Albany-Hershey Pregame Notes

What you may need to know before the Devils and Bears take to the ice in Boardwalk Hall tonight:

-Season: This is the fourth of six meetings between the two teams this season, with the Bears holding a 3-0 edge. Last meeting was January 21st in Chocolatetown, a dominating 8-3 win by the Bears that saw the teams combine for 173 penalty minutes. After tonight, they face each other two more times in Hershey, on February 26th and March 26th.

-Standings: Hershey begins the day in second place in the East Division with a record of 29-14-1-2, good for 61 points. They stand 9 points behind Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and 2 points ahead of Norfolk. A recent 6 game winning streak has moved the Bears position from as low as 4th up to the 2nd place slot. Albany stands in 6th place with a record of 18-25-0-3, good for 39 points. They are 1 point ahead of Syracuse and 4 points ahead of Adirondack, but 14 points behind 5th place Binghamton.

-Scoring: Hershey is lead by All Star Andrew Gordon and winger Brian Willsie, both with 44 points each (Gordon 21 G, 23 A; Willsie 19 G, 25 A) and ex-Rat captain Keith Aucoin with 43 points (12 G, 31 A). All-Star selection Braden Holtby (DNP in game due to injury) and Dany Sabourin share time in net, Sabourin leading the way with 14 wins. I’m guessing Sabourin will again be in net tonight, as he has started all 3 games again the Devils (and also due to Holtby’s injury). On the home side, All Star Matt Anderson continues to pace the Devils in scoring with 32 points (16 G, 16 A), followed by Michael Swift with 28 points (16 G, 12 A). I do expect Mike McKenna to be back in net after Dave Caruso’s disasterous performance against Rochester on Saturday, but I wouldn’t rule out an appearance by Caruso at some point with a 3 game in 4 day stretch.

-Miscellaneous: This is a designated “home” game for Albany in Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall, the second of four appearances there for the Devils. First trip on December 5th they defeated Adirondack 4-2. The second game was scheduled December 12th against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton but was postponed due to poor ice conditions. They will play the makeup on February 7th. The fourth game is scheduled for February 27th against Norfolk.

UPDATE: Per Hershey beat writer Tim Leone on Twitter, Sabourin is having knee surgery and is out 2-3 months. Something tells me the injury happened when Louis Robitaille ran him in January, he did appear to favor one leg but played through it. Todd Ford, who is up from their ECHL affiliate in South Carolina, is the scheduled starter with Holtby still out. The Bears have recalled Jared DeMichiel to be the backup.

Game time 7:00. I will be tweeting this one from home, and this time I think I’m ordering the video feed, for obvious reasons…

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Snow Day! Take 2

Happy Groundhog Day!

As we all know by now, Punxsutawney Phil did not see his shadow this morning, which predicts an early spring. To that I answer, “DID YOU EVEN GO OUTSIDE YOU LITTLE RODENT?” I’ve already put a rodent threat as my Facebook status (and 6 people agree with me). Turns out the big storm that shut most everything down, including my office, wasn’t as potent as first thought. Looking out my window, it is actually not snowing or sleeting right now. In fact, I think I cleared more snow off my car yesterday afternoon leaving in between jobs than what’s on it right now. I can even see some of my street where tire tracks would drive over. So getting the car cleaned off and shoveled around won’t take too long later today…if I can motivate myself to go outside. And the worst part is there may be not one, but two more snow events coming over the next week. I don’t know how much more white stuff I can take, we’re running out of room to put it all! We’ll probably still have snowpiles melting in June at this rate.

Checked out the AHL All-Star festivities in Hershey Monday night on TV. I’m hoping one of these years to actually travel to one of these events. Sadly with the state of things in Albany they’ll never host one, even though they have the building capacity and the accommodations to do it. Anyway on to the observations:

-No matter how hard I try, I cannot hate Andrew Gordon anymore, despite the fact he’s a Hershey Bear.

-If I have to see the Hershey Sweetest Place on Earth tourism commercial one more time…hopefully March 26th we’ll see about that. That day I am planning (if the bus trip goes) on going with the Devils Booster Club to Hershey. Chocolate World stop included.

-Very cool to see Bryan Rodney use his patented slow down shootout move in the Skills Competition. How many times during shootouts here I saw him use that with success. But the play of that was Linus Klasen’s 360 spin move…he was acting like he did it all the time.

-Almost embarassing that Devil Dawg didn’t show up for the mascot events. I mean, seriously, Hawkey from Abbotsford and Chubby from Charlotte made the trip, but ours couldn’t make the 4 hour trek? Even Dax the newbie from Adirondack showed up. Yes I’m ranting on mascots, but it’s a big marketing thing for the league.

-State of the League address is always something I like to read about. Having 2 refs for every game in the future could work…as long as you don’t pair two people who share half a brain (I’m looking at you, Chris Brown and…well, every other one with probably the one exception Jeff Smith). I’m really hoping replay does come into play soon, especially after some of the questionable goal calls I’ve seen at the TU Center over the past couple of years (thanks Nygel Pelletier and Ian Croft). And I doubt Allentown is popping up on the radar anytime soon for the Phantoms.

Looking at my February schedule…compared to January, it’s not looking too busy for me. Only hitting the TU Center 3 times this month, with 3 “home” games in Atlantic City. I do have at least one road trip planned to Springfield on February 25th (of course that’s weather permitting the way this winter is going), possibly a second depending on the work schedule. Looks like a lot of time spent on the computer for games for me (finally I found a way to work from home! haha).

Going To The Dogs

Happy Sunday morning…

Time to recap last night’s events…just to remind the Devils that yes there was a game last night. At least the Amerks knew to come and play. Rochester dominated from start to finish, with only Vladimir Zharkov breaking up Jacob Markstrom’s shut out late in the 3rd period, in a 6-1 win. The Devils went 0 for 7 on the power play, didn’t even get to 10 shots till late in the second period, and basically just couldn’t get anything going till the third. Six different Amerks scored goals and at one point had a 15-5 shot advantage in the first. Attendance was good for a change last night, about 4100…which may or may not have included the 50-75 dogs in attendance as part of the first ever Pucks and Paws Night. For an extra price, fans could bring their dog to the game and sit upstairs. There was even a photo opportunity with Devil Dawg in between periods for dogs and their owners. Between periods I got to meet goalie Mike McKenna’s dog Bauer (his girlfriend Rachel brought him to the game). The one thing I remembered from when I followed Mike on Twitter (sadly he had to discontinue his account…thanks Lamoriellos) was he talked a lot about his dog, even posting a couple of phone pics.

Now I need to go on a little rant here (apologies in advance) about our fan base here. It is horrible how the minute things start to go downhill it turns into a Philly like atmosphere in the building. The constant booing is getting so annoying. People, how many times do I have to say it booing will NOT make them play any better. I will never, ever boo my own team (just the referees, but that’s the norm), they themselves should know how bad they are performing, it is up to them to turn it around and the constant negativity in the building does not help. If you don’t like what you are seeing, STAY HOME. Yes I know there’s very little fan base for the Devils as it is (Friday night proved that), but if you’re going to just sit there and bitch about how the team sucks, there are other things you can spend your money on. I do sort of see the same thing go on in other arenas (Adirondack and Binghamton are examples of this) and I just shake my head. When I was in Wilkes-Barre last weekend and watched Charlotte dismantle the Penguins, there wasn’t a lot of it. The fans knew the team was having an off day, Wednesday night they got right back on track. They were too busy booing Justin Pogge for his meltdown (sadly, if you try to fight two Penguins you have no business going after, you do have it coming). And by the way fans everywhere, if you team is on the power play, yelling “SHOOT” every five seconds doesn’t help. Incase you haven’t noticed, there is an opposing player covering each man (well if you have a good defense anyway), it is hard to get a wide open shot. How easily one of those guys can steal the puck, go on a breakaway and score a shorthanded goal. The guys know this, they wouldn’t be getting paid the big bucks to play if they didn’t.

Okay, I feel much better now getting that out. Kind of a frustrating night last night, seeing a dad go after a security guard for yelling at his misbehaving kid (maybe if you actually were a parent and told him to stop banging his souvenir hockey stick on the bar in front of the seats every 10 seconds) just added to it.

Albany-Rochester Pregame Notes

What you need to know before the Devils and Americans take to the Times Union Center ice:

-Season: This is the 4th and final meeting between the two teams, with Albany holding a 2-1 edge. Last meeting was on December 4th in Rochester, with the Devils and Jeff Frazee getting the 2-0 shutout. The road team has won each game: Rochester won 6-4 in Albany on November 6th, and Albany took a 4-0 win (also a Jeff Frazee shutout) on November 20th in Rochester. The Amerks are the only Western Conference opponent the Devils face this season.

-Standings: Rochester begins the day in 7th (and last) place in the North Division, checking in with a record of 20-23-3-2, good for 45 points. They sit 3 points behind Grand Rapids for 6th. After a loss to the first place Penguins, the Devils remain in 6th place in the East Division, with a record of 18-24-0-3, good for 39 points, 1 ahead of Syracuse and 12 behind Binghamton for 5th.

-Scoring: The Amerks are lead by winger Michal Repik, with 40 points (8 G, 32 A) and defenseman (and All Star) Clay Wilson with 30 points (8 G, 22 A). Jacob Markstrom and Tyler Plante are the goaltending tandem, Markstrom leading the way with 15 wins. On the home side, no change at the top…Matt Anderson still leading all skaters with 31 points (16 G, 15 A) followed by Michael Swift with 28 points (16 G, 12 A). Mike McKenna will be looking to rebound from being yanked from his second straight Friday start, but I wouldn’t be too surprised if Dave Caruso gets the starting nod at some point, considering he has done well in relief.

-Miscellaneous: Very interesting game promotion tonight at the TU Center. It’s Pucks and Paws Night. For an extra 5 bucks (I believe that is the fee, not bringing a dog because I have cats), you can bring your dog to the game. The upstairs curtains will actually be turned up so dogs and their owners can sit upstairs. The big question is, if the dogs have “business” to do, where do they go? Wonder if there’s room in the visitors penalty box…anyway curious to see how many dogs come out…and how the attendance shakes out.

Game time 7:00. I will be in attendance doing it all as normal…

March Of The Penguins

Greetings on this cloudy Saturday morning!

Let’s recap last night’s events in Albany. As I expected, about 95% of my group I go to games with jumped ship and went to Adirondack to see Charlotte. There were a couple of people very surprised that I stayed home. First of all, I had a ticket for this game I wasn’t wasting it. Second, I had already seen them live in Wilkes-Barre Sunday and watched them online Wednesday. As one fan put it (not my quote), tonight the “real Albany fans” stayed.

But anyway on to game action. First period was rather uneventful to start. Then Brett Sterling boards Brad Mills hard into the corner and takes a 5 minute major. Mills left the ice with some help, but he was back later on in the game. The Devils did not fare so well with the extended power play time…the Pens held them to 2 shots and Mattias Tedenby took an elbowing penalty in between, relegating it to a 4-on-4 at one point. The Pens got on the board twice towards the end of the period on goals by Carl Sneep and newly minted All Star Eric Tangradi. Then things got a little physical…first was a scrum between Dan Kelly and Joe Vitale, give them a draw. I must say Joe got lucky, the last guy Dan fought was MA Bourdon in Adirondack…TKO. 40 seconds later came round 2…sort of. Louis chirped Keven Veilleux, not a good idea. They start to fight, Louis goes down in what can only be called a turtle position (so that’s why he’s the turtle…I’d never have known LOL) and Veilleux rained punches.

Second period…Carl Sneep scores his second of the game 2 minutes into the period. That saw Mike McKenna exit in favor of Dave Caruso, who held the Pens at bay for the rest of the period. Meanwhile the Devils finally get on the board on a Dan Kelly goal, cutting the deficit to 3-1. After that goal, All-Star John Curry turned into a brick wall. At one point on a Devil power play, he stopped 4 or 5 shots into the pads in one sequence. No matter what the Devils offense tried, he stopped it.

Third period was rather uneventful…however with Olivier Magnan in the box on a tripping call, Nick Johnson scores on the power play to complete a 4-1 victory for the Pens. Afterwards, a friend of mine was staying to give a gag gift to Michael Swift (an original Swift Heart Rabbit figurine. It’s a Care Bear Cousin from the ’80s for those who have no clue what that is), so I stayed to keep her company. I was very impressed with the Penguins staff, everyone was very nice. Coach Nasreddine actually almost gave me his Pens knit cap that I complimented him on, but “he didn’t have another one, otherwise he’d give it to me.” Eric Tangradi was very appreciative when I congratulated him on the All Star selection. Corey Potter laughed at my Harry Potter joke (our resident autograph guy was looking for a few Penguins, when he asked for last name and Corey said “Potter,” I said it’s not Harry it’s Corey), too bad Carl Sneep can’t be Snape. Then that would make for some jokes.

Now for the all important numbers: the attendance figures for last night. As I pretty much expected, Adirondack pretty much doubled Albany’s, 3866-2029. But they did get a good game, Mike Murphy out-dueled Michael Leighton and Charlotte won 2-1. I just hope the Checkers can forgive me, I wanted to go but sorry, home game here. Still haven’t decided on February 19th yet (next time the Checkers are this way, in Adirondack), it all depends on the weather and my work schedule.

One more home game for the Devils tonight against Rochester, then everyone gets a break…except Matt Anderson, who is off to Hershey as the lone All Star representative. Skills competition on Sunday, game on Monday.

Albany-Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Pregame Notes

What you may need to know before the Devils and Penguins take to the ice at Times Union Center tonight:

-Season: This is the 6th meeting between the two teams this season, with the Pens going undefeated in all 6 matchups. Last meeting, on January 22nd in Wilkes-Barre, the Pens got past an early 1-0 deficit and cruised to a 6-2 victory. The Devils franchise (Lowell and Albany) are still looking for their first ever win against the Penguins. The teams face off two more times, on February 7th in Atlantic City (makeup game from December 12th) and on March 23rd in Wilkes-Barre.

-Standings: Not much of a change since the last meeting. The Penguins remain in first place in the East Division, Eastern Conference and American Hockey League, checking in with a record of 35-10-0-0, good for 70 points and a 13 point lead over second place Norfolk. After a victory over Bridgeport on Tuesday night, the Devils sit in 6th place in the division with a record of 18-23-0-3, good for 39 points and a one point lead over Syracuse.

-Scoring: The Penguins are lead in scoring by center Dustin Jeffrey with 43 points (17 G, 26 A) and winger Brett Sterling with 34 points (17 G, 17 A). With All Star starter Brad Thiessen out due to injury, All-Star replacement John Curry has become the main starter, with recent callup Alexander Pechurskiy backing up. On the home side, Matt Anderson continues to lead the Devils in scoring with 31 points (16 G, 15 A), followed by Michael Swift with 28 points (16 G, 12 A). With Jeff Frazee out for at least two weeks after arthroscopic knee surgery, Mike McKenna will take over in net, looking to build on the 6-4 win in Bridgeport on Tuesday. I am sure at some point backup Dave Caruso will get some game action other than the relief appearance in Hershey on Friday night.

-Miscellaneous: on Thursday, two more Penguins were added to the All Star roster as replacements: forward Eric Tangradi and defenseman Robert Bortuzzo, joining teammate John Curry. Brad Thiessen and Dustin Jeffrey were original picks, but will not play. Ex-Rat Jesse Boulerice is slated to return from a 10 game suspension received in early January. The Devils received 4 reinforcements from New Jersey while the NHL is on All Star Break: forwards Nick Palmieri, Vladimir Zharkov, and Mattias Tedenby, along with defenseman Mark Fraser, back down for what is being termed as another “conditioning” stint.

Game time 7:00. I will of course be in attendance with the usual…

Dodging The Storm

Finally, a snowstorm on the East Coast that didn’t hit the Capital Region! I had to breathe just a little sigh of relief when I went out early this morning and not a flake was on the car. Meanwhile south and east of here got absolutely nailed, apparently some mid-Atlantic states lost power. I had a small heart attack this morning when I saw a Twitter post about Norfolk’s bus spinning out and getting stuck in the snow. After what happened to the River Rats almost 2 years ago I worry when there’s bad weather and I know teams have to travel by bus through it to get to the next stop (i.e. Charlotte earlier this month traveling from Albany to Springfield in crappy conditions…right past the accident site I might add). The one team I felt sorry for yesterday was the Springfield Falcons. Already in town to play Hershey and surprise, the game gets moved to Thursday night. Really? The only time the Rats ever canceled a game due to weather was way back in ’01, because St. John’s (really dating myself here) couldn’t get past Buffalo after a lake effect storm dumped a ton of snow and closed the Thruway down. Usually if the other team is able to travel, the game is played no matter what. The three NY NHL teams played through the post Christmas blizzard, but the Bears wouldn’t play in 4-6 inches of wet snow (at least that was the one forecast I saw I’m not sure overall how much they did get). Another reason to despise Hershey (other than the obvious).

Today I (along with the rest of the world) was introduced to the newest AHL mascot: Dax, who replaces Phlex in Adirondack. It’s a 7-foot orange/green beaver with a tail. Yeah if you say so. It looks like the Philly Phanatic ate too many carrots. But that wouldn’t explain the redneck Tow Mater-esque teeth. At first I thought why the name Dax? Kind of weird. But someone on Twitter did figure it out…Dax is in a way short for “Adirondacks” or “‘dacks”. So the theory is the rumored move to Allentown when an arena there is built isn’t happening anytime soon. Not sure when I’ll meet this monstrosity, I don’t think my next trip north is till the end of February.

Last night since the Devils were off (more on them in a minute), I bought the video feed of Checkers-Penguins, take 2. I figured why not, just incase Justin Pogge has another meltdown after the one I saw Sunday afternoon. Well…his game more than he melted down, yanked after allowing 4 goals to the Pens. I do give the Checkers a lot of credit for taking over in the 2nd and coming back to tie the game. And to Mike Murphy for keeping his team in it, he was standing on his head making some very good saves. It wasn’t meant to be, the Pens took the lead in the 3rd and held on for the win, splitting a 2 game set.

Now to the weekend ahead. 2 home games coming up for the Devils, WBS on Friday and Rochester on Saturday. Not sure what to expect tomorrow considering how the last matchup went (the 6-2 beating I saw on Saturday), but today the Devils did get some help from New Jersey with the NHL on All Star Break: 4 players sent down, Nick Palmieri, Mattias Tedenby (in what may be the last time he’ll wear an Albany uniform…just a hunch), Vladimir Zharkov, and Mark Fraser (another “conditioning” stint…he’d have to be put on waivers otherwise). The one number I cannot wait to see is attendance, not just in Albany but in Adirondack. Tomorrow night while Albany plays host to the Penguins, Charlotte will be playing the Phantoms. I have a feeling it’s going to be a lonely night for me, many people are planning to see the former Rats. Here’s the thing: I would have liked to see my former team, which is why I went to Wilkes-Barre last weekend, but there is a team here that needs support more. I’ll have the same conflict come up again in February, the next time Charlotte comes to Adirondack: the same day the Devils travel to Binghamton. I would actually rather go to Binghamton (I do have a few friends out there that I visit) for the Devils, but if my schedule and the weather out there work against me, I’ll go north. But we’ll see what happens.