Offseason Notebook #1

Welcome to the newest feature, the Offseason Notebook!

Since news sometimes during this time of year tend to be few and far between, what I plan to do is collect pertinent stories from around the Devils and the AHL.  It’s a basic roundup, if you will.

First, the latest from the Devil department:

Brian O’Neill became the first A-Devil to officially move on, signing a contract with Jokerit in the KHL.  Acquired in a trade with the Kings just before the start of the season, the 2014-15 AHL MVP with Manchester started the year on New Jersey’s roster, appearing in 22 games and picking up 2 assists.  He would spend a majority of the season with Albany, picking up 13 goals and 19 assists in 42 games and an additional 5 points in 9 playoff games.  As a result of O’Neill leaving, New Jersey will get back the seventh round pick they gave Los Angeles as part of the deal.

-Also in the Moving On category…forward Chris McKelvie has retired from playing, accepting a job at Army as an assistant coach, joining his twin brother Zach behind the bench.  He spent the last four seasons in a Devil uniform after starting his pro career with Hartford/Connecticut.  Last season, he appeared in 46 games, picking up a goal and 6 assists, and appeared in 3 playoff games going scoreless.  Good luck to Chris as he starts the next phase of his hockey life!

-The first free agent signing of the summer came on Friday, in the form of French defenseman Yohann Auvitu, who was given a one year entry level contract.  He has spent the last two seasons with HIFK Helsinki in the SM-liiga, where last season he was named the league’s best defenseman after picking up 21 points in 48 regular season games (6 goals, 15 assists), then appeared in 18 postseason contests with 13 points (6 goals, 7 assists).  He also appeared in 7 games for France in the World Championships in Russia.

Meanwhile, around the AHL and the Calder Cup playoffs…

-At the rate the Conference Finals are going…it’s going to be an unlikely matchup for the Calder Cup.  Lake Erie swept #1 seed Ontario in four games to take the Western Conference title (side note: you have to love their postseason countdown on the boards).  Hershey took the first three from Toronto in near convincing fashion, but the Marlies showed they’re not quite done yet, taking a 5-0 shutout win over the Bears in Game 4 on Friday.  Hershey can try again to finish off the league’s best team on Sunday afternoon in Game 5.  If necessary, Game 6 is Tuesday in Hershey, Game 7 in Toronto on Thursday.

-It appears another league realignment will be in order for next season.  To review: a few weeks ago, Arizona purchased their AHL affiliate in Springfield and moved the team west to Tucson, just a couple hours away from Phoenix.  Just as it appeared the home of the league headquarters was going to be without hockey for the first time in decades next season, a miracle happened: out of nowhere, a group in Springfield bought the Portland Pirates, moving that franchise to the Pioneer Valley.  Florida, who was Portland’s parent club, has agreed to keep the affiliation with the new Springfield franchise.  Tucson will be joining the California 5 with a shortened 68 game schedule.  The question now is, who will move over from the Western Conference to take Portland’s spot?  And how will that affect who goes in either the North or Atlantic?  We’ll just have to wait.

But a lesson can be learned from the Portland move: support your local minor league team.  Because one day, they could be gone in a flash.


Season 6 Year in Review, Part 3: My Favorite Things

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.

Here it is, the final part, My Favorite Things (formerly called What I Learned)…

Where to begin?  So many things…good, bad, scary, and otherwise…happened this year.  So, like last year, I’m breaking it down with some special superlative awards.  And away we go…

You’re Not Allowed to Leave. Ever.

Given to Nick Lappin, the first of the amateur tryouts to arrive on the scene in March.  All he did was come up big against Toronto in both the regular season and the playoffs.  And made a great linemate for his former college teammate Matt Lorito.  Good news is he’s already under contract!

Best Musical Performance by a Devil:

I’ve seen Graham Black on video play an amazing piano (and guitar).  But in early April…I got to experience it live.

Best Player Nickname:

Thanks to the A-Devils Podcast, Seth Helgeson revealed that Ben Thomson is called Groot, based on the character from Guardians of the Galaxy.  Of course I had to run with it…

Best Unintentional Yet Intentional Trolling:

On two different occasions (and a third on the road) at home, the Devils shut out Rochester.  Just before both shutout games ended, what does the DJ play?  Let Me Clear My Throat by DJ Kool.  Which is the Sabres goal song.  Rochester is Buffalo’s farm team.  Put it all together and…perfect.

Boy, That Escalated Quickly…

It was the last game of the regular season, with a potential first round opponent in house.  Everything went downhill from there…

Can We Keep Him?  Please?

In a rare preseason move, a loan was worked out with the Blackhawks, enabling Corey Tropp to join the Devils.  All he did was provide eleven goals, some grit, and was a steady presence on the top two lines.  It was a sad day when he was traded to Anaheim at the trade deadline and was reassigned to San Diego.  I do believe he is an unrestricted free agent this summer, so…come back?

Fight of the Year, Non-Bridgeport Edition:

Who else but PL3?  From back in November vs. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton:

Best Opponent Attraction:

Three words: John Scott, MVP.  The unlikely hero of this year’s NHL All Star Game made three appearances in Albany while playing for St. John’s.  Then there was the time when Ben Thomson decided to take him on during a game in Newfoundland…

You Poor Unfortunate Soul.

It was not the best first year for rookie forward Blake Coleman.  First, in his pro debut, he gets accidentally high sticked in the mouth, losing both front teeth.  Then a month later, he gets boarded by former Devil Mark Fraser, leading to season ending shoulder surgery.  Here’s hoping the kid has better luck next year.

When Real Life Intrudes…

The day after Christmas, I was at a family holiday function, knowing that I was going to be late for the Devils matchup against Providence that afternoon.  So you can imagine what was going through my head as I was preparing to leave, only to receive messages from friends to stay put.  Why?  A mystery package found under a car in the box office parking lot prompted an evacuation of the building, just as warmups were about to start.  Luckily it was only a toy that was found and the TU Center was all clear to resume.  And I only ended up missing half the first period.

Quote of the Year:

“F—ing Binda.”–coach Kowalsky in Springfield in November after referee Geno Binda (again) called something ridiculous.

Now for the anti-Lou portion of this post…

Dat Hair Doe…

We have a tie, between Graham Black’s midseason manbun (a look approved by Starbucks baristas everywhere…long story) and Joe Blandisi’s playoff Magic Mullet (styled very well by Matt Lorito).

Best Movember Look:

Another tie…Raman Hrabarenka was shameless going for the Gomez Addams stache, then you had PL3 with the Super Mario Bros. impression.

Best Beard, Regular Season or Playoff:

I have to give it to Corbin McPherson…he was pulling off the hipster look quite well by the end of the playoff run.

Best Instagram Presence:

Another one I couldn’t break the tie on…this one is split between Joe Blandisi and Graham Black for a variety of reasons (Graham’s music, randomness with Blender).


Finally, a few stick taps:

To my fellow AHL and Devil tweeters/bloggers: thank you all (there’s too many to name!) for all the support in the regular season and in the postseason…

To the crew at home for all the help and support in keeping up with all the game day superstitions, seeing eye dog ratings, etc. etc.

To the Devil players themselves…you are a wonderful group of guys, thank you for making this season fun.  To those who move on to other teams next season…good luck wherever life and hockey take you.

And finally, thanks to you the reader for following along!

The countdown to Season 7 is on…


Season 6 Year in Review, Part 2: Fun with Numbers

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.

Now on to Part 2 and some random numbers from the season:

45: Players that made at least one appearance in an Albany uniform.

4: Goaltenders to get at least one win.

6: Most goals in one game (10/31 vs. Utica, 1/8 vs. Syracuse, 4/28 @ Utica).

1: Hat trick, by Ben Johnson April 2nd vs. Springfield.

6: Shots given up on November 27th vs. Binghamton.

0: Shots allowed to Utica in the second period on April 22nd.

8,124: Highest attendance, on February 6th vs. Hartford.

8: Players that appeared in at least one game for Albany and Adirondack.

15: Players that appeared in at least one game for Albany and New Jersey.

43: Saves by Scott Wedgewood in a 1-0 OT loss to Utica on January 16th.

122: Most penalty minutes in one game, on April 16th vs. Bridgeport.

6: Amateur tryouts that saw action during the season.

2: Shorthanded goals allowed all season by Devils special teams.

7: Number of Devils who made their NHL debut this season.

11: Consecutive home wins between November 25th and January 13th.

7: Consecutive wins from November 25th to December 11th.

5: Longest winless streak from January 15th to January 23rd.

8: Goal scoring streak for Mike Sislo from February 6th-February 24th.

10: Point scoring streak for Mike Sislo from February 6th-February 28th.

8: Shutouts for Yann Danis, a new franchise record.

7: Games remaining on Dan Kelly’s suspension after he missed Games 5-7 in the North Division Finals.

282:09: Current shutout streak against Rochester.

7: Buildings I saw at least one game (Albany, Binghamton, Hartford, Utica, Syracuse, Springfield, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton)

56: Games personally attended in 2015-16.  Add 7 for 2 Thunder games, 4 New Jersey games, and the AHL All-Star Challenge.

28: Wins by Yann Danis, tying a franchise record.

102: Regular season points, a new franchise record.

3: More seasons (at least) at the Times Union Center!



Calder Cup Recap, Week 5: The Clock Strikes Midnight

What an amazing ride this last month has been.  But unfortunately, thanks to a unlucky bounce at the end, the playoff roller coaster has come to a stop.

Game 7, 5/16: Toronto 4, Albany 3

After a wild week that saw the Marlies dominate the Devils on home ice, followed by a renaissance on Saturday, it was down to one game.  One game to determine who would face Hershey in the Eastern Conference Finals, and who would go home for the summer.  Jim O’Brien, out since Game 1, would return to the lineup, along with Mike Sislo, who had sat out Games 5 and 6.  The home team would strike the first blow less than 3 minutes into the contest–on the Devils first power play opportunity, a turnover by Marc Andre Gragnani was picked up by Connor Brown, who would breakaway and score shorthanded on Scott Wedgewood for a 1-0 Marlies lead.  Paul Thompson would answer just 46 seconds into the second period, scoring his second of the playoffs to tie the game up at 1.  The tie game would carry over into the third, where Nick Lappin would strike yet again.  His 5th postseason goal would give Albany a 2-1 edge 2:41 into the final period.  Toronto would then respond with a nice goal by Kasperi Kapanen at 9:07 to re-tie the game.  The momentum would temporarily switch over to Toronto, as a Connor Carrick goal with 7:01 remaining would give the Marlies a 3-2 lead.  But Albany was not about to go away quietly…Thompson’s second goal of the night with 4:41 remaining tied things up at 3.  Just as this classic Game 7 looked like it would need overtime to finally settle on a winner…a bounce off the boards behind Wedgewood’s net would end up on the stick of Richard Clune, who would send it into the corner of the net with exactly 2:30 remaining in regulation.  The Devils would try to re-tie the game up late, pulling Wedgewood for an extra attacker and desperately trying to get the puck past Marlies goaltender Antoine Bibeau…but sadly time ran out, and the 2015-16 season officially came to an end, nine wins short of the ultimate goal.  Wedgewood finished with 20 saves on 24 shots.  Graham Black contributed two assists, while four others had one assist each.

The Lineup:

Matt Lorito-Joe Blandisi-Mike Sislo

Reid Boucher-Jim O’Brien-Nick Lappin

Blake Pietila-Graham Black-Paul Thompson

Ryan Kujawinski-Rod Pelley-Chris McKelvie

Seth Helgeson/Vojtech Mozik

Damon Severson/Reece Scarlett

Marc Andre Gragnani/Corbin McPherson

Scott Wedgewood/Yann Danis

Scratched: Brandon Burlon, Dan Kelly, Blake Coleman, Max Novak, Brian O’Neill, Ben Thomson, Raman Hrabarenka, Pierre-Luc Leblond, Pavel Zacha

Power Play: 0 for 2.  Penalty Kill: 1 for 1.  Penalty Minutes: 4.  Shots on Goal: 28.  Shots Allowed: 24.


Postseason Team Leaders:

Goals: Nick Lappin (5)

Assists: Damon Severson (8)

Points: Reid Boucher (10)

+/-: Jim O’Brien/Dan Kelly (+4)

Penalty Minutes: Dan Kelly (21)

Wins: Scott Wedgewood (6)

GAA: Scott Wedgewood (2.72)

Save Percentage: Scott Wedgewood (.897)

Around the Calder Cup Playoffs:

The final four has been set, with the Marlies and Bears getting started on Friday night in Hershey (due to the circus at the Giant Center next week, the Bears will host Games 1 and 2).  Lake Erie and Ontario will start their series in California on Saturday night.

What’s Next?

Well, now that we’re in offseason mode here…stay tuned next week for parts 2 and 3 of my season review.  In between my baseball adventures (one month to go before Valleycats start up again), I will also be bringing back the Free Agent Tracker in July, and there will be updates on the NHL Draft in June and development camp in mid-summer, along with schedule updates and any other news items that may pop up.

Calder Cup Recap, Week 4: So You’re Saying There’s A Chance?

Everyone expected a war between the two best teams in the Eastern Conference in the North Division Finals.  And they got one.  From overtime comebacks to controversial hits to desperation, this series is going the distance.

Game 3, 5/8: Albany 3, Toronto 2 (OT)

It was back to New York for the Devils, as the second round moved to Game 3.  There were a few lineup changes for Albany for this one: Max Novak, Graham Black, and Corbin McPherson were in, while Pierre-Luc Leblond, Reece Scarlett, and Ryan Kujawinski were out.  The Devils special teams came through during the first…with Brian O’Neill serving a slashing minor, Rod Pelley would score his first of the postseason shorthanded for a 1-0 lead.  The Marlies would respond early in the second period, tying things up on a Josh Leivo goal.  Toronto would grab a 2-1 lead with 11:10 left in regulation thanks to William Nylander’s second goal of the postseason.  Toronto looked well on their way to picking up a win and going up 2-1 in the series…then Nick Lappin happened.  With Mike Sislo sitting for a slashing minor, and with just 21 seconds left in regulation, Lappin banged home a rebound to tie things up at 2.  The game shifted into overtime, where it was clear that the Devils had the momentum, outshooting the Marlies 12-4.  And on that 12th shot…Lappin would come through again in the clutch, scoring on a power play off a rebound to complete the Devil comeback and give Albany a 2-1 series lead.  Scott Wedgewood rebounded nicely from his Game 2 performance on Friday, stopping 25 of 27 shots.  Four Devils would each have one assist in another balanced offensive attack.  The penalty kill continued its postseason domination, going a perfect 8 for 8 and scoring twice shorthanded.

The Lineup:

Reid Boucher-Brian O’Neill-Nick Lappin

Matt Lorito-Blake Pietila-Mike Sislo

Graham Black-Joe Blandisi-Paul Thompson

Ben Thomson-Rod Pelley-Max Novak

Damon Severson/Dan Kelly

Seth Helgeson/Vojtech Mozik

Marc Andre Gragnani/Corbin McPherson

Scott Wedgewood/Yann Danis

Scratched: Brandon Burlon, Blake Coleman, Jim O’Brien, Chris McKelvie, Ryan Kujawinski, Pierre-Luc Leblond, Raman Hrabarenka, Pavel Zacha, Reece Scarlett

Power Play: 1 for 4.  Penalty Kill: 8 for 8.  Penalty Minutes: 20.  Shots on Goal: 39.  Shots Allowed: 27.


Game 4, 5/10: Toronto 7, Albany 2

The Devils were hoping to carry over any momentum earned from the comeback win on Sunday and go for a 3-1 series lead in Game 4 on Tuesday.  Only one change: Reece Scarlett went back in after a one game rest for Corbin McPherson.  Things early on looked very much in favor of the hosts…they put up the first 6 shots of the game and Blake Pietila scored his third goal of the postseason just 2:10 into the contest for a 1-0 lead.  But later in the first, Damon Severson was called for a double minor for high sticking…and things would go down the drain from there.  Mark Arcobello would tie the game up 41 seconds into the first half of that double minor.  Later in the period, Brian O’Neill would get called for a trip…and Kasperi Kapanen would cash in with his first postseason goal for a 2-1 Toronto lead.  Severson would find himself in the box again less than a minute into the second for another high stick call…and T.J. Brennan would pick up his fifth playoff goal just seconds later for a 3-1 lead.  Then a slightly scary moment turned into a 15 minute game delay, when Ben Thomson went to hit Rich Clune, missed, and shattered a pane of glass near the penalty box.  Once play resumed…another huge moment that could have an effect on the Devils for the remainder of the series.  Dan Kelly hit Marlies rookie Andreas Johnson with an elbow to the head (video here courtesy of The Leafs Nation), keeping Johnson down on the ice for several minutes before needing help to leave.  Kelly had to answer the bell against Zach Hyman, then he too was done for the night with a match penalty.  With just 23 seconds to go before nearly killing off the full 5 minutes, Brendan Leipsic would pick up power play goal #4 for Toronto, putting them ahead 4-1.  To top off the disastrous second for the Devils, Nikita Soshnikov would score his second of the playoffs with 1:21 to go for a 5-1 advantage.  Scott Wedgewood would get pulled prior to the third, and Yann Danis finally made his first postseason appearance to begin the third.  And to celebrate?  Soshnikov would pick up his second goal of the night for a 6-1 Marlies lead.  Connor Brown would kick the extra point with a 4 on 4 score midway through the third for a 7-1 advantage.  Graham Black, in just his second postseason game, picked up a goal with 21 seconds remaining, but it was too little too late, as the Marlies showed why they were the regular season champions in evening the series at 2.  The 7 goals were the most the Devils had allowed all season, and the five goal deficit their biggest as well.  Wedgewood stopped 12 of 17, while Danis stopped 7 of 9 in relief.  Severson managed two more assists to give him 8 for the postseason.

The Lineup:

Reid Boucher-Brian O’Neill-Nick Lappin

Matt Lorito-Blake Pietila-Mike Sislo

Graham Black-Joe Blandisi-Paul Thompson

Ben Thomson-Rod Pelley-Max Novak

Damon Severson/Dan Kelly

Marc Andre Gragnani/Reece Scarlett

Seth Helgeson/Vojtech Mozik

Scott Wedgewood/Yann Danis

Scratches: Brandon Burlon, Blake Coleman, Jim O’Brien, Chris McKelvie, Ryan Kujawinski, Raman Hrabarenka, Pierre-Luc Leblond, Corbin McPherson, Pavel Zacha

Power Play: 0 for 6.  Penalty Kill: 5 for 9.  Penalty Minutes: 31.  Shots on Goal: 26.  Shots Allowed: 26.


Thursday: The ruling for Dan Kelly came down, and it came down hard.  He was given a 10 game suspension by the AHL as a result of Tuesday’s hit, knocking him out for virtually the remainder of the postseason.

Game 5, 5/12: Toronto 5, Albany 1

The series turned into a best of 3, as the Devils got one last shot on home ice before heading back north of the border.  With Dan Kelly out, Corbin McPherson stepped in for his second appearance, with Raman Hrabarenka taking over the 7th defenseman slot.  Ben Thomson, Max Novak, and Mike Sislo (banged up in Sislo’s case) were out, Pierre-Luc Leblond, Chris McKelvie, and Ryan Kujawinski were in.  Scott Wedgewood was back in net looking to rebound from Tuesday’s disaster.  Things looked good to start in the first, as neither team could get on the board and the Devils only had one penalty to contend with, compared to two for the Marlies.  But in the second, old habits came back to bite the home team…Joe Blandisi would sit 1:18 in for a delay of game call, and Connor Carrick would score 5 seconds later, his 5th goal of the postseason, for a 1-0 Toronto lead.  Connor Brown would double the lead just over five minutes with another power play tally.  Nikita Soshnikov would pick up his 4th goal with just under 5 minutes remaining in the second for a 3-0 lead, then Paul Thompson would finally get Albany on the board with his first postseason goal just over a minute later to cut the lead to 3-1.  The Marlies would put the game away in the third by scoring twice…Brendan Leipsic would pick up his second of the postseason thanks to a bounce off a referee’s skate, then a risk by the Devils to pull Wedgewood for an extra skater early would end up backfiring as Josh Leivo would send it into the empty net with 2:08 remaining to seal the win, putting Albany on the brink of elimination with up to two games left in Canada.  Wedgewood stopped 18 of 22 shots, while Seth Helgeson and Kujawinski had the lone helpers.  The penalty kill struggled once again, giving up two power play goals on 5 opportunities.

The Lineup:

Reid Boucher-Brian O’Neill-Nick Lappin

Matt Lorito-Joe Blandisi-Blake Pietila

Ryan Kujawinski-Graham Black-Paul Thompson

Chris McKelvie-Rod Pelley-Pierre-Luc Leblond

Seth Helgeson/Vojtech Mozik

Reece Scarlett/Damon Severson

Marc Andre Gragnani/Corbin McPherson

Scott Wedgewood/Yann Danis

Scratches: Brandon Burlon, Blake Coleman, Jim O’Brien, Mike Sislo, Ben Thomson, Raman Hrabarenka, Pavel Zacha, Max Novak, Dan Kelly

Power Play: 0 for 3.  Penalty Kill: 3 for 5.  Penalty Minutes: 24.  Shots on Goal: 22.  Shots Allowed: 23.


Game 6, 5/14: Albany 4, Toronto 1

Albany’s backs were against the proverbial wall going into Saturday afternoon and Game 6, facing the daunting task of winning two in a row on Toronto’s home ice.  To add to it, Mike Sislo and Brian O’Neill were unable to play due to injury, putting Max Novak back into the lineup.  Toronto was also missing a main scorer in Nikita Soshnikov, who burned the Devils in Games 4 and 5.  Well…challenge accepted.  Within the first 5:13 of the contest, the Devils were already up 2-0 thanks to Reid Boucher’s fourth goal of the playoffs, followed 49 seconds later by Corbin McPherson’s first goal of the postseason.  The Marlies would try to rally in the second, cutting the lead in half on a Kasperi Kapanen goal halfway through the period.  But instead of rolling over like in Games 4 and 5, the Devils would respond with a Nick Lappin goal to restore the two goal cushion.  Despite the Marlies outshooting Albany 13-5 in the third, Graham Black would put the exclamation point on with his second postseason goal for a 4-1 lead.  And Scott Wedgewood took care of the rest, stopping 34 of 35 shots and rebounding beautifully from his last two starts to extend the Devils season by two more days, setting up a Game 7 showdown on Monday night.  McPherson, Lappin, and Boucher would all have multi point games, while four other Devils had one assist each.  The defensive pair of McPherson and Marc Andre Gragnani finished a +3.  As for special teams?  The penalty kill was back to Albany standards, going a perfect 5 for 5.

The Lineup:

Reid Boucher-Matt Lorito-Nick Lappin

Blake Pietila-Joe Blandisi-Max Novak

Ryan Kujawinski-Graham Black-Paul Thompson

Ben Thomson-Rod Pelley-Chris McKelvie

Seth Helgeson/Vojtech Mozik

Damon Severson/Reece Scarlett

Marc Andre Gragnani/Corbin McPherson

Scott Wedgewood/Yann Danis

Scratched: Brandon Burlon, Dan Kelly, Blake Coleman, Jim O’Brien, Mike Sislo, Brian O’Neill, Raman Hrabarenka, Pierre-Luc Leblond, Pavel Zacha

Power Play: 0 for 3.  Penalty Kill: 5 for 5.  Penalty Minutes: 27.  Shots on Goal: 28.  Shots Allowed: 35.


Around the Calder Cup Playoffs:

Since I haven’t updated on how the rest of the playoff picture is coming together in a couple of weeks…

Ontario became the first team to punch its ticket to the Conference Finals, finishing off San Diego in 5 games (in the ever popular 1-1-1-1-1-1-1 format). Lake Erie was up 3 games to 0 on Grand Rapids, but the Griffins have come back to cut the series deficit to 3-2, with Game 6 coming up in Michigan on Monday.  If there is a Game 7 on Wednesday, it will have to be played in Columbus due to the Cavaliers playoff run (the Monsters share the building). Wilkes-Barre and Hershey will play Game 7 of their series in Hershey on Sunday afternoon.

Up North with the Thunder:

Sadly for Adirondack, their season has come to an end after a second round loss to South Carolina.

The Thunder took a 3-2 series lead on Saturday with a 3-2 overtime win in Glens Falls.  Ben Johnson and Greg Wolfe scored in the first, while Gunnar Hughes scored the game winner 11:21 into overtime.  Ken Appleby rebounded from a rough Game 4 by stopping 28 of 30 shots.  Back in Charleston for Game 6 on Tuesday, the Stingrays forced a Game 7 with a 4-1 win.  It was a very physical game, as both teams combined for 120 penalty minutes, the majority coming during the last 1:50 of the game.  Appleby stopped 26 of 30 shots, while Wolfe had an assist on the lone goal in the first off the stick of Mathieu Brodeur.  Former A-Devil Kelly Zajac had three assists for South Carolina.  In Game 7 on Wednesday, Ben Johnson’s 3rd postseason goal 4:43 into the contest put the Thunder ahead 1-0, but the Stingrays would tie it 36 seconds later.  The Thunder carried a 2-1 lead into the third, only to have South Carolina re-tie the game midway through.  It took nearly two overtimes, but the Stingrays would score the game winner with 4:26 remaining in the second extra period.  Appleby would stop 43 of 46 shots in Game 7, finishing the postseason with a 7-4-1 record, a 2.31 GAA and a .920 save percentage.  Wolfe lead all Adirondack skaters with 14 points (6 goals, 8 assists) in 12 games.

What’s Next?

It all comes down to Game 7 in Toronto on Monday night.  Win, and it’s on to the conference finals against either Wilkes-Barre or Hershey (and home ice!).  Lose, and the season is done.  Next recap will be on Wednesday, where I’ll either have the next round schedule…or the schedule on how I’ll review the season.  And honestly, I’m not quite ready to finish the last two parts yet.

Calder Cup Recap, Week 3: Northern Split

What really should be a conference final matchup is just a second round one, thanks to the divisional format.  Before this series began, everyone predicted a long, dragged out series between the Devils and Marlies.

And if the first two games…a split at Ricoh Coliseum before shifting to Albany for the next 3…are any indication, we may be in for a long one.

Game 1, 5/4: Albany 2, Toronto 1

The series kicked off on Wednesday north of the border, with just one lineup change from the previous week: Paul Thompson was back in, with Pierre-Luc Leblond sitting out.  The Devils found themselves short a player early on when Jim O’Brien had to leave the game in the early moments due to injury, shaking up the 11 forward lineup.  But it didn’t appear to be an issue nearly midway through the first period…Brian O’Neill, on the first power play chance of the game, would score his first of the postseason to give Albany a 1-0 lead.  Toronto would answer fairly quickly, as a Connor Carrick shot found its way past Scott Wedgewood just over a minute later to tie the game up at 1.  But, just over a minute after that goal, Matt Lorito would pick up his second goal of the postseason to put Albany ahead 2-1.  All three goals were scored in a span of 2:10.

Scott Wedgewood would take care of the rest, finishing with 32 saves on 33 shots.  Mike Sislo assisted on both goals, and Marc Andre Gragnani added a helper.  The Marlies were held to one goal on home ice for the first time since November 29th.  Albany’s penalty kill remained perfect, improving to 17 for 17 during the postseason.

The Lineup:

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

Matt Lorito-Pavel Zacha-Nick Lappin

Blake Pietila-Joe Blandisi-Mike Sislo

Ben Thomson-Rod Pelley-Paul Thompson

Damon Severson/Dan Kelly

Seth Helgeson/Vojtech Mozik

Marc Andre Gragnani/Reece Scarlett

Scott Wedgewood/Yann Danis

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

Power Play: 1 for 4.  Penalty Kill: 3 for 3.  Penalty Minutes: 8.  Shots on Goal: 29.  Shots Allowed: 33.


Game 2, 5/6: Toronto 5, Albany 3

Two lineup changes for the Devils going into Game 2 on Friday night: Jim O’Brien and Pavel Zacha were out due to injuries, in comes Ryan Kujawinski and Pierre-Luc Leblond, causing some lineup switching.  This time, it was Toronto getting on the board first…just as Leblond was exiting the penalty box, Ben Smith would score to give the Marlies the early lead.  But the Devils were quick to respond to that…Dan Kelly would pick up his first goal of the playoffs just over a minute later to tie things up at 1.  Less than 3 minutes later, Nick Lappin would score his first postseason goal to put Albany ahead 2-1 after the first 20 minutes.  Second period, things started getting just a little chippy, as both teams combined for 18 penalty minutes.  While Joe Blandisi was serving a double minor for attempted spearing (Richard Clune sold it well, but was still called for embellishment anyway), T.J. Brennan would be the first player to score a power play goal against the Devils this postseason, tying the game back up at two apiece.  The Marlies would take a 3-2 lead early in the third on a Zach Hyman goal, but just under two minutes later Matt Lorito would answer with his third goal of the playoffs to tie the game up again.  But Brennan’s second goal of the game with just over 13 minutes remaining in regulation would turn out to be the game winner.  The Devils tried in vain to get the fourth tying goal, but Antoine Bibeau was up to the challenge, stopping 18 of 19 third period shots.  Hyman picked up his second goal of the night on a wraparound with 1:45 remaining to put the game away, sending the series back to the Capital District all tied up.

It was not the greatest of nights for Scott Wedgewood, as he stopped 27 of 32 shots.  It was the first game all season where he gave up more than three goals.  Kelly and four other Devils had one assist each.

The Lineup:

Ryan Kujawinski-Joe Blandisi-Mike Sislo

Reid Boucher-Brian O’Neill-Nick Lappin

Matt Lorito-Blake Pietila-Paul Thompson

Ben Thomson-Rod Pelley-Pierre-Luc Leblond

Seth Helgeson/Vojtech Mozik

Damon Severson/Dan Kelly

Marc Andre Gragnani/Reece Scarlett

Scott Wedgewood/Yann Danis

Scratches: Brandon Burlon, Blake Coleman, Max Novak, Jim O’Brien, Chris McKelvie, Graham Black, Raman Hrabarenka, Corbin McPherson, Pavel Zacha

Power Play: 0 for 3.  Penalty Kill: 4 for 5.  Penalty Minutes: 14.  Shots on Goal: 43.  Shots Allowed: 32.


AHL Live has the highlight reel here.

Up North with the Thunder:

Adirondack and South Carolina are tied up at 2 in their second round series, splitting Games 3 and 4 in Glens Falls this week.  In Game 3 on Tuesday, Ken Appleby stopped 28 of 29 shots in a 3-1 win.  Gunnar Hughes scored, and Ben Johnson and Greg Wolfe each had an assist.  The Stingrays would storm back into the series on Thursday, shutting out the Thunder 6-0.  Appleby was pulled after two periods, stopping 12 of 17 shots.  One of the goal scorers for South Carolina?  Former A-Devil Kelly Zajac.

Game 5 will be in Glens Falls on Saturday, then the series shifts back to Charleston for Game 6 on Tuesday.  If needed, Game 7 will be on Wednesday.

What’s Next?

The series shifts back to the Capital Region for the next 3 games: Game 3 Sunday afternoon, Game 4 on Tuesday night, and Game 5 on Thursday night.  If needed, it’s back to Toronto on Saturday afternoon for Game 6.

There will be two special guests on hand for Game 4 on Tuesday: former Devil Ken Daneyko and N.J. Devil will be making the trip north.

Playoff Preview, Second Round: Albany vs. Toronto

Where: Ricoh Coliseum, Toronto, Ontario, Canada (Games 1, 2, 6,7); Times Union Center, Albany, NY (Games 3, 4, 5)


Game 1 at Toronto: Wednesday, May 4th, 7:30 PM

Game 2 at Toronto: Friday, May 6th, 7:30 PM

Game 3 at Albany: Sunday, May 8th, 5:00 PM

Game 4 at Albany: Tuesday, May 10th, 7:00 PM

Game 5 at Albany: Thursday, May 12th, 7:00 PM*

Game 6 at Toronto: Saturday, May 14th, 3:00 PM*

Game 7 at Toronto: Monday, May 16th, 7:30 PM*

*if necessary

Regular Season Series:

Toronto took 4 of 6 matchups against Albany:

October 17th @ Toronto: Toronto 3, Albany 2 (OT): The Devils would blow a 2-1 lead with 1:57 remaining in regulation, then T.J. Brennan would score the game winner with 1:22 remaining in overtime.

October 18th @ Toronto: Albany 3, Toronto 2: Blake Pietila’s first professional goal in the third period would be the game winner, Albany’s first win of the season.  Yann Danis would stop 26 of 28 shots.

November 1st @ Albany: Toronto 3, Albany 2 (OT): Reid Boucher and Mike Sislo would each have a power play goal in the first, but Mark Arcobello’s goal twenty seconds into overtime would be the difference.

March 1st @ Toronto: Toronto 4, Albany 0: An 11 AM start was not kind to the Devils, as they were shutout by Antoine Bibeau.

March 13th @ Albany: Albany 3, Toronto 2: Raman Hrabarenka would score twice on consecutive power plays in a 2:27 span in the second period to put Albany ahead, but after the Marlies tied it early in the third, Nick Lappin’s first professional goal with 40 seconds remaining in regulation clinched the win.

April 10th @ Albany: Toronto 3, Albany 0:  Despite 35 shots, the Devils were shutout for the second time by Bibeau.

2015-16 Regular/Postseason Records:

Toronto: 54-16-5-1, 114 points, .750 points percentage, 1st place in North Division.  Postseason: 3-0.

Albany: 46-20-8-2, 102 points, .671 points percentage, 2nd place in North Division.  Postseason: 3-1.


Toronto Marlies

Albany Devils

Toronto By The Numbers:

Regular Season:

Home: 27-9-2-0.  Road: 27-7-3-1.

Power Play: 17.4% (10th in AHL).  Penalty Kill: 84.0% (12th).

Goals For/Game: 3.87 (1st in AHL).  Goals Against/Game: 2.51 (4th).

Leading Scorers (Top 5):

Regular Season: T.J. Brennan (68), Mark Arcobello (59), Colin Smith (56), Brendan Leipsic (54), Josh Leivo (48)

Postseason: Connor Carrick (7), Connor Brown/Josh Leivo (3), 7 tied with 2

Goals (Regular Season): T.J. Brennan/Mark Arcobello (25)

Goals (Postseason): Connor Carrick/Connor Brown (3)

Assists (Regular Season): T.J. Brennan (43)

Assists (Postseason): Connor Carrick (4)

Plus/Minus (Regular Season): Andrew Campbell (+39)

Plus/Minus (Postseason): Connor Carrick (+6)

Penalty Minutes (Regular Season): Richard Clune (146)

Penalty Minutes (Postseason): Josh Leivo (6)

Wins (Regular Season): Antoine Bibeau (28)

Wins (Postseason): Garret Sparks (2)

GAA (Regular Season): Garret Sparks (2.33)

GAA (Postseason): Garret Sparks (0.00)

Save Percentage (Regular Season): Garret Sparks (.928)

Save Percentage (Postseason): Garret Sparks (1.000)

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):

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

Postseason: Reid Boucher (6), Damon Severson (5), Blake Pietila/Jim O’Brien (4), 4 tied with 3

Goals (Regular Season): Mike Sislo (27)

Goals (Postseason): Reid Boucher (3)

Assists (Regular Season): Matt Lorito (36)

Assists (Postseason): Damon Severson (5)

Plus/Minus (Regular Season): Vojtech Mozik (+28)

Plus/Minus (Postseason): Damon Severson (+4)

Penalty Minutes (Regular Season): Pierre-Luc Leblond (131)

Penalty Minutes (Postseason): 4 tied with 4

Wins (Regular Season): Yann Danis (28)

Wins (Postseason): Scott Wedgewood (3)

GAA (Regular Season): Scott Wedgewood (1.55)

GAA (Postseason): Scott Wedgewood (1.93)

Save Percentage (Regular Season): Scott Wedgewood (.933)

Save Percentage (Postseason): Scott Wedgewood (.922)

Print Media Coverage:

Toronto: Toronto Star

Albany: Times Union, Daily Gazette


Toronto: Rogers TV

Albany: AHL Live

Social Media:


Facebook: Toronto Marlies

Instagram: torontomarlies

Twitter: @TorontoMarlies, @HockeyCrock


Facebook: Albany Devils

Instagram: albanydevils

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

Calder Cup Recap, Week 2: On to the Next Round

Three wins down, 12 more to go on the journey to the Calder Cup.  It may have taken an extra day to finish off the Comets, but now the Devils face the ultimate test…the Marlies await in Round 2.

Game 3, 4/26: Utica 2, Albany 1 (OT)

The series shifted nine exits west on the New York State Thruway on Tuesday, as Utica got their first chance to play on home ice in front of a sellout crowd.  Albany would stick with their lineup, with a chance to put the series away with a sweep.  But, the Comets were not about to go away quietly.  Jordan Subban’s second goal of the series would come 12:36 into the opening period, putting the hosts ahead 1-0.  That lead would not last for too long, however…less than 5 minutes later and just 16 seconds after starting a 4 on 3 power play, Mike Sislo would pick up his first goal of the postseason to tie it up at 1.  After that, the goalies would take over…Scott Wedgewood and Joe Cannata would be tested quite a few times over the remainder of regulation.  The Devils had plenty of chances to take the lead, including some extended power play time midway through the second period, but could not produce.  The Comets also saw many shots either get caught by Wedgewood or go way off the mark.  After 60 minutes, 48 combined shots, and a lot of pushing and shoving on each side, it was on to overtime to settle things.  It was clear from the start that Utica was the better team in the extra frame, outshooting the Devils 7-3, and the seventh shot came off a turnover and a pass from Mike Zalewski to Alexandre Grenier, who would score the game winner 9:13 in to keep Utica alive in the series.  Wedgewood had another excellent performance, stopping 28 of 30 (some of those thanks to some acrobatics) shots.  Damon Severson picked up his fourth assist of the series, and Reid Boucher notched his fifth point with a helper.

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

Scratched: 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: 1 for 4.  Penalty Kill: 3 for 3.  Penalty Minutes: 12.  Shots on Goal: 28.  Shots Allowed: 30.


Thursday: Before Game 4, some roster trimming: Ryan Rehill, Colton White, and Blake Speers were all released from their amateur tryouts.  Rehill was the only one of the three to see any game action, making his professional debut on April 13th against Binghamton.

Game 4, 4/28: Albany 6, Utica 3

It was back to the Aud on Thursday evening, as Albany made their second attempt to close out the Comets.  After Tuesday’s loss featured a lot of chippy play on both sides, a little more grit and sandpaper was needed, and so a lineup change was made…Blake Pietila and Pierre-Luc Leblond were in, Paul Thompson and Ryan Kujawinski were out.  The lines were also shaken up, with Pietila going on the top line and Matt Lorito and Nick Lappin moving to the third line.  And the changes paid off quickly…Lorito and Joe Blandisi would score 13 seconds apart early in the first, and it was 2-0 Devils just 4:06 into the contest.  Mike Sislo would add his second of the series 7 minutes later for a 3-0 lead.  The rout continued into the second, as Reid Boucher scored his third goal just as the special teams killed off an extended penalty kill with 9:05 for a commanding 4-0 lead.  But the Comets still had some life left in them, as Game 3 hero Alexandre Grenier would break up Scott Wedgewood’s shutout bid with 3:27 left in the period to cut the lead to 4-1.  But a late shorthanded goal by Pietila would put the Devils ahead 5-1 entering the final period.  With their proverbial backs against the wall, Utica tried to rally in the third, as Richard Bachman went in place of starter Joe Cannata, and  goals by Alex Friesen and T.J. Hensick would cut the lead to 5-3 midway through the period.  But an empty net goal by Pietila, his second of the game, with 2:17 remaining would be the final nail in the Comets coffin.  Brian O’Neill had a chance to extend the lead to four after being awarded a penalty shot thirteen seconds later, but would be denied by Bachman.  At the end of the day, it didn’t matter…Albany won their first ever playoff series, and it was the first time a New Jersey AHL affiliate would advance to the second round since the 1998 River Rats, who made it to the conference finals that season before being eliminated by eventual Calder Cup winner Philadelphia.  Wedgewood had another outstanding game in net, stopping 32 of 35 shots.  Pietila lead the way with four points, while four other Devils had assists.  The penalty kill finished a perfect 14 for 14 over the four game series, while the power play finished 4 for 16.

The Lineup:

Blake Pietila-Joe Blandisi-Mike Sislo

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

Nick Lappin-Pavel Zacha-Matt Lorito

Ben Thomson-Rod Pelley-Pierre-Luc Leblond

Marc Andre Gragnani/Reece Scarlett

Damon Severson/Dan Kelly

Seth Helgeson/Vojtech Mozik

Scott Wedgewood/Yann Danis

Scratched: Brandon Burlon, Blake Coleman, Max Novak, Paul Thompson, Chris McKelvie, Graham Black, Ryan Kujawinski, Raman Hrabarenka, Corbin McPherson, Josh Jacobs

Power Play: 0 for 4.  Penalty Kill: 6 for 6.  Penalty Minutes: 12.  Shots on Goal: 34.  Shots Allowed: 35.


Postseason Stats (Team Leaders):

Goals: Reid Boucher (3)

Assists: Damon Severson (5)

Points: Reid Boucher (6)

+/-: Dan Kelly/Damon Severson (+4)

Penalty Minutes: 4 tied with 4

Wins: Scott Wedgewood (3)

GAA: Scott Wedgewood (1.93)

Save Percentage: Scott Wedgewood (.922)

Around the Calder Cup Playoffs:

The second round matchups are almost all set, except for the Atlantic Division final…Portland and Hershey will be the only first round series to go the distance, playing Game 5 this afternoon in Chocolatetown.  The winner will take on Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, who have been idle since finishing off a sweep of Providence on April 23rd.

Eastern Conference

North Division Final: (N1) Toronto vs. (N2) Albany

Atlantic Division Final: (A1) Hershey/(A4) Portland vs. (A3) Wilkes-Barre/Scranton

Western Conference

Central Division Final: (C2) Lake Erie vs. (C4) Grand Rapids

Pacific Division Final: (P1) Ontario vs. (P2) San Diego


Up North with the Thunder:

Adirondack kicked off their second round series on Friday in South Carolina against the Stingrays, managing a split of the two game weekend matchups.  On Friday night in Game 1, the Thunder picked up a 5-4 win as Ben Johnson and Greg Wolfe each had a goal and an assist, Joe Faust picked up an assist, and Ken Appleby stopped 23 of 27 Stingray shots.  South Carolina would get a 1-0 shutout win in Game 2 on Saturday to even up the series, as Appleby only allowed a second period goal and saved 29 of 30.  He is 5-2-0 so far this postseason, with a 1.96 GAA and a .934 save percentage.  The series shifts to Glens Falls for the next three games: Game 3 on Tuesday, Game 4 on Thursday, and Game 5 on Saturday.  If necessary, Game 6 is May 10th and Game 7 May 11th in South Carolina.

What’s Next?

First up…here is the full second round schedule:

Wednesday: Game 1 @ Toronto, 7:30 PM

Friday: Game 2 @ Toronto, 7:30 PM

May 8th: Game 3 @ Albany, 5:00 PM

May 10th: Game 4 @ Albany, 7:00 PM

*May 12th: Game 5 @ Albany, 7:00 PM

*May 14th: Game 6 @ Toronto, 3:00 PM

*May 16th: Game 7 @ Toronto, 7:30 PM

As far as my coverage goes: I will be able to cover Games 1 & 2 at home.  Due to work obligations, no Game 3 on Sunday.  I will be at the arena for Game 4, hopefully for Game 5 if it is needed.  Game 6 & 7 I will cover from home if it gets that far.  The Round 2 pregamer will be out on Wednesday at noon, with the weekly recap next Sunday.