Taking a break from checking the MLB Draft (only reason I pay attention is some of those players may be coming here for the summer next week…you’ll be hearing plenty about the Valleycats during the next 2+ months, trust me) and watching Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals to get an update out there…
-Tomorrow the Calder Cup Finals begin in Syracuse, as the Crunch take on the Grand Rapids Griffins for AHL bragging rights. I actually had the opportunity last Saturday to travel west to check out Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals between the Crunch and the Penguins, just as a casual observer. And the fact I’ve never been to a hockey game in June before. I had noted in my last post not to count out the Pens just yet despite being down 3-1 in the series, considering their comeback against Providence in the previous round. Well…that theory was pretty much out the window by the middle of the second period, as Syracuse jumped all over Penguins goalie Jeff Zatkoff (a surprise starter considering how well his teammate Brad Thiessen had been in net during the comeback against the Bruins) and never looked back, winning 7-0. The Griffins survived a tornado scare and a 3-2 series rally by Oklahoma City to win the Western Conference finals in 7 games. Having not seen Grand Rapids play (since the only Western team I see is Rochester), it’s hard for me to really give a prediction as to how well they’ll fare against Syracuse. But it wouldn’t surprise me, at the rate this team is going, if by next Friday evening former River Rat Mike Angelidis will be participating in another post game center ice ceremony. My counterparts from the Power Play Post Show and Chairman How’s Glorious Army will have it covered as the Finals play out.
If you are so inclined, AHL Live will actually be showing video free of charge for the duration of the Finals, just use the code CALDER2013. Hopefully the video will be functioning well.
-According to multiple sources in the Mohawk Valley and in Vancouver, the league will approve the move of the Canucks AHL franchise to Utica by the end of next week, putting an end to a months long rumor. We’ll have to wait and see on a team name and how it will affect the divisional alignment since the move is from the Western Conference to an Eastern location (Utica sits roughly 50 miles east of Syracuse and 80 miles west of Albany).
-The only piece of Devils news? Nothing official out of New Jersey, but it appears that Andrei Loktionov, a restricted free agent, will return to the Devils on a one year contract. He did appear in 3 games for Albany after coming over from Los Angeles/Manchester in early February, but spent the rest of the season with New Jersey, scoring 8 goals in 28 games.
It’s June! I think it’s time to update this thing…
–Fire and Ice had a free agent update earlier in the week. It appears that all players who are restricted free agents will indeed be qualified by the July 2nd deadline. It appears that former River Rat Steve Sullivan, acquired at the trade deadline in April, will not continue his second stint with the Devils. The report also stated that goaltender Jeff Frazee may be returning despite an offer to sign in Sweden, again creating a 4 goalie tandem in Albany and whichever ECHL affiliate will be used next season.
-Now for sale via Mei Gray for those interested in jerseys: the 2012-13 Albany game worns. Prices range from $295 (for J.S. Berube) to $995 (for Adam Henrique’s home jersey with an A). As of press time, Adam Larsson’s home and away jerseys are still available (for the bargain basement price of $750 each!), along with Cam Janssen’s road red and both of Jacob Josefson’s.
-Now for a Calder Cup update:
The Crunch (featuring former Devil Matt Taormina and former River Rat Mike Angelidis as the fearless captain) can close out the Penguins and earn a trip to their first ever Calder Cup final with a win at home tonight at the War Memorial. I wouldn’t necessarily count out the Penguins just yet, as they had to rally from a 3-0 series deficit and became just the third ever team to pull it off by eliminating the #1 seed Providence Bruins (and in dominating fashion, as they outscored the Bruins 14-2 over those four games). They are also the only team in the last two Norfolk/Syracuse playoff runs the last two seasons to manage a victory against this group. The series has been fairly close scoring wise, with a two goal deficit being the largest victory.
In the Western Conference, the series between Grand Rapids and Oklahoma City was put on the backburner last night as a strong series of tornadoes touched down in Oklahoma City and surrounding areas. While everyone in the Cox Convention Center stayed safe in an underground parking garage the arena was hit with flooding due to torrential downpours. The series will resume tonight with Game 4 and the Barons holding a 2-1 series lead.
-The first North American hockey champions were crowned earlier this week in the ECHL, as the Reading Royals hoisted the Kelly Cup with a 5 game series win over Stockton. Congrats to two former River Rats from the Carolina days, Yannick Tifu (who was the captain of the Royals) and Kirk Macdonald (also an RPI alum) for becoming the latest Rats alumni to hoist a Cup of some nature.
It’s week 2 of the offseason for me…taking some time out of enjoying the sun and getting this thing updated.
-Earlier today, something long overdue: per CapGeek and Fire and Ice, the Devils have signed Joe Whitney to a two year, two way contract. After being invited to the Devils 2011 rookie camp and signing as an AHL free agent at the beginning of the 2011-12 season, Whitney has proceeded to lead the A-Devils in scoring the last two seasons.
-Catching up on some old news:
On Monday the NHL revealed the 2013 draft order via the lottery…New Jersey will be picking 9th in the first round. Due to various trades, they have a total of 4 draft picks this year: 1st, 2nd, 4th, and 6th round. The Devils are holding a drawing to win tickets to the draft, held at The Rock on June 30th (yes I entered…do I expect to win? Nope).
Add another original River Rat to the retired list, as Brian Rolston officially announced his retirement on Tuesday. He was originally drafted 11th by New Jersey in 1991, and made his pro debut with the River Rats during Albany’s inaugural 1993-94 season. He was a member of New Jersey’s first Stanley Cup championship in 1995 (after starting the lockout shortened season in Albany), spending the next 4 seasons with the Devils before being dealt to Colorado for Claude Lemieux early in the 1999-2000 season. He also played in Boston and Minnesota before returning to New Jersey prior to the 2008-09 season. He spent another 3 seasons in Jersey, before spending what would become his final season with Boston and the Islanders in 2011-12.