By The Numbers:

Home: 18-11-5-4.  Road: 20-15-3-0.

Power Play: 15.5% (23rd in AHL).  Penalty Kill: 86.0% (4th).

Goals For/Game: 2.95 (tied for 8th).  Goals Against/Game: 2.86 (13th).

Leading Scorers (Top 5): Alexandre Grenier (48), T.J. Hensick (40), Carter Bancks (39), Brendan Gaunce (38), Jordan Subban (36).

Goals: Brendan Gaunce (17)

Assists: Alexandre Grenier (32)

Plus/Minus: Andrey Pedan (+17)

Penalty Minutes: Darren Archibald (96)

Wins: Joe Cannata (20)

GAA: Joe Cannata (2.52)

Save Percentage: Joe Cannata (.909)

Albany By The Numbers:

Home: 27-7-3-1.  Road: 19-13-5-1.

Power Play: 18.3% (8th in AHL).  Penalty Kill: 87.2% (3rd).

Goals For/Game: 2.79 (14th).  Goals Against/Game: 2.20 (2nd).

Leading Scorers (Top 5): Matt Lorito (54), Mike Sislo (53), Jim O’Brien (38), Paul Thompson (35), Reid Boucher/Brian O’Neill (32)

Goals: Mike Sislo (27)

Assists: Matt Lorito (36)

Plus/Minus: Vojtech Mozik (+28)

Penalty Minutes: Pierre-Luc Leblond (131)

Wins: Yann Danis (28)

GAA: Scott Wedgewood (1.55)

Save Percentage: Scott Wedgewood (.933)

Print Media Coverage:

Utica: Utica Observer-Dispatch

Albany: Times Union, Daily Gazette


Utica: K-ROCK 94.9 FM

Albany: AHL Live

Social Media:


Facebook: Utica Comets

Instagram: uticacomets

Twitter: @UticaComets, @CometsInGame, @CometsArmy


Facebook: Albany Devils

Instagram: albanydevils

Twitter: @AlbanyDevils, @ADevilsPR, @Pete_Dougherty, @trace_1114




Tuesday Afternoon Updates

Three more days till the postseason kicks off locally.  But there are a few notes to pass along:

-The official ruling from Saturday’s brawlfest with Bridgeport?  No Albany players (or coaches) were disciplined.  Bridgeport’s Ross Johnston was slapped with a 3 game suspension for supplementary discipline.

-After the first day of postseason practice, two more New Guys have joined the fold, in the form of 2 2015 draft picks: forward Blake Speers and defenseman Colton White.  Speers, a 3rd round selection, appeared in 68 games for Sault Ste. Marie (OHL), picking up 74 points (26 goals, 48 assists), and an additional 10 points in 12 playoff games.  White, a 4th rounder, also appeared in 68 games for SSM, scoring 9 goals and assisting on 26 others, along with 3 points in 12 playoff appearances.

-Just as it looked like everyone was staying put for the 2016-17 season…it’s curtains for the Springfield Falcons.  Their parent club, Arizona, announced this morning that they have bought the Falcons franchise and intend to move the team to Tucson, AZ for next season.  This may cause some realignment with an open spot in the Atlantic Division and a new team moving into the Pacific Division.  Could a new Albany opponent be in the cards?  We’ll have to wait and see.

Personally, I’m sad that I’m losing one of my favorite road trip spots (it’s roughly 85 miles east, a quick hour and a half ride over Interstate 90), and also sad for the many friends I’ve made in the Falcons fanbase.  Hopefully a new team, no matter what league, moves in soon enough.

Season 6 Year in Review, Part 1: The Stats

Welcome to the annual Year in Review Series.  As always, the year in review is broken down into three parts: final stats, fun with numbers, and my favorite things.

Kicking things off with Part 1…here are the final stats for the 2015-16 season:

Record: 46-20-8-2, 102 points, .671 points percentage.  Home: 27-7-3-1.  Road: 19-13-5-1.

Leading Point Scorers (Top 5): Matt Lorito (54), Mike Sislo (53), Jim O’Brien (38), Paul Thompson (34), Reid Boucher/Brian O’Neill (32)

Goals: Mike Sislo (27)

Assists: Matt Lorito (36)

+/-: Vojtech Mozik (+28)

Penalty Minutes: Pierre-Luc Leblond (131)

Power Play Goals: Mike Sislo (14)

Shorthanded Goals: Mike Sislo/Jim O’Brien (3)

Game Winning Goals: 3 tied with 5

Wins: Yann Danis (28)

Shutouts: Yann Danis (8)

Minutes: Yann Danis (2681:16)

Save Percentage: Scott Wedgewood (.933)

Goals Against Average: Scott Wedgewood (1.55)

Full listings of individual stats: Skaters. Goalies.

League Rankings:

Record: 46-20-8-2, 2nd in North Division, 2nd in Eastern Conference, 3rd overall.

Attendance: 3,366 average, 28th.

Penalty Minutes: 1,232 for an average of 16.21 minutes per game, 7th.

Power Play: 18.3%, 8th.

Penalty Kill: 87.2%, 3rd.

Shorthanded Goals: 9, tied for 7th.

Goals For/Game: 2.79, 14th.

Goals Against/Game: 2.20, 2nd.

Shots For/Game: 29.78, 17th.

Shots Against/Game: 24.41, 1st.

Individual League Leaders:

These Devils placed in the league top 5 in the following categories:

Power Play Goals: Mike Sislo, 14, 1st.

Shooting Percentage: Joseph Blandisi, 25.7%, 2nd.

GAA: Yann Danis, 2.22, 3rd.

Shutouts: Yann Danis, 8, 2nd.

Rookie Scoring: Matt Lorito, 54 points, 5th.

Rookie Assists: Matt Lorito, 36, tied for 4th.

Rookie Power Play Assists: Matt Lorito, 19, tied for 3rd.

Rookie Shorthanded Assists: Blake Pietila, 3, tied for 1st.

Rookie Power Play Points: Matt Lorito, 24, 3rd.

Rookie Shooting Percentage: Joseph Blandisi, 25.7%, 2nd.

Defenseman Power Play Assists: Marc Andre Gragnani, 19, tied for 2nd.

Stay tuned until after the postseason is completed for parts 2 and 3.  Depending on the length of postseason, there may be a part 1A for postseason statistics.

First Round Mystery: Solved

After trying to guess and waiting out nearly a full Sunday afternoon slate of games to close the regular season, we now finally know who Albany will be facing in the first round of the Calder Cup playoffs…our friends to the west of us, Utica.  Despite a loss to Binghamton in their season finale, a Bridgeport loss to Providence sealed the deal earlier this afternoon.

With that said, here is the official first round schedule:

Game 1 at Albany, Friday at 7:00 PM

Game 2 at Albany, Saturday at 5:00 PM

Game 3 at Utica, April 26th at 7:00 PM

Game 4 at Utica, April 28th at 7:00 PM*

Game 5 at Albany, April 30th at 5:00 PM*

*if necessary

Yes, there are still 5 PM Saturday starts.  But look at it this way: if the game should go to multiple overtimes, you can get out at a decent hour!  Or, finish up on time and head out to watch all the 7 PM & 8 PM NHL starts (or even follow along with another Calder Cup series).

As for my coverage, here’s the plan for the next two weeks:

Monday Part 1 of my year end review will be up at 7 PM, covering all the final regular season stats.  Pregamer for the series will be out Friday at noon.  I will be on hand for Games 1 and 2 at home.  As of now I’m not planning on any travel due to my work schedule (and the fact every ticket will probably be sold out in 10 minutes…it is Utica after all), but that can change.  Game 3 I will be able to cover from home, as of now I will be unable to do Game 4 if needed.  If Game 5 is necessary I will be at the arena.

As for the rest of the Eastern Conference: Portland will face Hershey beginning on Friday in Maine; Providence will face Wilkes-Barre beginning Wednesday in Pennsylvania; and Toronto will face Bridgeport beginning on Saturday in Connecticut.  You can find the full league schedule here.

Week 28 Recap: Postseason Preparations

Three games left to tune up for the postseason.  Three ways to see just what this huge group of Devils can do.

And after the way this week went…watch out everyone.

4/13 vs. Binghamton: 2-1 W

The week began with a Wednesday night matchup against the Senators, who basically just had pride to play for.  This game also marked the AHL debuts of 2015 first rounder Pavel Zacha and 2014 5th rounder Ryan Rehill.  Damon Severson also made his first AHL appearance since a brief 2 game stint at the end of the 2012-13 season.  But it was another New Jersey reinforcement that would get things going for Albany early in the first period…during the first penalty kill of the night, Reid Boucher would breakaway, go in all alone and pick up a shorthanded goal, his 18th of the season, and put the hosts ahead 1-0.  Joseph Blandisi would also make an impact in his first game back since being sent down, picking up his 8th goal midway through the second period to double the lead.  Binghamton would break up Scott Wedgewood’s shutout bid midway through the third period with both teams each down a man to cut the lead in half.  But Wedgewood and the Devils would shut it down the rest of the way, rebounding nicely from a shutout loss to the Marlies three days earlier.  Wedgewood picked up his 13th win, stopping 23 of 24 shots.  Boucher and Mike Sislo would contribute assists.

The Lineup:

Mike Sislo-Joe Blandisi-Ryan Kujawinski

Reid Boucher-Jim O’Brien-Brian O’Neill

Blake Pietila-Pavel Zacha-Nick Lappin

Pierre-Luc Leblond-Rod Pelley-Ben Thomson

Marc Andre Gragnani/Reece Scarlett

Damon Severson/Vojtech Mozik

Seth Helgeson/Ryan Rehill

Scott Wedgewood/Yann Danis

Out: Brandon Burlon, Dan Kelly, Blake Coleman, Max Novak, Paul Thompson, Chris McKelvie, Graham Black, Matt Lorito, Raman Hrabarenka, Corbin McPherson, Kevin Rooney, Josh Jacobs

Power Play: 0 for 7.  Penalty Kill: 4 for 4.  Penalty Minutes: 10.  Shots on Goal: 41.  Shots Allowed: 24.


Thursday: The roster decreased by one as forward Kevin Rooney was released from his amateur tryout.  He played well in coming over from Providence College, appearing in 7 games and picking up 3 assists.

4/15 at Rochester: 5-0 W

Friday saw one last road trip, as the Devils headed west on Interstate 90 to Rochester to take on the Amerks in their home finale.  And it was no contest from the beginning.  Jim O’Brien would get things going in the first with his 19th goal of the season for a 1-0 lead.  After a scoreless second period, Albany’s offense would blow up in the third.  Ryan Kujawinski got things started just 29 seconds in with his 6th goal of the season to double the Devil lead.  Ben Thomson would add his 6th goal nearly 5 minutes later to triple the advantage.  Joseph Blandisi would score his second straight while on a power play midway through the period for a 4-0 lead.  Finally, the exclamation point: the first professional goal for Pavel Zacha with 4:03 remaining to seal the win.  Yann Danis picked up his 8th shutout of the season, stopping all 27 Amerk shots.  Vojtech Mozik added two assists, while Kujawinski and three others had one helper each.  Josh Jacobs made his professional debut and finished with a +2 and 4 shots.  The win also got Albany to 100 points on the season, the first Albany AHL team to accomplish the feat since the 1998-99 River Rats had 100 points even.  It was also the third straight shutout win over the Amerks, extending the scoreless streak to 222:09.

The Lineup:

Paul Thompson-Jim O’Brien-Ryan Kujawinski

Matt Lorito-Joseph Blandisi-Nick Lappin

Max Novak-Pavel Zacha-Blake Pietila

Ben Thomson-Graham Black-Pierre Luc Leblond

Damon Severson/Vojtech Mozik

Raman Hrabarenka/Corbin McPherson

Brandon Burlon/Josh Jacobs

Yann Danis/Scott Wedgewood

Out: Seth Helgeson, Dan Kelly, Rod Pelley, Blake Coleman, Reid Boucher, Chris McKelvie, Marc Andre Gragnani, Mike Sislo, Brian O’Neill, Reece Scarlett, Ryan Rehill

Power Play: 1 for 4.  Penalty Kill: 4 for 4.  Penalty Minutes: 23.  Shots on Goal: 43.  Shots Allowed: 27.


4/16 vs. Bridgeport: 3-0 W

To finish off the regular season, Albany played host to a potential first round opponent in the Sound Tigers, who clinched the last available Eastern Conference playoff spot the night before with a win against Portland.  And…well…if this was a preview of the first round, buckle up.  Things started out rather calmly and in the Devils favor in the first period, as Brian O’Neill (13th) and Blake Pietila (10th) would score within 3 minutes of each other for a 2-0 Devil advantage.  A third goal later in the period was called off after Joseph Blandisi was called for yet another diving call (which really wasn’t).  Another attempt at a third goal was waved off after an Albany player took out Bridgeport goaltender Stephan Williams in the crease (he was ok).  But Reid Boucher would make the third time a charm, picking up a shorthanded goal (and a little girl got a new pet!) to make it 3-0.  Then late in the second…let the games begin.

So to review…Damon Severson showed his evil side (the old raise the roof act at the end the icing on the cake I might add), and Dan Kelly (in his first game back from injury to boot), Paul Thompson, and Rick Kowalsky all exited stage left.  Kowalsky was tossed after a shouting match ensued between him and the Bridgeport coaching staff (assistant coach Eric Boguniecki was also tossed).  It was so out of hand that the second period was halted with 43.4 seconds left in the period so things could be sorted out.  Once intermission ended, the period resumed.  And apparently nobody cooled off.

Nineteen game seconds after the first incident, only Blake Pietila was shown the exit after running into Williams, while Reece Scarlett, Rod Pelley, and Nick Lappin sat out for most of the third period, which eventually did get underway.  After a few more questionable calls (it was very obvious that the lone referee had zero control of this game), peace was mostly restored.  Well, almost… Seth Helgeson had to get in on the action with a fight of his own late in the third.  And as the final whistle of the regular season blew, Severson nearly went for a third fight with Mike Halmo, but it was broken up.  Lost in all of the mayhem was another stellar performance from Scott Wedgewood in net, as he stopped all 23 shots in his first full shutout of the season.  Pavel Zacha picked up two assists, while two others had one assist each.  As for the final combined carnage?  280 combined minutes, Albany had 128 of them.

The Lineup:

Matt Lorito-Joseph Blandisi-Mike Sislo

Reid Boucher-Jim O’Brien-Brian O’Neill

Blake Pietila-Pavel Zacha-Paul Thompson

Ben Thomson-Rod Pelley-Nick Lappin

Seth Helgeson/Vojtech Mozik

Damon Severson/Dan Kelly

Marc Andre Gragnani/Reece Scarlett

Out: Brandon Burlon, Blake Coleman, Max Novak, Chris McKelvie, Graham Black, Ryan Kujawinski, Raman Hrabarenka, Pierre-Luc Leblond, Corbin McPherson, Josh Jacobs, Ryan Rehill

Power Play: 0 for 6.  Penalty Kill: 5 for 5.  Penalty Minutes: 128. Shots on Goal: 26.  Shots Allowed: 23.


My Player of the Week:

This was a hard one…so I’m splitting it between Pavel Zacha and his 3 point week in his AHL debut and the goaltending tandem of Scott Wedgewood and Yann Danis, who only allowed one goal all week.

Team Leaders:

I will have the final stats on Monday in Part 1 of my annual Year in Review series.

The Vault:

Saturday’s brawl brings to mind another incident that happened eight years ago this week…one of the more memorable playoff series in Albany between the River Rats and the then-Philadelphia Phantoms.  And this was just the beginning.

Up North with the Thunder:

A very good start for Adirondack in their first round series against Manchester, as they are ahead of the Monarchs 3-0 in their first round best of 7 series, taking the first two games on the road in New Hampshire before taking Game 3 on home ice.  In Game 1 on Wednesday, Greg Wolfe scored twice and assisted on another goal,  and Ken Appleby stopped 25 of 27 shots in a 3-2 win.  Mathieu Brodeur added an assist, and former Albany PTO Doug Carr took the loss in net for Manchester (oh the irony).  In Game 2 on Friday, Wolfe scored his third goal and picked up another assist, Ben Johnson and Joe Faust each had helpers, and Appleby stopped 23 of 26 in a come from behind 4-3 overtime win.  On Saturday in Glens Falls, Appleby stopped 30 of 32 shots, Wolfe picked up another goal, and Johnson had an assist in a 4-2 Thunder win.  They can wrap up the mild upset sweep with a win on Monday night in the North Country.

This Week’s Schedule:

Well…your guess is as good as mine, since no playoff opponent has been determined as of press time.  If Utica defeats Binghamton Sunday afternoon, the Comets are the opponent.  If Utica loses, Bridgeport wins, and Portland loses…the Sound Tigers are it.  If Utica loses, Bridgeport wins and Portland loses…the Pirates are the draw.  I think.  My brain hurts…

But do expect Games 1 and 2 on Friday and Saturday.  Once the schedule is finalized I’ll have a separate post up.  Also coming this week: Part 1 of the Year in Review on Monday, with all final stats, and a preview of the first round playoff series.

The Weekly Primer, Issue 28

Quick Hits:

-The Devils start the final week of the regular season with a 43-20-8-2 record, 96 points and a .658 points percentage.  They have clinched second place in the North Division, 14 points behind first place Toronto and 12 points ahead of third place Utica.

-We may not know who Albany’s first round opponent will be until Sunday evening at the latest.  Currently Bridgeport sits in the first round opponent seat, having crossed over as the fifth place Atlantic team due to having a higher points percentage than North fourth place Syracuse, who as of Saturday is out of the running.  Bridgeport also has a higher percentage (as of today .582) over North third place Utica (.575).  Also in consideration: Hartford is barely hanging on at .555, a late run by the Wolfpack could also put them in the A5 spot.  Portland, who clinched a spot Sunday afternoon, sits at .596, and a last week slide could also send them back to 5th.  But no matter the opponent, the Devils will have home ice advantage in the first round.

Wednesday, 4/13 vs. Binghamton

Where: Times Union Center, Albany, NY.

When: 7:00 PM.

Season Series: Albany leads 5-2.

Know Your Opponent:

Record: 29-37-6-1, 65 points, .445 pct, 7th place in North Division

Leading Scorers/Goaltending: Phil Varone, 51 points (18 G, 33 A); Jason Akeson, 50 points (13 G, 37 A); Casey Bailey, 34 points (10 G, 24 A); Chris Driedger, 17-14-4, 2.87 GAA; Matt O’Connor, 9-20-3, 3.35 GAA

Notes: The Senators finish the season with two weekend matchups, at home against Hershey on Friday and in Utica on Sunday afternoon; they start the week on a modest two game winning streak after defeating Rochester and the Devils last weekend.

Listen: AHL Live, US 96.9 FM

Tweet: @trace_1114, @AlbanyDevils, @BSens_Hockey

Friday, 4/15 at Rochester

Where: Blue Cross Arena, Rochester, NY.

When: 7:00 PM.

Season Series: Albany leads 4-1.

Know Your Opponent:

Record: 34-35-3-1, 72 points, .493 pct, 5th place in North Division

Leading Scorers/Goaltending: Cole Schneider, 55 points (20 G, 35 A); Eric O’Dell, 48 points (25 G, 23 A); Justin Bailey, 44 points (20 G, 24 A); Nathan Lieuwen, 14-10-2, 2.90 GAA; Linus Ullmark, 10-14-0, 3.37 GAA; Andrey Makarov, 9-9-2, 2.82 GAA

Notes: Friday marks the Amerks final home game of 2015-16; they travel to Toronto Saturday and Sunday for a weekend series against the Marlies to finish off the schedule; they are coming off a 1-1-1 weekend, losing in regulation to Binghamton at home on Friday and dropping an overtime decision to Lake Erie on Saturday, then shut out the Monsters in Cleveland on Sunday.

Listen: AHL Live, Fox Sports 1280

Tweet: @trace_1114, @AlbanyDevils, @AmerksHockey, @LetsGoAmerks

Saturday, 4/16 vs. Bridgeport

Where: Times Union Center, Albany, NY.

When: 5:00 PM.

Season Series: Albany leads 4-3.

Know Your Opponent:

Record: 39-27-4-3, 85 points, .582 pct, 5th place in Atlantic Division

Leading Scorers/Goaltending: Bracken Kearns, 52 points (22 G, 30 A); Alan Quine, 48 points (19 G, 29 A); 2 tied with 40 points; Christopher Gibson, 19-11-6, 2.70 GAA; Stephon Williams, 14-12-1, 2.79 GAA

Notes: Bridgeport’s magic number to clinch a Calder Cup playoff spot is at 2, needing a regulation loss by Hartford on Wednesday to seal it; they finish the season with a 3 in 3 weekend, traveling to Portland on Friday before arriving in the Capital Region on Saturday, then finishing at home Sunday against the Bruins.

Listen: AHL Live

Tweet: @trace_1114, @AlbanyDevils, @TheSoundTigers



Make Room for More…

Just as I expected…more roster moves that need a separate entry to explain!

-First up, an additional ATO was announced just before puck drop yesterday, in the form of defenseman Ryan Rehill.  The 2014 5th rounder just completed his fourth season with Kamloops (WHL), scoring 10 goals and picking up 29 assists in 63 games.

-Now to today’s transactions…first, as expected, Joe Blandisi, Reid Boucher, Pavel Zacha, and Damon Severson are all on their way north.

-Before New Jersey’s announcement, Joe Faust and Ben Johnson were both reassigned to Adirondack to help the Thunder with their playoff run.  Johnson played well in his short stint with the Devils, picking up 7 points in 16 games, including the team’s only hat trick of the season.  Faust appeared in 8 games and was scoreless.

-Also on Monday, defenseman Paul Geiger and forward Trevor Mingoia were both released from their amateur tryouts, and are heading back to their respective schools.  Geiger had one goal and one assist in 9 games.  Mingoia was scoreless in four games.

Week 27 Recap: Shootout to Shutout

Down to the final six games of the regular season, and with their playoff position cemented in place, it was time for the Devils to start giving the regulars some rest, and give the new guys some playing time.  Despite a 1-2 weekend and just five goals scored all weekend, there is a lot to look forward to now that New Jersey’s season has ended.

4/8 at Syracuse: 4-3 W (SO)

It was off to Syracuse on Friday, as the Devils took on the Crunch for the final time this season.  The teams exchanged goals in the first…on a power play, Yanni Gourde would get the hosts on the board halfway through the period, only to have Brian O’Neill tie it up less than 3 minutes later with his 12th goal of the season.  Syracuse would take the lead back on an Adam Erne goal 5:26 into the second, but just like in the first, Albany would tie it up on a goal by Matt Lorito, his 18th.  The Devils would finally get their first lead early in the third on a Ryan Kujawinski tally, his 5th.  But the Crunch, on the verge of playoff elimination, would tie it up on a Tanner Richard goal with 14 minutes to go in the period.  After a few close calls and nothing across for the remainder of regulation and overtime, it was off to Albany’s fourth shootout of the season.  In the first two shootout rounds, O’Neill, Joel Vermin, Nick Lappin (in his first game back since injury), and Erne could not score.  Paul Thompson would connect on a goal in round 3, and Scott Wedgewood would go 3 for 3 and stop Jeff Tambellini, giving the Devils their second shootout win of the season.  It was another great outing for Wedgewood, who showed no ill effects from Sunday’s shot to the mask as he stopped 22 of 25 shots in picking up win #12.  Lorito and three other Devils each had assists.

The Lineup:

Paul Thompson-Graham Black-Ben Johnson

Brian O’Neill-Matt Lorito-Nick Lappin

Ryan Kujawinski-Kevin Rooney-Max Novak

Ben Thomson-Rod Pelley-Pierre-Luc Leblond

Seth Helgeson/Corbin McPherson

Marc-Andre Gragnani/Reece Scarlett

Brandon Burlon/Raman Hrabarenka

Scott Wedgewood/Yann Danis

Out: Paul Geiger, Dan Kelly, Blake Coleman, Jim O’Brien, Chris McKelvie, Joe Faust, Trevor Mingoia, Blake Pietila, Mike Sislo, Vojtech Mozik

Power Play: 0 for 3.  Penalty Kill: 1 for 2.  Penalty Minutes: 9.  Shots on Goal: 33.  Shots Allowed: 25.


4/9 at Binghamton: 2-1 L

While I was taking in the season finale at The Rock, Albany headed south on Interstate 81 for their last road matchup of the season against Binghamton.  After a scoreless first, Max McCormick would put the hosts on the board 2 minutes into the second with a power play tally.  Graham Black would tie things up later with his 7th goal of the season.  But the Senators would take the lead back late in the period on another power play goal, this one off the stick of Casey Bailey.  Albany tried in vain to get the equalizer in the third, outshooting Binghamton 11-4, but were unable to do so, halting their win streak against Binghamton at 5 games.  Yann Danis played well in the loss, stopping 18 of 20.  Pierre-Luc Leblond had the lone assist.

*The Lineup:

Matt Lorito-Kevin Rooney-Nick Lappin

Paul Thompson-Jim O’Brien-Ben Johnson

Ryan Kujawinski-Trevor Mingoia-Max Novak

Pierre-Luc Leblond-Graham Black-Ben Thomson

Brandon Burlon/Joe Faust

Seth Helgeson/Corbin McPherson

Paul Geiger/Raman Hrabarenka

Yann Danis/Scott Wedgewood

*my guess based on highlights

Out: Dan Kelly, Blake Coleman, Chris McKelvie, Rod Pelley, Marc Andre Gragnani, Brian O’Neill, Reece Scarlett, Josh Jacobs, Blake Pietila, Mike Sislo, Vojtech Mozik

Power Play: 0 for 2.  Penalty Kill: 1 for 3.  Penalty Minutes: 17.  Shots on Goal: 37.  Shots Allowed: 20.


4/10 vs. Toronto: 3-0 L

It was back on home ice Sunday afternoon for the annual Military Appreciation day, and a #1 vs. #2 showdown, as the Marlies came calling.  After a scoreless first period, Toronto would break through 8:42 into the second, thanks to a power play goal by Eric Faille.  The Devils had a golden opportunity to tie things up with six minutes of power play time nearly back to back just after, but were unable to produce a goal.  Just before the second period ended, Richard Clune would double the Toronto lead with a power play goal of his own.  Albany would put up 16 shots in the third on Marlies goaltender Antoine Bibeau, but could not manage to get anything past him.  Zach Hyman would seal the win for Toronto with an empty netter late, and the Devils were shut out for the first time all season on home ice, and fourth overall.  Scott Wedgewood picked up the hard luck loss, stopping 15 of 17 shots.

The Lineup:

Matt Lorito-Brian O’Neill-Nick Lappin

Blake Pietila-Jim O’Brien-Mike Sislo

Graham Black-Kevin Rooney-Paul Thompson

Pierre-Luc Leblond-Rod Pelley-Ben Thomson

Seth Helgeson/Vojtech Mozik

Marc Andre Gragnani/Reece Scarlett

Raman Hrabarenka/Corbin McPherson

Scott Wedgewood/Yann Danis

Out: Paul Geiger, Dan Kelly, Blake Coleman, Max Novak, Chris McKelvie, Ryan Kujawinski, Joe Faust, Trevor Mingoia, Ben Johnson, Josh Jacobs

Power Play: 0 for 4.  Penalty Kill: 3 for 5.  Penalty Minutes: 10.  Shots on Goal: 35.  Shots Allowed: 18.


My Player of the Week:

With not a lot going on this weekend…you can either go with Matt Lorito, who lead all skaters with two points, or just split between everyone that got a goal this week.

Team Leaders:

Goals: Mike Sislo (27)

Assists: Matt Lorito (36)

Points: Matt Lorito (54)

+/-: Vojtech Mozik (+26)

Penalty Minutes: Pierre-Luc Leblond (121)

Wins: Yann Danis (27)

GAA: Scott Wedgewood (1.66)

Save Percentage: Scott Wedgewood (.928)

The Vault:

This week…after Saturday it’s only fitting I dedicate it to former River Rat Patrik Elias.  Just incase this is the end of the line for him…let’s go back to the 2000 Eastern Conference Finals, and a clutch performance that sent New Jersey on the way to their second Stanley Cup.

Up North with the Thunder:

Despite a 1-2 week to close out the regular season, Adirondack clinched a Kelly Cup playoff spot on Friday night, and they will enter the first round as a 6 seed in the Eastern Conference.  Ken Appleby suffered a 6-4 loss at home to Elmira on Tuesday, only stopping 23 of 29 shots.  He would rebound with a 4-3 win in Manchester on Friday evening, stopping 34 of 37.  In the season finale at home on Saturday, a 5-4 loss to the Monarchs, Greg Wolfe, Alex Carrier, and Mathieu Brodeur would all score.  They will face Manchester in a first round best of 7 series beginning on Wednesday in New Hampshire, with Game 2 on Friday.  Games 3 and 4 will be in Glens Falls on Saturday and Monday, April 18th.  If needed, Game 5 is April 20th in Manchester, Game 6 April 22nd in Glens Falls, and Game 7 April 23rd in Manchester.  Final regular season stats for the Thunder can be found here.

This Week’s Schedule:

Three games left to close out the regular season and fine tune the lineup with all the options.  Wednesday they host Binghamton, then the final road trip comes Friday in Rochester.  Then a first round playoff preview to close things out, as Bridgeport pays a visit on Saturday afternoon.

Today marks New Jersey’s break-up day, so once final transactions are posted I will have another entry on who is on their way down…also another ATO has joined the ranks, and there may be other moves involved.

Getting A Little Crowded Here…

So much has happened over the last 24 or so hours, it needed its own post before the weekend recap.  And you’ll be quizzed on this later, so pay attention!

Before I head down to The Rock for the final New Jersey game of the season (I’ll be hanging out in 120), let’s get everyone up to speed on quite a few roster moves:

-Just after the pregamer hit Friday, New Jersey sent Mike Sislo, Blake Pietila, and Vojtech Mozik back to Albany.  Sislo finished with 3 goals and 1 assist in 18 games.  Pietila appeared in 7 games in his first callup, scoring once and picking up an assist.  Mozik appeared in 7 games and was scoreless in his first taste of the NHL.  Pavel Zacha was assigned from Sarnia (OHL) to Albany, then recalled by New Jersey.  He is expected to make his debut this evening.

-During Albany’s win in Syracuse later in the day, three more draft picks were signed to entry level deals, with two of those players possibly making their debuts tonight: defensemen Steve Santini and Josh Jacobs, and forward Miles Wood.  Jacobs, a 2014 second rounder and a teammate of Zacha’s in Sarnia, will immediately join Albany on an ATO.  In 67 games with the Sting, he put up 24 points (4 G, 20 A) and a +26 rating, and had 5 assists in 7 playoff games.

Santini and Wood, teammates at Boston College, are likely to make their NHL debuts tonight.  Santini, a 2013 2nd rounder, has been touted as New Jersey’s best defensive prospect, and is foregoing his senior season to sign.  He appeared in 41 games this season with the Eagles, scoring once and handing out 18 assists.

Wood is a 2013 4th rounder who just completed his freshman season at BC after spending three seasons in the prep ranks.  In 37 games he scored 10 goals and assisted on 25 others.

-And finally, congratulations to Albany head coach Rick Kowalsky, who won the Louis A.R. Pieri Award as the AHL Coach of the Year!  He was chosen by a panel of media and other coaches in all 30 AHL cities.  All he’s done this year is lead the team to the third best record in the league despite an ever changing roster.  The only coach the Albany Devils have ever known and the third longest tenured coach in the league, he has a lifetime record of 214-203-38.  Amazing what happens when you stick with one guy despite several cries during the lean years to fire him…