Friday, November 30, 2012

Binghamton 7, Adirondack 4 11/30

“We scored four tonight, but we didn’t play nearly well enough to win the game. We didn’t come out – at all – from the get-go.” - Center Rob Bordson

That's a pretty interesting assessment of the Adirondack Phantoms' effort tonight against Binghamton.

Terry Murray loves when this team has a shooting mentality -- and they had a season-high 49 shots -- but he also loves when they play solid defense. They didn't -- and that shows in the result, a 7-4 loss.

"It's our own fault," defenseman Marc-Andre Bourdon said. "It's the team. It's not the goalies. It's not (Scott Munroe). It's not (Cal) Heeter. They did well. We lost some battles one-on-one and we were out of the system. I think we just have to fix that."

I don't think you can take away from the effort Ben Bishop turned in, though. Yes, he allowed four goals, but he made at least 45 saves for the second straight game. They have leaned on him as of late and he has been up to the task, particularly when Adirondack had 17 shots in the third period. The Phantoms, up until the final 61 seconds of that frame, had only trailed by a goal. Big stops from him.

Binghamton went up 2-0 less than six minutes into the game and scored of four of its first seven shots in the first period en route to a 4-2 lead at first intermission. Adirondack fought back to tie it in the second period, but allowed one late in that frame and then couldn't find the equalizer in the third.

"Once they get the lead it's a little deflating at first," said winger Harry Zolnierczyk, who scored two goals. "Then you have to find an extra gear to get back on top. We did that in the middle of the game, trying to get ourselves back and tied the game back up ... but then again we let something break down and kind of gave them an easy one, which was tough."

Binghamton defenseman Andre Benoit had a hand in three of Binghamton's special teams goals, including both of their power play tallies. Both came off face-off wins in the Adirondack zone and the Senators literally needed all of ten seconds of their first two power plays to get pucks in the net.

"They're just pulling it back and shooting," Murray said. "I'll have to take a look at it. The one was probably a screen. The other one was a redirection. That assignment's getting missed right there on the stick. Every time you get a redirection by one of their forwards -- that's the defenseman's job, is to tie up sticks right away. You have to get at least a 50-50 battle on the face-off. You can't lose clean face-offs in your own end like that on a power play. That's maybe a little bit of youth coming into play there, where you're trying to beat a guy clean instead of tying up a stick and getting your d-man or your forwards coming in to help out and find some pucks. We have to take another lesson from that one."

Zolnierczyk's two goals gave him seven on the season, which ranks No. 2 on the team. He trails only Brayden Schenn, who has nine. Interestingly, all of Zolnierczyk's goals have come at home.

"I don't know what that has to do with it," he said, "but I love playing in front of the fans. It's always good to play in a home game, hear the crowd get going. It's always exciting. Try and use that and build off that."

They'll have another chance to do that tomorrow, when Albany comes to town. Prescout: They lost to St. John's, 1-0. Eddie Pasquale with a 24-save shutout, AHL All-Star Zach Redmond with the goal.

Elsewhere in the division, five different Hershey Bears scored as they beat Bridgeport 5-2. Jamie Tardif with two goals and three other P-Bruins with two points as they beat Connecticut 4-2. Chad Kolarik had both Whale goals. Springfield was the only team in the division that won Friday night, getting two late goals from captain Ryan Craig to beat the Monarchs 5-4.

Trenton was idle. They return to action tomorrow, hosting Elmira.

I'll be back before the Albany game with links and lines, as always.

Until next time,

Pre-Game vs. Binghamton 11/30

Greetings from the Glens Falls Civic Center, where the Adirondack Phantoms (9-9) and Binghamton Senators (10-4-1-1) are on the ice warming up. Binghamton enters this game on a six-game win streak, while the Phantoms are looking to bounce back from Wednesday's loss to St. John's.

They've been pretty good at doing that recently. Puck drop is set for the top of the hour.

The last time these two teams met, there was a line brawl that resulted in 92 minutes in penalties and six ejections. Thought there was a chance we'd see defenseman/forward Zack FitzGerald in the lineup to make sure everyone is on their best behavior, but he didn't take warm-ups and appears scratched.

Zac Rinaldo, though, is out there. So it seems if the league looked at that hit from Wednesday's game, they didn't see anything that would warrant a suspension. Probably the right call there, the wrong one in the video. I liked Broad Street Hockey's equation that Rinaldo is a living Rorschach Test, though.

Based on goaltenders who led their teams onto the ice, it seems like the Phantoms will be facing 2012 AHL All-Star Ben Bishop  and not 2011 Calder Cup playoff MVP Robin Lehner, who isn't even on the ice. Nathan Lawson is the back-up. Thoughts: 1. What a goaltending ensemble the Senators have. 2. Lehner's numbers are amazing. He's 8-2-1 with a 1.63 goals-against average (third in the AHL) and a .950 save percentage (second). Adirondack may catch a break by not seeing him.

Scott Munroe makes his fifth straight start for the Phantoms. Lines at the bottom, but first some links.

Binghamton's defense is off to a strong start, even without blue-chip prospect Jared Cowen. [Press & Sun-Bulletin]

ESPN caught up with Abbotsford goalie Barry Brust, who saw his record-setting shutout streak end strange fashion. Purely by happenstance, but a great story nonetheless. [ESPN]

Minnesota Wild goaltender Josh Harding, who we learned yesterday is battling multiple sclerosis, has reached out to former Providence Bruins goalie Jordan Sigalet, who has had the disease since 2004. [Star-Tribune]

NHL labor negotiations news: Uh-oh. [Philadelphia Daily News]

F: Hoffman-Cannone-Silfverberg
D: Benoit-Wiercioch
G: Bishop

F: Zolnierczyk-Couturier-Akeson
Wellwood-Roe-Brown / (Testwuide-scratch)
D: Gustafsson-Syvret
G: Munroe

Referee: Jean Hebert. Linesmen: Steeve Lemay, Frank Murphy.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

PK OK 11/29

First thing's first: Check out this video the Flyers put together at Thursday's practice. They had Brayden Schenn wearing a wire and recorded some pretty interesting stuff. I like when he tried to compliment Marc-Andre Bourdon's new stick and the defenseman just bluntly responds "No."

Anyway, Adirondack Phantoms coach Terry Murray spent time after practice talking about the team's penalty kill. Somewhat strange timing there because of the way Wednesday's game played out - the IceCaps scored two power-play goals in 10 seconds and won - but it has been playing well.

Even with those two goals against, it still checks in at 85.6 percent. That's eighth in the AHL. The system relies on forwards making the right reads, which they've done by and large to date.

“Our philosophy is putting a lot of pressure on the puck,” Murray said. “Again, it starts down ice with the idea that you want to have your (first forward) serpentine and pressuring the puck as he comes back through to his own d-zone. If the puck gets by him, then that (second forward) has to respond and take his place."

Once the Phantoms get into the defensive zone, the forwards and defensemen adapt to where the puck is. Their No.1 priority, though, is taking away the defenseman-to-defenseman passing lane across the blue line. If they don't, that's when their opponents can really start to do some damage.

"Anytime they make a d-to-d pass now, it opens up the ice," Murray said. "It opens up shooting lanes and a lot of traffic to the net can make it very hard on the goaltender. We try to limit that. We try to contain it to the one side of the ice and we want to pressure down hard on that half-board man right down to the goal line and hand it off to the d. He takes over and if you have that kind of read happening consistently, it’s easy for the guys off the back side to make their reads and adjustments.”

The IceCaps' first power play goal, Paul Postma's one-timer, was off a pass from Alex Burmistrov, who was circling back to where a defender would ordinarily be. But there were bodies in front of Adirondack goaltender Scott Munroe and he likely never saw it before it clanked in off the pipe.

You've probably noticed that Murray doesn't like to use Sean Couturier and Schenn on the first shift of a penalty kill. You might think that's strange, given the huge penalty killing role Couturier played in Philadelphia last season, but Murray told reporters there's a reason for it.

“I do that intentionally because I want to come back with them right after the penalty kill is over with five-on-five play," Murray said. "I start off with the first group, I’ve got Schenner and Coots out for the next group and then one more time. Hopefully the penalty is over and now we can come right back with our top two lines five-on-five. Literally, I want them: pressure, in the zone, clear, get off the ice. If that takes 20 seconds or that takes 30 seconds, that’s when I want them to change."

The power play is an entirely different animal. It's very rare -- almost unheard of -- to see the Phantoms start a power play without the No. 1 unit of Schenn, Couturier, Jason Akeson, Tye McGinn and Erik Gustafsson. On the penalty kill, though, Murray also has defensive center Rob Bordson and two-way player Ben Holmstrom who have been responsible on the first shift, which allows Murray to stick with his plan of sending Couturier and Schenn out next and keeping them fresh for five-on-five.

"You have to have a first group that goes out to do a very responsible job or otherwise you’re coming and leading with Schenn and with Couturier," Murray said. "We have a lot of confidence in what Bordson and Holmstrom do. They’re veteran players in a sense. Being kids, they’re still veterans. They really buy into that. That’s one of their roles – is to be real good players without the puck. It makes it easy, then, for that decision to be made.”

Having the right people making the right reads is only a part of the equation, Murray said.

“There are a whole lot of things that come into penalty killing,” he said. “You need good people. You need character. You need guys that want to work hard – sacrifice their bodies blocking shots – play heavy and hard and the right time. The hockey awareness that our group has is very good. You have to have the reads up ice. You want to be able to continue with your speed and put pressure on the puck at all times as we come back through the middle of the ice. You would like to force some dump-ins where you can now dig in and battle hard and don’t get into outnumbered situations. I think overall the players have really committed to it."

That's a lot of PK talk. Moving on.

Tye McGinn was banged up, so he got a maintenance day. He is expected to be back for Binghamton, but Eric Wellwood took his place on a line with Schenn and Shane Harper. Mike Testwuide skated with Tyler Brown and Garrett Roe. It will be interesting to see if those hold up if McGinn returns or if Murray will drop Wellwood back to the fourth and sit Testwuide. We'll find out tomorrow, I suppose.

The story I wrote for tomorrow's paper focuses on how well the Phantoms have been able to bounce back from losses recently. They are 4-1 in their past five games immediately following a loss.

This season, they're 3-0 following consecutive losses. They've been good at avoiding lengthy slumps.

Scott Munroe summed up the stat pretty well: "I would like to have not so many losses, that way there wasn't that kind of stat, but I think it's a good sign when you bounce back."

More on that in the paper. I'll be back before the game with the lines and links, as always.

Until next time,

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

IceCaps 3, Phantoms 2 11/28

Let's switch things up and start with Zac Rinaldo's ejection. The third-year pro winger was given a five-minute major and a game misconduct for a hit on Julian Melchiori at the 11:14 mark of the first.

Officially, Rinaldo was given an elbowing major. Here's the AHL rule book on the matter, rule 45.3:

45.3 Major Penalty - A major penalty, at the discretion of the Referee, shall be imposed on any player who uses his elbow to foul an opponent. A major penalty must be imposed under this rule for a foul resulting in an injury to the face or head of an opponent

Rinaldo said Melchiori was bleeding after the hit. In that case, it'd basically have to be a major penalty -- if he actually used his elbow. Rinaldo pleaded not guilty after the game.

“It was a joke,” Rinaldo said. “They didn’t even see the hit. I did hit him shoulder-to-shoulder. I watched it as soon as I got off the ice. I guess they (heard) the impact and they saw the blood.”

The elbowing major doesn't carry an automatic suspension like some penalties -- remember when Albany's Matt Corrente was given one for instigating a fight in the final five minutes? -- but the league can always suspend players under the supplemental discipline rule. If an investigation is warranted, the league would review the hit and ultimately decide whether or not to suspend Rinaldo.

Coach Terry Murray didn't get a good look at the hit and didn't want to comment on it until he had.

EDIT: Here's the video, via phantomsfan on YouTube:

You make the call.

There was some concern in the box about if the hit was deemed clean whether the game misconduct could be rescinded, because the AHL has a rule where a player is suspended if he gets two gamers. But I combed through the rule book and that seems to only apply to boarding or checking from behind calls, so it doesn't seem like Rinaldo is in danger of anything there.

The penalty does carry a $200 fine, though.

Anyway, coach Terry Murray said the team took too many penalties. They were shorthanded seven times and that's what ultimately decided the game when Paul Postma and Carl (Hey. Carl. Good to see you) Klingberg scored 10 seconds apart on a five-on-three, then a five-on-four power play.

Murray didn't seem thrilled about the stick fouls given to Marc-Andre Bourdon and Erik Gustafsson.

"The first penalty, too, where the man is coming off the wing -- he's rolling off the top of the circle and shoots the puck on his backhand, he's just falling," Murray said. "There's no stick in there. Gus, yeah, he's reaching in and you get a hooking call on that one. It's, I don't know."

The team doesn't seem to like to play in these two referee games. It seems to make a difference. I've seen games where two referees work well, but a lot of times it just seems that one of them tries to outperform the other one and they just wind up calling some stuff that doesn't make sense.

Tonight, each team had a power play before the game was four minutes old.

"It's real easy to get frustrated," captain Ben Holmstrom said. "You don't get as much flow to the game and not as many guys get going and stuff. A lot of penalties like that can kill the flow of the game. At the same time, you're getting power plays and stuff. Sometimes you can swing the momentum your way. I think it just kind of depends on the night, which way you're going."

Adirondack didn't get help from the power play, going 0-for-7. They did, though, have their chances. Tyler Brown shot the puck wide of an empty net on what would have been a highlight reel goal. Sean Couturier hit the goalpost with Scott Munroe pulled. Those ten seconds in the third did them in, but they were starting to get away from the game plan even in the second period.

"They're trying to change the momentum," Murray said. "Any time the puck went into their end, they're throwing it out to the neutral zone, down to the top of the circle at our end and just using their speed to try and hunt it down. We got caught in a three-quarter-ice game, where we're trying to get it back in and they're throwing it back out and coming at us with a lot of speed. It ends up in our zone and now fatigue becomes a part of that shift. It was a good strategy by them and we get caught playing the game that we wanted to play."

Tomorrow is a bit of a later practice and I'm not sure if I can swing it based on the way our schedule is at the office. I'll be back here before the Binghamton game Friday, though, with a pre-game post.

Until next time,

Pre-game vs. St. John's 11/28

Greetings from Glens Falls Civic Center, where the Adirondack Phantoms (9-8) are getting ready to take on the St. John's IceCaps (9-9-0-1). Third meeting of the season between these two teams. They split the first two last month in Newfoundland. It's an Eddie-Money goalie match-up, with Eddie Pasquale in goal for St. John's and Scott "Money" Munroe between the pipes for Adirondack.

A win tonight would be Adirondack's fifth-straight home win, which would be the second-longest in Adirondack Phantoms' history. They won seven in a row late in 2010-11. It would also tie the AHL season high for a home win streak. Binghamton, who'll be here Friday, has also won five in a row.

Matt Ford is a healthy scratch for the fourth time in five games. Shane Harper is back in the lineup and takes Ford's spot the second line with Brayden Schenn and Tye McGinn. Eric Wellwood, a healthy scratch for three straight, returns and takes Mike Testwuide's spot on the fourth line.

Links below. Full lines at the bottom.

This week, Munroe mentioned he almost re-signed with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, but it fell through. He's on a roll lately, but the guy the Penguins got to replace him is also having a pretty good month.

St. John's will be without Derek Whitmore tonight -- or for the rest of the year. The veteran forward signed in Germany, apparently unhappy with the opportunity he received with the IceCaps.

Albany, Saturday's opponent, won't have Adam Henrique. A Calder Trophy finalist last season, he will be be out four-to-six weeks after tearing a ligament in his thumb. He'll have surgery tomorrow.

A bizarre story has been circulating the Internet today about Grand Rapids' Riley Sheahan, who was allegedly "super-drunk" and wearing a Teletubby costume when police pulled him over last month.

One year ago today, the Phantoms' "We Built This City" video hit the web.
F: Jaffrey-Burmistrov-Machacek
D: Postma-Melchiori
G: Pasquale

F: Zolnierczyk-Couturier-Akeson
D: Gustafsson-Syvret
G: Munroe

Referees: Darcy Burchell, Tim Mayer. Linesmen: Mike Emanatian, Steeve Lemay.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Mangene returns to the ice 11/27

News of the day at Glens Falls Civic Center was rookie winger Matt Mangene stepping back on the ice for the first time in about a month. He suffered a concussion Oct. 28 in Adirondack's 4-3 victory over the Syracuse Crunch.

Phantoms coach Terry Murray had previously only termed Mangene's injury as "upper-body," but went on the record with the diagnosis today now that Mangene is back on the ice. In hindsight, it could have been easy to figure this one out: What kind of upper-body injury sidelines you for a month and doesn't require you to wear a sling or cast? That's why I didn't go to med school.

Anyway, Murray said it was good to see Mangene back on the ice.

"It's been a long time," Murray said. "He's got clearance to get a little more active in the practice now, so we'll see where that takes him. Hopefully he's able to continue on and feel good."

Mangene passed his baseline tests, which allowed him to get back on the ice, but Murray said not to expect to see the University of Maine product in the Phantoms' lineup during this homestand.

"It'll be some time to get him back into physical shape and make sure that he's going to be fine, first of all," he said. "He's got to get some practice in, get some heavy activity and see how he responds."

Mangene was in pretty good spirits after practice. The Long Island native talked about the injury and also how his family was impacted by Hurricane Sandy, which made landfall around the same time.

He's originally from Manorville, which is somewhat inland, but his family has since moved to a home in Miller Place on Long Island Sound. His house is "55 yards away from water on both sides."

"We made out pretty well," Mangene said. "Before the hurricane even hit, our parents were kayaking in our front yard. We just got some flooding, a couple of shingles missing. Not as bad as a lot of my friends. I had a couple of people that lost their whole towns, not only their houses. A couple friends live on canals and they were just bulldozing the house into the canal and starting from scratch."

The night before the storm hit, Mangene said police officers came to the family home and told his parents to evacuate. His father had waited out Irene, but wasn't going to chance it this time. The forward said he hasn't had a chance to go down and survey any of the damage himself.

"I tried to stay away from there," he said. "If you got on the island, you probably got stuck there. We had a gas shortage for probably two weeks. My parents didn't go anywhere, my dad was lucky just to get to work and get some gas. It was a tough two, three weeks for them. They didn't get power until 14 days after the hurricane. It was tough."

The Mangene house, as close to water as it is, is fairly elevated. Waves reached 14 feet, he said, but water probably wouldn't have gotten any higher than the garage. They have a boardwalk that goes down to the water that was untouched, but three other similar structures washed up on theirs.

"We have houses around us that lost their decks, everything," Mangene said. "We were lucky enough not to get hit hard."

The concussion came at bit of a tough time. He was about three weeks into his rookie season, had worked his way onto a line with Tye McGinn and Brayden Schenn and then got hit hard along the boards as he advanced the puck. The Phantoms scored on that shift and Mangene was credited with an assist, but he realized something wasn't right when he returned to the bench.

"It's hard," he said. "I haven't been around the team lately. This is pretty much my first week around the guys. It's tough. It's awful. I didn't like it. It's something you can't really do anything about. It's just rest and hoping that you recover quickly."

He's happy to be back working out and skating, but there's no timetable for a return to the lineup.

"I'm just taking it day-by-day, practice-by-practice," he said. "Just come to the rink, working as hard as I can to get back into game shape and be game ready. I'd like to get back in the lineup by next week, but that's up to the training camp and the coaching staff."


Other practice notes: It looks like Eric Wellwood will return to Adirondack's lineup tomorrow night after sitting out three games as a healthy scratch. Murray said it was a "coach's decision," but didn't elaborate. He had been on a defensive line, so I'd wager Murray wanted to see more of him there.

Lines: Zolnierczyk-Couturier-Akeson, McGinn-Schenn-Harper, Rinaldo-Bordson-Holmstrom, Wellwood-Roe-Brown. Defense: Gustafsson-Syvret, Bourdon-Manning, Lauridsen-Eddy.

Speaking of defense, they've been pretty good this month. They've allowed two or fewer goals in seven of their past nine games. Adirondack is 6-3 during that stretch, including a current three-game win streak. That's on the line when St. John's visits tomorrow. Story in the paper about that.

Murray wants his team to have a shooting mentality? They could have a shooting gallery tomorrow. The league office notes IceCaps goalie Eddie Pasquale has faced 40 or more shots in each of his past three starts, but he's won two of those games. Mark Dekanich faced 25 in his latest start.

Scott Munroe has a new mask. The Phantoms have a better picture here. His old one, which you can see in this photo, was the one he wore back in his Philadelphia Phantoms days at the Spectrum. This design is based off the one he wore with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton last year.

That'll do it for me today. I'll be back tomorrow with the pre-game report.

Until next time,

Monday, November 26, 2012

Mo' 'Money,' No Problem 11/26

Scott Munroe has been nicknamed "Money" throughout his professional career and that's exactly what he's been lately for the Adirondack Phantoms. This homestretch has marked the first time a Phantoms goaltender has started three consecutive games this season and Munroe earned three wins. Lots of talk about his play in the feature story that will appear in Tuesday's paper.

A couple of comments that didn't make the cut appear here:

On the culture shock associated with going from playing junior hockey Saskatchewan to playing college hockey in Huntsville, Alabama:
“There’s definitely a little bit slower pace. Everyone’s pretty laid back. There was definitely – I wouldn’t say a language barrier, but a bit of a slang barrier – just their accents. I’d speak and they’d look at me like ‘Where are you from?’ and I’d say, ‘Well, where are you from?’ It was a little bit different to definitely understand the slang and all that kind of stuff, but it was a fun experience. And the team was pretty heavy on the Canadians, so that helped the transition.”
On whether that even remotely compared to spending a year in Russia's Kontinental Hockey League:
“You can still go and get a Dunkin’ Donuts down in Huntsville. It was pretty tough. It was definitely a big shock and then obviously the language barrier was tough. Not so much that, but it was just the way they treat hockey and the way the coaches treat the players. Here, they treat us well. I’m not going to say a country club, but you kind of come in, you get your workout in, you get on the ice and then you go home for the day. Over there it’s like ‘No, we’re paying you, you’re on the clock when we want you to be.’ There was a lot of morning skates and then evening runs out in the snow and stuff like that. There was no down and it was mentally taxing.”  
"You can definitely see why some guys decide to come home or get released from their clubs. When you go over there as an import player, there’s a lot expected of you and if you don’t perform to sometimes unreachable goals, then they think ‘Why did we bring you here?’ They’re not always attainable, sometimes they put you on a pedestal, but you’re just a normal guy. The style of play is a lot different too, so I think it’s hard for guys to adjust.”
On his first season with the Philadelphia Phantoms, 2006-07:
"I came in and I was pretty green and pretty raw. I was fortunate to have a lot of help from Reggie Lemelin, who was a goalie coach at the time and then after that Neil Little came in and he was our goalie coach. I can’t say enough about what he did for me that kind of helped me just learn how to play. … It really helped out a lot to have those people helping me and watching me and here I am now.”
In somewhat fitting fashion, Munroe is one win away from tying Antero Niittymaki for second place all-time on the Phantoms' franchise wins list. Little is the record holder with 177, which is hard to imagine anyone catching in this day and age in the American Hockey League. A goalie starting fresh would have to post about six 30-win seasons. He would probably be in the NHL by year three, maybe four definitely five. If he's not getting a shot by that point, he may make the jump to Europe.

 Munroe sort of touched on that in his comments in the feature story.

Personnel update: Marc-Andre Bourdon missed the second half of practice as part of a planned recovery from logging a lot of key minutes during last week's three-in-four, coach Terry Murray said. Tough stretch for the Phantoms, here, playing three straight three-in-fours. Them's the breaks.

An interesting bit in tonight's Phantoms Power Hour radio show. Defensemen Jeff Dimmen, back skating after an injury, talked about his day with the Calder Cup this past summer. He took it to the top of Pike's Peak, which was in a story I wrote earlier this season, but I found out the Calder Cup transportation methods aren't as glamorous as those for the Stanley Cup. Dimmen got the trophy via a FedEx shipment from Tyler Johnson, then he had to pack it up and ship it to the team's video coach.

FedEx apparently didn't even wait for a signature, Dimmen said. So there's that.

You can listen to it here. The Calder Cup talk starts at about 22:30, while the shipping talk starts at 23:40. Didn't have a chance to ask how much it costs to ship the Calder Cup. Next time.

Mike Testwuide, by the way, revealed his brother, former Phantoms defenseman J.P. Testwuide, has retired from professional hockey and he's now raising organic, grass-fed animals in Colorado.

"It's been his dream his whole life to be a rancher," Mike Testwuide said on the radio show. "He just got a new horse. He's training his new horse right now. He's a cowboy, that's who he is. I love the kid and he's doing what he wants to do, so it's really good for him."

I may or may not be at practice tomorrow. I'm needed in the office to help piece together our high school hockey preview, so look for that in Wednesday's paper. If I'm not, though, I'll try and put some additional comments I got from Murray up here on the blog as sort of a Phantoms game preview.

EDIT: Taylor Hall of the Oklahoma City Oilers' First-Round Draft Picks Barons is the Player of the Week.

Until next time,

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Phantoms 3, Bears 1 11/24

Second-year pro Tyler Brown's first goal of the season stood as the game-winner as the Adirondack Phantoms beat the Hershey Bears 3-1 Saturday at Glens Falls Civic Center.

It was Adirondack's third straight win and fourth straight home win. At 9-8, the Phantoms are now above .500 for the first time since opening night.

I tried to focus the game story on just how dominant the Phantoms have been in the second period during this six-game homestand, outshooting opponents 52-18 and outscoring them 6-2.

Their stranglehold on the second period has helped them get past a couple of lackluster third periods. Tonight's final frame wasn't as bad as Friday's, but the Phantoms didn't do themselves any favors by taking three penalties in the first 14 minutes. They did outstandingly well on the penalty kill though, going a perfect 7-for-7, and limited Hershey to eight shots in the third.

"Again, I kind of go back to maybe a little bit of youth," said Scott Munroe, who turned aside all but one for the third straight game. "We have to know when's the right time to hold back and maybe sort of let a guy go instead of taking interference or a hook or a hold. That'll come."

Munroe stopped 82 of the past 85 shots thrown his way, which is impressive. The team notes he's 39 saves away for his 4,000th as a Phantom. He's also 98 away from his 6,000th career AHL save, also impressive. He's probably not even going to win an award for either of those or his recent play after Abbotsford's Barry Brust broke a 55-year old shutout record, which is very impressive.

Anyway, back to Glens Falls. Phantoms coach Terry Murray said Brown's goal, off a rebound in front of the net, was a textbook example of the kind of goal that line is expected to score.

"When you play three in four nights and you have back-to-back games -- you have a Hershey team watching us play last night -- you need everybody contributing significant minutes in significant ways. I thought the line with (Garrett) Roe, Brown and (Mike) Testwuide tonight did a big job. They were physical, they were intense on the puck and they end up scoring a huge goal as a result of their hard work."

Added Brown: “We’re fourth line, we’re grinders. We’re out there to get the team going. We’re not going to get the nicest goals, but any time we can get a goal it’s definitely nice.”

Conversely, Brayden Schenn helped set up one of the nicest goals we've seen this season. He drew two defenders as he skated over the blue line, then dished the puck through both of the defensemen to a wide-open Tye McGinn, who roofed it over a diving Dany Sabourin.

That tied it 1-1 in the first after Zach Hamill scored early for Hershey.

"That's a hockey player play," Murray said. "He's attacking, he brings people to him. He just puts in in his hip pocket, basically and the defenseman commits and he just finds him with speed wide. That's a play that a hockey player is supposed to make."

Schenn finished with two assists, giving him 22 points this season. That's third in the AHL.

Brown's goal made it 2-1. Sean Couturier scored an empty-netter with 25 seconds left. Ballgame. Hershey has lost six of seven. Adirondack is on a roll.

"We have to stick to the game plan and play 60 minutes," Couturier said. "We know we can beat any one in this league if we play a 60-minute game. Last three games we've been doing that and we've had some great results."

Around the division, four different players scored and Dustin Tokarski made 18 saves as Syracuse beat Albany, 4-1. Chad Kolarik had a hat trick as Connecticut beat Norfolk, 5-2. Bridgeport had a rough night in Binghamton, where Robin Lehner made 35 saves. Manchester topped Springfield in a shootout. Thoughts and prayers to everyone affected by that awful explosion there yesterday.

Greenville shut out Trenton. Andrew Johnston played. Evansville's Patrick Kennedy, who boarded him Friday, did not. He's suspended indefinitely pending a league review. He was also fined an undisclosed amount.

The team is back on the ice Monday. Expect an update then.

Until next time,

Pre-game vs. Hershey 11/24

Greetings from Glens Falls Civic Center, where the Adirondack Phantoms (8-8) and Hershey Bears (6-9-1) are on the ice for warm-ups. After last night's win over Norfolk, Adirondack is now searching for its fourth straight home win. Getting it would push the Phantoms above the .500 mark for the first time since opening night. The Bears, meanwhile, enter tonight's game having lost five of their last six. They've been idle since Wednesday, when they lost 4-0 to archrival Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

Full lines below, as always, but first some links.

Mike Ashmore, who covered last night's Trenton Titans game for our Journal Register Company brethren, The Trentonian, tweeted this picture of Andrew Johnston earlier today. Johnston, a rookie center who started the season with the Phantoms, was boarded late in Trenton's win over Evansville last night. This ugly cut is apparently the aftermath. EDIT: Trenton's Twitter feed reports he's starting tonight. He's a hockey player.

Adirondack's Brayden Schenn, Sean Couturier and Eric Wellwood get name-dropped in this Yahoo! Sports story about NHL players spending the lockout in the AHL.

If you were hoping to see Hockey Hall of Famer Adam Oates in Glens Falls tonight, you're out of luck. The former Adirondack Red Wing, who started the season as Hershey's co-coach with Mark French, has returned to NHL Washington.

Scott Munroe vs. Dany Sabourin. Munroe's third straight start. Matt Ford in for Shane Harper. That's the only change from Friday. Former Phantom Jon Kalinski (injury) is out for Hershey, but other former Phantoms Matt Clackson and Kevin Marshall are in the line-up. More after the game.

F: Kane-Potulny-Mitchell
D: Kundratek-Marshall
G: Sabourin

F: Zolnierczyk-Couturier-Akeson
D: Syvret-Gustafsson
G: Munroe

Referees: Chris Ciamaga, Ryan Hersey. Linesmen: Steeve Lemay, Frank Murphy.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Phantoms 2, Norfolk 1 11/23

Goaltender Scott Munroe was brilliant in the third period Friday, turning aside all 12 shots he faced and helping the Adirondack Phantoms escape with a 2-1 victory over the Norfolk Admirals.

To put that in perspective, Munroe had only faced 14 shots through the first 40 minutes of play. The Phantoms outshot Norfolk 19-5 in the second period, but sat on the lead a little bit more than they should have and Norfolk peppered Munroe with 10 shots in the first half of the final frame. Adirondack had three.

“We haven’t been really protecting too many leads this year,” said Munroe, who stopped them all. “That takes time too and that takes work. It’s kind of a learning process as well. That could be part of it. I thought we sat back a little more than we did in the first two periods.”

Brayden Schenn called the performance "sick." Erik Gustafsson said it was "unbelievable." Whatever adjective you use, Munroe has won back-to-back starts, stopped 59 of the last 61 shots he's faced and improved his goals-against average (2.24) and saves percentage (.930) into top-10 in the AHL totals.

There's a lot on Munroe in the game story, but I wanted to touch on a topic that didn't make it in. In a scoreless first period, Schenn dropped the gloves with John Mitchell after a questionable hit on Adirondack's Marc-Andre Bourdon. You can view video of the fight on YouTube here.

"I didn't think it was a clean hit," Schenn said. "Maybe he didn't touch the puck or whatever. You don't want to see a guy hit like that. That's all really there was to it."

It was Schenn's third pro fight and first in the AHL. As a rookie, he fought Boston's Chris Kelly and New Jersey's Ilya Kovalchuk in his 54-game NHL stint last year. Both of those are YouTube links.

I was kind of surprised that Schenn was the one who came to Bourdon's aid. You generally don't see a skilled player jumping in there. Though Phantoms coach Terry Murray, who had coached Schenn when the two were in the Los Angeles Kings organization, said it wasn't anything new.

"Schenner is a gritty player," Murray said. "He's there to respond to a hit that happened to a teammate. I'm not surprised by it at all. I've seen it several times before."

That fighting major, incidentally, were Schenn's first penalty minutes of the season. He didn't have any through the team's first 15 games and was the only Phantoms player who could make that claim.

After the game, he joked he was no longer under consideration for the Lady Byng Trophy, which is awarded to the NHL player who combines a high level of playing ability with sportsmanlike conduct, but said he didn't know what it was that had kept him out of the penalty box for so long.

"You see him playing the right way every night," Murray said. "He tries to play hard, competitive. He has the puck on his stick a lot, so he's not on the chase of trying to recover pucks because he does have a good puck-possession attitude. He carries the puck with authority and makes plays. Usually, he's drawing the penalty."

Gustafsson had two assists, giving him five points (1-4-5) in the past three games. He had four (1-3-4) through the team's first 13.

"We got our power play working a little bit better," he said. "We got (recently-called-up winger Jason Akeson) on our unit, which is really good. I don't know, it's going to be hard for a defenseman to put up points unless you do it on the power play, so as long as our power play is clicking pretty good I think I'm going to keep on putting up points."

Akeson had an assist on Sean Couturier's power play goal, giving him four in two games. Center Rob Bordson added his first of the season 49 seconds later. That stood up as the game winner.

"My role is a little more defensive this year," Bordson said. "I try to work hard in both ends. Tonight, I just kind of got my break. Feels good to get the first one out of the way. Hopefully there's a lot more to come."

Adirondack has now won three straight at home. A win tomorrow night against visiting Hershey would push them to 9-8, which would be the first time they've been above .500 since opening night.

"You don't want to be below .500," Bordson said. "Then you're not in the playoff race at all. It's the first two months of the season, but you don't want to get too far behind. We have to start piling up some wins, getting to overtime, whatever it is to get points."

Added Gustafsson: "We were struggling at the beginning of the year. We played good one night and then we played bad the next two. Now I think we all realize what we have to start winning game after game."

Around the division, Connecticut scored four unanswered in the final 11:27 to beat Bridgeport, 7-5. Oliver Ekman-Larsson scored 19 seconds into overtime as Portland beat Springfield, 6-5. Raman Hrabarenka scored his first professional goal, but Albany fell to Rochester, 5-2. Hershey was idle, but is coming off a 4-0 loss against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Wednesday.

This, incidentally, was Norfolk's seventh loss in eight games. They are 7-9.

Finally, ECHL affiliate Trenton beat Evansville 3-2 behind contributions from recently-reassigned Andrew Johnston (goal) and Matt Konan (assist). But there was a scary scene at the end of the game, writes Mike Ashmore for our Journal Register Company bretheren, The Trentonian.
Johnston appeared to be badly injured with 1:31 left in the game when (Evansville's Patrick) Kennedy boarded him in the right wing corner in Trenton’s defensive zone, causing a huge gash on his face that bled profusely onto the ice. He did skate off with a towel held to his face, clearly aggravated with the play.
“I’m feeling good,” Johnston said. “(I hit my head) in the side of the boards there. I think the visor came down and the head went into the rail. But the guys did a good job stitching me up. I hope to (play tomorrow), I’ll see how I am in the morning.”
Until next time,

Pre-game vs. Norfolk 11/23

Greetings from the Glens Falls Civic Center, where the Adirondack Phantoms (7-8) and Norfolk Admirals (7-8) are on the ice for pre-game warmups. Adirondack is in third of its third consecutive home win, while the Admirals look to snap a three-game losing streak. They've also lost six of seven.

Before we get into line combinations, I wanted to pass along some big, yet not unexpected, NHL news. Still without a collective bargaining agreement, the NHL today cancelled all games through Dec. 14. It also cancelled All-Star Weekend festivities scheduled for late January in Columbus, Ohio.

There were 422 games scheduled between the season's planned start and Dec. 14. Earlier this month, the NHL cancelled the Winter Classic, which had been scheduled for New Year's Day. With the lockout extending, the AHL also announced updates to its TV and SiriusXM satellite radio schedules.

Broad Street Hockey has a bunch of information on Operation Hat Trick, the Hurricane Sandy charity game set for Saturday night in Atlantic City. Lots of Flyers and Rangers in the line-ups. EDIT: And we'll keep an eye on the Trenton Titans game, where Andrew Johnston and Matt Konan are debuting.

Looks like the same lineup for the Phantoms as last night. Scott Munroe and Frederik Andersen in the nets. Norfolk signed NHLer Rod Pelley to a try-out contract earlier today, but he's not on the ice for warm-ups. Former Phantoms Patrick Maroon and Garrett Klotz are, though, and it looks like they'll both be going. Norfolk has one to scratch, but it looks like it will be John Kurtz. Full line-ups below.

F: Palmieri-Holland-Maroon
Mitchell-McMillan-Bodie / (Kurtz - scratch)
D: Guenin-Parent
G: Bobkov

F: Zolnierczyk-Couturier-Akeson
D: Gustafsson-Syvret
G: Munroe

Referee: Geno Binda. Linesmen: Mike Emanatian, Frank Murphy.

And congratulation to the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake Spartans, high school football state champions.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Phantoms 5, Bridgeport 1 11/21

As winger Jason Akeson emerged from the Adirondack Phantoms' dressing room to conduct his post-game interviews Wednesday night, fans that had gathered near the Glens Falls Civic Center players' exit let out a loud cheer.

They were happy to see him back -- and so were the Adirondack Phantoms.

Akeson, called up from ECHL Trenton earlier in the week, recorded the primary assist on all three of Adirondack's goals in the second period to lead the Phantoms to a 5-1 victory over the Bridgeport Sound Tigers Wednesday.

"I played here all last year," Akeson said. "I like playing here. It was great to be back out here. This is what I trained all summer for -- to be here and be a top player in this league. It's just one game. I can't be looking at this game and saying 'Oh, I'm here to stay.' Next game is a new thing and I'm going to go out and try and do better the next game."

Interesting comment from Terry Murray in the game story about Akeson's two-way play. The second-year pro played well off the puck tonight and had a solid two-way game, something Murray, a defensive-minded coach, expects out of all his players.

Apart from the spark provided by Akeson's arrival, it was a pretty complete game for the entire team.

They limited Bridgeport to seven or fewer shots in two periods. Scott Munroe made 22 saves. The No. 1 power play, using four forwards and defenseman Erik Gustafsson, scored three goals. Harry Zolnierczyk, who played an exceptionally inspired first period, scored just after a penalty expired.

Brayden Schenn added a goal and two assists for Adirondack, which snapped a two-game losing streak and moved to 7-8. Neat stat about him from the AHL office. The five total goals were the most the Phantoms scored since Oct. 13. The three power play goals were a single-game season high.

"We were playing well right from the first drop of the puck," Zolnierczyk said. "I thought we were playing the game we kind of talk about and try to bring out every night. It was finally nice to play a full game."

Asked Sean Couturier about the dynamic of the four-forward power play, which features him and Gustafsson on the points and Tye McGinn, Schenn and Akeson up front. The second power play unit still rolls with three forwards -- Zac Rinaldo, Garrett Roe, Ben Holmstrom -- and two defensemen.

"It's different," Couturier said. "We're still trying to get used to each other, but we seemed to find some good chemistry with (Akeson) back here. He's a good player and he's good with the puck. We did a good job on the power play tonight and we capitalized on our chances."

Added McGinn: "(Akeson is) a great player. You have to give him a lot of respect. He led our team in points last year for the whole year. He just helped out everything. He helps out. He's a power play guy. He's also a five-on-five guy. As you can see tonight, he filled the role for sure."

McGinn's power play goal, on a deflection, gave him two in 12 games this season. He had two all of last year, but continues to excel in the role of being a net-front presence on the man advantage.

"He's really starting to identify with the role," Murray said. "A young guy, a big man. He's got good hands, he finds pucks as they're coming through from the blue line. Tonight, he got his stick on it and it ends up in the back of the net."

Bridgeport coach Scott Pellerin's comments, per the Connecticut Post's Michael Fornabaio. No other Northeast Division action on the schedule tonight. In the East, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton coach John Hynes denied to The Citizens' Voice a report that he put a bounty on the head of Hershey's Steve Oleksy. Friend of the blog Jonathan Bombulie had some pretty insightful analysis on the situation.

Non-pressing hockey news: Adirondack debuted a new goal song tonight. It's "Good Time" by Owl City and Carly Rae Jepsen. I was sad to see Mickie Krause's "Dup Dup (Mallorca Version)" go, but anything is better than the Wang Chung song they were playing just prior to warm-ups.

That'll do it for me tonight. Hope everyone has a safe and happy Thanksgiving.

I'll be back before Friday's game. By the way, if you're willing to get up early for (Orange and) Black Friday, the Phantoms have a pretty good ticket deal for you.

Until next time,

Pre-game vs. Bridgeport 11/21

Greetings from the Glens Falls Civic Center, where the Adirondack Phantoms (6-8) kick-off a six-game homestand against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers (10-4). Eric Wellwood sits tonight for Adirondack as does Zack FitzGerald. Jason Akeson, up from Trenton will make his season debut and Tye McGinn will return to the lineup after missing three games with muscle spasms.

Scott Munroe and Kevin Poulin start for their respective teams. Bridgeport has a defenseman to scratch. EDIT: It's Jordan Hill. The full lines are below.

F: Niederreiter-Nelson-McDonald
D: Ness-Landry
(Hill scratch)/Cantin-Hamonic
G: Poulin

F: Zolnierczyk-Couturier-Akeson
D: Gustafsson-Syvret
G: Munroe

Referees: Chris Brown, Jamie Koharski. Linesmen: Mike Emanatian, Steeve Lemay.

Homecoming 11/20

As promised,  a story in Wednesday's paper about Zack FitzGerald's transition into a bit of a utility player for the Adirondack Phantoms. He had some interesting things to say about playing up front.

Coach Terry Murray, though, was really impressed with FitzGerald's play Saturday at Syracuse. It's not always easy for a defenseman to jump to forward, but FitzGerald played the position well.

He's still practicing as a defenseman, though. So it's not a permanent thing, by any means. He's worth more to the team as a utility player than he is as a straight defenseman or straight forward anyway.

Let's not get caught up on that, though. Adirondack returns to the Glens Falls Civic Center at 7 p.m Wednesday night, hosting the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Adirondack has played only four games at home this season. That's tied for the fewest  in the American Hockey League (Milwaukee, Charlotte).

They'll now play six straight and 10 of 12 at home over the next month. Their road "trips" are two one-game jaunts to Rochester and Providence, nothing at all like the travel they endured over the first month of the season. They were in Canada, Binghamton, Syracuse, Manchester, all over the map.

Keep in mind they had only been in Glens Falls for about a week before the season started. They arrived from Philadelphia and were busy preparing for the season while trying to find places to live. Now, they're about a month into the season and things are a little more calm. It's not as hectic.

"We're finally getting into a time where it's settled a little bit," Murray said. "Players can, I think, settle down and start to play -- hopefully -- a more consistent game."

Consistency has been a bit of a problem for the Phantoms this season. They're 6-8, which some would consider underachieving considering the wealth of NHL talent on this team. (Oklahoma City, by the way, seems like it may be pulling it together. They're 3-0-1 in their past four).

But coming home to the Civic Center, where the Phantoms went 23-14-0-1 last season, is a good chance for Adirondack to not only improve its overall consistency, but its record. Murray spoke yesterday about how he hopes Jason Akeson can provide a scoring spark, so this isn't foreign.

"It's important that we recognize that as a group here," Murray said. "It's time to be putting some points onto the board, but I don't want to make that a big issue or a big point with the team. You're in the process of development and learning. Not only how the pro game works, but how to play the pro game. It's real important to keep it simple. To keep the focus on the small areas of the game, the importance of the checking part. The passing of the puck, the power play, the penalty kill. We break the big game down into these small pieces. It's an easier adjustment and an easier thing for the players as they go forward into an extended homestand like this."

There's a lot of little things that go into the proverbial home-ice advantage. After Tuesday's practice at the Civic Center, Murray spoke about how routines can help players. It's tougher on players when they're riding buses overnight to cities as opposed to driving home and staying in their own beds.

"We're all a little bit of a creature of habit," Murray said. "You get into the routine of the day over a month or so. It's a good thing for you as a team and it's a very good thing for you as a player to start to fall into that and know what you're going to do and where you're going to be. You're going to eat better at home, you're going to sleep better in your own better. There's just a lot of factors that come into play that I think are very helpful to athletes in general."

Looks like Bridgeport won't have AHL All-Star Casey Cizikas in the lineup tomorrow.

Hybrid icing will stick around for the time being.

I'll have a pre-game post up before the Bridgeport game. We have an early deadline tomorrow because of Thanksgiving, so the game story won't appear in Thursday's paper. It'll be online, though, and I'll be sure to post a link here later that night.

Until next time,

Monday, November 19, 2012

Jason Akeson returns 11/19

After holding practice at Glens Falls Recreation Center for much of the past two weeks, the Adirondack Phantoms returned to the Glens Falls Civic Center for practice Monday morning. Making a return of his own: winger Jason Akeson, the Phantoms' leading scorer last season with 55 points in 76 games.

Akeson started the season with the ECHL's Trenton Titans, the official word being that he would not have played on Adirondack's top two lines as a result of the lockout, but the playmaker posted 10 points in 14 games with the Titans and earned himself  a call-up to Adirondack.
"We'll get him into the lineup right away," Phantoms coach Terry Murray said. "Hopefully he has some good success. I'm going to leave him on the line with (center Sean) Couturier.  Any time you bring a player up who's a skilled player, an offensive-minded player, it's important to play him in your top two lines and give him lots of reasons to find success."

Akeson seems like the kind of player that might be able to help the Phantoms out with their power play, which is currently ranked 22nd out of 30 AHL teams at 13.6 percent. He had 33 power play points last season, fifth in the entire AHL and tops among rookies. For reference, he had four more than league MVP Cory Conacher. Murray said that was one of the main reasons for the call-up.

"That's an area that we stumbled with, I think, out of the gate this year," Murray said. "It's gotten better in the last five, six games, but you can always improve it. The creativity he's going to show is a big part of the hockey game. I hope that he can step in on the power play and really give us some good production. Maybe he makes some great plays so that other players are going to be able to find the back of the net." 

Another, Murray said, is that Akeson could also help out Adirondack's offense at large. It is averaging 2.43 goals per game, which ranks 23rd in the AHL. Defensively, Adirondack is allowing 3.14, which places the team in the AHL' s No. 22 spot. So they definitely need to start scoring some more goals.

Spoke with Akeson about starting the season with Trenton. Specifically, how he handled the demotion. There are a lot of people who thought he would be a shoo-in to make the Phantoms out of training camp and instead he gets sent to the ECHL.

"It was for sure a blow to my confidence and my pride, but everything happens for a reason," Akeson said. "It is what it is. Hopefully that's in the past now. I'm up here and that's what I'm going to focus on. I'm not going to look back and say 'Why this, why that?' I'm here now and I'm here to make an impact. Hopefully we can just get things done."

Akeson got home from Trenton's Saturday night game, at Elmira, at about 5 a.m. Sunday. Flyers' general manager Paul Holmgren called him at about 8:30 a.m. the same day -- a wake-up call-up -- and Akeson loaded his things in the car and drove to Glens Falls.

He said he used his brief time in the ECHL to improve his skating.

"Just worked on getting my feet moving the whole time," he said. "Got a lot of ice time down there, so I was able to keep playing and stay in game shape, which is important. I was just waiting for the opportunity to get back up here. Now I have it, so I'm not going to let it go."

In a related transaction, center Andrew Johnston and defenseman Matthew Konan were assigned to Trenton, Murray said Monday. Johnston, who made the rare jump from a Junior A league to the AHL, had mostly played on Adirondack's bottom lines when he was in the lineup.

He sat out recent games as a healthy scratch.

"We felt with Andrew that he was out of the lineup," Murray said. "When he was in, he played OK. He's out right now and he's missed the last couple games, so a young kid -- first year of pro hockey -- it's real important that we get him to a place he can play as a very important player. He can play on the top line, play a lot of minutes in all situations and continue the development of his game."

Konan missed most of training camp while rehabbing from off-season sports hernia surgery. He skated with the Phantoms for about a month, though it's time for him to start playing. Based on a conversation with Murray, it seems the plan all along was for him to spend this season in the ECHL.

"This was an opportunity for him just to get his conditioning level up," Murray said of Konan's time practicing with the Phantoms. "To get used to the pace of the AHL. Now, he's going to go down to play and hopefully he can have a good rest of the year down there in Trenton."

Defensemen Jeff Dimmen and forward Matt Mangene missed practice with injuries. Tye McGinn was back out there after missing the weekend's games with muscle spasms. He didn't look out of place. Matt Ford was also out there after missing Saturday's game. Zack FitzGerald had replaced him in the lineup and I'm going to write a story about that transition for Wednesday's paper. Specifically, how having a guy capable of playing both forward and defense can help both a coach and a team out.

The lines, with the arrivals and absences.

Extras: Brown, Ford

Defense pairings rotated throughout practice, that'll happen when you have seven defensemen. Faces included Danny Syvret, Zack FitzGerald, Brandon Manning, Marc-Andre Bourdon, Oliver Lauridsen, Cullen Eddy and Erik Gustafsson. Heeter and Munroe tended the pipes.

Until next time,

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Crunched 11/17

The Syracuse Crunch scored four goals in the first 12 minutes of the second period to turn a 1-0 lead into an insurmountable 5-0 advantage and held on to beat the Phantoms 5-2 Saturday in Syracuse.

More on that in our report here. I wasn't in Syracuse, so I didn't get a chance to do post-game interviews, but the Phantoms sent some comments from Terry Murray along that I wanted to share.

The teams combined for 17 power plays -- Adirondack went 1-for-9 and Syracuse went 2-for-8 -- and it shouldn't be a surprise that this was a two-referee game. Adirondack hasn't seen many of those this year, so perhaps they got caught cheating a little bit.

"I think this was just the third time this year we had the two officials out there and it does make a difference" the Phantoms quoted Murray as saying. "I think we get used to the one and maybe get away with more little stuff. With two, they see everything and we took some careless penalties including times when we were on the power play or in a pretty good situation or in the offensive zone. That's composure that you have to have."

Taking penalties when they were on the power play -- or about to go on the power play -- were particularly troublesome for Adirondack. They're down 2-0 when Cory Conacher goes off for high-sticking 5:35 into the second, then Brandon Manning gets called for an elbow at 6:01. Richard Panik is going off for interference at 6:39, then Marc-Andre Bourdon knocks a guy down after the whistle, gets called for it and it stays even-strength. Ondrej Palat puts Syracuse up 3-0 at 8:19.

I'd say that's your ballgame right there, but the Phantoms also took some questionable penalties earlier in the game. They were whistled for three in the first period and though Syracuse didn't score on any of those, they definitely contributed to the Phantoms only registering five shots in the first.

That's one above their season low for shots in a period, which also came in a game against Syracuse.

"It's important to start the game the right way and show composure," the Phantoms quoted Murray as saying. "Don't take bad penalties. We have to have composure and be ready (at the start) to match the game-speed and intensity that they play with."

Roster note: Defenseman Zack FitzGerald, pictured, took Matthew Ford's spot in the lineup. It was his third game of the season and first action since Oct. 28. He skated as a forward, eventually winding up alongside Rob Bordson and Tyler Brown. I saw a couple of different line combinations on AHL Live, but couldn't piece together any consistent ones. Lots of special teams time, so I'll be sure to jot down and Tweet out what they're running at Monday's practice.

EDIT: Another roster note. Former Phantom Luke Pither has been reassigned from Trenton to Wheeling, per the ECHL transactions. He was technically assigned to Adirondack on Thursday, according to the ECHL, although Adirondack never announced it and he was not at practice, so it was probably a paper deal. It's not uncommon for a team to "call-up" someone for a short time period in order to reassign them to another team in the ECHL. Not sure why or if that is the case with Pither, though. I'll see what I can find out from the team at Monday's practice.

The Phantoms host Bridgeport Wednesday. That kicks off a month-long stretch in which they'll play six in a row and 10 of their next 12 at Glens Falls Civic Center. It will be interesting to see how they handle that extended stretch at home, having played 10 of their first 14 games on the road.

Until next time,

A look ahead to Syracuse 11/16

Missed tonight's game while covering Burnt Hills football. Here's our staff report on the Phantoms 5-2 loss at Binghamton. In the interest of updating the blog, I thought you guys might like this AP story on the NHL lockout. It focuses mostly on the Syracuse Crunch, Adirondack's next opponent, although Brayden Schenn does get name-dropped toward the bottom. It's after the jump

I'll be following along tonight on AHL Live, so expect a more thorough post after that game.

- MC

Read more »

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Special teams resurgance 11/15

I thought it was about time to take a closer look at the one thing that's been common of all Adirondack's wins. When the power play clicks, they're tough to beat. So tough, in fact, that Adirondack is a perfect 6-0 when they score on the power play. Conversely, they're 0-6 when the power play is held scoreless.

Spoke to Ben Holmstrom, pictured right, and coach Terry Murray about this phenomenon after the Phantoms wrapped up practice today. Murray said he didn't know about the statistic, but it didn't seem to surprise him. A lot of times, he said, the power play directly influences a close game. You can look at the difference between the Albany game and Manchester game and see that.

"You have to be able to take advantage at a critical time of the game," Murray said. "I thought that the opportunities were there yesterday and it was good to see us get a goal or two on it. There’s been quite a bit of work put into it, the guys have been paying attention and trying to do the right stuff. You just keep shooting and good things might happen and (Wednesday) morning, it did."

Murray really liked the shift the power play unit of Zac Rinaldo, Garrett Roe, Matthew Ford, Marc-Andre Bourdon and Danny Syvret had in the third period. They generated chances and kept getting pucks to the net. Eventually Roe dug the puck out from behind the net and scored on a backdoor backhander, but even if they hadn't it was still the kind of shift that can be a game-changer.

"If you are generating great scoring chances on a couple power plays, that’s all you’re hoping for," Murray said. "Sometimes, the goalie’s not going to be there and it is going to be in the back of the net. I don’t always look at our power play and say ‘We’re not doing a good job.’ Maybe we were outstanding in what we wanted to do and the puck just did not go into the back of the net sometimes."

That's something they didn't do in the loss at Albany. They got a five-on-three for a good 90 seconds and did nothing with it -- not even a quality shot on goal. Albany scored the go-ahead goal in the opening minutes of the third period and that wound up standing as the game winner.

“If you’re not going to score," Holmstrom said, "you have to be creating chances and getting momentum going so that the guys who follow up those power plays can build on top of that momentum, create some chances five-on-five and hopefully get some goals.”

Adirondack started the season 3-5, but has one three of its past four. The power play is 5-of-19 in that stretch. The penalty kill is also 16-of-17 during that stretch. Both have been playing well lately.

“You can win a game on your power play, but you can lose the game on your penalty killing," Murray said. "The penalty killing is really a critical part of your game and that starts with your goaltender, obviously, but the work is there. It is about work. It is about blocking shots. It’s about pride on the checking side of the game and the guys are really starting to buy into it.”

Not only that, but the entire defensive system, including five-on-five play. They've held opponents to four goals in their past four games, down from 30 through their first eight.

“It’s a little bit of guys getting adjusted to the system and then it’s a lot about guys committing to doing their jobs down there too," Holmstrom said. "We’re not trying to do too much, I think that’s where it’s really come along in these past four games.”

Personnel update: Tye McGinn (muscle spasms) practiced, but left early. Murray said he still had to talk to the winger to see if he could play this weekend. If not, I'd suspect Mike Testwuide sticks in the lineup. Jeff Dimmen missed practice for a therapy day after tweaking something Tuesday. 

Practice update: The team practiced shootouts toward the end of their work day, and if you scored you stayed in. Of the 22 players who took shots, only Testwuide, Rob Bordson, Eric Wellwood, Brandon Manning and Erik Gustafsson scored. And none of them beat the goalies in round two.

More on the special teams tomorrow's paper. I'll be in Kingston covering the state football semifinals, but I'll have a brief post-game recap up on the blog tomorrow night. I'll be following the Syracuse game along live, so you can catch me on Twitter for that one, @MCSaratogian.

Until next time,

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Lehigh Valley Phantoms 11/14

The Adirondack Phantoms will become the Lehigh Valley Phantoms when the team moves to  Allentown, Pa., prior to the 2014-15 season, the team's owners announced Wednesday.

The announcement was made on the Twitter account of the new 8,500-seat arena that is currently being constructed in Allentown. The regional name keeps in line with Allentown's minor-league baseball team, the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, the Allentown Morning Call reported.

The team's new logo, available to view on, features tweaks to the Phantoms' wordmark. The mask logo, is largely unchanged, but will feature blue as an accent instead of purple.

The Phantoms were originally supposed to move to Allentown next season, but the arena experienced some construction delays. Team owners believe the arena could be completed at some point during the 2013-14 season, but made the decision to start playing in Allentown during the 2014-15 season.

Adirondack 4, Manchester 1 11/14

I don't think you could ever make the argument that the Los Angeles Kings made a mistake when they traded Brayden Schenn to the Philadelphia Flyers last summer. They got a great player, Mike Richards, in the deal and went on to win the Stanley Cup last season, so the move was justifiable.

But playing against his former team brought out the best in Schenn, who scored a natural hat trick to lead the Adirondack Phantoms past the Manchester Monarchs, 4-1, Wednesday morning. It was the eighth hat trick in Adirondack Phantoms history and the first since Matt Ford did it April 7 at Albany.

Schenn now has 14 points in 12 games this season, but what's really remarkable is the polarity of those statistics. He's actually got 14 points in five games -- five Adirondack wins -- and no points in the other seven games. Adirondack is 5-0 when Schenn is on the score sheet and 1-6 when he isn't.

Garrett Roe, a former Kings draft pick, also scored for the Phantoms, who are now 6-6 on the season and 3-1 in their past four games. They've allowed just four goals during that span, with Cal Heeter and Scott Munroe stopping 116-of-120 shots. They finally seem to be getting Terry Murray's system.

Schenn's performance stole the show, but Heeter was brilliant as well. He stopped 36 shots, including all 15 he faced during the second period. That kept the score at 1-1 and set up Adirondack's torrid start to the third period, during which the Phantoms scored thrice in the first 7 minutes, 22 seconds.

Schenn collected a loose puck at the top of the slot and wristed a shot past Martin Jones 20 seconds into the period, then stole a puck and beat Jones on a breakaway five minutes later. Roe scored his second in three games two minutes after that, chasing Jones from the crease with a backhander.

That was pretty much your ballgame. It gave the Phantoms a comfortable advantage heading into the final 10 minutes of regulation and Manchester's turnovers prevented them from crafting a comeback.

Schenn's first goal of the game, on a wrist shot in the first period, and Roe's score came on the power play. Adirondack improved to 6-0 when scoring a power play goal. They're 0-6 when they don't.

Going a step further, Adirondack's power play is 10-for-69 on the season, or about 14.5 percent. In five wins, it's 10-for-34, or 29.4 percent. In six losses, it's 0-for-35. That's been very critical early.

Adirondack's penalty kill also had another good game, killing off both  of Manchester's power plays. They've killed off 20-of-21 over the past five games.

The team is back on the ice tomorrow, so expect an update after practice. It'll be interesting to see if Tye McGinn is out there, as he missed today's game with muscle spasms. Mike Testwuide took his place in the lineup and played in his first game since Nov. 2.

Until next time,

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Tuesday Practice Update 11/13

A personnel update first. Sean Couturier, pictured, made it through a full day of practice as he continues recovering from the flu that sidelined him for last weekend's games at Rochester and Albany. He was on the bus that left for Manchester this afternoon and coach Terry Murray expects the center to be good to go for tomorrow's game, which starts at the ungodly hour of 10 a.m.

Winger Tye McGinn was not on the bus. He's recovering from a muscle spasm that he suffered on a hit Saturday at Albany, Murray said. “He needs another day or so to recover," Murray added. "Hopefully he’ll be ready to go Friday.” Matt Mangene (upper body) also didn't practice, so here are updated lines:


Defensive pairings:


Konan was out there wearing a full cage. He took a puck to the face Monday.

Story in tomorrow's paper about Murray and Schenn facing the Kings organization tomorrow. They both have some ties there. Murray coached in Los Angeles for parts of four seasons and Schenn was a draft pick who came to Philadelphia in the Mike Richards deal last summer. Asked Murray what it would be like coaching against some of his former players for the first time. He said he wasn't particularly sentimental about it, but had some nice things to say about some of his former players.

Center Andrei Loktionov and defenseman Slava Voynov, for example, were both drafted in 2008, Murray's first season in Los Angeles. Murray got to know a bunch of the other current Monarchs as they attended camps with the Kings over the years. Heck, even goalie Jon Quick is there on a rehab assignment, but he won't be able to play in the game.

"You know those kids, they’re good kids," Murray said. "They’ve come a long way. I know them from four years ago when they were starting their pro careers and the process they’ve gone through to become good players. Voynov’s become a good player, playing with the Kings now. You see that development over the years and it does take time. It’s not something that is accelerated by any magical formula. It’s about hard work and going and playing and living through a lot of the valleys and the mistakes and the pain. You come out on the other side as a better player.”

Murray is used to coaching against former players. This is Schenn's first chance to play against the Kings organization that traded him. He only played 12 total games in Manchester, but he attended training camps and prospect camps with a lot of the current Monarchs. Makes for a good reunion.

“I know a lot of their prospects and guys,” he said. “Good guys over there. I was with them for two or three years and know a lot of them. It should be a little weird playing against them.”

Also in tomorrow's paper, comments from Scott Munroe about playing at 10 a.m. He's no stranger to morning games. The Philadelphia Phantoms used to host one annually and he also backed up for a game in Bridgeport in November 2009 that, coincidentally, was against the Adirondack Phantoms.

Adirondack won 4-2. That was the last school day game they played. The Phantoms' goalscorers that morning? Jon Matsumoto, Stefan Legein, Andreas Nodl and Joey Mormina. So it's been a while.

I'll be following along. Will have an update on the blog later.

Until next time,

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Albany 2, Adirondack 1 11/10

Albany goaltender Jeff Frazee was nearly perfect tonight -- and that's saying something because Adirondack had no shortage of quality scoring chances.

The fifth-year pro out of Minnesota even got a piece of the lone goal he allowed, to Eric Wellwood (pictured) at 17:37 of the second period, but his save of the night had to have been his stop on Tye McGinn early in the third.

Brandon Manning fired a cross-ice pass to the power forward, who drove to the net and got a shot off that many on the Adirondack bench had earmarked for the back of the net. Frazee went post-to-post and kicked it away to keep the score at 1-1, which wound up being a huge turning point in the game.

Chad Wiseman gets the puck to Jacob Josefson, who advances it up to Matt Anderson, who sneaks it just inside the near-side post to make it 2-1 just 14 seconds later. That winds up being your ballgame.

"You kind of see that a lot, don't you?" Murray said after the game. "Make a big catch in the field in baseball and the next thing you know the guy's up at the start of the inning again. It happens a lot. Those are the ways of games, the intensity is hard and you get a lot of pressure and you get a break and you have to capitalize on it. They did and we didn't."

Go back a couple minutes and you'll find even more scoring chances for Adirondack. Brandon Manning and Harry Zolnierczyk had breakaway attempts in the second period. The Phantoms had about 90 seconds of five-on-three time split between the second and third periods. They didn't convert on any of them. Murray thought the five-on-three, more than anything else, was the turning point.

"That was an extended five-on-three and we missed it," he said, terming it a "golden opportunity."

The Phantoms fell to 0-6 when they don't score a power play goal. Murray, though, was pleased with the team's penalty kill, which went 7-for-7. They were doing a lot of things right, especially when Albany had three straight power plays in the first period, but it should be noted Albany's power play hasn't been particularly good this season. They're 2-for-47 overall, which is about 4.2 percent.

"When you get a bunch of power plays at the start in the first period, it generates a lot of good things for you," Murray said. "Not only what's going on on the ice, but sitting on the bench and watching your team move the puck around spending quite a bit of time in the offensive zone. You look at the shot clock, so you're leaving the period talking about those things and let's just continue to build on it. That's the way the game unfolded. It's the way games go. At the other side of it, we were feeling good about our penalty killing."

One more statistic: the Phantoms had allowed 30 goals through their first eight games, but they've allowed just three in their past three. They've been playing better defensively, which to me is an indicator that they're starting to get a feel for the system Murray has been trying to instill in them.

But they've also scored just three even strength goals in their past three games. That's not bad if you have the power play helping you out, as it did against Albany last week and against Rochester last night, but one five-on-five goal wasn't enough to beat Albany tonight. Wellwood on his goal: "I don't know. It happened pretty fast. I just got the puck behind the net and did a quick wraparound shot. I wasn't trying to aim for anything, I was just trying to get a quick shot. Sometimes if you shoot it quick, the goalie doesn't get in position fast enough. I think that's what happened."

Since you might ask, they've scored 26 goals so far this season. Eight of them came on the power play, two of them have come shorthanded and 16 of them came at even strength (61 percent).

They're off tomorrow but return to practice Monday.

Expect an update early next week.

Until next time,

Pre-game vs. Albany 11/10

Greetings from downtown Albany, where the Phantoms and Devils are getting set for an early rubber match in their Northway rivalry. Albany won the first meeting here, 5-1, in October, but Adirondack stormed back and posted a 4-0 shutout win exactly one week ago. Scott Munroe had that win and he's between the pipes again tonight. They've got the same 18 skaters as they had last night in Rochester.

Sean Couturier didn't take warm-ups. Team said he missed last night's game because he was under the weather. Andrew Johnston in his place on the second line.

Albany lost 2-1 in a shootout last night in Providence. They have 16 goals in nine games. That's an average of 1.78 per game, which is 29th in the 30-team AHL. And keep in mind that five of them came against the Phantoms in one game here, so factor that out and the Devils have 11 goals in eight.

Lines are below. Albany has one to scratch. Looks like it's DeSimone.

F: Rinaldo-Schenn-McGinn
D: Gustafsson-Bourdon
G: Munroe

F: Sestito-Josefson-Anderson
D. Zajac-Wohlberg-McKelvie
D: Kelly-Larsson
G: Frazee

Referee: Trevor Hanson. Linesmen: Mike Emanatian, Frank Murphy.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Adirondack 2, Rochester 1 11/9

Adirondack beat Rochester 2-1 on the road tonight and now has back-to-back wins for the first time this season. There are a lot of people to thank for that. Cal Heeter made 25 saves. Danny Syvret had a goal and an assist. Garrett Roe scored his first since opening night and it was the game-winning goal.

I think Oliver Lauridsen deserves a lot of credit too, however. Take a look at this sequence of events a little more than seven minutes into the third period, when Rochester's Maxime Legault hits Cullen Eddy hard in the corner. Lauridsen challenges Legault, but tough guy Nick Tarnasky intervenes:

That's not a win for Lauridsen by any means, but he came to the defense of a teammate and winds up going with probably the toughest guy in Rochester's line-up. He had 20 fights in the AHL two seasons ago and spent last season in the KHL with Vityaz Chekov,  a team with players like Brandon Sugden and Jon Mirasty. It is as close as you'll come to a real-life version of the Syracuse Bulldogs.

Anyway, the Phantoms come out on the next shift and score 12 seconds after that fight. It was kind of a wacky goal, deflecting in off Rochester defenseman T.J. Brennan, but they'll take it. Heeter, brilliant throughout the night, stopped all eight shots he saw in the third and Roe's goal stood up as the winner.

Earlier, the teams traded power play goals in a seven-minute span in the second period.

Brennan opened the scoring for Rochester at 2:40 with a point-shot that Heeter partially stopped, but the puck trickled across the goal line for a 1-0 lead. Syvret responded with a blast of his own at 9:02. The goal, a one-timer off a pass from Marc-Andre Bourdon, was Syvret's first of the season.

The assist on Roe's goal gave Syvret five points in 10 games, tops among Adirondack defenders.

The Phantoms moved to 5-5 and 5-0 when scoring a power play goal. Rochester fell to 6-4-1.

The Phantoms had allowed 30 goals through their first eight games, one of the worst averages in the AHL, but they've allowed just one in their last two. Scott Munroe had a 26-save shutout to lead them past Albany Saturday and Heeter helped hold Rochester's torrid 3.9-goal-per-game offense to one.

Another thing that helped was Adirondack staying out of the penalty box. The last time these two teams met, Adirondack gave Rochester 10 power plays. Tonight, the Americans had one. Granted, they scored on it, but that's still an improvement. And the two teams combined for 28 penalty minutes. Adirondack had 56 when the two sides met Oct. 27. They won't meet again until Dec. 7.

Andrew Johnston took Sean Couturier's spot in the line-up tonight because Couturier was under the weather. Manning returned from an illness and took Jeff Dimmen's spot. Mike Testwuide, Zack FitzGerald and Mike Testwuide were also scratched for Adirondack, which plays at Albany tonight.

More before and after that game.

Before I go, though, check out what Rochester's Marcus Foligno, who fought Bourdon in the first period, had to say to the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle about Adirondack's Zac Rinaldo.

Until next time,