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 8/2

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.

 

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.

 

Calder Cup Update 5/3

At approximately 1:03 AM this morning, a Ryan Carpenter overtime goal in San Jose would officially put an end to the first round of the Calder Cup playoffs.

Since Friday, the field of 8 has been set…and there are some surprises.

-On Sunday, the top two seeds in the Atlantic were both knocked out in Game 5’s:

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, the regular season champs, became the first team since 1996 to finish first overall in the AHL, then get knocked out in the first round after Providence defeated the Penguins 2-1.  Lehigh Valley, the second seed, would go down in Game 5 to Hershey 3-2.  In any other season, these would be two major upsets, but with the strength of the top 5 teams in the division (Bridgeport, the 5th place team, would have ran away with the North Division title if the old crossover rule was still in effect), both series truly could have gone in either direction.

The Atlantic Division Finals will get underway on Saturday in Hershey, with Game 2 to follow Sunday afternoon.  The series will then shift to Rhode Island on May 11th, 12th, and the 14th if necessary.  Games 6 and 7 would be in Hershey on May 16th and 17th.

-The Central Division gets underway tonight in Chicago, as the Wolves and Grand Rapids will square off.  Game 2 is Friday in Chicago, then the series shifts to Michigan on Saturday for Game 3 and Monday for Game 4.  If necessary, Game 5 is May 13th in Chicago, Game 6 May 15th in Grand Rapids, and Game 7 May 16th in Chicago.

-Syracuse and Toronto will kick off the North Division finals in central New York, with Game 1 on Friday and Game 2 Saturday.  The series then heads to Canada for Game 3 May 9th and Game 4 on May 10th.  If necessary, Game 5 is May 13th in Syracuse, Game 6 May 15th in Toronto, and Game 7 May 17th in Syracuse.

-Finally, in the Pacific, San Jose and San Diego both finished off 5 game series wins on Tuesday, with the Barracuda finishing off Stockton and the Gulls eliminating Ontario.  Their division final gets started on Friday in San Jose, followed by Game 2 on Saturday.  The series moves to San Diego on May 10th, with Game 4 on the 12th.  If necessary, Game 5 is May 13th, then Games 6 and 7 are in San Jose on May 16th and 17th.

Two pieces of Devils news to report (as we are still celebrating the Draft Lottery win on Saturday):

-Vojtech Mozik became the first departure on Wednesday, signing with the KHL’s HC Vityaz Podolsk.  Thus begins the fun with translation season.

-And finally…https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FAlbanyDevils%2Fvideos%2F1887736881251985%2F&show_text=0&width=560“>All. The. Feels.

Stay tuned as the season in review returns with Part 2 tomorrow night…

 

The Day Before…

Let’s call this the pre-pregamer, if you will.

Before the postseason officially begins tomorrow night, there are a few storylines on both sides:

-The Devils added another forward on Tuesday: 2015 3rd rounder Blake Speers has joined the team after finishing his season with Sault Ste. Marie.  He made three appearances in New Jersey early in the season, going scoreless before returning to the Greyhounds.  If you recall, he was on the roster last season during the playoffs as an amateur tryout, but did not see any action.

SSM teammate Colton White joined him earlier this afternoon.

-Also on Tuesday, the Marlies released their postseason roster.  You may recognize a couple of names on the list…

…and one of those familiar names was profiled in today’s Times Union.

At least two Marlies regulars, Kasperi Kapanen and Nikita Soshnikov, are currently up with the Maple Leafs as they take on the Caps in Round 1.  That series would finish by Tuesday at the latest, so depending on the result, you may or may not see anyone come down from the Leafs till the “if necessary” portion of the series.

-As for the rest of the AHL?  Here’s your other first round matchups:

East:

N1 Syracuse vs. N4 St. John’s–series begins Friday in NFLD

A1 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton vs. A4 Providence–series begins Friday in RI

A2 Lehigh Valley vs. A3 Hershey–series begins Friday in Allentown

West:

C1 Chicago vs. C4 Charlotte–series begins Thursday in NC

C2 Grand Rapids vs. C3 Milwaukee–series begins Friday in MI

P1 San Jose vs. P4 Stockton–series begins Friday in SJ

P2 San Diego vs. P3 Ontario–series begins Friday in SD

Pregamer will be out an hour earlier than usual, at 3 PM on Thursday.  This will be the only pregamer for the series.  First recap will be on Sunday, time to be determined (as someone who has sat through multiple playoff OTs on a few occasions, you need to prepare for the worst I guess).

Midweek Update: And the Awards Go To…

A few news items before we hit a busy weekend:

-For the first time in 2 years, the Booster Club was able to have a formal awards banquet, which sadly became the last one Tuesday night.  So who were the big winners?

As voted on by the membership, including myself:

-Offensive Player of the Year: Ben Sexton (also my pick)

-Defensive Player of the Year: Vojtech Mozik (me: Blake Coleman)

-Unsung Hero: Ben Sexton (me: Kevin Rooney)

-Most Electrifying Player (by definition: the player who gets the crowd excited): Luke Gazdic (me: Joe Blandisi)

-Fan Favorite: Rod Pelley (me: Joe Blandisi)

Next, who was named as one of the three stars of the game the most?

2nd/3rd Star: Brian Gibbons

1st Star: Ben Sexton

Finally, who had the most Chili Goals?  Definition: if a Devil scores the third goal of the game at home, you get free Wendy’s chili.  The final Chili Goal champ is Blake Coleman with 4.

In roster news, the first of the class of 2016 has arrived on an amateur tryout, in the form of goaltender Evan Cormier.  He finished off his season with Saginaw last week, where he went 23-19-2 with a 3.23 GAA and a .899 save percentage in 49 appearances for the Spirit.

And now a division playoff update:

While I was in New Jersey watching Dallas defeat the parent Devils in overtime(and also seeing Coleman score his first NHL goal), both St. John’s and Utica lost, while Toronto defeated Syracuse.  That created a few changes in the North pecking order:

  1. Toronto, 79 points, .581
  2. Syracuse, 77 points, .575
  3. Albany, 73 points, .545
  4. St. John’s, 74 points, .544
  5. Utica, 71 points, .530

The Devils magic number to clinch a playoff spot sits at 17 with 9 games remaining.

Syracuse takes on Binghamton tonight in the Southern Tier, where a win would put them right back in first place.  This is especially important, with a two game showdown against the Marlies coming up at home this weekend.  St. John’s opens a two game set at home this weekend against the Senators, while Utica has a 3 in 3 weekend with Rochester twice before a return trip to Wilkes-Barre on Sunday.