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!

Calder Cup 2017 Recap, Week 2: Fin

Yesterday in the car, Sirius XM The Highway played Brad Paisley’s song Last Time for Everything.  It turned out to be an omen.

After 7 years and hundreds of games, it all came to an end late on a Friday night.

Tuesday: Add another junior player to the roster: defenseman Colby Sissons joined the team after his season with Swift Current (WHL) ended.

Game 3, 4/26: 3-2 L (OT)

The series moved north of the border to Toronto on Wednesday, as both teams looked to go up 2-1 in the best of five.  Mackenzie Blackwood was back between the pipes looking for redemption, while Jan Mandat and Blake Speers were in for the injured Joe Blandisi and Miles Wood.  Scott Wedgewood was cleared and would serve as backup in place of Ken Appleby.

Brendan Leipsic would strike first 3:49 into the opening frame with his first of the postseason for a 1-0 Toronto lead.  John Quenneville would match that with his third straight goal of the series, on the Devils’ first power play of the night, less than seven minutes later.  In the second, Leipsic would strike a second time with 2:01 remaining for a 2-1 Marlies lead.  That lead would last all of 23 seconds…Carter Camper would score his first of the postseason to re-tie the game up at 2.  After a scoreless third that saw both teams fail to capitalize on power play chances, it was on to overtime.  And 45 seconds in, Colin Greening would end it with the first shot, giving the Marlies the 2-1 edge in the series and putting Albany on the brink.  Blackwood rebounded nicely from Game 2’s disaster despite taking the loss, stopping 22 of 25 shots.  Four different Devils would have one assist each.

Lines:

Ben Sexton-Carter Camper-Blake Pietila

John Quenneville-Blake Coleman-Nick Lappin

Brian Gibbons-Kevin Rooney-Blake Speers

Ben Thomson-Rod Pelley-Jan Mandat

Defense:

Seth Helgeson/Steve Santini

Josh Jacobs/Viktor Loov

Karl Stollery/Vojtech Mozik

Mackenzie Blackwood/Scott Wedgewood

Scratches: Joe Blandisi, Max Novak, Luke Gazdic, Ryan Kujawinski, Shane Harper, Miles Wood, Petr Straka, Brandon Gignac, Austin Cangelosi, Andrew MacWilliam, Yohann Auvitu, Colton White, Colby Sissons, Jacob MacDonald, Evan Cormier, Ken Appleby

Power Play: 1 for 4.  Penalty Kill: 2 for 2.  Penalty Minutes: 8.  Shots on Goal: 29.  Shots Allowed: 25.

3 Stars: 1. Colin Greening; 2. Brendan Leipsic; 3. Kasperi Kapanen.

Highlight Reel:

Game 4, 4/28: 2-1 L (3 OT)

Friday night’s mission for Game 4 was a simple one: Win, and play Saturday.  Lose, and it’s all over.

One lineup change: Karl Stollery out, Jacob MacDonald in.  Mackenzie Blackwood back between the pipes.

In the first, it was all Toronto, as they outshot the Devils 11-4 and went up 1-0 8:55 in on a Travis Dermott goal.  Albany would have to kill off an early penalty in the second, but managed to tie the game up at 1 late in the second on Carter Camper’s second goal of the playoffs.  After that, the rookie goalies–Blackwood and Toronto’s Kasimir Kaskikuo–would take over, mostly Blackwood.  While the Devils were only able to manage 17 shots against through regulation, Blackwood was practically standing on his head, stopping 40 of 41 shots through the first 60 minutes.  In the first overtime, the Devils would finally outshoot the Marlies by a 10-8 margin, but blew a chance at a win by not producing on a 4 minute power play.  On to the second overtime, where the Marlies managed 6 shots to the Devils’ 4, but Albany was able to kill off a Ben Thomson penalty to stay alive.  Then came the third overtime, where 6:43 in, and on Toronto’s 60th shot of the night, Justin Holl would connect and get the series clincher, sending the Marlies to the second round and Albany into extinction.

In his last start of the season, Blackwood was absolutely amazing.  Despite a very hard loss, he stopped 58 of 60 shots, and was singlehandedly the reason Albany was able to extend their run by 46 more minutes.  John Quenneville and Ben Sexton had the lone helpers.

Lines:

Ben Sexton-Carter Camper-Blake Pietila

John Quenneville-Blake Coleman-Nick Lappin

Brian Gibbons-Kevin Rooney-Blake Speers

Ben Thomson-Rod Pelley-Jan Mandat

Defense:

Seth Helgeson/Steve Santini

Josh Jacobs/Viktor Loov

Jacob MacDonald/Vojtech Mozik

Mackenzie Blackwood/Scott Wedgewood

Scratches: Ken Appleby, Andrew MacWilliam, Joe Blandisi, Max Novak, Luke Gazdic, Ryan Kujawinski, Karl Stollery, Shane Harper, Miles Wood, Petr Straka, Yohann Auvitu, Colby Sissons, Brandon Gignac, Evan Cormier, Austin Cangelosi, Colton White

Power Play: 0 for 3.  Penalty Kill: 2 for 2.  Penalty Minutes: 4.  Shots on Goal: 31.  Shots Allowed: 60.

3 Stars: 1. Justin Holl; 2. Mackenzie Blackwood; 3. Kasimir Kaskikuo.

Highlight Reel:

Around the Playoffs:

Let’s check in on the rest of the Calder Cup field:

Much like Albany, St. John’s is also extinct.  A tying goal by former Devil Stefan Matteau forced overtime in the IceCaps Game 4 matchup against the Crunch on Friday, but Gabriel Dumont would get the game winner, setting up a Syracuse-Toronto North Division final beginning on Friday night in central New York.

Wilkes-Barre and Lehigh Valley, the top two teams in the Atlantic Division, both find themselves on the brink.  Hershey could wrap up the series with the Phantoms on Saturday night with a win in Game 4 (if needed Game 5 would be in Allentown on Sunday afternoon), while the Penguins and Bruins will play Game 5 in Wilkes-Barre Township on Sunday after Providence took Game 4 on Friday night.

The Central Division final is set: Chicago defeated Charlotte in 5 games, while Grand Rapids swept Milwaukee.  The Wolves and Griffins start their series on Wednesday in Chicago.

In the Pacific, San Jose is up 2-1 on Stockton, and can wrap the series up with a win on Sunday on the road (Game 5 if needed is Tuesday in San Jose).  San Diego is up 2-1 against Ontario, and they can advance with a win against the Reign on Monday (Game 5 would also be Tuesday).

Up North with the Thunder:

Sadly, the season has come to an end for Adirondack, as they dropped Game 6 6-5 to Manchester in overtime on Tuesday night, dropping the series 4 games to 2.  The Thunder would fall behind 5-4 in the 3rd period, only to have Patch Alber tie the game up with 2:34 left in regulation to force overtime, extending the season by about 3 minutes.  Dennis Kravchenko scored twice and finished one assist shy of a Gordie Howe hat trick, Ryan Culkin would have 3 assists, and Brandon Baddock would get his first point of the postseason with a second period assist on Brian Ward’s goal.  J.P. Anderson would stop 37 of 43 Monarch shots.  Forward Brett Pollock and defenseman Keegan Kanzig have joined Stockton for the remainder of the Heat’s playoff run.

What’s Next?

Well…there’s still some Year in Review business to take care of, look for that next week.  After that…stay tuned, I guess.

Calder Cup 2017 Recap, Week 1: Fighting to a Split

The first two games of the Devils-Marlies series could be described as a tale of two teams…on both sides.  A shutout followed by a blowout, and we’re all tied at 1 as the series heads north.

Game 1, 4/20: 3-0 W

With a 2-3 format and a Chainsmokers concert taking over the Times Union Center on Friday, the series would get underway with a rare Thursday night matchup.  Mackenzie Blackwood, coming off his third shutout to close out the regular season the weekend before, drew the start, while Toronto countered with Garret Sparks.  It was a rather quiet first period…until Ben Thomson would put the hosts on the board with 3:38 to go in the opening period for a 1-0 lead.  Midway through the second, the Devils would find themselves in a 1:09 5 on 3 situation thanks to questionable calls on Blake Coleman and Brian Gibbons.  But not only would Albany kill a majority of that off–a penalty on Toronto’s Andrew Nielsen would negate the last 23 seconds–on the ensuing power play, John Quenneville would connect for a goal to double the Albany lead.  Brian Gibbons would finish it off with an empty net goal late in the third, starting the rematch in the Devils favor.  Blackwood was magnificent, stopping all 27 Marlies shots.  Nick Lappin and Seth Helgeson would each have one assist.

Fun fact: This was only the second time all season a team shut the Marlies out.  Former Devil Yann Danis shut out Toronto 3-0 on March 5th.

Lines:

Carter Camper-Joe Blandisi-Ben Sexton

Blake Coleman-John Quenneville-Nick Lappin

Brian Gibbons-Kevin Rooney-Miles Wood

Ben Thomson-Rod Pelley-Blake Pietila

Defense:

Steve Santini/Seth Helgeson

Karl Stollery/Vojtech Mozik

Jacob MacDonald/Josh Jacobs

Mackenzie Blackwood/Ken Appleby

Scratches: Andrew MacWilliam, Max Novak, Jan Mandat, Luke Gazdic, Ryan Kujawinski, Shane Harper, Scott Wedgewood, Blake Speers, Petr Straka, Yohann Auvitu, Brandon Gignac, Evan Cormier, Colton White, Austin Cangelosi, Viktor Loov

Power Play: 1 for 5.  Penalty Kill: 0 for 4.  Penalty Minutes: 10.  Shots on Goal: 23.  Shots Allowed: 27.

3 Stars: 1. Mackenzie Blackwood; 2. Ben Thomson; 3. John Quenneville.

Highlight Reel:

Game 2, 4/22: 6-2 L

Less than 48 hours, the teams reconvened for Game 2.  Only change for the Devils was Viktor Loov in, Jacob MacDonald out.  Mackenzie Blackwood and Garret Sparks remained in net.  But something was different compared to Thursday night…Toronto found their offense, grabbing an early 1-0 lead on a power play goal by Kerby Rychel 2:56 into the contest.  Kevin Rooney would tie things up late in the period with his first postseason goal, only to have former Devil Sergey Kalinin give Toronto a 2-1 lead eleven seconds later.  In the second, the Marlies would take over the contest, as goals by Frederik Gauthier and Colin Greening 2:23 apart would put the visitors ahead 4-1, chasing Blackwood out of the net in favor of Ken Appleby.  The goalie switch seemed to wake the Devils up somewhat…John Quenneville would score for the second straight game to cut the deficit to 4-2.  But a late power play goal by Andreas Johnsson would restore the 3 goal advantage for Toronto.  Albany had a golden opportunity to get back in the game with a 1:48 5 on 3 chance, but could not take advantage.  To finish off the rout, Trevor Moore would score 4:35 into the third, giving the Marlies the win and a split heading into Canada next week.  Blackwood stopped 9 of 13 shots in 26:38, while Appleby stopped 8 of 10 in 33:12.  Three Devils would add one assist each.

Lines:

Joe Blandisi-Carter Camper-Ben Sexton

John Quenneville-Blake Coleman-Nick Lappin

Miles Wood-Kevin Rooney-Brian Gibbons

Ben Thomson-Rod Pelley-Blake Pietila

Defense:

Steve Santini/Seth Helgeson

Vojtech Mozik/Karl Stollery

Viktor Loov/Josh Jacobs

Mackenzie Blackwood/Ken Appleby

Scratches: Andrew MacWilliam, Max Novak, Jan Mandat, Luke Gazdic, Ryan Kujawinski, Shane Harper, Blake Speers, Petr Straka, Yohann Auvitu, Brandon Gignac, Austin Cangelosi, Colton White, Scott Wedgewood, Evan Cormier

Power Play: 0 for 5.  Penalty Kill: 5 for 7.  Penalty Minutes: 28.  Shots on Goal: 21.  Shots Allowed: 23.

3 Stars: 1. Frederik Gauthier; 2. Justin Holl; 3. Kerby Rychel.

Highlight Reel:

Around the Playoffs:

Let’s check in on the other AHL first round series:

In the other North Division matchup, Syracuse and St. John’s split their first two games in Newfoundland, with the Crunch winning in double overtime on Saturday.  The series moves to Syracuse for Game 3 on Wednesday and Game 4 on Friday, with Game 5 if needed on Saturday.

Lehigh Valley finds themselves in a 2-0 hole to Hershey after the Bears took the first two games with a 1-0 overtime win on Friday, followed by a comeback 5-4 win on Saturday (the Bears were down 4-2 entering the third).  Hershey’s first chance to wrap up the series comes Wednesday at home, with Game 4 scheduled for Saturday if needed.

Providence is up 1-0 on Wilkes-Barre/Scranton after a 2-1 win at home on Friday night.  Game 2 is Sunday afternoon in Rhode Island before the series moves to northeast Pennsylvania for Game 3 on Thursday.

Moving to the West, Chicago and Charlotte split their first two games in North Carolina, with the Checkers picking up a 4-0 shut out win on Thursday before the Wolves picked up a 3-2 win on Friday.  Game 3 is in Illinois Sunday afternoon, with Game 4 on Tuesday and Game 5 if needed Wednesday.

Grand Rapids is up 1-0 on Milwaukee after a 4-3 overtime win on Friday.  Game 2 is this afternoon in Michigan, before the series moves to Milwaukee for Game 3 on Wednesday.

San Jose is up 1-0 against Stockton after they shut the Heat out 4-0 on Friday.  Game 2 is Sunday afternoon in San Jose, then the series goes to Stockton for Game 3 on Friday.

Finally, San Diego and Ontario are tied at 1 in their series after the Reign took Game 1 3-2 on Friday and the Gulls won 2-1 on Saturday.  In the ever popular 1-1-1-1-1 series set up, Game 3 is on Friday in San Diego, with Game 4 in Ontario on Monday, May 1st.

Up North with the Thunder:

Adirondack, as mentioned last week, is in a unique situation in their first round series with Manchester: due to the circus coming in to the SNHU Arena, the Thunder gets the next 5 games of the 7 game series on home ice.  In Game 3 on Tuesday, the Thunder cut the series lead to 2-1 with a 3-1 win over the Monarchs on Tuesday.  Three different Thunder players would score, James Henry would add two assists, while J.P. Anderson stopped 26 of 27 shots.  Manchester would take a 3-1 lead in Game 4 on Thursday night, a 2-1 win, despite only putting 16 shots on goal.  Cullen Bradshaw had the lone Thunder goal, while Anderson stopped 14 of 16.  Adirondack would stave off elimination in Game 5 on Saturday with a 2-1 win.  Peter MacArthur and Dennis Kravchenko would each have a goal, and Anderson stopped 25 of 26.  The Thunder will again attempt to keep their season alive in Game 6 on Tuesday, with Game 7 scheduled for Wednesday if necessary.

This Week’s Schedule:

The series shifts to Toronto for Games 3-5.  We know for sure that Game 3 will be Wednesday and Game 4 is on Friday night.  Will Game 5 on Saturday be needed?  We shall see.

But the Devils have a daunting task of taking 2 out of 3 in Toronto in order to stave off extinction.

Week 27 in Review: We’re Not Done Yet.

Sorry Binghamton.

It’s not time to give up the boys yet.  There’s a Calder Cup that needs to be chased first.

4/12 vs. Hartford: 6-3 W

Wednesday’s mission was a pretty simple one: beat Hartford without going to a shootout, and hope that Syracuse lends a hand and defeats Utica, and hello playoff spot.  At first, it looked like the Wolfpack were going to play spoiler: a John Gilmour goal just 1:46 into the contest would put Hartford up 1-0.  Vojtech Mozik would tie it up later in the period with a power play goal, his 10th of the season.  The Wolfpack would take a 2-1 lead early in the second period on Marek Hrivik’s 16th goal of the season.  But the Devils would respond…while on a penalty kill for a too many men call, Kevin Rooney would break from the pack (see what I did there?) and score shorthanded on his own rebound to tie things up at 2.  John Quenneville would add a power play goal late in the second, his 14th, to put the Devils ahead 3-2.  In the third, Albany would put the game away with three straight goals…Miles Wood, in his first game back in Albany since a brief stint in November, would score his 4th, then assist on Jacob MacDonald’s 8th.  Ben Thomson would celebrate his return from New Jersey with his 6th, putting the Devils ahead 6-2.  Nicklas Jensen would add his 30th goal as time expired, but it wouldn’t be enough.  Mackenzie Blackwood would stop 23 of 26 shots in his 16th win.  MacDonald lead all Albany skaters with three points (1 G, 2 A), Blake Coleman had two assists, and four other Devils would have one assist each.

Just minutes after the final horn, Syracuse would finish off a 7-2 win at Utica, officially putting Albany in the playoffs.

Lines:

John Quenneville-Carter Camper-Nick Lappin

Brian Gibbons-Blake Coleman-Miles Wood

Joe Blandisi-Kevin Rooney-Blake Pietila

Ben Thomson-Jan Mandat-Shane Harper

Defense:

Karl Stollery/Vojtech Mozik

Seth Helgeson/Steve Santini

Josh Jacobs/Jacob MacDonald

Mackenzie Blackwood/Ken Appleby

Scratches: Andrew MacWilliam, Rod Pelley, Ben Sexton, Luke Gazdic, Ryan Kujawinski, Max Novak, Scott Wedgewood, Petr Straka, Yohann Auvitu, Brandon Gignac, Evan Cormier, Austin Cangelosi, Viktor Loov

Power Play: 2 for 5.  Penalty Kill: 6 for 7.  Penalty Minutes: 22.  Shots on Goal: 31.  Shots Allowed: 26.

3 Stars: 1. Jacob MacDonald; 2. Miles Wood; 3. John Quenneville.

Highlight Reel:

4/14 at Rochester: 5-4 L

With quite a few regulars being rested, it was due west on the Thruway to Rochester for the final regular season road game against the Amerks.  Carter Camper’s 6th goal of the season would put the visitors on the board 13:10 into the opening period.  On a late turnover by Josh Jacobs, the Amerks would tie the game up late in the period on a Casey Nelson goal.  Joe Blandisi would break the tie early in the second period with his 8th goal, and first since returning from New Jersey.  But a scrum behind the Amerks net that would give Rochester a full 5 on 3 would change the tide…Alex Nylander would re-tie the game at 2.  Jan Mandat would briefly give the Devils their one goal lead back, only to have a second power play goal, this time off the stick of Derek Grant, late in the second for a 3-3 game.  The Amerks would pull away fairly quickly in the third…Justin Bailey’s 23rd goal just 43 seconds into the final period would put Rochester up 4-3.  Hudson Fasching would add an insurance goal four minutes later for a 5-3 lead.  Nick Lappin would get the Devils back to within one with 37 seconds remaining, but that was all they could do.  In his first start in 13 days, Ken Appleby would stop 26 of 31 shots.  8 different Devils would add assists.

Lines:

Shane Harper-Blake Coleman-Brandon Gignac

Joe Blandisi-Carter Camper-Nick Lappin

Petr Straka-Austin Cangelosi-Max Novak

Luke Gazdic-Jan Mandat-Ben Thomson

Defense:

Andrew MacWilliam/Vojtech Mozik

Steve Santini/Yohann Auvitu

Josh Jacobs/Jacob MacDonald

Ken Appleby/Mackenzie Blackwood

Scratches: Scott Wedgewood, Rod Pelley, Ryan Kujawinski, Ben Sexton, Evan Cormier, Viktor Loov, Miles Wood, Blake Pietila, Seth Helgeson, Karl Stollery, John Quenneville, Brian Gibbons, Kevin Rooney

Power Play: 0 for 3.  Penalty Kill: 6 for 8.  Penalty Minutes: 16.  Shots on Goal: 34.  Shots Allowed: 31.

3 Stars: 1. Justin Bailey; 2. Evan Rodrigues; 3. Derek Grant.

Highlight Reel:

4/15 vs. Rochester: 3-0 W

Less than 24 hours and about 220 miles to the east later, the Devils and Amerks met in Albany for Game 76, the regular season finale.  Much like the night before, it would the Devils drawing first blood…Brian Gibbons would score his 16th of the season 6:56 into the contest for a 1-0 lead.  Vojtech Mozik would add his 11th goal early in the second period to double the lead.  Then Blake Coleman would cap the game and the regular season off with a short handed empty netter, his 19th, to finish the Amerks off.  Mackenzie Blackwood took care of the rest, stopping all 17 shots in his third shutout of the season.  Coleman would add two assists, while Nick Lappin had one helper.

Lines:

Brian Gibbons-Blake Coleman-Nick Lappin

Joe Blandisi-Carter Camper-Ben Sexton

Shane Harper-Austin Cangelosi-Jan Mandat

Ben Thomson-Kevin Rooney-Brandon Gignac

Defense:

Seth Helgeson/Steve Santini

Karl Stollery/Vojtech Mozik

Josh Jacobs/Jacob MacDonald

Mackenzie Blackwood/Ken Appleby

Scratches: Andrew MacWilliam, Yohann Auvitu, Viktor Loov, Ryan Kujawinski, Rod Pelley, John Quenneville, Miles Wood, Scott Wedgewood, Luke Gazdic, Evan Cormier, Blake Pietila, Petr Straka, Max Novak

Power Play: 0 for 3.  Penalty Kill: 4 for 4.  Penalty Minutes: 8.  Shots on Goal: 34.  Shots Allowed: 17.

3 Stars: 1. Mackenzie Blackwood; 2. Blake Coleman; 3. Brian Gibbons.

Highlight Reel:

My Player of the Week:

A tough call for this week’s honors, but I’ll split it between Blake Coleman (1 goal, 4 assists in 3 games) and Mackenzie Blackwood (2-0, 1 SO).

Team Leaders:

Final stats will be out on Monday.

Division Playoff Update:

When the dust finally settled on Saturday night, here’s where everyone finished:

  1. Syracuse: 90 points, .592
  2. Toronto: 89 points, .586
  3. Albany: 83 points, .546
  4. St. John’s: 82 points, .539
  5. Utica: 79 points, .520

So in round 1, you will have Syracuse-St. John’s and Albany-Toronto (in a rematch of last year’s epic 7 game North Division final).

Up North with the Thunder:

Not a good start for Adirondack in their first round matchup with Manchester, as they fall 2-0 in their best of 7 series.

The Thunder would drop Game 1 to the Monarchs 3-1, with Ryan Culkin the lone goal scorer and J.P. Anderson would stop 21 of 23 shots.  Manchester would follow that up with a 4-2 win in Game 2 on Saturday.  Alex Wall would score both Thunder goals, while Anderson stopped 24 of 27.

The series now shifts to Glens Falls for the next 5 games.  Yes, I said 5…due to the circus at SNHU Arena, the Thunder will host the remainder of the series, no matter how many games needed.  Game 3 is on Tuesday, Game 4 Thursday, and if needed, Game 5 is Saturday.

This Week’s Schedule:

Well, more like the full Round 1 schedule:

Game 1: Thursday @ Albany, 7 PM

Game 2: Saturday @ Albany, 5 PM

Game 3: April 26 @ Toronto, 7 PM

Game 4: April 28 @ Toronto, 7 PM*

Game 5: April 29 @ Toronto, 7 PM*

As far as coverage…preview stat pack will hit Thursday afternoon prior to Game 1.  If I am able to switch my work schedule, I will be on hand for Game 1.  Games 2-5 I will definitely be around for.

It’s time to take a #FinalStand everyone.

Week 26 in Review: Almost There

Six games left in the regular season, with virtually no room for error at this point.

The Devils would come through, getting back on track with a pair of wins on home ice.  But could a road loss at the end of the week be a costly one as we head into the final week of the regular season?

4/5 vs. Syracuse: 3-0 W

First on the agenda this week: a Wednesday night matchup against the Crunch that carried several factors: a Syracuse win would clinch a playoff spot for the first place Marlies, whose magic number was 1; and it would knock the Devils into fifth, with Utica and St. John’s jumping ahead despite being idle that night.  On top of that, the Crunch lost two forwards (Cory Conacher and Michal Bournival) to callup just a few hours before puck drop, with the Lightning fighting for the last playoff spot and a matchup with the Maple Leafs looming.

Well, about that…

The Crunch would be plagued by the penalty bug in the first period, giving the Devils four power plays.  On their third power play chance, Nick Lappin would score his 10th for a 1-0 Albany lead.  Early in the second, with the Crunch on their first power play opportunity, Lappin would come up big again, this time with a shorthanded tally to double the Devil lead.  Midway through the period, on the Crunch’s second power play, it was Brian Gibbons’ turn for a shorthanded goal, his 14th, for a 3-0 advantage.  And that was all Mackenzie Blackwood would need, as he shut down the Crunch offense, stopping all 33 shots in his second shutout of the season.  Lappin and two other Devils would have one assist each.  The win would put Albany back in third place in the North, one point ahead of 4th place Utica and two (thanks to percentage points) ahead of 5th place St. John’s.

Lines:

Jan Mandat-Kevin Rooney-Max Novak

John Quenneville-Carter Camper-Nick Lappin

Brian Gibbons-Austin Cangelosi-Blake Pietila

Greg Wolfe-Rod Pelley-Shane Harper

Defense: 

Karl Stollery/Vojtech Mozik

Seth Helgeson/Jacob MacDonald

Andrew MacWilliam/Yohann Auvitu

Mackenzie Blackwood/Ken Appleby

Scratches: Josh Jacobs, Viktor Loov, Ben Sexton, Ryan Kujawinski, Scott Wedgewood, Sam Kurker, Petr Straka, Evan Cormier

Power Play: 1 for 7.  Penalty Kill: 2 for 2.  Penalty Minutes: 4.  Shots on Goal: 32.  Shots Allowed: 33.

3 Stars: 1. Nick Lappin; 2. Mackenzie Blackwood; 3. Brian Gibbons.

Highlight Reel:

4/7 vs. St. John’s: 4-3 W

The homestand finished up on Friday, as the Devils hosted the IceCaps for the final time.  Midway through the opening period, Shane Harper would finally score his first goal as a Devil to put the hosts up 1-0.  Early in the second, in a span of 15 seconds, Nick Lappin (12th) and Brian Gibbons (15th) would give the Devils a 3-0 cushion.  But St. John’s was not about to go away quietly, thanks to some questionable penalty calls on Albany.  Former River Rat Chris Terry, celebrating his 28th birthday, would cut the Devil lead to two with a power play goal, his 28th of the season.  Later in the period, with John Quenneville sitting for a tripping (that to most of us looked like a dive) and Rod Pelley off for delay of game after his stick broke on a faceoff, Zach Redmond would capitalize on the 5 on 3 with his third goal to make it a 3-2 game.  St. John’s would complete the comeback 5:26 into the third on Keegan Lowe’s 6th goal of the season.  Just as it looked like this game was headed to overtime…Jacob de la Rose would be called for a hook with 1:07 to go.  Albany took a timeout, drew up a play…and seven seconds later everything went to plan.  Lappin’s second goal of the game with exactly 1:00 remaining would put the Devils ahead 4-3.  The IceCaps thought they had tied the game up just as the clock hit 0.0, but was first waved off.  A video review was requested, and after a few tense moments…confirmed no goal, the puck crossed the line after the horn sounded.  Albany would escape with their second straight win, lowering their magic number to clinch to 5.  Another strong performance in net by Mackenzie Blackwood, as he stopped 22 of 25 shots.  Seven Devils, including Steven Santini, would have one assist each.

Lines:

Jan Mandat-Kevin Rooney-Max Novak

John Quenneville-Carter Camper-Nick Lappin

Blake Pietila-Austin Cangelosi-Brian Gibbons

Greg Wolfe-Rod Pelley-Shane Harper

Defense:

Seth Helgeson/Steven Santini

Karl Stollery/Vojtech Mozik

Josh Jacobs/Jacob MacDonald

Mackenzie Blackwood/Ken Appleby

Scratches: Andrew MacWilliam, Ben Sexton, Luke Gazdic, Ryan Kujawinski, Scott Wedgewood, Yohann Auvitu, Brandon Gignac, Petr Straka, Evan Cormier, Viktor Loov

Power Play: 1 for 4.  Penalty Kill: 3 for 5.  Penalty Minutes: 15.  Shots on Goal: 33.  Shots Allowed: 25.

3 Stars: 1. Nick Lappin; 2. Brian Gibbons; 3. Keegan Lowe.

Highlight Reel:

4/8 @ Syracuse: 3-2 L

A rematch with the Crunch, but this time in Syracuse, would finish off the week.  After a scoreless first period, the Devils would be first on the scoreboard in the middle period, taking a 1-0 lead on a Yohann Auvitu power play goal, his 5th of the season.  Syracuse would tie things up midway through off a shorthanded goal by Tanner Richard.  A late turnover in front of the Devil net would cost them, as Dominik Masin would score his third to put the Crunch ahead 2-1.  But less than two minutes later, a shorthanded goal off the stick of Kevin Rooney (his 12th goal of the season) would re-tie the game.  A late holding call on Blake Pietila in the third would end up being the game changer, as a Brett Howden goal with 3:22 remaining in regulation would give the Crunch the victory, stalling a brief two game win streak and keeping the Devils magic number to clinch at 5.  Mackenzie Blackwood would draw another start and play well despite the loss, stopping 29 of 32 shots.  Four different Devils would each have one assist.

Lines:

Jan Mandat-Kevin Rooney-Max Novak

John Quenneville-Carter Camper-Nick Lappin

Brian Gibbons-Austin Cangelosi-Blake Pietila

Luke Gazdic-Rod Pelley-Shane Harper

Defense:

Karl Stollery/Vojtech Mozik

Seth Helgeson/Steven Santini

Josh Jacobs/Yohann Auvitu

Mackenzie Blackwood/Ken Appleby

Scratches: Greg Wolfe, Viktor Loov, Scott Wedgewood, Jacob MacDonald, Ben Sexton, Ryan Kujawinski, Andrew MacWilliam, Petr Straka, Brandon Gignac, Evan Cormier

Power Play: 1 for 4.  Penalty Kill: 5 for 6.  Penalty Minutes: 12.  Shots on Goal: 26.  Shots Allowed: 32.

3 Stars: 1. Brett Howden; 2. Dominik Masin; 3. Tanner Richard.

Highlight Reel:

My Player of the Week:

One candidate stood out among everyone this week…Nick Lappin was a factor in both home wins this week with four goals, including both game winners.

Team Leaders:

Goals: Ben Sexton (19)

Assists: John Quenneville (32)

Points: John Quenneville (45)

+/-: Vojtech Mozik (+15)

Penalty Minutes: Andrew MacWilliam (100)

Wins: Ken Appleby (17)

GAA: Scott Wedgewood (2.18)

Save Percentage: Scott Wedgewood (.912)

Division Playoff Update:

After Saturday night’s action, here’s where we stand:

1. Toronto: 85 points, .582 (clinched)

2. Syracuse: 84 points, .575

3. Albany, 79 points, .541

4. Utica, 77 points, .535

5. St. John’s, 78 points, .534

All of this is subject to change, with St. John’s and Utica facing each other this afternoon.  Albany’s magic number to clinch a spot remains at 5 with 3 games remaining. The Devils cannot clinch the division title after Saturday’s loss, and has a very small shot at finishing in second (one more point by the Crunch will make that impossible).

Up North with the Thunder:

Congrats to the other boys in red, as they finished off the regular season with a division title and a 6 game winning streak.

The Thunder finished off their home portion of the schedule on Tuesday with a 4-1 win over Manchester.  They then swept the Jackals in the last ever games in Elmira, 7-1 on Friday (that win officially clinched the North Division title) and 5-0 on Saturday.

Adirondack will take on the Monarchs in round 1 of the Kelly Cup playoffs, beginning on Friday night in Manchester (a building conflict in Glens Falls the reason) with Game 1.  Game 2 will follow on Saturday.  Full schedule can be found here.

This Week’s Schedule:

It all comes down to this.  Three games left on the regular season schedule.

Wednesday, the Devils will host Hartford.  Friday, the last road game in Rochester.  Saturday’s finale at home against the Amerks.  Where the Devils will finish, whether there’s life beyond Saturday, will depend on these three games, and also on what Utica and St. John’s do in their final week.

 

Week 25 in Review: Hanging by a Moment

We have reached April and the homestretch.

And if the Devils are not careful…as shown by a 1 win out of 3 weekend (hey, at least the winless streak is over!)…it may be an earlier goodbye to the Capital District than any of us have prepared for.

3/31 at Providence: 4-1 L

A critical weekend began in Rhode Island on Friday night, as Albany looked to avenge its 5-0 loss to the Bruins from Saturday.  But it would be Providence picking up right where they left off.  Jordan Szwarz, in his first game back from injury, would get the home team on the board less than 5 minutes into the first period with his 18th goal on a power play.  A penalty shot goal by Sean Kuraly would double the Bruin lead midway through the opening frame.  Jake DeBrusk would add his 15th goal of the season 6:21 into the second period for a 3-0 Providence advantage.  Austin Czarnik would add to the Bruins lead with a power play goal, his 6th of the season, early in the third period for a 4-0 lead.  Finally, the Devils would find a way to get a goal, as a shorthanded tally by Yohann Auvitu, his 4th, would make it a 4-1 game.  Once again, Albany could not get their offense in gear despite putting 37 shots on net, and would extend the winless streak to 7 games.  Mackenzie Blackwood would stop 31 of 35 shots in the loss.  Austin Cangelosi would pick up his first pro point, an assist, in his debut.

Lines:

Brian Gibbons-Carter Camper-Nick Lappin

Austin Cangelosi-Blake Pietila-Shane Harper

Jan Mandat-Kevin Rooney-Ben Thomson

Luke Gazdic-Rod Pelley-Greg Wolfe

Defense:

Karl Stollery/Vojtech Mozik

Seth Helgeson/Yohann Auvitu

Andrew MacWilliam/Viktor Loov

Mackenzie Blackwood/Ken Appleby

Scratches: Josh Jacobs, Ben Sexton, Ryan Kujawinski, Max Novak, Scott Wedgewood, Sam Kurker, Petr Straka, Jacob MacDonald, Evan Cormier

Power Play: 0 for 5.  Penalty Kill: 3 for 5.  Penalty Minutes: 15.  Shots on Goal: 37.  Shots Allowed: 35.

3 Stars: 1. Austin Czarnik; 2. Alex Grant; 3. Zane McIntyre.

Highlight Reel:

AHL Live has the highlights here.

4/1 vs. Hartford: 4-3 W

As the calendar turned to April, the Devils looked to finally get back on track as they hosted the Wolfpack.  And the home team would get off to a good start, as a Max Novak goal 4:41 into the opening period would give Albany a 1-0 lead.  Nicklas Jensen would tie things up late in the period with his 28th goal.  The Devils would have a much needed strong middle period, as a Kevin Rooney shorthanded goal would put them ahead 2-1.  Blake Pietila, in his second game back from New Jersey, would score his 16th goal during a late 4:00 power play chance for a two goal Devil lead heading into the third.  The Wolfpack were not about to go away just yet, however…Matt Carey would pick up his 19th goal 7:26 in to cut the Albany lead to one goal.  But just 24 seconds later, Pietila would respond with his second power play goal of the game to extend the Devil lead again to two.  Hartford would respond with a power play goal from Taylor Beck with 8:26 remaining for a 4-3 game.  Despite a 6 on 4 shorthanded situation late, the Devils were able to hold off Hartford and finally snap a seven game winless streak.  It was also a much needed good outing for Ken Appleby, who stopped 30 of 33 shots and snapped a personal three game losing streak.  Jacob MacDonald, back in the lineup after sitting out Friday’s game, contributed three assists, while Novak and three others had one helper each.

Lines:

Austin Cangelosi-Blake Pietila-Shane Harper

Brian Gibbons-Carter Camper-Nick Lappin

Jan Mandat-Kevin Rooney-Max Novak

Luke Gazdic-Rod Pelley-Ben Thomson

Defense:

Seth Helgeson/Yohann Auvitu

Vojtech Mozik/Jacob MacDonald

Andrew MacWilliam/Viktor Loov

Ken Appleby/Mackenzie Blackwood

Scratches: Karl Stollery, Josh Jacobs, Ben Sexton, Ryan Kujawinski, Scott Wedgewood, Petr Straka, Sam Kurker, Evan Cormier, Greg Wolfe

Power Play: 2 for 6.  Penalty Kill: 5 for 6.  Penalty Minutes: 14.  Shots on Goal: 30.  Shots Allowed: 33.

3 Stars: 1. Blake Pietila; 2. Jacob MacDonald; 3. Nicklas Jensen.

Highlight Reel:

Sunday: According to the Bergen Record, the New Jersey brass has decided to start sending reinforcements back to Albany sooner rather than later, with just four games left on the parent club’s schedule.  Sunday, they came through, returning John Quenneville, who had appeared in the Devils’ 3-0 loss to Philadelphia on Saturday night.

4/2 vs. Rochester: 2-1 L

Less than 24 hours later, it was back downtown as the Devils looked to build on Saturday’s win against Rochester.  On Albany’s first power play opportunity of the game, John Quenneville made his successful return, scoring his 13th for a 1-0 lead.  Former Devil ATO Paul Geiger would tie the game with his third goal with 5:28 to go in the first.  Early in the second, Andrew MacWilliam would get a four minute high sticking call.  The Amerks would take full advantage–and a 2-1 lead–on Derek Grant’s 8th goal.  The two goals were all rookie goaltender Jonas Johansson would need, as he would stop 27 of 28 Devil shots in his third AHL start.  Mackenzie Blackwood did not have much to face, only stopping 15 of 17.  Carter Camper and Jacob MacDonald had the lone helpers.

Lines:

John Quenneville-Carter Camper-Nick Lappin

Jan Mandat-Kevin Rooney-Max Novak

Austin Cangelosi-Blake Pietila-Brian Gibbons

Ben Thomson-Rod Pelley-Shane Harper

Defense:

Seth Helgeson/Jacob MacDonald

Karl Stollery/Yohann Auvitu

Andrew MacWilliam/Viktor Loov

Mackenzie Blackwood/Ken Appleby

Scratches: Josh Jacobs, Ben Sexton, Luke Gazdic, Ryan Kujawinski, Vojtech Mozik, Petr Straka, Sam Kurker, Greg Wolfe, Scott Wedgewood, Evan Cormier

Power Play: 1 for 5.  Penalty Kill: 4 for 5.  Penalty Minutes: 15.  Shots on Goal: 28.  Shots Allowed: 17.

3 Stars: 1. Derek Grant; 2. John Quenneville; 3. Mat Bodie (announced, but Mackenzie Blackwood listed in boxscore).

Highlight Reel:

My Player of the Week:

We’re splitting it this week between Jacob MacDonald (with 4 helpers on the weekend) and Blake Pietila (2 power play goals in Saturday’s win).  Honorable mention to Austin Cangelosi for a point in his pro debut.

Team Leaders:

Goals: Ben Sexton (19)

Assists: John Quenneville (29)

Points: John Quenneville (42)

+/-: Vojtech Mozik (+13)

Penalty Minutes: Andrew MacWilliam (100)

Wins: Ken Appleby (17)

GAA: Scott Wedgewood (2.18)

Save Percentage: Scott Wedgewood (.912)

Division Update:

When the weekend was done, here’s where everyone stands in the North:

  1. Toronto, 83 points, .593, 6 games left
  2. Syracuse, 81 points, .579, 6 games left
  3. St. John’s, 76 points, .543, 6 games left
  4. Albany, 75 points, .536, 6 games left
  5. Utica, 75 points, .536, 6 games left

The Devils get the tiebreaker with Utica due to more ROW (32-31).  Albany’s magic number to clinch sits at 13, which means they will need help to get that number down.

This week’s important matchups: Toronto-St. John’s on Tuesday; Syracuse-Albany on Wednesday; St. John’s-Albany, Toronto-Utica, Syracuse-Binghamton on Friday; Hershey-Toronto, Albany-Syracuse, St. John’s-Binghamton, Utica-Rochester on Saturday; and St. John’s-Utica and Rochester-Toronto on Sunday.

Up North with the Thunder:

At least one team around here is going to the postseason!  Congrats to the boys in Adirondack, who clinched a spot in the Kelly Cup playoffs with a 5-4 win over Orlando on Tuesday night at home.  They followed that up with a 3-2 win over Elmira on Friday night, then a 3-0 shutout of Norfolk on Saturday.

Adirondack finishes out the regular season this week, with their last home game on Tuesday night against Manchester.  They then hit the road for a two game set against Elmira, the Jackals last hurrah before folding as a franchise, on Friday and Saturday.  Their magic number to clinch the North Division title is 4.

This Week’s Schedule:

As shown earlier, this is a humongous big three game week.  One that could determine how much longer this team exists.

It starts Wednesday night at home against Syracuse, followed by a visit from St. John’s on Friday.  Then on the road to Syracuse on Saturday.