Up North with the Thunder 8/20

So I took a field trip to Glens Falls on Saturday afternoon…

Only signage so far with the new name.
Good to be freezing in a rink again!

 

 

The new signage outside the CIA.

-On Thursday, the lot outside the entrance to Cool Insuring Arena–which had been known as Civic Center Plaza–was renamed Bill Dineen Way, to honor the former Red Wings coach who passed away in December.

-Forward Brian Ward signed a one year contract on Friday, returning for a second season.  A key member of the offense, Ward started the season in Albany’s training camp, joined the Thunder in early October, and would lead Adirondack in goals with 27.  He would go on to finish his first full pro season with 49 points in 49 games.  He also made 8 appearances with the A-Devils, picking up one assist.  Ward was named the ECHL’s CCM Rookie of the Month for March 2017 after picking up 8 goals and 9 assists in 11 contests, including his first career hat trick.

 

Up North with the Thunder 8/8

Today was quite a busy day for Adirondack.

Two big announcements came out this morning during a press conference in Glens Falls:

-First, there’s a new affiliation.  Well, make that two new affiliations.

The main affiliate for at least the 2017-18 season will be New Jersey/Binghamton, which marks the first time since 2010-11 that the Devils have a full time ECHL partner (Trenton).  New Jersey is no stranger to using Adirondack as a partner–in between AHL stints up north, the then River Rats used the UHL’s IceHawks (later known as the Frostbite) as a feeder team in the early 2000s, with Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond the most notable of those players (his first professional season was in 2005-06, the final year the Frostbite called Glens Falls home).

Tampa Bay/Syracuse will take over New Jersey’s unofficial partnership/handshake role.  The Lightning/Crunch were in search of a new team after last year’s ECHL affiliate, Kalamazoo, signed an agreement with Vancouver/Utica in July.  They had some success last season with one member of last year’s Thunder, as defenseman Mathieu Brodeur turned a PTO stint in early December with Syracuse into an AHL contract, helping the Crunch reach the Calder Cup Finals last June.

-Secondly, Brad Tapper will take over as Head Coach and Director of Hockey Operations, just six days after former coach Cail McLean left the Thunder for an assistant coaching role in Stockton.

Tapper is a former RPI product who spent parts of three seasons with the Atlanta Thrashers before finishing his playing career in Germany. This is his first head coaching job, as he has spent the last six seasons as an assistant in both the ECHL and AHL, including a Kelly Cup championship with the Florida Everblades in 2012.  He spent two years as an assistant coach in Chicago with the Wolves before spending last season with the Amerks.

Up North with the Thunder 8/2

It’s been a rather busy two days in Glens Falls…

Let there be ice.  I think the Thunder were the first pro team to install their ice for the upcoming season.

-Just before the ice was revealed yesterday afternoon, a fifth Thunder player joined the ranks, and it’s another returnee–forward Austin Orszulak, who joined Adirondack in early March after finishing his collegiate career at American International College in Massachusetts.  He appeared in 14 games with the Thunder, scoring three times and picking up four assists.  He also appeared in two games during the Kelly Cup playoffs.

-Earlier today, the Post-Star reported that head coach Cail McLean will not return to the Thunder for a third season behind the bench.  He amassed a 79-48-9-8 record since the Thunder joined the ECHL prior to the 2015-16 season, and lead Adirondack to playoff berths in both seasons, something a Glens Falls-based team was unable to do since the UHL’s Frostbite in the 2005-06 season.

UPDATE: Per a press release by the Thunder, McLean will be joining Stockton as an assistant coach.

 

Free Agency Progress Report 8/1

Finally, my first opportunity to put together an actual AHL post!

Just when I thought I wasn’t going to do a Free Agent Tracker this summer…well here we are on August 1st.  So how have the four New York teams fared since free agency began exactly one month ago?  Here’s where everyone stands:

New Jersey/Binghamton

New Arrivals: Bracken Kearns, Brian Strait

Departures: Yohann Auvitu (Edmonton); Seth Helgeson (NY Islanders); Andrew MacWilliam (Rochester); Vojtech Mozik (Europe); Karl Stollery (Europe); Luke Gazdic (Calgary); Petr Straka (Europe); Max Novak (Toronto); Ben Sexton (Ottawa); Carter Camper (Cleveland)

Staying Put: Brian Gibbons, Viktor Loov, Scott Wedgewood (RFA), Joe Blandisi (RFA), Blake Pietila (RFA), Blake Coleman (RFA), Kevin Rooney (RFA), Ben Thomson (RFA)

Still Available: Rod Pelley, Jan Mandat, Shane Harper

Other News: On Saturday, the logo was officially revealed and…you be the judge.  Let’s just say I’m a bigger fan of the sleeve patches and leave it at that.  Otherwise, it’s been a fairly quiet offseason, outside of Nicomania hitting the Garden State.

Buffalo/Rochester:

Arrivals: Adam Wilcox, Andrew MacWilliam, Stevie Moses, Barry Goers, Adam Krause, Kyle Criscuolo, Kevin Porter

Departures: Mat Bodie (Tampa Bay); Cole Schneider (NY Rangers); Patrick Mullen (Europe); John Muse (Lehigh Valley); Jean Dupuy (Toronto); Erik Burgdoerfer (Ottawa); Derek Grant (Anaheim); Justin Kea (ECHL Florida); Paul Geiger (Hershey)

Staying Put: Daniel Muzito-Bagenda, Evan Rodrigues (RFA)

Still Available: Tim Kennedy, Matthew Lane, Justin Vaive, Brady Austin, Mac Bennett, Tyson Strachan

Other News: It’s been a summer of change in western New York, as a new regime takes over in Buffalo–new GM (Randy Sexton), new coaching staff (Chris Taylor and Gord Dineen take over behind the bench), and quite a few veteran signings by the Amerks/Sabres with the aim of helping Rochester get back to being competitive again.

Tampa Bay/Syracuse:

Arrivals: Michael Leighton, Mat Bodie, Jamie McBain, Carter Verhaeghe, Alex Gallant, Reid McNeill

Departures: Tanner Richard (Europe); Mike McKenna (Dallas); Bryon Froese (Montreal); Kristers Gudlevskis (NY Islanders); Matt Taormina (Montreal); Henri Ikonen (Europe); Joel Vermin (Europe)

Staying Put: Michael Bournival, Jake Dotchin, Matthew Peca, Slater Koekkoek, Cory Conacher, Yanni Gourde, Gabriel Dumont, Kevin Lynch, Nic Riopel

Still Available: Stefan Fournier, Mike Halmo, Pierre-Luc Leblond, Mathieu Brodeur, Dylan Blujus, Adam Comrie, Jonathan Racine

Other News: Just a summer of reloading for the defending Eastern Conference champs, as the Lightning have done a great job of not only re-signing key members of last year’s Crunch team, but bringing in a netminder of Michael Leighton’s caliber.

Vancouver/Utica:

Arrivals: Jaime Sifers

Departures: Mike Zalewski (Europe); Chad Billins (Europe); Alexandre Grenier (Florida); David Shields (Europe); Curtis Valk (Florida); Derek Hulak (Lehigh Valley)

Staying Put: Darren Archibald, Joseph LaBate, Evan McEneny

Still Available: Colby Robak, Cody Kunyk, Pascal Pelletier, Borna Rendulic, John Negrin, Michael Garteig

Other News: It’s the fifth season of the AHL return to Utica, and other than the renovation of the Aud, it’s been a rather quiet summer for the Comets to this point player-wise.  Behind the bench, former Crunch coaches Trent Cull and Gary Agnew take over for the promoted Travis Green and Nolan Baumgartner (now with Vancouver), and Ryan Johnson was brought in as the new general manager.

 

Up North with the Thunder 7/23

Catching up with the latest from the North Country:

-A third signing was announced on Monday, and it’s another returnee: forward J.C. Campagna re-signs after spending his first 16 professional games with the Thunder at the end of last season.  He had previously played his last two seasons at the Canadian collegiate level with St. Thomas University.  He scored 10 points ( 4 goals, 6 assists) after joining Adirondack in early March.

-Joining Campagna is forward James Henry, who signed on Thursday.  He has spent his entire five year professional career in a Thunder uniform: two with Stockton, the last three with Adirondack.  In 65 games last season, he set career highs in goals (20) and assists (34), ranking second in team scoring behind captain Peter MacArthur.

 

Up North With The Thunder…So Far

What used to be a small paragraph at the end of every weekly recap is now going to become a (mostly) weekly column!

So…what have our friends up in the North Country been up to this offseason?  Quite a lot, actually.

The biggest news actually came back in late February, when the Adirondack Civic Center Coalition, a locally based ownership group, bought the franchise from Calgary, who had brought the team to Glens Falls prior to the 2014-15 season as an AHL franchise from Abbotsford.  The Flames, as they were known, then became part of the AHL west migration, and in turn Calgary’s ECHL team in Stockton would move in to the Civic Center to take its place, and was subsequently rebranded as the Adirondack Thunder.

With local ownership in place, the Coalition began the Keep Hockey Here  initiative, holding numerous fundraisers in the Glens Falls area to do just that.  A recent silent memorabilia auction called Raise the Rink brought in just over $25,000, and the coalition has a dodgeball tournament and a document shredding event scheduled for later in July.

On Tuesday, the Glens Falls Civic Center officially became the Cool Insuring Arena, a name that will stay in place for the next five years.  This is the first name change for the Civic Center, which has been open since 1979.  Cool Insuring is a local insurance agency established by the first mayor of Glens Falls, Charles Cool, back in the late 1870s, and has offices in nearby Queensbury and in Latham (just north of Albany).

As for on-ice?  There’s going to be a new look there as well.

The Thunder are currently without an NHL/AHL affiliation, as Calgary and Stockton have teamed up with the Kansas City Mavericks.  They are one of just three ECHL franchises (Tulsa and Fort Wayne the others) not affiliated.  The other NHL/AHL partnerships without ECHL affiliates, if one wanted to speculate: Ottawa/Belleville, Florida/Springfield (although they sent players to Manchester last season), Arizona/Tucson, St. Louis/Chicago, Tampa Bay/Syracuse, and New Jersey/Binghamton, who while in Albany had a “handshake” agreement to send players north.  No word yet on whether that partnership will continue with the relocation.

Eight Thunder players have already moved on to other teams:

-Defenseman Alex Wall signed with Frisk Asker (Norway)

-Defenseman Roman Dyukov joined Dinamo Minsk (KHL)

-Forward Greg Wolfe signed with Sparta Sarpsborg (Norway)

-Forward Cullen Bradshaw joined Kallinge/Ronneby IF (Sweden Div. 1)

-Forward Dennis Kravchenko stayed in the ECHL and signed with Fort Wayne

-Forward Brock Montgomery signed on with Tilburg (Germany)

-Defenseman Stepan Falkovsky signed with the Kings

-Defenseman Keegan Kanzig was traded to Carolina as part of the Eddie Lack deal.

As far as this year’s roster?  So far two players have signed on for the 2017-18 season:

First to sign is a returnee from last year’s team, second year pro Kevin Lough.  He appeared in 51 games for the Thunder during his rookie season, putting up 18 points (4 goals, 14 assists).  He also made one appearance on a PTO with Binghamton late in the season.

Second is forward Terrence Wallin, who split last season between Adirondack and Rapid City.  After two scoreless appearances with the Thunder in October, he spent the majority of the year with the Rush, picking up 31 points (12 goals, 17 assists) in 47 games.

Then there’s the schedule.  It’s a very…interesting one.

Unlike the AHL, where all teams play each other an even number of times at home and on the road, the ECHL has an unbalanced slate.

For example, the Thunder will play the newest ECHL team, Worcester, 12 times.  The Railers go to Glens Falls 7 times, but Adirondack only goes to Massachusetts 5 times.  Same with Manchester: seven trips to New Hampshire, but only 5 home matchups with the Monarchs.

Also unlike the AHL (well, with the exception of the Pennsylvania teams this season), the Thunder will see opponents outside the Northeast corridor, with three Midwestern teams–Quad City, Fort Wayne, and Toledo–being first time opponents.

The longest homestand will be seven games, from November 25th-December 15th.  That follows the longest road trip of the season, a brutal 12 game swing from October 29th-November 24th that sees the Thunder go to 9 different cities.

 

The Next Chapter Begins…Now.

After a two month sabbatical…I’m back.

And we are switching gears.

First, the color scheme…old school black and white.  Kind of like a classic newspaper look.  And topped off with part of the Herb Brooks Miracle on Ice speech (photo taken by me during my trip to Lake Placid last year).

Second…what am I writing about?

Instead of focusing on just one team…I’m taking on five teams.

Five, you ask?

The five teams that are minor league professional in the state of New York: Adirondack, Syracuse, Utica, Rochester, and Binghamton.

Yes, I said Binghamton too.  But more on that later.

Since I couldn’t make up my mind on exactly where I wanted to go for the 2017-18 season…why not split it up amongst a few cities and be more objective than just a fan blog?

My goal now is to have a space where the reader can keep up with the teams of New York State.  I have been on a state tourism kick in recent years…I’m probably on the I Love New York site at least once every other week looking for new places to visit.  And…maybe some travel related stories thrown in too, kind of like a fan’s guide to each city.  For those who have known me for awhile, you know how I do my trips…have to hit other spots too!

Obviously, I may be going to certain arenas more often than others due to distance, but I will try my best to cover everyone equally.  I may be a little more in depth with Adirondack due to the Thunder being the closest.  In fact, I plan on a Thunder article before the week is out.

I’m sure you’re asking, but you said over and over again you didn’t want to ever set foot in Binghamton.  Well…I’ve had an epiphany.

You know how there’s 5 stages of grief?  This move saw me go through all of it:

Denial: That was back in January when the rumors first started.  No way.  Why would you leave Albany for a smaller market?

Anger: The initial press conference comments completely set me off.  And even up to a week or so ago, I still was angry about it.

Bargaining: Maybe all those sales pitches I got from other teams were this?

Depression: With every schedule hint and opponent list released, it made me sad not to see Albany listed anywhere.

Acceptance: Finally, after a few days to soul search (and now with the AHL schedule out)…

I’m done with being angry about the situation.  It’s hard to continue to hold a grudge when in reality I don’t have a problem with 90% of the people there, potential players included.  Does it still hurt?  Absolutely.  But…I have made a personal decision to drop the resentment and move on.  What’s done is done, and I may not have to like it, but I have chosen to accept it.  In fact…I may even be willing to go to a game there at some point.  (Which means I may have to delete all those #NotMyDevils tweets now…)

I’m hoping to do at least one article a week, maybe two.  We’ll see how my work/travel schedule and news works out.

Anyway…it’s good to be back in the saddle!