Well…I made it through my first weekend post-Albany hockey.
But anyway…let’s review how things went around the state as the AHL got underway for real, and the ECHL preseason got started.
We’ll begin up north, where…it wasn’t the greatest of tuneups for the Thunder. On Friday night in Glens Falls, they dropped a 6-2 decision to Reading. Despite outshooting the Royals 15-2 in the first 20 minutes, the Thunder found themselves down 1-0 as the first shot Ken Appleby faced, which didn’t come till 6 minutes into the contest, went into the net courtesy of Chris McCarthy. Austin Orszulak would tie the game up with a power play goal midway through the period. The second period would get off to a nightmarish start for the Thunder special teams–Matt Wilkins would score twice shorthanded in a :35 span off of turnovers to put the Royals up 3-1. J.C. Campagna would cut the lead to 3-2 with a power play goal midway through the middle period, but Reading’s Matt Schmidt would put the game out of reach with two goals in 1:55 for a 5-2 lead. McCarthy would add his second of the night early in the third for the final 6-2 margin. Appleby did not have a very good evening in his first official game action since April, only stopping 14 of 20 shots. Three Thunder players would have one assist each. And of note from Reading: Nolan Zajac, the last of the brothers, had two assists. (Achievement unlocked: seeing all 4 Zajac brothers in at least one game)
Sunday, the Thunder traveled to Pennsylvania looking to rebound from Friday’s loss. The Royals would again jump ahead early, as Adam Schmidt scored his third of the weekend for a 1-0 lead. Reading would double the lead midway through the second on a K.J. Tiefenwerth goal. But the Thunder would cut the lead in half with another power play goal, this time off the stick of Desmond Bergin. The Royals would seal the 3-1 win late in the third with a Matt Wilkins goal. Nick Riopel drew the starting assignment for the Thunder, stopping 23 of 26 shots.
Roster-wise, Adirondack received a third player from Tampa/Syracuse, as forward Troy Bourke was reassigned to the Thunder after appearing in the Crunch’s 3-2 overtime loss to Rochester on Saturday.
On Monday, the Thunder acquired defenseman Nick Trecapelli from Brampton for future considerations. He is about to begin his second pro season after playing collegiately for the University of Guelph. In a combined 41 games with Wichita and Atlanta last season, Trecapelli had 4 goals and 10 assists. He does have some AHL experience, appearing in 7 games with the Binghamton Senators in 2015-16, going scoreless. Also, three players were released from their tryouts: Jack Ceglarski, Evan Neugold, and Mark Petaccio.
The Thunder will kick off the regular season on Saturday night at home against Brampton, my designated Game of the Week for this week.
And now off to Syracuse…
I chose the Crunch home opener against Rochester as my first AHL game of the season. It was a way to see 2 teams that I’m covering at the same time, I got to see two of my favorite former River Rats play live for the first time in years…and of everyone who reached out to me when I discovered I was about to become hockey homeless, the fanbase that knew me in the Salt City were the most supportive. So to me, it was like saying thank you for everything. (And I’m also not ready to set foot in Binghamton just yet. That time will eventually come.)
Pregame ceremonies had a mix of everything…all players suited up escorted a local veteran onto the ice and lined up along the blue line, a hilarious lipsynced opening video (after last year’s collection what else would you expect?), then finally the division and conference championship banners were raised to the rafters of the War Memorial.
The Crunch and Amerks were finishing off an opening weekend home and home series, which started with a 3-1 Rochester win on Friday night. In Saturday’s rematch, the Amerks were first on the board with the first shot ever faced by Crunch rookie goaltender Connor Ingram, a power play goal by C.J. Smith 10:33 into the first. Cory Conacher would tie it up just under six minutes later with his first goal of the season. Early in the second, Kyle Criscuolo would score his first to put Rochester back up by 1. The lead would remain until 8:09 of the third, when Kevin Lynch’s first goal would tie the game up at 2. The game would get to overtime, but it didn’t last very long…Kevin Porter would score 39 seconds after puck drop, giving Rochester the weekend sweep and dropping the Crunch to 0-1-1-0 to start the year. Former Crunch goaltender Adam Wilcox picked up the win in net, stopping 24 of 26 shots. Ingram stopped 15 of 18 Amerk shots, and even had a tripping penalty to boot.
Rochester has only one game on the schedule this week, hosting the Comets on Friday. Syracuse has a 3 in 3 weekend: they host Belleville on Friday and Utica on Saturday, then head down Interstate 81 on Sunday for a matchup with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
As for the other two NY teams…
In the Southern Tier, it was a successful beginning to the Devils new life, as Binghamton defeated Bridgeport 2-1 on Saturday. And All About the Jersey was there to cover it all. I must say, my successors (Jeff and Alicia) are doing amazing work…happy to see I left things in good hands! The B-Devils will head north to Laval this weekend for a pair of games against the Rocket.
Utica started a month long road trip in Toronto, and dropped both games to the Marlies, 3-1 on Saturday and 4-3 on Sunday. Reid Boucher lead all Comet skaters with 3 points on the weekend. Utica will head west on the Thruway this weekend: Rochester on Friday, Syracuse on Saturday.