Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Wednesday Practice Update 10/31

Apologies for the delay in this, but it was a very high school football-centric day here on the sports desk. Between writing the story that will appear in tomorrow's paper and knocking out some preview work for Super Bowls this weekend, this is the first time I've had a chance to sit down and blog.

Let's get started with a personnel update: Brayden Schenn was back at practice after a maintenance day, but Zac Rinaldo got one today. Matt Konan returned from his illness, but Brandon Manning is now battling one of his own. Matt Mangene is still out with an upper-body injury, so some new lines:

McGinn-Schenn-Ford
Zolnierczyk-Couturier-Harper
Roe-Bordson-Holmstrom
Wellwood-Johnston-Testwuide
Ex: Brown

Gustafsson-Bourdon
Syvret-Dimmen
FitzGerald-Eddy
Lauridsen-Konan

Munroe
Heeter

I wouldn't place a lot of stock in those, since they could change when Rinaldo returns to the ice. But McGinn-Schenn-Ford is particularly interesting, given the offensive abilities of Schenn and Ford and McGinn's recent play in front of the net. Here's a quote from Terry Murray that didn't make it into the feature we ran on McGinn, which has been online all day and will run in print tomorrow.

"He's never going to go too far away from your top two lines," Murray said of McGinn. "I think his size, his skill and his hands are going to demand I keep him out there in some offensive-minded situations with skilled players."

Because of some backlog associated with Hurricane Sandy, the story we planned to run tomorrow won't run in print until Friday. It takes a look at some of the numbers associated with scoring the first goal of the game, which Adirondack hasn't done this season. They and Milwaukee are the only AHL teams who haven't done it at least once, and that's something Murray hopes to change this weekend.

Also, we're trying something new this season. Inspired by the folks at my old newspaper, The Citizens' Voice, I'm running a season-long trivia contest with the Phantoms. I'll ask each player a question from the same five categories -- hometown, teammates, sports news, sports movies and Adirondack hockey history -- and see which of the players does the best at the end of the year.

It will run on this blog once a week, probably Thursdays or Fridays. Brayden Schenn is first up.

Look for that -- and the story about scoring the first goal -- online later tonight or tomorrow.

Before we go, locked-out Blue Jacket Brandon Dubinsky, an Alaska native, got named the ECHL's Player of the Week for a seven-point performance for the Alaska Aces. Friend of the blog Jason Iacona, a former NCAA basketball player, had reaction worthy of a Quote of the Year nomination.

More after tomorrow's practice,
MC

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Tuesday Practice Update 10/30

A personnel note first, as always. Defenseman Matthew Konan and forwards Brayden Schenn and Matt Mangene missed today's practice for varying reasons. Konan was under the weather, so the team sent him home. Schenn received a maintenance day, but should be back on the ice tomorrow.

Mangene probably won't be, as he sustained an undisclosed upper-body injury in Sunday's win over Syracuse. The rookie winger was hit on the play on which he recorded his first professional point, coach Terry Murray said. He didn't have a timetable on Mangene's return and had no further updates.

In Schenn and Mangene's absence, their Sunday linemate, Tye McGinn, dropped down to practice with healthy scratches Matt Ford and Garrett Roe. Tyler Brown skated as the extra forward.

Story in tomorrow's paper about McGinn, who had himself a game Sunday at Syracuse. Scored two goals and factored in the game-winner by providing a screen for Brandon Manning's point-shot.

McGinn, right, started the season on a power-play unit along with Garrett Roe and Ben Holmstrom, but worked himself onto the top unit with Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier. Murray really likes having a big body in front of the net and McGinn has filled that role nicely this year.

I thought his play this weekend was particularly interesting because there have been NHL players who have built entire careers out of camping out in front of the net. It takes a special kind of player to do that job and do it well.

"That’s a role that’s hard to fill, but it’s needed by every team in hockey at any level in hockey." Murray said. "When you can buy into and contribute in that area of the game, you’re a very important player. ... He has a sense for it. He has a feel for it. He’s worked at it from the start of the training camp, especially on the power play. You’re such an important guy that I think he’s maybe starting to enjoy it. He’s finding himself there more and more right now."

If McGinn can really hone that skill and keep improving on other aspects of his game - he mentioned he's been working on his speed - he could develop into a nice power forward. But Murray acknowledged there's some work to be done.

"He's trying to find his game on a consistent basis," Murray said. "He's trying to make his mark at the pro level. ... That's a part of it. He got involved the other night in a pretty good scuffle. That's a part of the game too. He stands up for his teammates and that's a great skill to have also. He's got size, strength. He's got good hands and he's trying to figure out where to go to the soft areas so he can score some goals."

McGinn had two power play goals through his entire rookie season last year. He's already got one power play goal to his credit - it came on opening night - and then at Syracuse he scored a few seconds after one power play expired. His thoughts on those and fighting in tomorrow's story.

Today's practice was moved back to 12:30 because of auxiliary effects of Hurricane Tropical Storm Frankenstorm Sandy. The Civic Center ice crew covered the playing surface last night (if the Civic Center lost power, they didn't want to lose the ice). That wound up not being an issue, though.

It occurred to me that we never went around the division Sunday. Better late than never.

Springfield scored three times in the first period and held on to beat Portland, 3-2. Danny Groulx, Sena Acolatse and Tim Kennedy each had a goal and two assists as Worcester beat Bridgeport, 5-2. Albany and Connecticut were idle.

And we missed this yesterday, but Charlotte's Dan Ellis is your AHL Player of the Week. Not a bad start for the Checkers. They're 6-1-0-1 without a home game. EDIT: And the rich get richer as an already-stacked Oklahoma City team expects to add Taylor Hall Friday night, per TSN.

More after tomorrow's practice,
MC

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Adirondack 4, Syracuse 3 (OT) 10/28

Before center Brayden Schenn scored on a late power play to force overtime Sunday, the Adirondack Phantoms had gone more than 209 minutes without scoring a power play goal.

They needed just 76 seconds to score one again.

Schenn, who tied the game with a one-timer with 62 seconds to play, capped off his four-point night with an assist on Brandon Manning’s game-winning goal on the first shot of overtime as the Phantoms came back to beat the Syracuse Crunch 4-3 at the Onondaga County War Memorial.

The Phantoms trailed 3-2 with about two minutes remaining in regulation, but caught a break when Syracuse’s Richard Panik was whistled for a foul on defenseman Danny Syvret at 17:55.

That power play turned into a five-on-three advantage 17 seconds later when J.T. Wyman’s clearing attempt sailed over the glass, an automatic penalty in the American Hockey League.

The Phantoms pulled goaltender Cal Heeter for an extra attacker, resulting in a six-on-three advantage. Schenn played give-and-go with fellow NHL lockout casualty Sean Couturier before driving a slap shot from the face-off circle past Syracuse goalie Riku Helenius with 1:02 to play.

Manning won the game 14 seconds into the extra session with a slap shot from the right point. The second-year pro was the last Phantom to score a power play goal before Schenn, tallying at 9:22 of the second period in the team’s 4-3 victory over the St. John’s IceCaps last Saturday.

Manning’s game-winning goal Sunday came on another multi-man advantage, as Syracuse inadvertently sent five players out to kill a penalty with 11 seconds left in regulation. Couturier assisted on both the game-tying and game-winning goals, giving him six points in seven games.

Schenn’s four-point night gave him nine points in seven games, which is tops on the team.

Power forward Tye McGinn set up the screen on Manning’s winner, using his 6-foot-2 frame to obscure Helenius’ view of the drive. The winger had already scored two goals in an eight-minute span the second period as the Phantoms turned a 1-0 intermission deficit into a 2-1 lead by 8:45.

It was the third multi-goal game of McGinn's AHL career. All three have come against affiliates of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Schenn recorded assists on both of McGinn’s tallies, while rookie winger Matt Mangene assisted on McGinn's go-ahead goal for his first professional point.

But Syracuse’s Alex Killorn, a rookie out of Harvard, scored a four-on-four goal at 13:31 of the second and scored on a four-on-three goal 30 seconds later to put Syracuse up 3-2 as the Phantoms showed shades of the penalty trouble that cost them in Saturday’s loss to Rochester.

They spotted their opponents seven power plays and Syracuse converted on two of them, including Brett Connolly’s power-play goal off a botched clearing attempt 8:21 into the game. It marked the seventh time in seven games that the Phantoms allowed the first goal.

But the late rally helped the Phantoms finish 2-for-10 with the man advantage while salvaging two points in their first three-in-three of the season. They opened the weekend with back-to-back blowout losses to Albany and Rochester and had been outscored 11-3 in those two contests.

Heeter, a rookie from Ohio State, finished with 32 saves to earn his first professional victory and the Phantoms improved to 3-4 on the season. Helenius stopped 25 as Syracuse fell to 4-1-1-1.

The teams will meet in a rematch Friday at Glens Falls Civic Center. Face-off is 7 p.m.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Rochester 6, Adirondack 2 10/27

Jinx?

In all seriousness, the Phantoms, who had been shorthanded 17 times all season, spotted Rochester 10 power plays and an AHL-season-high 51 shots on goal in a 6-2 loss at the Civic Center. Including last night's 5-1 loss at Albany, the Phantoms have been outscored 11-3 this weekend.

They fall to 2-4 on the season and travel to Syracuse tomorrow to face the Norfolk Admirals Crunch, best known for a roster containing several members of last season's Calder Cup champion Norfolk Admirals team. By the way, most of those guys suffered their first regulation loss since Feb. 5 tonight at the hands of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, who have won back-to-back games after opening 0-4.

The print story focuses on the power plays and shot aspect of the game. Neither did the Phantoms any good. Captain Ben Holmstrom said it best: “Everybody has a good power play in this league. You can’t give anybody that many chances. That’s on us for taking ourselves out of the game.”

Here, though, I thought it was interesting how Terry Murray made sweeping, wholesale line changes after last night's 5-1 loss at Albany. All five guys who sat out that game were in the lineup. None of his line combinations and defensive pairings were intact (more on the combinations here).

Summary: Eddy, FitzGerald, Brown, Ford, Testwuide in. Lauridsen, Dimmen, Wellwood, Roe, Mangene out. I didn't think that was planned before the loss, but asked anyway. Murray's comment:
"You react to what's going on in the game. You change lines during the game. Or if you get an effort like we did last night in Albany where you're not satisfied, we have other players who have been working very hard to stay sharp and to get themselves into the line-up. The opportunity presented itself with what happened last night."
Tonight, he said, they played 20 minutes. The first period, they trailed 1-0 but were getting pucks deep and he shot total was 15-13. In the second and third period, they were outshot 36-17.

"They got a lot of pucks to the net on the power play. ... There's more to it than that," Murray said. "We end up chasing the puck a little bit too much -- two men going to the puck carrier in our d-zone opens up backdoor, the first goal against is the example of that. We have to just settle down. There has to be some more composure with the young players. Trust each other. Trust the line mate or people to do their own job. I think if we can just grab on to that, we can become a pretty good team. We've shown that already. We've played some very good games, we've shown real good responsibility without the puck. But in the last two games, it's slipped away."

We already handled the prescout. Around the division: Chris Kreider scores his first AHL goal and adds an assist as Connecticut doubles-up Providence, 6-3. That's despite being out-shot 40-23. Tomas Kundratek has two assists and an empty-netter and Braden Holtby stops all 35 shots he sees as Hershey blanks Albany, 3-0. David Ullstrom scores the decisive shootout goal as Bridgeport clips Albany, 3-2.

Trenton Update: Titans pull Scott Wedgewood when they're down by three and it backfires as Toledo gets an empty-netter to win, 5-1. Marcel Noebels with an assist, giving him eight points in seven games. He's the only Titan with a point in all seven games.

Trenton is 5-2, tied for tops in the conference and one off Idaho for the league lead.

I'll be following the Syracuse game from home and will have some post-game stuff here on the blog.

Until next time,
MC

Pre-game vs. Rochester 10/27

Greetings from Glens Falls Civic Center, where the Americans and Phantoms are on the ice for warm-ups. Wanted to call your attention to a stat I tweeted out this morning.

The Phantoms, the least penalized team in the American Hockey League, have played 300 minutes of hockey this season.They've been shorthanded for 23:50 of that time. That's it.

They've only been shorthanded 17 times, an average of 3.4 times per game, and only 11 of those penalty kills have gone the full two minutes.

What has wound up happening happening is the opposing team either takes a penalty or scores really quick. The latter has only happened twice. But Springfield scored nine seconds into their power play and St. John's scored 15 seconds into theirs. Adirondack has killed the rest of them off.

The reason for all of this? Rochester's power play has been pretty good this season. They've got 27 goals overall, the most in the AHL, and their ten power play goals places them No. 2 in the league. The team's overall power play efficiency, 26.3 percent, ranks sixth in the league.

Rochester is a pretty dangerous team without an extra guy on the ice, but they can be downright lethal with the man advantage. Heck, last night, they pulled the goalie and scored two six-on-five goals in the final 1:08 to force overtime in Wilkes-Barre Township, Pa.

Something to keep an eye on tonight: T.J. Brennan and his slap shot. He's tied for the league lead in scoring with 10 points in seven games. Scott Munroe is in the goal for the Phantoms. A whole bunch of line-up changes from last night's "unacceptable" 5-1 loss in Albany.

Roe, Wellwood, Mangene, Dimmen and Lauridsen out. Ford, Brown, Testwuide, FitzGerald, Eddy in.

It's Testwuide and FitzGerald's season debuts. More after the game.

ROCHESTER
F: Foligno-Hodgson-Rankin
Flynn-Porter-Girgensons
Varone-Adam-Mancari
Schofield-Tarnasky-Roy
D: Brennan-Biega
McNabb-Pysyk
Finley-Crawford
G: Leggio
Knapp

ADIRONDACK
F: Zolnierczyk-Couturier-Ford
Rinaldo-Schenn-Harper
McGinn-Holmstrom-Bordson
Brown-Johnston-Testwuide
D: Gustafsson-Bourdon
Manning-Eddy
Syvret-FitzGerald
G: Munroe
Heeter

Referees: Tom Chmielewski. Linesmen: Jim Harper, Steeve Lemay.

Friday, October 26, 2012

"Unacceptable" loss 10/26

It was neither the start nor the finish Terry Murray and the Adirondack Phantoms wanted.

The Phantoms, who deviated from the style of play that brought them success in St. John's and opted for more high-risk, home-run passes, needed 15 minutes to fire two shots at Albany goaltender Jeff Frazee. The Devils, who stuck to the New Jersey system, scored twice in the first 16 minutes.

You could make an argument that was your ballgame there, but Adirondack got a potential instant spark from Zac Rinaldo's penalty shot goal with 1:35 to play in the opening frame. Said Rinaldo, who is on a two-game goal-scoring streak: "I asked a handful of guys what I should do. They said 'Don't even think about it.' I just went down and I did my thing." Video below, courtesy of the Phantoms:


Ordinarily, that'd be a momentum boost, right? Well, Murray didn't seem to think it was. They didn't really generate much pressure in the closing seconds of the first period or at the start of the second.

Then locked-out NHLer Adam Henrique scored on a penalty shot to turn this game into a future trivia answer. Such a development would, ordinarily, be a momentum killer.

"There wasn't much to take away," Murray said. Albany scored twice more in the third, receiving goals from Phil DeSimone and Darcy Zajac in a three-minute span. That's definitely your ballgame.

Side note: The referees combined for as many penalty shots as they did minor penalties.

Anyway, Murray wasn't pleased with the team's effort.

"What we need to be better at is the mental part of the game," Murray said. "To understand that you play the team game and stay with the gameplan. We looked for the home-run play. We're looking for plays to the offensive blue-line from deep in our own end. Those are isolation plays and sometimes they work, but most of the time you end up frustrating yourself. We have to get back to a team game. The way we played last weekend was really good. We were just totally away from it."

The coach did praise the play of Cal Heeter, who finished with 25 saves. Heeter fell to 0-2 on the season, the other loss being in Adirondack's 4-0 shutout loss in Springfield Oct. 14. He did have a good game, overall. Don't think you can fault him on either of the first two, Adam Henrique has a heck of a shot when he has time and space, the fourth wasn't great defense and the fifth a deflection.

“I felt bad for him,” Murray said. “That’s his second start and we come up with an unacceptable performance. It’s too bad. He battled and he competed and he made some big stops for us."

Murray switched up the lines a bit, beginning late in the second period. Mangene swapped with Zolnierczyk, creating McGinn-Couturier-Zolnierczyk and Roe-Johnston-Mangene. And Danny Syvret, who turned the puck over that led to Albany's second goal and got beat by Phil DeSimone's nice move on the fourth, didn't play on either of Adirondack's two power plays.

That was a coaching decision, Murray said.

Prescout: Rochester scored twice in the final 1:08 to force overtime, but fell to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton 5-4 on a late goal by Paul Thompson. So neither they nor Adirondack will be too happy tomorrow.

"We have to come with a whole different attitude," Rinaldo said. "We have to come guns firing. Pucks to the net, pucks deep. Everything we can do. We'll bounce back, though."

Around the division: Connecticut gets 26 saves from Cam Talbot in his season debut and beats Hershey, 3-1. The Bears are off to their worst start since the other lockout, writes Tim Leone. Curtis McElhinney makes 33 saves for his second shutout of the season as Springfield downs Providence. Tim Kennedy and Bracken Kearns each have three point nights as Worcester beats Bridgeport, 5-1.

Trenton Update: Niko Hovinen returns (as a backup) and has good seats for Trenton's 4-1 win over Toledo. Luke Pither and Jason Akeson had goals. Marcel Noebels had an assist, giving him points in all six Trenton games. They're 5-1.

Until next time,
MC

Pregame vs. Albany 10/26

Greetings from the venue formerly known as Pepsi Arena, where the Adirondack Phantoms and Albany Devils are hitting the ice for warm-ups. Traffic had just started to back up on Route 7E as I was turning onto 787 South. Hopefully none of you folks got caught in that.

Big news in the hockey world today, obviously, is the National Hockey League cancelling the entire month of November on the schedule. Between the alredy-axed games in October and these ones, we've lost more than a quarter of the NHL season. Statements from the NHL and NHLPA executives.

In pertinent AHL news, training camp invitee (and former Albany defenseman) Mike Banwell has signed a PTO with Worcester. The Devils assigned left wing Chris McKelvie and defenseman-turned-left-wing Harry Young to Trenton earlier today. They still have 29 guys on the roster.

One change in Adirondack's lines: Cullen Eddy, usually paired with Oliver Lauridsen, didn't take warm-ups. Forward lines are the same as we've seen since Wednesday. Albany has one to scratch.

ADIRONDACK
F: McGinn-Couturier-Mangene
Wellwood-Schenn-Harper
Rinaldo-Bordson-Holmstrom
Roe-Johnston-Zolnierczyk
D: Dimmen-Gustafsson
Manning-Syvret
Bourdon-Lauridsen
G: Heeter
Munroe

ALBANY
F: Pesonen-Henrique-Sislo
Hoeffel-Josefson-Anderson
Tedenby-Zalewski-Wiseman
Sestito-D. Zajac-DeSimone
Wohlberg
D: Leach-Larsson
Kelly-Hrabarenka
Corrente-McPherson
G: Frazee
Kinkaid

Referees: Chris Brown, Ryan Hersey. Linesmen: Jim Harper, Derek Wahl.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Three-in-three weekend 10/25

Funny how the schedule shakes out.

A week after Adirondack makes its longest (distance-wise) trip of the season, a 1,600-mile trek to St. John's, Newfoundland, they will make their shortest, a one-hour drive to Albany. Story in tomorrow's paper previewing the game, which Eric Wellwood (pictured) had some insightful comments about.

In Wellwood's first season in the league, 2010-11, Albany and Adirondack didn't have good seasons. Albany, at 70 points, had the worst record in the league and the Phantoms weren't that far behind with 72. But this year they've got the best talent they've ever had (thanks, lockout) and they both look like playoff teams. This year, Wellwood said, the games mean more than ever.

Phantoms defenseman Zack FitzGerald, who played on the other side of this rivalry with the River Rats in 2009-10,  also had some pretty interesting comments about the rivalry, which you can read in tomorrow's paper. Also spoke with Zac Rinaldo, who said the preseason game between the two sides resembled a "war zone." Wellwood used the term "chess match," which got me thinking what it would be like to play a game of chess in a war zone.

Maybe we'll find out tomorrow. Side note: Warzone Chess is apparently a real thing. Who knew?

I'll be in Albany and will have live updates over on Twitter. Expect pregame and post-game updates here on the blog. I'll also be in Glens Falls for Rochester's arrival Saturday. They've got a guy named Zemgus Girgensons on the team. Jonathan Bombulie is right, that is a fun name to say out loud.

I won't be in Syracuse Sunday. It's a long season and I have to keep myself fresh. But I'll be following along on the AHL Live feed, so you can expect a blog post then too.

A fairly uneventful practice today. Still don't know who's starting in goal tomorrow, but common sense would indicate you'd see Cal Heeter in at least one of this weekend's games. Tough for a goalie to start all three in a three-in-three, but Terry Murray doesn't like to announce his starting goalies.

Until next time,
MC


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Wednesday Practice Update 10/24

Good news on the personnel front. Defenseman Marc-Andre Bourdon made his way through a whole practice this morning at Glens Falls Civic Center and head coach Terry Murray doesn't see a reason why he wouldn't be able to return to the line-up for Adirondack's three-in-three this weekend.

Bourdon hadn't been through a full practice in more than a week after he suffered an undisclosed upper-body injury. He skated with the team for about 30 minutes yesterday and went through an off-ice workout, but had no problems. Tye McGinn was also back out there after leaving Tuesday's practice with a hand injury, but Murray said he's also good to go. So everyone's healthy at this time.

Story in tomorrow's paper about the team's new line combinations, which I Tweeted out earlier this morning. They're a little further down this post, too. Anyway, I went with the following hypothesis.

If I asked you what the Adirondack Phantoms' top line was on Opening Night, there was a pretty clear answer: Brayden Schenn, Sean Couturier and Matthew Ford. Now, as Murray and the team try and find lines that click well together, he's shuffled them up. If I asked you the same question today, you could give me two or three answers to that question and I think any of them would be correct.

Roe-Johnston-Zolnierczyk
McGinn-Couturier-Mangene
Harper-Schenn-Wellwood
Rinaldo-Bordson-Holmstrom
Brown-Testwuide-Ford

Now suppose you're Albany Devils coach Rick Kowalsky and you want to have Adam Larsson  defend Adirondack's top line. Who do you send him out against? Schenn? Couturier? You can only defend one of them at even strength, so it makes more sense for the Phantoms to split the two up.

“We have four solid, capable scoring lines, which is pretty exciting,” Phantoms winger Shane Harper said. “It’s fun to play in and fun to watch. Anybody who’s out there is a threat to score."

More after practice tomorrow. Then we'll have the pregame post from Albany Friday night.

Until next time,
MC

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Tuesday practice update 10/23

Phantoms coach Terry Murray said yesterday that Marc-Andre Bourdon's undisclosed upper-body injury was more than a day-to-day thing, which is why I was surprised to see the defenseman out on the ice  at the Glens Falls Recreation Department Ice Rink for practice this morning.

Bourdon, who last skated with the team a week ago, was back on the ice for the early portion of practice, about a half hour, before leaving to return to the Civic Center for an off-ice workout.

Murray said he still hadn't had the chance spoke with Bourdon, who didn't travel with the team to Newfoundland this weekend, about his injury since the Phantoms returned from their trip. He hoped to discuss the matter with Bourdon later Tuesday, after he and the team returned to the Civic Center.

"The fact that he’s on the ice and got through, probably, a half-hour is a good thing," Murray said after Tuesday's practice, moved to the Fire Road facility as crews prepped Glens Falls Civic Center for a  concert this evening. "If everything went well with the off-ice workout, I would say he’ll probably be on the ice for the full practice tomorrow.”

Tuesday's practice, featuring the same lines as yesterday's, ran more than two hours. It had a heavy focus on skating towards the end. It's not hard to figure out why.

The team plays its first three-games-in-three-days stretch of the season this weekend, at Albany Friday, vs. Rochester Saturday and at Syracuse Sunday. There's a story in tomorrow's paper about veteran defenseman Danny Syvret, who has played in a lot of three-in-threes in his AHL career.

Murray doesn't think he's been behind the bench for a three-in-three since he last coached in the AHL more than two decades ago, but has had the chance to watch a lot of three-in-threes while keeping tabs on some of the younger prospects in the NHL organizations for which he coached.

The Sunday games aren't always pretty, particularly when there's travel involved. Conditioning is big.

"I know it’s difficult," Murray said. "That’s where you have to trust your game. You have to trust the team game going into that three-in-three on the weekend. Trust your system, go out and do your job, work hard for your teammates — all the clichés, I guess, that you’d throw out — but that’s really what it comes down do. That’s what we’re doing the work for.” 

Forward Tye McGinn left midway through after banging into the boards hard during a drill. He left to apply ice and returned minus his gear a short time later, watching a few minutes from the bench before leaving again. Murray didn't have an update on McGinn's condition at the rink.

I'll ask again tomorrow.

One final update: I thought maybe the Phantoms might be keen to using defenseman Matthew Konan in the line-up for at least one of this weekend's games, to give some of the others a rest. Murray shot that down pretty quickly, saying Konan is still not in game shape after undergoing off-season surgery.

"We’re slowly bringing him along – getting him involved in drills, getting his conditioning level up," Murray said. "He’s doing a lot of off-ice workouts. He’s just a young guy that’s going through the process of getting himself ready to play at the pro level. But it’s a ways away."

Monday, October 22, 2012

On Dimmen, Bourdon 10/22

A personnel update first. Phantoms' defenseman Marc-Andre Bourdon missed today's practice with an undisclosed upper-body injury, coach Terry Murray said. Bourdon last skated with the Phantoms last Tuesday, before the team left for an extended road trip to St. John's, Newfoundland. Bourdon, 23, left that practice at the intermission and didn't return, leaving the Phantoms with eight defensemen.

Murray was mum on details about the injury, other than it was upper-body in nature. He didn't have a timetable on when Bourdon might return to the line-up, but said it was not a day-to-day ailment.

 “It’s longer than that," Murray said. "It’s more than that. Whether it’s a week at a time – I don’t know that. He obviously didn’t come with us on the trip, didn’t play in any of the games. I need to have an opportunity to sit down and talk to him too and see how he’s doing.”

Hoping to hear more about Bourdon at tomorrow's practice, which is at the Fire Road rink. There's a Marilyn Manson concert tomorrow night at Glens Falls Civic Center that crews need to prepare for.

Goalie Scott Munroe also missed today's practice, but said it was a scheduled day off after starting both games in St. John's this weekend. Adirondack trainer Jake Saunders took Munroe's spot between the pipes for practice -- Munroe even let him borrow his mask. Rookie Cal Heeter was there as well.

The lines at practice were the same as they were Saturday in St. John's. Full list at the bottom. Defenseman Jeff Dimmen, who'll you'll read about in tomorrow's paper, took Bourdon's spot alongside Erik Gustafsson. Murray said he didn't want to disrupt the other defensive pairings, so it was a straight-up swap.

"I consider (St. John's) one of the more veteran teams in the league," Murray said. "They're pretty strong down the middle. To put Schenn back into the middle and be able to come back-to-back with Couturier and Schenn, I think, was helpful to play the game against a veteran hockey club. Even with that, I'm still looking and still trying to get a feel for players. Still trying to get names on the faces that I'm seeing and trying to figure out their tendencies -- what their strengths and weaknesses are -- so that we can put together some lines that are going to be there for us night after night."

One of the big strengths of this team, I think, is the roster flexibility. Schenn can play center and wing. Ben Holmstrom, Andrew Johnston and Garrett Roe too. That's four that I can think of right off the top of my head That gives the Phantoms a lot of different opportunities.

"That is very important to be able to have players to adjust," Murray said. "No matter what, wherever you're playing, you're going to have situations where somebody gets knocked out of the game -- injuries happen -- people have to just step in and play. We're very fortunate to be able to do that."

Lines: Roe-Schenn-Holmstrom, McGinn-Couturier-Mangene, Rinaldo-Bordson-Zolnierczyk, Wellwood-Johnston-Harper, Brown-Ford-Testwuide.

D-Pairings: Manning-Syvret, Lauridsen-Eddy, Dimmen-Gustafsson, Konan-FitzGerald
 
Until next time,
MC


Sunday, October 21, 2012

Trenton Update 10/21

Today is a travel day for the Adirondack Phantoms -- they've got a 1,200 mile trek to make back from Newfoundland -- so I figured this is as good a time to provide some updates on the Trenton Titans.

Adirondack's ECHL affiliate had a lengthy road trip of their own this past weekend, a 14-hour bus ride to Indiana to face the Evansville Ice Men Friday night. They won, 4-3, on a late goal by Luke Pither, and then headed to Cincinnati where the Cyclones handed them their first loss of the season.

The Titans finished the weekend at 4-1. Their eight points are tied for the most in the ECHL.

Touted Flyers' goalie prospect Niko Hovinen, pictured at right, who lost a training camp battle to Cal Heeter for one of Adirondack's two goalie spots, didn't dress in either of the weekend's games.

Our Journal Register Company brethren in Trenton, N.J., The Trentonian, reported the 6-foot-7 Finnish goalie left Wednesday's Titans win after fighting off a slap shot with what appeared to be his left collarbone.

Hovinen had been off to a good start for the Titans, stopping 42 of the first 44 shots he saw.

Andy Bohmbach, who appeared in 10 games for Adirondack last season, leads Trenton and is tied for second in the ECHL with nine points in five games. No ECHL player has more assists through this point in the season than Bohmbach's eight.

He and German rookie Marcel Noebels (six points), who attended training camp with the Phantoms, have registered at least point in each of Trenton's five games this season. 

Other Titans averaging at least a point a game include winger Jason Akeson and defenseman Blake Kessel, who would both likely be in Adirondack now if not for the NHL's lockout, and defenseman  Mitch Versteeg, a Phantoms' training camp invitee.

Those three have five points in five games. Titans forward Jacob Drewiske, brother of Los Angeles Kings defenseman Davis Drewiske, has four points in four games.

Adirondack is back on the ice tomorrow afternoon at the Civic Center. Expect another update then.

Until next time,
MC




Saturday, October 20, 2012

Phantoms 4, IceCaps 3 10/20

Phantoms coach Terry Murray said the other day that no matter what line Zac Rinaldo played on, the winger would have a chance to be put in situations that would help him become a more complete hockey player.

So the Scorin' Line is gone, replaced by Rinaldo-Bordson-Zolnierczyk, but Rinaldo still rips a shot past Eddie Pasquale and helps the Phantoms pick up their first road win of the season Saturday.

Brayden Schenn, Brandon Manning and Shane Harper also scored for Adirondack. Harper's goal came in his season debut -- he'd been scratched for Adirondack's first three games. He replaced Matthew Ford in the line-up.

Other than that, it was the same group of Phantoms you saw last night in St. John's.

The lines, best I could tell, from Bob Rotruck's radio broadcast and the AHL game sheet. Didn't catch who is centering who on some of these, particularly the top line, but I believe the trios are correct.

Schenn-Roe-Holmstrom
McGinn-Couturier-Mangene
Rinaldo-Bordson-Zolnierczyk
Wellwood-Johnston-Harper

Syvret-Manning
Gustafsson-Dimmen
Lauridsen-Eddy

Munroe got back-to-back starts. Wasn't sure if that was the plan all along or if it was because of his play Friday night. Murray is not one to discuss his starting goaltenders. I've learned that very early.

Mike Testwuide is the lone Phantoms forward who has yet to get in a game. Zack FitzGerald is the lone defender. You could also count Matt Konan, I suppose, but he's technically not on the roster yet.

The game was pretty quirky there during a two-minute stretch in the second. Phantoms were down 1-0 thanks to a John Albert goal, but Garrett Roe was awarded a penalty shot.

He missed and Ivan Telegin scored 23 seconds later to make it 2-0 St. John's. Then the IceCaps take a penalty, Manning scores on the power play, Harper buries a loose puck 27 seconds later and it's 2-2 all of a sudden. Adirondack splits the two-game series with St. John's. They're in Albany Friday.

More after Adirondack's next practice. Waiting to hear back from the team if it's Monday or Tuesday.

Until next time,
MC

Post-game reaction 10/19

Adirondack definitely had their chances in this one -- two players combined to hit the post three times -- but St. John's was able to make theirs count in a 2-1 win on The Rock Friday night.

Don't let that statistic take away from the 32-save effort Eddie Pasquale turned in. He was a big part of the reason why St. John's was able to make it to the AHL's Eastern Conference finals last season.

Maxime Macenauer and Travis Ramsey -- two more key contributors from St. John's playoff run last season -- scored the IceCaps goals. Macenauer's came off a tip, while Ramsey finished off a nice passing play. It's a hard-luck loss for Scott Munroe, who finished with 24 saves.

Rookie Andrew Johnston had Adirondack's lone goal, redirecting Eric Wellwood's shot midway through the second period. Terry Murray had talked about creating traffic in front of the net after the Phantoms were shutout Sunday in Springfield, so that seems like the kind of result he'd like to see.

Johnston, when he described his play style to me for a feature story that ran in Friday's paper, said he was more of a skilled guy, but he's also one who'll get greasy if he has to. He also said he was getting more confident with each shift, so it'll be interesting to see how he reacts to scoring his first pro goal.

Speaking of firsts, rookie Matt Mangene made his season debut and defenseman Jeff Dimmen made his Phantoms debut in the loss. That was Dimmen's first regular season loss (that he's played in) in nearly nine months. He was on that Norfolk team that closed out last season with 28 straight wins.

With those two donning the jersey for the first time, that leaves defenseman Zack FitzGerald and forwards Mike Testwuide and Shane Harper as the Phantoms who have yet to make their season debuts. Will be interesting to see if Murray inserts them into the line-up tomorrow night.

If not, maybe they'll get in during Adirondack's first three-in-three of the season next weekend.

More after Saturday night's game. No high school football, so I'll be following and Tweeting along.

Until next time,
MC

Friday, October 19, 2012

Lockout Update (again) 10/19

Remember all that optimism we had yesterday about NHL hockey being on the horizon. About that...

I think the writing was on the wall when Bettman told numerous media outlets yesterday he believed the talks had taken a step backward and that the two sides were still not close to an agreement.

They've only cancelled games through Nov. 1, so the season could still technically begin Nov. 2. But there would have to be some pretty significant headway made between now and next week.

Four Flyers games were affected by this latest round of cancellations -- Oct. 25 at Montreal, Oct. 27 vs. Toronto, Oct. 28 at Buffalo, Oct. 30 vs. Dallas -- and the NHL has cancelled 135 games overall.

More after tonight's game. Puck drop is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. New York time, but the Phantoms say it will actually be closer to 6:20 p.m. because of Opening Night festivities on The Rock.

Until next time,
MC

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Lockout update 10/18

The Adirondack Phantoms spent Thursday morning practicing in St. John's, Newfoundland.

But the collective eyes of the hockey world are fixed on Toronto, as the National Hockey League and its players' association will talks that could salvage an 82-game regular season. The meeting is set to take place at the National Hockey League Players' Association office.

By now, you've read the headlines. The National Hockey Leagues' current proposal, highlighted by a proposed 50-50 share of hockey related revenue, would allow for an 82-game regular season to begin commencing Nov. 2. Games that have been cancelled would be rescheduled and played in-season.

In order for that to happen, NHL officials told the Associated Press, the deal has to be completed by Oct. 25. That would allow teams to have a week's worth of "training camp" -- if you can call it that -- under their belts by the time the regular season rolled around on Nov. 2.

That might be a reach, as Oct. 25 is only a week from today. And NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr has already said the NHL's six-year proposal could cost his players as much as $1.6 billion. From someone outside the negotiation room, it seems they still have a lot to work out.

I haven't had the chance to ask any of the Phantoms what they make about all of this since the NHL's initial offer broke after practice wrapped up Tuesday. They spent yesterday traveling and they're out in Atlantic Canada through the weekend preparing for two games with the St. John's IceCaps.

Harrisburg Patriot-News reporter Tim Leone caught up with locked-out Washington Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby and coach Adam Oates at yesterday's Hershey Bears practice and asked them about it.

Holtby, like Adirondack's Sean Couturier and Brayden Schenn, would be in the National Hockey League now if not for this lockout. Oates, hired during off-season to coach the Capitals, is getting his feet wet by co-coaching the Bears with Mark French.

The main thing to take away from their comments, I think, is there's now a sense of optimism that National Hockey League hockey could be on the horizon. First time since the lockout began, I think. We'll have to see if that same optimism exists following today's meetings.

By the way, story in tomorrow's paper about Andrew Johnston. He's rookie who cracked the Phantoms' line-up after spending last season in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League, which is considered a step below major juniors. You don't see that jump often. He had actually committed to play at Union in Schenectady, but backed out after the Flyers offered him an NHL deal.

Until next time,
MC



Wednesday, October 17, 2012

These books are a little overdue 10/17

Story in tomorrow's paper about rookie defenseman Matthew Konan, who is accompanying the Phantoms on their road trip to St. John's.

Konan missed most of training camp while recovering from sports hernia surgery, but he's back skating now and is busy working himself into game shape. I had the chance to catch up with him after Tuesday's practice.

I was particularly interested in the similarities between him and fellow Phantoms' defenseman Brandon Manning, who missed last year's training camp while recovering from a hip injury.

Manning, another undrafted defenseman from the WHL, eventually worked his way into Adirondack's line-up. By the end of the season, he had played four games in the National Hockey League. This season, he's a Phantoms alternate captain.

"That’s a good model for me to look at," Konan told reporters. "An example like that, just model my game after that. Just look forward and not let things get you down. Play hard and see what happens."

Konan put up some pretty good numbers in his final season of junior hockey -- 54 points in 72 games -- but those numbers can be pretty deceiving. It was his overage season, so he was one of the oldest players in the league, and he was also on a pretty good Medicine Hat team that won 42 games.

Two Tigers -- touted prospects Emerson Etem and Hunter Shinkaruk -- scored more than 90 points. That certainly helped Konan's numbers a little bit, but he was pretty happy with his season overall.

"I had a strong year last year," he said. "I didn’t get hurt, played lots of minutes. I was doing my thing - playing hard, playing good – just going with it. This summer was kind of a setback having surgery, but I have to get back to that. Just being a strong, good skater, good passer, just all into it. That’s my game."
 
Phantoms coach Terry Murray said Konan will have to get back into game shape before he'll be considered for a spot in the line-up. No timetable on that, but the 21-year-old California native has a couple of things going for him when he's finally healthy.

He's a right-handed shot - only Jeff Dimmen and Cullen Eddy fill that role now -  and he's a big body. Konan, though, is looking to add some muscle to his 6-foot-3, 182-pound frame.

The addition of Konan gives Adirondack nine healthy defensemen -- Marc-Andre Bourdon, Erik Gustafsson, Danny Syvret, Zack FitzGerald, Oliver Lauridsen, Manning, Dimmen, Eddy and Konan -- which I thought seemed like a lot because teams only dress six or seven each game.

Murray, though, said he likes to have five forward lines and five defensive parings for early-season practices, which makes for a better flow. Unlike the NHL, there's no roster limit in this league, so why not? Makes for better competition, too, since they're vying for ice time.

One other note: The Phantoms have landed in St. John's and had a workout and video session today. They'll get back on the ice tomorrow and Friday in advance of Friday night's game against St. John's, which is the IceCaps Opening Night. Should make for a good one. Face-off is at 6 p.m. Eastern.

I'll have some more notes on the blog tomorrow.

Until next time,
MC



Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Scorin' Line 10/16

Story in tomorrow's paper about the Phantoms' upcoming road trip to St. John's, Newfoundland. The team left Glens Falls tonight, even though they don't play the IceCaps until Friday night. They're looking forward to bonding.

Anyway, that means I had to knock out a week's worth of interviews in one practice. Made for a pretty interesting day, to say the least. Here's the abridged version of a conversation I had with winger Zac Rinaldo.

I didn't have a chance to see Sunday's game in Springfield, so I missed when head coach Terry Murray put Rinaldo on a line with Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier in the third period. Murray kept that line together in practice today at Glens Falls Civic Center and there's a pretty interesting stat about it.

The three of them have 206 combined regular season games of National Hockey League experience between them. The remaining dozen forwards on Adirondack's team have about one third of that. (The team's other lines are at the bottom of this post). I asked Murray about that today and he seemed to indicate that wasn't so much a factor as it was making sure other teams did not try and pull anything with Schenn or Couturier.

Murray said something about one of the players being on the bad end of a cross-check -- I asked Rinaldo about it and he didn't seem to know what I was talking about -- but that's the kind of protection you can count on from him. He had 15 fighting majors in the NHL last year, more than any other rookie, and his 232 penalty minutes were more than double the next-most-penalized NHL rookie -- the Rangers' Stu Bickel, if you were wondering.

"No one's going to touch my linemates," Rinaldo said. "Everyone knows that."

The thing about Rinaldo, though, is that he really seems to be trying to shed this image that all he is good for is fighting. He's committed to becoming a more complete player. Last week, he had one of the nicest shootout goals of any Phantoms player during practice, and he almost scored a goal in the season-opener against Portland. He beat goalie Chad Johnson, but the puck clanked off the goal post.

"Being a total package -- hit, fight, score, shoot, pass -- and this has kind of worked out for me (that) there was a lockout so I can work on my things here instead of up there," Rinaldo said, later adding "just give me an opportunity and I'll be able to show my skills."

This, then, is about as good an opportunity it gets for him.

"It kind of helps me out in every different scenario that I need to work on on the ice," he said. "I've got a shooter and I've got a passer on my line. All the tools are on that line. I'm going to run with it."

Rinaldo said he's played with Couturier on the fourth line to start the season in Philadelphia last year before joining Schenn and Wayne Simmonds later in the year. So getting inserted on the line Sunday and then finding himself together in practice Tuesday felt a bit like old times.

"It was a surprise," Rinaldo said. "I got thrown out on the line and as soon as I was on the line it was 'Oh, OK. This is like, back into an NHL experience.' It just kind of came back to me."

Murray, though, stopped short of saying he would keep this line together for a game. He said he put Rinaldo on the line because of his physical presence and Murray wants to see how it gels in practice. Regardless, though, Murray seems committed to giving Rinaldo his chances to make an impact here.

“No matter where Rinaldo plays, on what line, he’s going to get exposure to a lot of situations that he maybe has not in the past," Murray said. "That’s what this is all about. Put him out at critical times. Be a part of the power play. Be a part of the penalty killing. Just give him that opportunity to work his game, to grow his game and see where that helps him out so that whenever he gets back to the Flyers and the league starts up again, see where that shakes out for him.”

We'll see if the lockout ends on the sooner side than the later side. NHL has submitted a new offer to the NHLPA that has stirred up some conversation.

By the way. Anyone have a nickname suggestion for this line? I think there's some potential. I used "Scorin' Line" as an amalgamation of Schenn's, Couturier's and Rinaldo's last names, but basically just as a placeholder. Offer your suggestions in the comments below.

Other lines: McGinn-Roe-Holmstrom / Zolnierczyk*-Bordson-Wellwood / Mangene-Johnston-Ford / Brown-Harper-Testwuide** / Defense: Manning-Syvret, Bourdon-Gustafsson, Eddy-Lauridsen, FitzGerald-Dimmen-Konan***

* Participated in practice with a full cage after getting hit with a puck during the Springfield game. He didn't appear to miss a step.
** Mike Testwuide missed practice because he was feeling under the weather. Most players participated in a charity golf outing Monday that was dampened by rain.
*** Matt Konan joined the team after recovering from an injury. He's still getting back into game shape. Doesn't seem likely he'll play in St. John's this weekend, but he'll make the trip.

Until next time,
MC

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Shutout by Springfield 10/14

The Adirondack Phantoms played their first road game of the season Sunday in Springfield.

They're still searching for their first road goal.

Curtis McElhinney stopped all 31 shots he faced and four different Falcons had multi-point nights at Springfield handed the Phantoms a 4-0 matinee loss at Mass Mutual Center.

The Phantoms, who kicked off a stretch in which they'll play 10 of 13 games away from Glens Falls Civic Center, fell to 1-1 this season. Springfield is 2-0 for the first time since the 2005-06 season.

The stretch is really interesting. When it concludes with a Nov. 17 game at Syracuse, the Phantoms will have already played one-quarter of their 2012-13 road schedule. But they'll make up for it over the next month. On Dec. 19, they will conclude a stretch that will see them play 10 of 12 at home.

Sunday's shutout was McElhinney's first in the American Hockey League since March 21, 2008, when he stopped 22 shots to lead the Quad City Flames to a 2-0 victory over the Rockford IceHogs.

The 29-year-old goalie appeared in 64 National Hockey League games with Calgary, Anaheim and Phoenix over the past four seasons and recorded two shutouts, both for the Ducks in 2010-11.

Center Ryan Johansen, the No. 4 pick in the 2010 NHL Draft, provided all the offense the Falcons would need at the 15:53 mark of the first period when he beat Adirondack goaltender Cal Heeter, who was making his professional hockey debut. The Ohio State product finished with 16 saves.

The Phantoms entered the second period down 1-0 -- not a bad spot to be in for a road game -- but allowed three goals in the opening 7:17. That's your ballgame.

Dalton Prout scored 30 seconds into the middle frame, beating Heeter on a drive from the point. AHL All-Star Jonathan Audy-Marchessault scored a power play goal five minutes later. Falcons captain Ryan Craig scored two minutes after that, slamming a cross-crease pass behind Heeter.

Adirondack, less than 24 hours after going 2-for-8 on the power play, finished 0-for-7 with the man advantage. Springfield went 1-for-3 on the power play.

Craig and Audy-Marchessault finished with a goal and an assist. Cam Atkinson and Cody Bass each had two assists. Adirondack forward Andrew Johnston came the closest to scoring for Adirondack in the third period, but couldn't lift a backdoor drive over McElhinney's pad.

The game also had Adirondack's first two fights of the season. Marc-Andre Bourdon and Cody Bass mixed it up in the first period, while Ben Holmstrom fought with former Flyers prospect Michael Chaput in the second.

We'll keep an eye and ear out for the status of Harry Zolnierczyk, who left the game after he appeared to get hit in the face with a high-stick or puck. Hope to get an update at Tuesday's practice, the team's final one in Glens Falls before they leave for a weekend series at St. John's, Newfoundland.

It'll be the team's first visit to The Rock in Adirondack Phantoms history.

Speaking of St. John's, they beat Connecticut behind two power play goals and 35 saves from Mark Dekanich in the only other Northeast Division game on today's schedule. Spencer Machacek with the game-winner on his 24th birthday.

Until next time,
MC

Saturday, October 13, 2012

On Schenn and Couturier 10/13

Before we begin, take a look at that awesome shot of Harry Zolnierczyk's first goal of the season. Saratogian photographer Ed Burke captured the moment perfectly.

But I think the big story of tonight's game is Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier both scoring some key goals. Couturier, used primarily in a defensive role last year in Philadelphia, was used on the power play and scored his first professional power play goal. And Schenn, who is generally regarded for his offensive ability, added his first professional shorthanded goal as the Phantoms beat Portland 6-3.

"Last year we had different roles," Couturier told reporters after the game. "As we grow in pro hockey, our roles will step up. We just have to be patient and wait our chance. Here in the AHL is a great opportunity for us to capitalize on one of those chances where we can show what we've got offensively and play in key situations."

Couturier averaged about 26 seconds of power play time per game in Philadelphia last season. Schenn averaged about six seconds of time on the penalty kill. The fact that they're both playing -- and producing -- in those roles here in Adirondack is only going to help both them and the team.

"Both of them get opportunities down here to experience different situations,” Flyers coach Peter Laviolette told reporters after the game. “They’re both going to be top-end players down here. They’ll play a lot of minutes, a lot of different situations – a lot of opportunity for them. I think that’s a real positive thing for building experience.”

Laviolette was one of several members of the Flyers brass in attendance tonight. I spotted general manager Paul Holmgren, assistant general manager John Paddock and assistant coach Craig Berube. The most interesting name in the press box? Former Phantoms coach Joe Paterson, who I am told is now a scout. Long-time AHL and NHL defenseman Jamie Pushor was also here scouting.

I was curious what Laviolette thought of the team's play tonight. When/if the lockout ends, the Flyers will probably be calling some of these guys up -- especially on the back end, where they're hit hard by injuries. These games, when you think about them, are really sort of auditions for the Phantoms.

"I thought they played a really strong game, especially in the second half," Laviolette said. "With 10 minutes to go in the second period and the third period, they really seemed to kick into gear."

He's right. The Phantoms were trailing 3-2 at the midway point of the game, but then scored four straight goals to close out the win. Couturier's power play goal came first and tied it. The puck sort of seemed to find its way to him at the near-side post and he just jammed it into an open net.

Then sophomore Tye McGinn had a nice power play goal from an odd angle. He only had two power play goals all last season. I was really impressed with the power play unit of him, Roe and Ben Holmstrom and so was Phantoms' coach Terry Murray. Here's what he had to say afterwards:

"I like the big body in front of the net, it really has an effect. McGinn really knows his role in that area. He was strong, he competed hard. He just buys for everybody else. When there's pucks coming to the goalie and you have a big body like that in front, he's trying to find it. He might just get a piece of it. There's spray coming off of it. Good things can happy when you're hungry around the net."

Schenn scored twice in the final 5:16 -- his shorthanded goal first, then an empty-netter from the neutral zone. That made the final score 6-3, which is oddly enough the final score from last year's home-opener against Connecticut. Similar script there. Phantoms trail early, storm back to win.

Adirondack's penalty kill -- by the way -- finished four-for-four. Power play went two-of-eight.

Elsewhere tonight in the Northeast Division, Bridgeport won for the second time in two nights. Top Islanders prospect Nino Niederreiter scored again. Albany scored first, but David Kolomatis scored twice as the Monarchs beat the Devils 2-1. Tomorrow's opponent, Springfield, opened with a win over next weekend's opponent, St. John's. Connecticut was idle. They have the IceCaps tomorrow.

On the farm, Trenton beat Greenville last night and Reading tonight. Niko Hovinen had 31 saves for the Titans last night. Devils' farmhand Scott Wedgewood got the night tonight. Jason Akeson has three points through two games.

Didn't get a chance to ask Murray about his line-up decisions tonight -- regarding the scratches of Mangene, Harper and Testwuide. We'll see how if changes the lines for tomorrow's game in Springfield. I won't be there, but I'll be following along and will update the blog tomorrow night.

Until next time,
MC

Gameday vs. Portland 10/13

Greetings from Glens Falls Civic Center, where we're about a half hour away from puck drop on the 2012-13 season. Portland is in town tonight and so are a bunch of Philadelphia Flyers brass. I spotted GM Paul Holmgren and coach Peter Laviolette in the press box. Team officials tell me assistant coach Craig Berube is also here along with assistant general manager John Paddock. It's crowded.

Here's the line combinations we saw in warm-ups, in no particular order:

Portland Pirates

Bloodoff- Szwarz-Hextall
Rechlicz-Shinnimin-Lane
Brown-Miele-Klinkhamer
Conner-Werek-Bolduc

(Ekman-Larsson)-Stone
Louis-Gormley
Summers-Rundblad

Johnson
Visentin

Adirondack Phantoms

Schenn-Couturier-Ford
Holmstrom-Roe-McGinn
Rinaldo-Johnston-Brown
Zolnierczyk-Bordson-Wellwood

Gustafsson-Bourdon
Manning-Syvret
Lauridsen-Eddy

Munroe
Heeter

Looks like Mangene, Testwuide and Harper are the scratches. EDIT: They are. Also, FitzGerald and Dimmen. Also, scratch Klinkhammer, Martinook and Dziurzynski for Portland.

 Based on the way they've handled warm-ups, it looks like Scott Munroe is between the pipes. EDIT: He is.

More after the game.


Opening Night 10/13

One of the great hockey traditions is the opening night player introductions, where a team's players are introduced to the fans one-by-one. I thought it only made sense for us to do something similar on the blog here, so let's get at it. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome your 2012-13 Adirondack Phantoms.

(You're supposed to read that in Dan Miner's voice. Did you? If not, go back and do it again.)

#15 -- Andrew Johnston (LW)
Height: 6-1 Weight: 178
Date of Birth: July 6, 1991 (Age 21)
Hometown: Saskatoon, Sask.
Last Team: Humboldt Broncos (SJHL)
Years Pro: Rookie
Bio: Johnston had signed to play college hockey at Union, but backed out to sign an NHL deal with Philadelphia after scoring 10 goals and four assists in 14 playoff games for Anavet Cup champion Broncos. Those were additions to his regular season totals of 29 goals and 52 assists in 58 games.

#23 -- Ben Holmstrom (F)
Height: 6-1 Weight: 171
Date of Birth: April 9, 1987 (Age 25)
Hometown: Colorado Springs, Colo.
Last Team: Adirondack, Philadelphia (NHL)
Years Pro: Third season
Bio: Holmstrom was named the youngest Phantoms captain in franchise history last season, was third on the team with 41 points in 67 games, and led the team in penalty minutes with 134. Holmstrom, third on Adirondack's all-time games played list with 159, will retain the captaincy this season.

#28 -- Brandon Manning (D)
Height: 6-1 Weight: 195
Date of Birth: June 4, 1990 (Age 22)
Hometown: Prince George, B.C.
Last Team: Adirondack, Philadelphia (NHL)
Years Pro: Second season
Bio: An all-around defender, Manning missed the first two months of his rookie season while rehabbing a hip injury, but finished the season with 19 points in 46 games. Nine of those points came in his final 12 games, after he spent a brief four-game NHL stint with Philadelphia.

#10 -- Brayden Schenn (C)
Height: 6-1 Weight: 190
Date of Birth: Aug. 22, 1991 (Age 21)
Hometown: Saskatoon, Sask.
Last Team: Adirondack, Philadelphia (NHL)
Years Pro: Second season
Bio: The crown jewel of the trade that sent Mike Richards to Los Angeles, Schenn tore it up a brief stint with Adirondack, netting 12 points in seven games. He logged 54 NHL games with the Flyers and scored his first NHL goal during last season's Winter Classic at Citizens' Bank Park.

#35 -- Cal Heeter (G)
Height: 6-4 Weight: 185
Date of Birth: Nov. 2, 1988 (Age 23)
Hometown: St. Louis, Mo.
Last Team: Ohio State (CCHA)
Years Pro: Rookie
Bio: Free-agent acquisition finished four-year career at Ohio State with 39-36-11 record, posting 2.58 goals-against average and .915 save percentage in 94 games. The Buckeyes' MVP during his junior year, Heeter beat out Philadelphia prospect Niko Hovinen for an AHL job.


#20 -- Cullen Eddy (D)
Height: 6-0 Weight: 195
Date of Birth: Nov. 19, 1988 (Age 24)
Hometown: Hidden Valley, Pa.
Last Team: Adirondack, Philadelphia (NHL), Greenville (ECHL)
Years Pro: Third season
Bio: Pyshical defenseman led Adirondack with nine fighting majors last season despite appearing in only 54 games. He wrapped up four-year career at Mercyhurst by signing with ECHL Cincinnati in the spring of 2010, just in time to help the team capture the Kelly Cup.

#5 -- Danny Syvret (D)
Height: 5-11 Weight: 203
Date of Birth: June 13, 1985 (Age 27)
Hometown: Millgrove, Ontario
Last Team: Peoria (AHL)
Years Pro: Eighth season
Bio: Former AHL All-Star returns to Flyers organization for third tour of duty after recording 42 points in 75 games for Peoria one year ago. The veteran has played 463 professional games over seven seasons, including 407 in the AHL, and leads all Phantoms players in both categories.

#22 -- Eric Wellwood (LW)
Height: 5-11 Weight: 179
Date of Birth: March 6, 1990 (Age 22)
Hometown: Windsor, Ontario
Last Team: Adirondack, Philadelphia (NHL)
Years Pro: Third season
Bio: A two-time Memorial Cup champion with his hometown Windsor Spitfires, Wellwood split last season between the AHL and NHL, combining for 30 points in 57 games. His older brother, Kyle, has scored 86 goals in 450 career NHL games.

#36 -- Erik Gustafsson (D)
Height: 5-10 Weight: 180
Date of Birth: Dec. 15, 1988 (Age 23)
Hometown: Kvissleby, Sweden
Last Team: Adirondack, Philadelphia (NHL)
Years Pro: Third season
Bio: Puck-moving defenseman led all AHL rookies with 44 assists during rookie season in 2010-11 and was named to the Eastern Conference All-Star team and the AHL's All-Rookie team. He split last season between Adirondack (17 games) and Philadelphia (30 games).

#27 -- Garrett Roe (C)
Height: 5-9 Weight: 180
Date of Birth: Feb. 22, 1988 (Age 24)
Hometown: Vienna, Va.
Last Team: Adirondack
Years Pro: Second season
Bio: Invited to last year's Phantoms camp after a four-year career at St. Cloud State, Roe finished the season ranked second among Phantoms rookies and fourth on the team after posting 40 points in 72 games. Roe scored 36 or more points in each season at St. Cloud, finishing with 65 goals and 113 assists.

#24 Harry Zolnierczyk (LW)
Height: 5-11 Weight: 180
Date of Birth: Sept. 1, 1987 (Age 25)
Hometown: Toronto, Ont.
Last Team: Adirondack, Philadelphia (NHL)
Years Pro: Second season
Bio: Former Brown Bears captain was named Ivy League Player of the Year during his senior season before turning pro with Adirondack at the end of 2010-11. Split last season with Phantoms and Flyers, finishing with 21 points in 39 AHL games. His first NHL goal was featured on SportsCenter's Top 10.

#42 -- Jeff Dimmen (D)
Height: 6-0 Weight: 195
Date of Birth: Aug. 28, 1986 (Age 26)
Hometown: Colorado Springs, Colo.
Last Team: Norfolk (AHL)
Years Pro: Second season
Bio: The lone training-camp tryout to make the Phantoms, Dimmen spent last season with Norfolk Admirals, which won an AHL-record 28 straight regular season games en route to a Calder Cup. Recorded three goals and 14 assists in 64 games with the Admirals. Has 13 career AHL playoff games to his name.

#3 -- Marc-Andre Bourdon (D)
Height: 6-0 Weight: 206
Date of Birth: Sept. 17, 1989 (Age 23)
Hometown: St. Hyacinthe, Quebec
Last Team: Adirondack, Philadelphia (NHL)
Years Pro: Fourth season
Bio: Two-way defender appeared in 45 games with Philadelphia last season and scored seven points. His first-career NHL call-up came approximately eight months after he was sent to the ECHL after an injury. He ranks No. 7 all-time in Adirondack's games played (125) and penalty minutes (168) lists.

#25 -- Matthew Ford (RW)
Height: 6-1 Weight: 207
Date of Birth: Oct. 9, 1984 (Age 28)
Hometown: West Hills, Calif.
Last Team: Hershey (AHL), Adirondack
Years Pro: Fifth season
Bio: Acquired in a trade that sent Kevin Marshall to Hershey, Ford scored 19 goals and 31 points with Adirondack last season. Those gave him a career-high 29 AHL goals during last season, nine of which were game-winners, and finished No. 11 on the list of AHL's top goal scorers.

#57 -- Matt Mangene (F)
Height: 5-11 Weight: 190
Date of Birth: March 12, 1989 (Age 23)
Hometown: Manorville, N.Y.
Last Team: Maine (H-East), Adirondack
Years Pro: Rookie
Bio: A University of Maine product, Mangene signed entry-level deal with Philadelphia at the end of his junior season and played in five AHL games with the Phantoms. Scored 34 points in 40 games with Maine last season. Wears No. 57 for his grandfather, a former Boston College running back.

#8 -- Mike Testwuide (F)
Height: 6-3 Weight: 210
Date of Birth: Feb. 5, 1987 (Age 25)
Hometown: Vail, Colo.
Last Team: Adirondack
Years Pro: Third season
Bio: Colorado College product has appeared in 142 games with Adirondack over the past two seasons, recording 68 points and 141 penalty minutes. Led all Phantoms rookies with 18 goals in 2010-11, including 16 in the team's final 48 games. Finished sixth on the Phantoms with 29 points last season.

#7 -- Oliver Lauridsen (D)
Height: 6-6 Weight: 220
Date of Birth: March 24, 1989 (Age 23)
Hometown: Gentofte, Denmark
Last Team: Adirondack (AHL)
Years Pro: Second season
Bio: A teammate of Garrett Roe's at St. Cloud State, Lauridsen finished with seven points and 45 penalty minutes in 65 games with Adirondack during his rookie season last year. Played in two games with Phantoms at end of 2010-11 and his first professional fight came against now-teammate Zack FitzGerald.

#9 -- Rob Bordson (F)
Height: 6-2 Weight: 190
Date of Birth: June 9, 1988 (Age 24)
Hometown: Duluth, Minn.
Last Team: Trenton (ECHL), Rochester (AHL), Adirondack
Years Pro: Third season
Bio: Bordson began 2011-12 on an ECHL contract, but latched on with Phantoms in February and finished the year with seven points in 24 AHL games. Also appeared in 61 consecutive games with Adirondack during 2010-11 season after coming over in trade from Anaheim organization.

#33 -- Scott Munroe (G)
Height: 6-2 Weight: 210
Date of Birth: Jan. 20, 1982
Hometown: Moose Jaw, Sask.
Last Team: Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (AHL)
Years Pro: Seventh season
Bio: Considered the wily veteran of a young Phantoms team, Munroe has 102 wins and 18 shutouts in his AHL career. Most came with the Philadelphia Phantoms, for which he appeared in 134 games over parts of four seasons. He went 19-10-3 with five shutouts for AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton last year.

#14 -- Sean Couturier (C)
Height: 6-4 Weight: 191
Date of Birth: Dec. 7, 1992 (Age 19)
Hometown: Phoenix, Ariz.
Last Team: Philadelphia (NHL)
Years Pro: Second season
Bio: The No. 8 pick in the 2011 NHL Draft, Couturier scored 27 points in 77 games for Philadelphia last season. He comes to Glens Falls because of the NHL lockout, but it's not his first time in the city. His father, Sylvain, skated for the Adirondack Red Wings in 1992-93, months after Couturier was born.

#11 -- Shane Harper (RW)
Height: 5-11 Weight: 193
Date of Birth: Feb. 1, 1989 (Age 23)
Hometown: Valencia, Calif.
Last Team: Adirondack (AHL)
Years Pro: Third season
Bio: A free-agent acquisition, Harper finished 2011-12, his first full season with Adirondack, with 13 goals and 27 points, none of them bigger than the overtime game-winner in the Jan. 6 Outdoor Classic at Citizens' Bank Park in front of an AHL-record 45,653 fans.

#16 -- Tye McGinn (LW)
Height: 6-2 Weight: 195
Date of Birth: July 29, 1990 (Age 22)
Hometown: Fergus, Ont.
Last Team: Adirondack (AHL)
Years Pro: Second season
Bio: A 31-goal scorer in his final season in junior hockey, the power forward prospect recorded 12 goals and 18 points for Adirondack in his rookie season last year. His older brother, Jamie, is a forward for the NHL's San Jose Sharks. His younger brother, Brock, was a second-round pick for Carolina in June.

#18 -- Tyler Brown (C)
Height: 6-2 Weight: 184
Date of Birth: Feb. 7, 1990 (Age 22)
Hometown: Wasaga Beach, Ont.
Last Team: Adirondack (AHL)
Years Pro: Second season
Bio: Primarily used as a bottom-six checking forward last season, Brown finished with 17 points in 71 AHL games. He ended one of the longest shooutouts in league history with a goal in the 12th round of Adirondack's Dec. 30 victory over Portland last year.

#26 -- Zac Rinaldo (LW)
Height: 5-10 Weight: 180
Date of Birth: June 15, 1990 (Age 22)
Hometown: Hamilton, Ont.
Last Team: Philadelphia (NHL), Adirondack
Years Pro: Third season
Bio: In his first season of professional hockey, Rinaldo finished second in the AHL with 331 penalty minutes during the 2010-11 season. He graduated to Philadelphia last year and picked up 232 penalty minutes in 66 NHL games, more than double the total of the next nearest rookie.

#13 -- Zack FitzGerald (D)
Height: 6-1 Weight: 214
Date of Birth: June 16, 1985 (Age 27)
Hometown: Two Harbors, Minn.
Last Team: Hamilton (AHL)
Years Pro: Eighth season

Bio: Tough defenseman has picked up more than 200 penalty minutes in each of the past four seasons, including a league-leading 311 with Albany during 2009-10. He's dropped the gloves with current Phantoms Mike Testwuide, Oliver Lauridsen and Tye McGinn.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Holm sweet holm 10/12

The big story out of Phantoms practice today is head coach Terry Murray opting to keep Ben Holmstrom as team captain. Former Phantoms head coach Joe Paterson named Holmstrom, 25, the youngest captain in Phantoms franchise history last year, but there was some question if Murray, in his first year as Adirondack's head coach, would pick a new player to wear the letter.

However, with 18 members of last year's Phantoms team back in the locker room this season, Murray said it only  made sense to keep Holmstrom as the team's designated leader. Murray had lots of praise for Holmstrom after today's practice, the team's final one before tomorrow night's home-opener.

"The team likes him a lot," Murray said. "He's a very high-character player. He comes to work hard every day. He's got a great demeanor and personality about himself. ... When I watch him through the short period of time that I've been here, I see good things. He's a very important player to the team -- a quality leader. I just wanted to keep consistency in the locker room."

Captains have different leadership methods. Some are rabble-rousers who will make big locker room speeches, while some are reserved who prefer to lead by example. Holmstrom's not one for speeches, but he'll pick his spots. More than anything, though, he prefers to let his play do the talking.

"You can't just say things and go out there and not back them up," he said. "You have to back up what you talk about. That's the only way you can get respect ... there's times when you speak up and times when you don't. You just have to have a feel for the way things are going. It's a long season."

Different coaches expect different things out of their captains. Here's what Murray said he expects out of Holmstrom and alternate captains Brandon Manning and Danny Svyret. He hand-picked all three.

"They're the voice that carries the message between the coach's office and the locker room," Murray said. "They're constantly coming in through my request or they're knocking on the door if there's something that needs to be discussed. We talk it out and then they can carry that message. They're also players that I look to on the ice to set the tone in the practice. It's a hard day some days after three-in-three and you want to get a quality work in for 30 minutes. You have to have someone alert, sharp, ready and eager and just set the tone and the tempo."

The Syvret selection as an alternate captain makes perfect sense. This will be the 28-year-old's eighth season in the league and his third tour of duty with the Flyers organization. They know what they're getting out of him. Manning, at right, is a bit of a surprise pick -- there are players with a lot more experience than he has -- but the more I think about it, the more I like the selection. He worked hard to crack the lineup after starting the year with an injury and then wound up playing four NHL games. He's got a good work ethic about him.

"We all feel he has a pretty nice upside to his game," Murray said of Manning. "The other thing that I took into consideration was when the lockout gets settled, there's probably going to be some player movement. Players who were up there from the back end were (Erik Gustafsson) and (Marc-Andre) Bourdon. In my view of how it shapes up right now, we might not lose Manning right away in a situation like that. In looking at the team here, I want to keep these people around as the captains of the team throughout the year."

Here's Manning on the honor.

"I was my captain in junior when I was 19 and 20. I think it's one of those things that came naturally to me a little bit. It's not something I really thought about until coach told me today. It's in the back of my mind now and I think I was picked for a reason, I guess I can say. I'm not going to change much. I'm going to be the same person I am and do whatever I can to help the guys."

Sometimes players feel the letter on the shirt weighs them down, but Manning said he does not anticipate that being a problem.

"There's so many great guys in this dressing room. Obviously I'm a bit of a younger guy, but I think something I pride myself on is my work ethic ... how I practice and how I play, whether it's sticking up for my teammates or just playing whether we're losing 5-1 or winning 5-1. I pride myself on the character of my game. I definitely think that goes a long way."

And here's Syvret, right, who has worn and not worn a letter at different points in his AHL career.

"I don't really feel a letter makes someone a leader or not. I think you're more accepted in the locker room if you are a leader, but that doesn't really mean you have to be wearing a letter on your sweater. I think there's a lot of guys in the dressing room that have great leadership qualities. You can't give out 25 letters to a team. It's definitely an honor, though."

One more thing from practice today -- Murray said he's picked a starting goaltender, but wouldn't say who it was. For what it's worth, Scott Munroe has been practicing in the net the Phantoms defend twice pretty much all week. 

We'll see if that means anything when the Phantoms hit the ice tomorrow. Portland's in town at 7 p.m.

Finally, a blurb from today's Associated Press story, via the American Hockey League. The Oklahoma City Barons - who already have top Oilers prospects Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle on their roster - plan to add Taylor Hall when he's done rehabbing his shoulder injury.

The Barons return AHL Goalie of the Year Yann Danis and definitely look like the team to beat out West, at least in the early going. Heck, they're so stacked that they sent Philippe Cornet to the ECHL. He hadd 24 goals and was an All-Star in this league last year. (Stick tap to blog friend Jason Iacona).

Until next time,
MC