We are less than a week away from October. (Which means everyone can STOP. ASKING.)
AHL camps are in full swing, and ECHL camps will get underway next week. As a matter of fact, a couple of Thunder players have already began skating.
Out west in Binghamton, the Devils camp kicked off on Tuesday with three Adirondack invites: goaltender Colton Phinney, who also spent time in New Jersey’s camp; forward Mike Szmatula; and defenseman Jake Linhart. Binghamton will play a pair of games against Utica this weekend, hosting the Comets on Saturday after visiting the Aud the night before. The Devils will open the season on home ice on October 6th against the defending Calder Cup champion Marlies.
Episode 2 of the Podcast is here! This time, new associate coach Pete Dineen is the guest.
On Monday, the ECHL announced a partnership with Nickelodeon. Coming to every ECHL rink this season will be the “Nickelodeon Takeover Experience.”
What does that mean? Well, a team will have a theme night based on one of these characters:
(If you played any of these videos…I sorry.)
Another theme idea–and I vote for this one–is NickSplat, which gives a variety of ideas based on all the Nick shows most of us grew up on back in the day.
No word yet on which theme the Thunder will choose, but we do know the Nickelodeon game will be on Saturday, March 16th against Newfoundland. Yes, there also will be specialty jerseys.
Before the weekend begins…let’s catch up on the news of the week!
-Add another rookie to the Thunder ranks, as forward Shane Eisenman was signed on Tuesday. The native of Massachusetts will begin his professional career after spending 4 years at New Hampshire. Eisenman appeared in 28 games in his senior season with the Wildcats, picking up 5 goals and 5 assists. In 120 career collegiate games, he scored 16 goals and assisted on 33 others. Eisenman is a former Ottawa draft pick, being selected in the 4th round of the 2014 NHL Draft by the Senators while playing for Dubuque of the USHL.
-Forward Brian Ward, who has spent the last two seasons with the Thunder, was rewarded on Thursday with an AHL contract, signing with Binghamton. He lead all Adirondack skaters with 30 goals last season, finishing third on the team with 53 points in 59 games, followed by another 9 points in 17 postseason appearances. He also had two separate AHL PTOs: one game with Utica, then two games with Providence, where he picked up an assist. Ward is no stranger to the AHL Devils–he appeared in 8 games with the Albany Devils in 2016-17, picking up one assist. Since Adirondack extended Ward a qualifying offer during the offseason, his ECHL rights will stay in Glens Falls.
-Now for some promotions to look forward to in the 2018 portion of the Thunder schedule…
Three specialty jerseys: Military Appreciation on October 27th, with a postgame auction; Hockey Fights Type 1 Diabetes Night on November 24th, which will be warmup jerseys available via silent auction; and Marvel Black Panther on December 15th, available by raffle.
December 15th will also be the annual Teddy Bear Toss.
The annual New Year’s Eve home game is also on tap, with a special 2 for $20.19 ticket special.
December 8th features a coat drive, with all donors receiving a ticket to a game in early January, and a post game skate with the team.
Finally, in case you missed my other works recently:
Now that I’m finished introducing every signing so far…there has been a pair of transactions over the past two days, as we get closer to the start of camp:
-On Tuesday, a trade with Maine saw forward Terrence Wallin go from the Thunder to the Mariners, while in exchange Adirondack receives defenseman Matias Cleland. Cleland is a 24-year-old defenseman who split his first professional season last year between Orlando and Reading. In a combined 67 games, the Colorado native had 2 goals and 15 assists. He also appeared in four playoff games for the Royals, going scoreless. Prior to turning pro, Cleland spent four years at New Hampshire, then made his pro debut with Wheeling late in the 2016-17 season. Wallin had a breakout season with the Thunder last year, putting up 21 goals and 29 assists in 59 games, and an additional 6 goals and 4 assists in 17 Kelly Cup playoff contests. He would also make his AHL debut with Binghamton midseason, going scoreless in 4 games. Wallin is also a co-founder of Major 4 Sports, a website “for fans by athletes” that covers both pro and college sports, along with pieces by former teammates.
-Wednesday, a goaltender has finally joined the Thunder ranks, with the signing of Colton Phinney. Phinney comes to Glens Falls after splitting his first pro season between Jacksonville and Indy. He began the year with the IceMen, going 4-8-2 with a 3.25 GAA and .886 save percentage, then would join the Fuel late in the season, making one appearance on March 11th and getting the win against Toledo. He would also appear in one game for Manitoba, getting the loss. Prior to last season, the New Jersey native played four years for Princeton.
Today, we’re going Out of the Box for a special reason.
For those that have been following me for quite awhile, you know that my main hockey offseason activity revolves around the Tri-City ValleyCats, the local New York Penn League franchise.
And on a chilly Sunday night in Dutchess County, the Cats would finish off a two game sweep of the Hudson Valley Renegades with a nerve wracking extra inning win, taking home their third NYPL title since joining the league in 2002.
For the first time in my life, I got to experience in person my team winning a championship on the field (or on the ice, for that matter). Sure, I got to watch on TV when the Yankees and the Devils won their respective championships. I watched on TV when the River Rats won their only Calder Cup in 1995. I had to rely on phone calls from friends when the Cats won their titles in 2010 and 2013.
I was at the park when the Cats lost the championship to Mahoning Valley in 2004, and again to State College in 2014.
But Sunday…I experienced it live. And it felt AMAZING. Euphoric, awesome…you get the idea.
As I watched the Cats first baseman, Alex Holderbach, get a go ahead two run single in the 12th inning, the feeling of anticipation began.
When the bottom of the inning arrived, I moved from my seat above the Cats dugout to the front row down the third base line. I had to see the moment up close.
Two of the Cats pitchers, Austin Hansen and Brett Conine, had also moved to that row from behind home plate, where they had been charting their teammates for most of the night. They were ready to jump onto the field. Brett’s hand was visibly shaking, he was so anxious.
Manny Ramirez (no not THAT Manny) got the first two outs by strikeout. ONE MORE OUT!
Then, the walks began. Three of them in a row to load the bases. One swing by the Renegades batter could mean game over or an epic battle in extras would continue on. Manny came out of the game in favor of Jacob Billingsley. Three pitches later…
(Disclaimer: yes that would be me screaming my head off. You might want to adjust your volume.)
After the initial celebration, it was time for the trophy presentation at home plate.
Now it’s time to pop some bottles!
Afterwards, after the celebrating finished and the boys packed up the bus to head back to Troy for the last time this season, those that hung out by the bus got to see the NYPL trophy up close.
To me, the win not only gave me my first live celebration, it also avenged some past deeds. Back in 2012, the Renegades beat the Cats in the NYPL Championship Series. That Cats team was probably the best team I have seen at Bruno Stadium. Not only were they a great group on the field, they were off as well. I made quite a few friendships that summer, and my favorite player that year, Preston Tucker, eventually made it to the bigs with Houston before he was traded to Atlanta. The 2012 squad also coined the phrase Vamos Gatos–Let’s Go Cats in Spanish, a battle cry started by the team’s Latin American contingent. It’s become the team’s identity ever since.
Every time I made the hour and a half trip south to Dutchess Stadium, I would constantly be reminded every time I went through the gate, seeing the 2012 NYPL Champion banner by the main entrance.
I saw that banner again Sunday, with the feeling that I wouldn’t be bothered by it that much longer. And I was right.
Not a bad way to finish off my baseball season and start the transition to hockey season, I guess.
Once more with feeling…VAMOS GATOS! (clap clap clap)
McNaughton is a 24-year-old defenseman who will be making his North American pro debut this fall. Last season, he appeared in 18 games for Marseille in France, picking up 15 points (3 G, 12 A), and an additional 3 goals and 3 assists in 5 playoff games. The Ontario native took 2016-17 off after playing one season for Mount Royal University, and two seasons in the Maritime (Jr. A) Hockey League with Truro.
Salhany joins the Thunder after splitting last season between Reading and South Carolina. The 25-year-old forward began the year with a 5 game stint with the Royals, going scoreless. He joined the Stingrays in mid-December and appeared in 20 games, with 1 goal and 2 assists. Prior to turning pro, the Rhode Island native played collegiately with the University of Alabama-Huntsville.
The most experienced professional on the Thunder roster, Sdao comes to Glens Falls by way of Rapid City, where he appeared in 30 games for the Rush, going scoreless. The 29-year-old defenseman is a former 7th round pick by Ottawa, and Binghamton fans may remember him from his 2+ seasons in the Southern Tier. Prior to turning pro, the Colorado native spent 4 years at Princeton.
As of this writing, the Thunder roster now sits at 16 players signed–11 forwards, 5 defensemen. The goaltending situation is a little unpredictable at this point, with Cory Schneider not ready to start the season in New Jersey. Mackenzie Blackwood and rookie Cam Johnson will likely both be starting the season in Binghamton, leaving Adirondack to find some temporary help between the pipes until that situation is settled.
Binghamton also has three players–two who have spent time with the Thunder–on AHL deals that are also candidates to come down depending on camp: forward Ryan Schmelzer, who made a splash during the Kelly Cup Playoffs and lead the Thunder in playoff scoring; forward John Edwardh, who appeared in 3 games late in Adirondack’s season; and defenseman Tariq Hammond, a free agent signee from the University of Denver.
The only holdover from the team’s days in Stockton, Henry returns for his fourth season in Glens Falls, and sixth overall as a Thunder skater. He would appear in all 72 games for Adirondack last season, with 19 goals and 35 assists, and he was named as an ECHL All Star replacement after an injury to Ty Loney. He would score two goals and pick up 13 assists in 17 Kelly Cup playoff games. Henry also became the franchise’s all time leading scorer, and will enter the season with 148 career Adirondack points.
Conacher returns for his second full season with the Thunder on an ECHL contract after a huge year offensively. He would finish 2017-18 as the team’s leading scorer, with 20 goals and 43 assists in 55 games, while on an AHL/ECHL pact with Syracuse. He would also appear in 10 games for the Crunch, going scoreless. He played in 7 playoff games with 2 goals, before a leg injury during the second round against Manchester ended his season.
Back for his third season is Riley, who had a solid second full year. In 58 games, he scored 5 goals and added 14 assists, while having to play out of his natural position-defense-in several games due to injuries and recalls. In the postseason, Riley would appear in 13 games with 1 goal and 4 assists.
Thompson began his first professional season with Cincinnati, but would come over to the Thunder via a trade in mid-December. He would appear in 44 games for Adirondack, with one goal and six assists. He played in 10 playoff games with an additional goal and three assists.
Bergin returns to the Thunder for his second season after a breakout 2017-18 campaign, his second as a pro. In 65 games, the defenseman would score 15 goals and add 28 assists, then added 7 points in 11 playoff games. He would also make his AHL debut, skating in two games for Hartford and going scoreless.
Szmatula returns for his first full professional season after joining the Thunder in late March from the University of Minnesota. He would pick up two assists in 6 regular season games, then appear in all 17 playoff games, scoring his first pro goal in Game 3 of the first round in Worcester. He would finish with 5 goals and 3 assists for the postseason.
The first official signing of the 2018 offseason, MacArthur returns to his hometown Thunder after spending last season with the Allen Americans. He appeared in just 22 games last season, with 5 goals and 8 assists. In 2016-17, the native of Clifton Park served as Thunder captain and picked up 63 points (24 G, 39 A) in 63 games, then had a goal and an assist in 6 playoff games.
Bradshaw returns to the Thunder after spending last season overseas with two different European teams. The native of Medicine Hat, Alberta, appeared in 20 games for Kallinge/Ronneby IF in Sweden’s Division 1, with 6 goals and 7 assists. Bradshaw would then appear in 13 games for Brest in France, picking up 5 goals and 4 helpers. In 2016-17, he appeared in 30 games for Adirondack after starting the season with the SPHL’s Mississippi RiverKings, picking up 24 points (7 goals, 17 assists), then appearing in 5 playoff games with one goal.
Kravchenko returns to where his professional career began in 2016-17, after spending last season in Fort Wayne. The native of California appeared in 50 games for the Komets last season, scoring 19 goals and adding 27 assists. He would also appear in 11 playoff games, with 2 goals and 6 assists. Kravchenko spent his rookie season in Glens Falls after two years at UMass-Amherst, and he would become a key member of the offense–in 41 games, he scored 17 goals and assisted on 25 others, then added four goals in 6 playoff games.