Sunday, April 28, 2013

A look back 4/28


GLENS FALLS – The names and faces have changed, but the scene has remained the same.

One day after the conclusion of the American Hockey League’s regular season, the Adirondack Phantoms gather at Glens Falls Civic Center. They file into the home dressing room, pack up their equipment and bid farewell to their teammates before beginning their trips home for the summer.

That was how it played out again on Monday evening. The Phantoms, who failed to qualify for the playoffs for a fourth straight year, officially began their summers not even one month into spring.

This year’s elimination hurts more than the others. They began the year with no shortage of talent and promise, boasting a lockout-bolstered roster that was renowned around the American Hockey League, and proceeded to record fewer points than any of the 16 Phantoms teams that preceded them. It was the single-lowest point total of any Philadelphia Flyers AHL affiliate in two decades.

What went wrong? How did this team finish where it did, last in the AHL’s Eastern Conference and 12 points out of a playoff spot? The discussion has to begin and end with the team’s offense.

They scored six impressive goals on opening night, but an abysmal 176 the rest of the way. Their 182 total goals shattered the franchise record for the fewest in a season. They were also the least ever recorded by a Flyers AHL affiliate, dating back to the NHL club’s 1967 inception. Two of their top four scorers, Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier, have not set foot here since mid-January.

“We work a lot on defending the game rather than going out and taking hold with our offense,” Phantoms defenseman Danny Syvret said Monday evening. “We rely on our defense a lot, which, in some cases, might hurt you when you’re willing to defend more than you’re willing to attack.”

It would be easy to point the finger at first-year Phantoms coach Terry Murray in this situation, as the system he implemented before the start of the year is one that preaches checking above all else, but the team’s inability to score goals is one that predated Murray’s arrival to the Phantoms.

Excluding shootouts, the Phantoms have not scored 200 goals in a season since they moved to Glens Falls in 2009. Most of this season’s AHL playoff teams have lit the lamp at least 230 times.

An exception is the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, who only scored 178. But they also allowed the fewest shots in the league, and goaltending duo of Brad Thiessen and Jeff Zatkoff took home the league’s Harry “Hap” Holmes Memorial Award for allowing the fewest goals among the AHL’s 30 teams. The Phantoms allowed 219 goals, which placed them well in the league’s bottom third.

And the Phantoms were 18-15-3-4 in one-goal games, while the Penguins went 23-9-2-2 in them.

“We could have won more games,” Marcel Noebels said after Adirondack’s season-ending win Sunday evening, echoing Murray’s comments from the day before. “We had so many one-goal games. I think if we won even half of those, we’d play next week probably and make the playoffs.”

So why didn’t they win more than 18 of their 40 one-goal games? Why didn’t they score more?

“I think sometimes we just hurt ourselves with turnovers that we made, that (opponents) didn’t really force,” center Garrett Roe said as the Phantoms parted ways Monday. “That always hurts you. Just little things. Not creating enough traffic in front of the net, or coming in on the rush and you miss the net instead of getting an extra opportunity or making the goalie make a save. It’s just little things like that. Whenever you find yourself struggling, it kind of reverts back to the basics.”

The power play was also an issue. It accounted for 35 percent of Adirondack’s total goals (64 of 182), the largest percentage since the team moved to Glens Falls, yet finished atop the bottom half of the league with a 16.5 percent success rate. Most teams shoot to hit the 18 to 20 percent range.

“It was like hot and cold,” Syvret said of the unit. “Pieces came in and out, more so near the end. About a month ago, we had a consistent five-man unit. We were pretty comfortable with knowing each player’s tendencies and what they like to do with the puck, or where they are on the ice.”

Scoring too few goals and allowing too many of them was the root of several other problems, each damning for Adirondack’s playoff chances: They twice had stretches where they lost seven of eight games. They did not win more than three consecutive games all year. They lost 10 straight games on the road, and dropped eight of their 12 games with the Albany Devils, who only won 31 times. The penalty kill, while a strength, was perhaps asked to play too much. They were the eighth-most penalized team in the AHL, committing nearly a period's worth of infractions every night.

“I think a lot of guys had tough years,” Roe said Monday evening. “You can learn a lot. You can see where things weren’t as good, maybe, as they used to be. Maybe you did some good things. It’s kind of read and review and go over how you played. Evaluate yourself honestly. You’re not going to give yourself 10s for everything. Evaluate yourself honestly, and kind of work from there.”

Injuries also took a toll throughout the organization, and neither the Flyers or Phantoms had their full varsity squads for an entire season. Phantoms captain Ben Holmstrom went down with a season-ending ACL injury in December. But injuries and illnesses are expected to be part of a season.

Teams must adapt to them, and the Phantoms did.

Jason Akeson led the team with 20 goals and 53 points, finishing as the team’s No. 1 scorer for the second year in a row. He earned a call-up to Philadelphia last week and scored in his NHL debut Saturday. Tye McGinn had a breakout season with 14 goals and 26 points, improving on his 12-6-18 totals from last year despite playing 17 fewer games. Danny Syvret hit the 40-point mark again, becoming the only AHL defender to accomplish that feat in each of the past five seasons. He and Rob Bordson played in all 76 games, and Bordson emerged as a legitimate fourth-line prospect as he anchored a penalty kill unit that finished seventh in the league at 85.6 percent. That was the team’s best percentage since they moved to Glens Falls. Marcel Noebels scored 13 goals in a little more than half a season, and was on pace to score 22 as a rookie. Another rookie, Matt Konan, wowed the coaches with his size and speed on the blue line, and has since debuted with Philadelphia.

The Phantoms have used inexperience as a crutch, repeatedly pointing out that they have one of the – if not the – youngest teams in the league, when it comes to professional experience. They have a point. Of the 15 players who dressed in more than half of Adirondack’s games, only one of them had more than three years of pro hockey experience on their resume. Nine had two or fewer.

But some of Adirondack’s better hockey was played down the homestretch, when their line-up was the youngest it had been. They started to ice a team filled with contracted junior players and amateur try-outs whose pro games were in the single digits, and went 10-8-1-2 since March 8.

“You have a philosophy as a team or as an organization,” Phantoms coach Terry Murray said after Sunday afternoon’s victory over the Devils at Times Union Center. “Are you a development team? Are you a team that wants to go out, add a bunch of veteran players so that you’re going to be one of the better teams in the league and try to win the Calder Cup at the end of the day? And you’d like to have, ideally, your young players step up and play well and give you the Calder Cup at the end of the day. I look at us as a team that’s a development group. We’re feeding the parent club. That’s what’s most important. That’s our priority. We’re aware that the fans are coming and paying their dollars and we have private owners that want to get extended runs into the playoffs so that they can recoup a little bit of their investments too. We’re trying to accomplish both, and it’s not always easy. But when you have a feeling of a pretty solid foundation coming out of this (season) with a young group of guys, I’m hoping there’s many better days ahead for this group.”

The question now becomes how many in this group will return to the Phantoms next season?

Virtually all of the team’s veterans, with the exception of Syvret, are going to be free agents. AHL-contracted players like Jon Sim, David Laliberte, Zack FitzGerald, Jeff Dimmen, Bordson and Roe are free to sign anywhere. NHL-contracted Erik Gustafsson, Oliver Lauridsen, Brandon Manning, Mitch Wahl, Shane Harper, Eric Wellwood and Blake Kessel are restricted free agents, and the Flyers have the first priority for re-signing them. Two other players – Brian Boucher and Andreas Lilja – are unrestricted free agents, and could sign anywhere. Lilja has already signed in Sweden.

Realistically, not all of them can be brought back. The organization, riddled from injuries from top to bottom this season will become healthy, and there needs to be roster spots for many of the players who arrived on amateur try-out contracts. One of them, former University of Minnesota defenseman Mark Alt, has been impressive early. Lilja, Alt’s defensive partner, sung his praises.

“I think he’s going to be something special,” Lilja said. “I think he’s really, really good.”

Statements like that give hope that the future will be better, that the talent pool is deeper and that a last-place finish in the conference will not be replicated. Because next season is the Phantoms’ last in Glens Falls before they leave for greener pastures in the form of a new arena currently being constructed for them in Allentown, Pa. For the fans in Glens Falls who have endured four years of non-playoff hockey, the old sports adage “There’s always next year” will no longer apply.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Heeter goes international 4/25

The Adirondack Phantoms’ season is over, but Cal Heeter’s isn’t.

The rookie goalie was one of the first 15 players named to the roster of the U.S. Men’s National Team bound for the International Ice Hockey Federation World Championships next month.

Heeter, 24, was the most-played goaltender on the Phantoms this season, and posted a 12-16-3 record with a 2.92 goals-against average and a .908 save percentage in 32 appearances. He also backed up Ilya Bryzgalov during a one-game call-up to the parent Philadelphia Flyers this month.

Heeter is in both the minority and the majority on the red, white and blue’s roster.

He has never played in an NHL game, and he is one of just two players (along with Montreal Canadiens prospect Danny Kristo) who can say that. But Heeter is also one of three players on the team from St. Louis, Mo., the city that has produced the most national team players this year.

Other players from Heeter's hometown include Colorado Avalanche center Paul Stastny, who won a silver medal with the U.S. at the 2010 Olympics, and Calgary Flames defenseman Chris Butler.

Some of Heeter’s other teammates announced Thursday are Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop, Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Jamie McBain, and former Albany Devils winger Bobby Butler, who is now a member of the Nashville Predators.

USA Hockey is expected to name more players to the national team’s roster in the coming days, potentially as the NHL concludes its season and more teams are eliminated from the playoffs.

The roster selection committee includes, among others, Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren.

The U.S. Men’s National Team is set to begin its seven-game tournament schedule May 4, when it takes on Austria in Helsinki, Finland. The tournament’s semifinals and medal games, if the United States advances that far, will be played May 16-19 in Stockholm, Sweden.

UPDATE:  The Phantoms also announced Thursday that rookie forward Marcel Noebels is being considered for the German squad in the same tournament, though that country’s roster has not been finalized.

Noebels, 21, had 13 goals and 10 assists in 43 games with the Phantoms after he was called up in January from the ECHL’s Trenton Titans.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Notes 4/24

Some notes to pass along:

The Phantoms Flyers called up goaltender Brian Boucher this morning, making him the sixth Adirondack Phantoms player to be called up since the team concluded its regular season on Sunday.

You know the original four: Jason Akeson, Scott Laughton, Matt Konan and Tye McGinn. Then  Andreas Lilja was called up yesterday after it was announced Kimmo Timonen will miss the remainder of the season with a compression fracture in his foot. He played last night against Boston.

Speaking of last night, Oliver Lauridsen was credited with his first NHL goal on this fluky play:

They don't ask how, they ask how many. And Lauridsen not-so-subtly hinted at that in his post-game media remarks, when a reporter asked if he was pissed his first NHL goal came on a play like that.

"Why would I be pissed? I just scored a goal! In 20 years or a week from now no one is going to ask me how that went in," the Flyers quoted him as saying. "It’s a bounce; it wasn’t a well calculated snipe or anything. It’s not much different from when you take a shot from the point and it hits three different shin pads and goes in. Hockey is a game of inches and bounce; you see it all the time."

The Trenton Titans have formally announced they will suspend operations for the 2013-14 season, as The Saratogian's Journal Register Company affiliate The Trentonian first reported on Monday night.

The post-season recap, with an outlook on the Phantoms for next season, has been pushed back to this weekend. The plan is to run it as a kind of centerpiece Sunday, but it may be online here before then.

Until next time,

Monday, April 22, 2013

REPORT: Phantoms' ECHL affiliate suspending operations 4/22

Several times this season, the Adirondack Phantoms sent players down to their ECHL affiliate, the Trenton Titans, to get some more playing time or ease them back after they returned from an injury.

That apparently won't be an option next season.

The Trentonian, citing multiple anonymous sources, reports that the Titans are expected to announce they will suspend operations for the 2013-14 season. There is a hope the team will return in 2014-15.

Trenton's attendance dipped from 3,013 fans last season to 2,578 this year, the Trentonian reported, and there were rumors of financial troubles. One source told the Trentonian that the players were concerned about if they would receive their paychecks, or if those checks would clear if they came. There was also some concern about travel costs associated with a playoff run that never materialized. 

The Trentonian and The Saratogian are sister papers under the Journal Register Company umbrella.

Presumably, this means the Philadelphia Flyers will look for another ECHL team to which they can send their prospects. It is possible the Flyers could split an ECHL affiliate with another NHL club.

The Flyers have had a longstanding history with using the Titans as their ECHL affiliate. When the Phantoms were based in Philadelphia, the Flyers used Trenton as their ECHL club from 1999-2007.

But when the Titans became the Trenton Devils in 2007, the Flyers sent prospects to the Wheeling Nailers for two years before the Phantoms moved to Glens Falls. The Flyers then used the Kalamazoo Wings in Adirondack's first season, 2009-10, and then the Greenville Road Warriors for 2010-11.

The New Jersey and Albany Devils also assigned prospects to the Titans over the past two seasons.

Akeson, Laughton, McGinn, Konan called up 4/22

After Jason Akeson scored the second of his two goals against the Connecticut Whale last Saturday, a booming slap shot that gave the Adirondack Phantoms a come-from-behind overtime victory, he was asked about the prospects of him getting a call up to the National Hockey League.

“It’s always going to be in your mind,” Akeson said on that day. “That’s where the ultimate goal is. I’m playing in the AHL for a reason. It’s not to stay here. It’s to get a shot up there. Hopefully.”

Akeson’s hopes came to fruition on Monday afternoon, as the Philadelphia Flyers called him and three other Phantoms up to skate with the parent club in this final week of the NHL season. The Phantoms ended their season Sunday. It is the first career call-up for the winger, who concluded his second AHL season with elite numbers.

The 22-year-old Orleans, Ontario, native produced 13-15-28 over his final 25 games, giving him a team-best 20 goals and 53 points despite appearing in just 62 of Adirondack’s 76 contests to date.

He was a bright spot on an offense that struggled mightily to score, and finished the season with 182 goals. That is the lowest total ever recorded by any AHL affiliate of the Philadelphia Flyers.

Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren visited Glens Falls last week to watch two Phantoms games, and was impressed with what he saw out of Akeson. Though a bit undersized at 5-foot-10 and 190 pounds, Akeson has worked on becoming more of a shooter and a two-way presence.

He was one of the more-used forwards on a penalty kill that ranked seventh in the AHL at 85.2 percent, and ran the point on the power play. His 11 power-play goals tied him for 10th in the AHL.

“We like the way Jason has come along,” Holmgren said last week. “He’s coming out of junior hockey, where he was a very prolific scorer. He’s come here and put up really good numbers and also – I think the most important part for him – is improve his game away from the puck. He’s a smart game. I think his skating has improved. He’s certainly a guy that we talk about a lot.”

Akeson led the Phantoms in scoring for the second straight campaign, despite spending nearly two months in the ECHL with the Trenton Titans at the start of the season. He was sent there to work on his two-way play, which has come along, and because of the influx of talent the Phantoms got because of the NHL lockout. Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier had two top-six roster spots.

“To Jason’s credit, he went to Trenton and worked hard,” Holmgren said at Adirondack's games last week. “He didn’t pout. He didn’t complain. And then when he came up, he’s been a good player since then. Like I said, he’s a guy that we talk about a lot. He’s a gifted young hockey player and he’s just going through the development phase of trying to get better in all areas and he’s doing that.”

The Flyers have three games remaining, and are mathematically out of playoff contention. That could increase Akeson’s chances of making his NHL debut during this call-up. The Phantoms dressed many younger players, fresh out of junior and college hockey, after they were out of the playoff hunt.

The Flyers also recalled defenseman Matt Konan, winger Tye McGinn and center Scott Laughton. All three have previously been called up to the NHL, though only Konan has yet to make his NHL debut. He was a healthy scratch in a game last week, but his chances of playing may also increase.

McGinn, who has five points in 18 games with the Flyers this season, thrived in an increased role under Phantoms coach Terry Murray. He set career highs in goals (14), assists (12) and points (26) despite appearing in 17 fewer games than his rookie campaign one year ago. After the Phantoms concluded their season Sunday, McGinn was asked if he thought that was his final game in the AHL.

"You want to play in the NHL," he said after Adirondack beat Albany. "The American Hockey League is a good league as well. I strive to be in the NHL for hopefully next year. It's something I'm going to work hard (for) this summer. I like it in Glens Falls, but I want to be in Philadelphia."

The only player in that group unlikely to get into a game is Laughton, as doing so would burn a year of his entry-level contract. That means he would be one-year closer to free agency. Earlier this year, the Flyers sent him back to his junior hockey team in Oshawa to avoid that exact scenario.

Even if the quartet does not play, they will still have the chance to practice with the parent club for a week. The experience may prove invaluable for a group of young players vying to win NHL jobs.

The rest of the Phantoms had their break-up day today, and said their final goodbyes before they headed home for a five-month summer. Check for a blog post on that later tonight or tomorrow.

Until next time,

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Phantoms 4, Devils 2 4/21

The Adirondack Phantoms won their final hockey game of the 2012-13 season Sunday, with two goals from Blake Kessel keying the comeback to beat the Albany Devils 4-2 at Times Union Center.

There was little celebrating in the locker room. No post-game victory music blaring. Not a whole lot of smiles. Not the kind of usual energy you might expect to see when a team picks up the victory.

They will go out as winners, but with the caveat of knowing they will not be one of the 16 teams vying for the Calder Cup in the playoffs that begin later this week. As American Hockey League equipment managers will be packing bags for trips to cities like Providence, Manchester, Hershey and Wilkes-Barre, the Phantoms will be packing up their apartments and moving home for the summer.

"It’s a tough break to miss the playoffs," said Phantoms center Marcel Noebels, who scored a power-play goal to begin the comeback. "It’s always something you want to play. It’s what we’ve worked for all summer and all season and then you’re going to miss the best part of the season."

There are a number of things that went wrong for the Phantoms this season, and you can read more about that in a story that's going to run later this week, but the discussion has to begin and end with the fact that the team just didn't score enough goals. They finished with 182, excluding the five they got for winning five shootouts, which shattered the previous franchise low of 193 set during 2005-06.

It's also the fewest goals scored by any Philadelphia Flyers American Hockey League affiliate. Ever.

They also had a bad record against the Devils, who went 8-3-0-1 against Adirondack but 23-29-1-11 against the rest of the American Hockey League. They lost 10 straight games on the road. There were two stretches where they won just one of their eight games. Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier, who had factored into roughly 60 percent of their goals through mid-January, got called up to the NHL.

They played from behind too much, and from too early in games. They were 5-24-2-1 when trailing after one period of play, compared to 14-4-0-1 when winning after the same amount of time. Today was a notable exception. With a five-month summer looming ahead of them, they stormed back from a 1-0 first-period deficit with four straight goals to go out with an element of resiliency to their game.

“The first period wasn’t exactly what we wanted. We came out a little slow. That was something the coaches talked about to us,” said Kessel, who had the first multi-goal game of his AHL career. “This is the last game as a team. Some of the guys won’t be back here, obviously, next year. … We all came together and decided ‘Last game, let’s give it 40 minutes with everything we’ve got. After that, you’ve got five months of rest.’”

Noebels scored on a backhander 6:09 into the second period after Kyle Flanagan dug a puck out of the left wing corner. Noebels had his back turned to the net and just slid it toward the goal. It found its way in. Rob Bordson gave the Phantoms the lead a little more than nine minutes when Garrett Roe won another puck battle along the board and found him in the left-wing circle for a one-timer that clanked in off the post. Kessel made it 3-1 when he joined the rush and banged home Brandon Alderson's rebound at the 19:02 mark, then chased Devils goalie Keith Kinkaid 3:02 into the third.

It was the first time the Phantoms scored four straight goals since a March 30 win against Bridgeport.

“We’re here to be professionals,” Phantoms coach Terry Murray said, “and to play the game right through to the last whistle. … It was a game that I wanted to pour everything in, leave everything on the ice and get a win to finish the season.”

There was also an element of physicality to their game that was refreshing to see. Mark Alt got leveled along the right-wing board and Garrett Roe immediately jumped to his defense, wrestling with the 6-foot-4, 205-pound Mike Hoeffel. Roe is generally listed at 5-foot-9 and 180 pounds.

They didn't get fighting majors, nor did Derek Mathers for his psuedo-bout with Cam Janssen. I'm not sure either of them wound up throwing a punch in that one before they fell to the ice. I asked Mathers if he was upset that that didn't technically count as a fight since it was his first real test against an elite AHL heavyweight -- a guy who'd you put in the same ranks as a Joel Rechlicz or a Brett Gallant.

"It happens," Mathers said. "There's next year."

Yes, there is.

There's more from Kessel, Noebels and Murray in the print story, so check that out tomorrow.

Stay tuned for some more blog updates throughout the off-season. I'll probably count down some of Adirondack's top moments of the season, so stay on the lookout for those. Later this week I'll also take a look at who is under contract for next year and who isn't, and the potential for roster turnover.

I know you have a choice in your Adirondack Phantoms coverage, so thanks for sticking with us.

Until next time,

Pre-Game vs. Albany 4/21

Greetings from (competing newspaper's name redacted) Center in Albany, where the Adirondack Phantoms (30-38-3-4) and Albany Devils (31-31-1-12) will conclude their regular seasons.

It's a match-up of two teams who won't make the playoffs and can not move up at all in the standings. The most interesting thing about this game is probably that the Devils can secure their first winning season since moving to Albany with a victory. A caveat in that: They have gone 8-2-0-1 against the Phantoms this season, including a perfect 4-0 on this ice, and 23-29-1-11 against the rest of the AHL.

The Phantoms, who will conclude the worst season in franchise history, go with Cal Heeter in goal. The Devils counter with Keith Kinkaid. For the last time this season, full lines and links are below.

F: McGinn-Laughton-Akeson
D: Konan-Eddy
G: Heeter

F: Boucher-DeSimone-Whitney
D: Leach-Severson
G: Kinkaid

Referees: Ryan Hersey, Darcy Burchell. Linesmen: Frank Murphy, Rich Party.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Falcons 3, Phantoms 2 4/20

This Adirondack Phantoms game, perhaps moreso than others, seemed to follow the overall blueprint of their season. They trailed early. They fought back. They trailed again. They came up short.

The Springfield Falcons, a team that needed this win to increase their chances of taking the No. 2 seed in the conference and the extra round of home ice advantage that comes with it, scored two quick goals in the second period and survived Adirondack's comeback to win 3-2 at the Civic Center.

The loss guaranteed that this will be the statistically worst season in the Phantoms' franchise's 17-year history. They can do no better than 69 points, and the previous record for fewest points in a season was set during 2006-07. That team had 70, though it did play four more games. Still, unless the Phantoms score 15 goals tomorrow, this will be the lowest-scoring season -- by far -- in team history.

After Mark Alt scored his first professional goal -- the one that won the 15-round shootout didn't officially count -- to tie the game 1-1 in the second period, the Phantoms surrendered the go-ahead goal less than a minute later. Spencer Machacek banged home Nick Drazenovic's centering feed, and Drazenovic made a heck of a play to set up another goal by Jake Hansen later in that frame. He carried the puck into the zone, beat two defensemen as he cut across the ice to the left wing, and then slid a pass to the slot for Jake Hansen to tap home to give the Falcons a 3-1 lead after 40 minutes.

That was pretty much your ballgame, though the Phantoms didn't do themselves any favors early. Boone Jenner scored just 89 seconds after puck drop, the fourth time the Falcons scored the first goal in the opening six minutes in six tries against the Phantoms this year. Reporters asked Phantoms coach Terry Murray what about the Falcons made that statistic possible, and he gave good insight:

"They understand the importance of just playing the right way," Murray said. "Play their own game, stay above the puck, hoping that they can pressure the puck at the right time and create a turnover. They counter back off those situations and they got the look they wanted here again tonight. That's the way it was the last time we played in Springfield. They come out after winning the third period to win that one game, they really overwhelmed us. They came hard with a lot of pucks to the net. Whenever they get the lead, they've got the mindset that is the proper one. They know how to shut things down."

The Phantoms tried to stage another dramatic comeback like they did in Sunday's game.

They pulled within a goal when Rob Bordson scored shorthanded early in the third, and fired a slew of point-blank chances toward former RPI goalie Allen York with less than 10 seconds to go. The biggest one came when he denied Scott Laughton with about three seconds on the clock. It was the kind of high-energy, desperate hockey that would get the Phantoms places if they did it earlier.

“You ask yourself after the game, ‘Why?’” Bordson said. “‘Why in the third? Why can’t we do that in the second?’”

If they haven't figured that out by the 75th game of the season, they're probably not going to this year.

There's much more from Murray and Bordson in the print story, available here. Did you know that this is the 40th one-goal game the Phantoms have played this year? Now you do.

More after the finale in Albany tomorrow,

Pre-Game vs. Springfield 4/20

Greetings for one final time from the Glens Falls Civic Center, where the Adirondack Phantoms and Springfield Falcons have hit the ice for warm-ups. It's Adirondack's home finale and the outright finale for the Falcons, who are looking to wrap up the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference. They can do that with a win and a Syracuse Crunch loss. If the Falcons win, they'll also tie the franchise record for wins in a season with 45. That was set in 1997-98, when AHL teams played 80 games, not 76.

Springfield rests No. 1 goalie Curtis McElhinney, but goes with former RPI product Allen York and a line-up with most of their other regulars. Brian Boucher stands in their way for the Phantoms, who have made some line changes after last night's loss to the Hershey Bears. You can see those below.

F: Collins-Hansen-Drazenovic
D: Holden-Parlett
G: York

F: McGinn-Laughton-Akeson
D: Konan-Eddy
G: Boucher

Referee: Ryan Hersey. Linesmen: Steeve Lemay, Frank Murphy.

More after the game,

Friday, April 19, 2013

Bears 2, Phantoms 1 4/19

 One of the biggest moments in this game came when Tye McGinn had a goal waved off for making a distinct kicking motion, which would have put the Adirondack Phantoms up 2-0 in the second period.

McGinn said he did kick the puck in, so the referees made the right call, but the Bears had tied the score 1-1 before the break and then scored a late controversial goal to win 2-1 at the Civic Center.

Phantoms coach Terry Murray was upset that referee Geno Binda initially ruled the play a goal, but then overturned the ruling after consulting with his linesmen -- not the video review system. The Phantoms asked for such a review, but the linesmen were so confident that it was kicked in that they did not have to consult the video. The replay could have very well been inconclusive anyway, as McGinn made the kicking motion fairly far away from the net. The overhead camera only really covers the area immediately around the net, and it's unlikely that they would have caught the kick.

Adding to Murray's frustration, though, was Michael Latta's goal with less than five minutes to play.

He felt the play was offside "by two feet" and should have been blown dead. But play was allowed to continue, and the Bears winger hit Latta with a pin-point centering feed that he buried past Cal Heeter. Everything about that goal was legal, except for the offsides, but AHL rules dictate that an otherwise legal goal can't be negated if it's later determined that the team that did it was offsides.

Murray acknowledged that, but said it was still an unfortunate way to lose.

"Those linesmen, we get them all year long, and in a big game like this, the kids pour their heart into the game and they screw them with an offside call that’s so clear,” he said. “I don’t get it. I don’t get it."

However, the Phantoms had more than enough chances to build a multi-goal lead early in the game. If they converted on them, they might have been able to withstand Cam Schilling's game-tying goal late in the second period and then Latta's controversial goal that ultimately won the game in the third.

In the first period alone, Jason Akeson hit the post on a rush down the right wing before Rob Bordson put one off the crossbar on a nearly identical rush down the left side. After trying to bank a rebound in off Philipp Grubauer that went wide in the first period, Jon Sim put one over the net in the second.

“We had our opportunities,” Murray said, “but in the big picture of the game we had too many holes in our game: Too many turnovers, too many plays that were not happening to get deep into the offensive zone. Those will come back to haunt you all of the time.”

Especially when you're playing a team like the Bears, who entered the game two points back of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. They're now tied with three other teams at 79 points. Only two of them will make the playoffs. Should make for some interesting showdowns this weekend.

The Phantoms, meanwhile, were again doomed by their inability to finish chances.

They remain well on pace to shatter the Phantoms franchise record for fewest goals in a season, and fell to 7-33-3 when scoring two or fewer goals. The team is 0-18 when it scores zero or one.

“We needed to play a lot better in the first and second period,” McGinn said. “That’s the bottom line.”


The biggest story of night, however, is undoubtedly the news out of Boston, which the Phantoms announced during a promotional timeout in the third period. The crowd of 3,162 erupted in applause, and then joined in the chorus of "Sweet Caroline," the song that has become the hymn of the Boston Red Sox. U-S-A chants started as the song faded out, then grew more fervent as play resumed. 

Until next time,

Pre-game vs. Hershey 4/19

Greetings from Glens Falls Civic Center, where the Adirondack Phantoms (30-36-3-4) and Hershey Bears (34-30-3-6) have hit the ice for warm-ups in a game with serious AHL playoff implications.

Not so much for the Phantoms, who have long been out of the hunt, but for their opponents.

This is a key game for the Bears, who enter Friday night tied with the Manchester Monarchs for ninth place in the Eastern Conference. Connecticut and Norfolk each have 79 points, which place them in the seventh and eighth (and final) playoff spots as the they head into the final weekend of the season.

A loss to the Phantoms tonight would certainly hurt Hershey's playoff chances, but the Phantoms aren't necessarily embracing the role of spoiler. They're more or less focused on what's going on in their own dressing room. If they happen to ruin a team's playoff chances in the process, so be it. But it is definitely not their primary motivation as they get set to begin their final weekend of the season.

Cal Heeter gets the start. Philipp Grubauer, Marcel Noebels' countryman and friend, opposes him.

Zack FitzGerald won't go for the Phantoms. He's still out with the hip pointer he suffered on Sunday. The Phantoms originally indicated that was a leg injury, but have since updated their information.

Shane Harper takes his spot on the forward lines.

Blake Kessel is in for Brandon Manning, who has been recalled to Philadelphia, on defense.

F: DiSalvatore-Taffe-Crabb
D: Schilling-Brouillette
G: Grubauer

F: McGinn-Roe-Akeson
D: Konan-Eddy
G: Heeter

Referee: Geno Binda. Linesmen: Mike Emanatian, Steeve Lemay.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Konan back 4/17

Matt Konan did not need a good night’s sleep to make it through practice Wednesday morning.

The Adirondack Phantoms defenseman was still on an emotional high from his first career NHL call-up.

Konan, a 21-year-old rookie, joined the Philadelphia Flyers in time for their game against the New York Rangers Tuesday in Philadelphia. Konan took warm-ups with the Flyers – wearing a No. 34 jersey with his name on it – before coaches made him a late healthy scratch, and he began heading back to Glens Falls.

Konan and Phantoms defenseman Brandon Manning had been called up after Flyers defenseman Kent Huskins was concussed in a game Monday night. Manning replaced Huskins in the line-up, while Konan was there as insurance in case an ailment kept former Phantoms defenseman Oliver Lauridsen off the ice.

Both Konan and Lauridsen took warm-ups, and Konan learned his official NHL debut would have to wait.

“Ollie’s knee was fine, so he stayed in the line-up and they took me out,” Konan said Wednesday morning. “I was a little disappointed. I wanted to play and stay there. But it was a great shot, a great experience.”

His return to Glens Falls, however, was far from great.

Konan’s phone died while he was in Philadelphia, so he could not tell his roommate, Phantoms forward Tyler Brown, that he was coming home. Brown, who has the apartment’s only key, had long been asleep by the time that Konan arrived back in Glens Falls at 2 a.m. Brown had, appropriately, locked the door.

It turns out that Brown is also a heavy sleeper.

“I was banging on the door for an hour, calling people,” Konan said. “Then no one answered, so I had to get a hotel. It was kind of a rough night. … It was a good day, up until that point.”

The rush of emotions started Monday night, when he got a call after the Flyers’ 7-3 victory in Montreal. Huskins was going to be out indefinitely with a concussion, and Konan was being summoned to the NHL.

Konan wanted to hop in his car and drive to Philadelphia immediately, but it was late. He decided to take off Tuesday morning for Philadelphia, and arrived shortly after noon. He had a pre-game meal at the Olive Garden – spaghetti and meatballs – and then took a pre-game nap. When he arrived at Wells Fargo Center, he saw a bright orange Flyers jersey with his name on it hanging in a stall in the dressing room.

“That’s the best feeling ever,” Konan said. “That was really exciting.”

The next stall over belonged to Flyers captain Claude Giroux, which Konan said was “really cool.” It was a bit of a Phantoms reunion, as three other defensemen in the room had played for Adirondack this season.

There were also players like Brayden Schenn, Sean Couturier and Zac Rinaldo that had spent the lockout with the Phantoms, as well as established NHL veterans like Kimmo Timonen, Giroux and Scott Hartnell.

“Just being with all the guys and being in there was awesome,” Konan said. “I can’t ask for anything else. That was like a dream come true … I just want to play next time, and hopefully put the jersey on more.”

Konan watched the game from downstairs, and left before it ended to catch a ride back to Glens Falls. Before he left, however, he spoke with Flyers coach Peter Laviolette and general manager Paul Holmgren.

Paraphrasing that conversation, Konan said the two gave him a vote of confidence. They applauded his season with the Phantoms, and encouraged him to continue playing well and making strides in his game: One that sees him move the puck well and set things up in the offensive zone without being a liability in his own end of the ice. He has gradually improved since the start of the season, despite missing time with a concussion, and his confidence and comfort level is now at an all-time high.

“I don’t think I’ve gotten a lot better, but I’ve gotten better for sure,” Konan said. “I was a great player when I got here and I’m a great player now. I just have to keep getting better. That’s all I can do."

If he does that, he eventually won't need the key to an apartment in Glens Falls.

Philadelphia, on the other hand, is a different story.


A couple other notes from this morning.

Zack FitzGerald, who injured his leg when he missed a check and collided with the boards on Sunday afternoon, did not practice today. Without him to drop back to defense, Ian Slater skated as a defenseman to give the Phantoms four pairings at practice. Don't read too much into that as a permanent position change, but it does cast doubt on Slater playing in at least Friday night's game.

Without FitzGerald, the fourth line consisted of some variation of Shane Harper, Derek Mathers, Garrett Roe and David Laliberte. The other three lines were unchanged from this past weekend.

Jeff Dimmen and Blake Kessel got some power play time in practice today, but it looked like Terry Murray was rotating blueliners on the No. 2 unit. Konan also got some time with those guys.

In Philadelphia, Phantoms alumnus Zac Rinaldo and Jay Rosehill got two-year contract extensions.

Back in Adirondack, chatted briefly with Rob Bordson and Garrett Roe this morning about how the team is going to approach these final three games. And those two, individually, since these are their final games on their current American Hockey League deals. Look for that story in Friday's paper.

Until next time,

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Konan, Manning called up 4/16

The Adirondack Phantoms’ blue line got a little thinner on Tuesday afternoon, as the Philadelphia Flyers called up two defensemen to address injuries on their blue line.

Brandon Manning and Matt Konan were scheduled to join the Flyers in time for their game against the New York Rangers Tuesday in Philadelphia. Kent Huskins has a concussion, and Bruno Gervais will undergo surgery later this week to repair a torn stomach muscle.

When the Flyers announced the call-ups, I immediately thought back to this story from October.

There was certainly a parallel to be drawn between Konan, an undrafted defenseman who was entering his rookie year on the heels of an injury, and Manning, another undrafted defenseman who had been through the same thing the season before. Manning wound up in the NHL later that year. Now, they’re both going.

I did the reporting for a profile on Konan last month, but never had the chance to write it. So here are some of those comments with you now to give you guys an idea of what to look for tonight.

He’s a big defenseman at 6-foot-3, and is looking to add muscle onto his frame. He’s got some speed. He can move the puck pretty well – either carrying himself or passing it – and set things up in the offensive zone. He’s also not going to do all of that stuff at the expense of being a liability in his own end of the ice.

He has a minus-8 plus-minus rating, which is not all that bad on a team that’s been outscored by 36 goals.

“He’s a player that’s grabbed our attention since he has come back from Trenton,” Phantoms coach Terry Murray said last month. “First of all, he’s big. He gets around the ice pretty well. He’s competing. He’s got a lot to learn in that part of it. There’s a lot in the dot-to-board game that needs to get better and it will get better as he matures, but there’s a nice upside to his game. There’s a serious prospect in him. And the more we can play him right now in critical situations, the better it’s going to be for us as an organization.”

Konan produced 54 points in his final season of junior hockey, playing as an overager on a very good Medicine Hat Tigers team. Before that, his career high was 20. This season, he has produced two goals and six points in 42 games. Asked Murray last month if he thought Konan projected as an offensive defenseman or more of a stay-at-home type, and he said the answer to that question remains to be seen. He'd like to believe that Konan is a two-way guy who can put up points, which is why he's on the power play.

In addition to undergoing off-season surgery, which delayed his professional debut by nearly two months, Konan missed eight games in January after suffering a concussion on a collision with the end boards in practice. It took Konan some time to return to normal after that concussion, but he has regained his confidence. He’s moving his feet more, making quicker decisions with and without the puck, and making them within the scope of Adirondack’s system. That took some time for him to learn earlier in the year.

Murray paired him with Andreas Lilja, a veteran of 577 NHL games, and the two worked well together. Like a veteran goalie mentoring a young netminder, Lilja took Konan under his wing. Lilja helped teach him when to support his partner, and improve his communication when recovering pucks in his own end.

The Manning call-up is significant in another way. He has, by his own admission, not had a great season with the Phantoms – either on the offensive or defensive side of the ledger. However, he has also had a season-long battle with injuries and illnesses. In November, for example, he dropped down from 202 pounds to 189. He didn’t score a goal that month, part of a stretch in which he went 17 games without one.

For the first time in his career, he lost his confidence. But he has regained it in the past few months, and was hoping to use these final few games on his contract to leave a good impression on the Flyers’ brass and prove that he’s a better hockey player than his statistics, especially his AHL-worst negative-28 plus-minus rating, indicate. The fact that he’s getting a call-up indicates the Flyers still have some faith in him.

“His game has, I think from the middle of the season, come to where it was the previous season from all the indications I’ve gotten from the other coaches,” Murray told me earlier this month. “There are a lot of good things. There’s lot to build on. There’s potential there. … There’s an upside there.”

For more on Manning’s season, and how he’s built back his confidence, check out this story from earlier this month. There’s also a blurb in there about Manning’s thoughts on his plus-minus rating.

The Phantoms did not practice this morning. The absence of Manning and Konan, however, will create an opportunity for Jeff Dimmen and Blake Kessel to get back in the line-up. There’s also a lesser chance that Zack FitzGerald could drop down from left wing to defenseman, but Murray likes FitzGerald as a forward.

They’re back at it tomorrow. Check for the next blog update then.

Until next time,

Monday, April 15, 2013

Holmgren comments 4/15

The Providence Bruins, Springfield Falcons and Grand Rapids Griffins have all punched their tickets to the 2013 Calder Cup Playoffs. By doing that, they have left Glens Falls as the only current American Hockey League city to have not iced a playoff team over the past four years.

The Adirondack Phantoms, who have not won more than half their games in any of their four seasons in Glens Falls, will miss the playoffs for a fourth straight season. They enter their final three games with a season record of 30-36-3-4 and an all-time mark of 130-151-12-16. They must win one of their remaining games to avoid setting a new total for the fewest wins in a season here.

If they win all three, however, they will become the second-most successful team in Adirondack Phantoms history. Last year they won 37 games, better than the 32 the Phantoms posted in their inaugural season and the 31 they had the following year, in which they opened the year 6-23-0-2.

In that time, however, the parent Philadelphia Flyers have reached the Stanley Cup Finals, and followed that up with back-to-back 47-win seasons. Before the first, 2010-11, they had not won 47 games in a year in a quarter-century, when the 1985-86 team tied a franchise record with 53 wins.

With all that said, how important is it for the Flyers to ice a winning team at the AHL level?

“It’s real important, and I know it hasn’t been done here since we’ve been in Glens Falls, which is discouraging and disheartening to me,” Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren said as he watched the Phantoms beat Binghamton on Sunday. “Not in our defense, but I think one of the reasons is in order to supplement the Flyers, we’ve given away a lot of draft picks over the years.”

Not only draft picks, but high draft picks.

From 2008 to 2011, the years that would primarily benefit the Phantoms, the Flyers drafted a grand total of two players in the first or second rounds. One came in 2008, when they drafted Luca Sbisa 19th overall. The other came in 2011, when they selected Sean Couturier at No. 8.

Sbisa was gone before the Phantoms moved to Glens Falls, traded to Anaheim with Philadelphia’s first-round picks in 2009 and 2010 as but a part of the package that landed the Flyers Chris Pronger. Couturier was promptly promoted to Philadelphia, and likely would not have ever even needed to locate Glens Falls on a map if it was not for the effects of this lockout-shortened season.

In the 2009 and 2010 NHL Drafts the Flyers did not pick until the final ten picks of third round. The players they did select with their top choices never made it to the Phantoms. That has left the Flyers, by and large, to fill out Adirondack’s roster with undrafted free agents out of college or juniors, veteran free agents, or players that they have acquired in trades with other organizations.

There is nothing necessarily wrong with that approach – Jason Akeson was undrafted, and Danny Syvret was initially acquired in a trade and they are the top-two scorers on the team – but there is a trade-off that comes with trading away draft picks. They are the lifeblood with which deals in the National Hockey League are made. Giving yourself less of them to begin with gives you less prospects in your system, and you are now competing against as many as 29 other teams to sign another player to fill that roster spot. All it takes is one of them to make a better offer than you.

Having more draft picks – and using them well – also opens up a world of opportunity in trading. That’s how Pittsburgh general manager Ray Shero was able to get Jarome Iginla, Douglas Murray, Jussi Jokinen and Brenden Morrow, in about one week, without having to give up a roster player.

This past summer, though, the Flyers departed from their recent tradition. They selected four players below the fourth round, a draft class that was headlined by two-way center Scott Laughton at 20th overall. The last time they did that was 2006, before Holmgren became general manager.

However, most 2012 draft picks won’t become AHL-eligible on a full-time basis until the 2014-15 season. By that point, the Phantoms will have already moved to their new arena in Allentown, Pa.

“Now we’re starting to turn the page a little bit where we’re restocking our cupboard with draft picks that are now playing here,” Holmgren said. “Like (Nick) Cousins and (Marcel) Noebels. (Tye) McGinn. We’ve added some college free agents like (Erik) Gustafsson. (Brandon) Manning was a free agent. We’ve done a good job, I think, at restocking our cupboard, so to speak.”

Philadelphia’s AHL prospect pool may be deeper than it has been in recent seasons, especially at this moment. Players like Cousins, Kyle Flanagan, Mark Alt, Brandon Alderson and Derek Mathers, who have all shown flashes of promise, are becoming AHL eligible full-time next season.

“It’s very important to have a winning team as your top development team,” Holmgren said. “Unfortunately, it just hasn’t happened. This year, I’m encouraged by how they’re playing right now."

Why is it so important? Well, as Phantoms coach Terry Murray said earlier this season, the playoffs are where a team's prospects "earn their stripes," in high-pressure situations with the season hanging in the balance. Murray also said, however, that organization's AHL team shouldn't be a dominant one and run away with the conference, because then a team's prospects might not realize the importance of coming hard to the rink every day and learning what it takes to be successful on a consistent basis.

Holmgren said he was pleased with Murray in the coach's return to the Flyers organization. There are 13 players who have played for both the Phantoms and Flyers this season, though that total is boosted by the NHL players like Couturier and Brayden Schenn, who spent the lockout with the Phantoms. The team's continued struggles might be explained by its roster upheaval in mid-January, when it lost roughly a half-dozen players to the NHL. Holmgren equated the situation to the Phantoms basically getting a whole other team in mid-year. The lessons Murray taught the old group had to be re-taught.

"I think the coaches have done a good job under the circumstances they were in this year, with the lockout and losing all those players and the transition to the other team, so to speak,” Holmgren said.

The coaching staff, headed by Murray, has taken the blunt of public criticism, especially as the Phantoms fell into the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings. He is under contract for next season, and Holmgren’s comments indicate that his job in Glens Falls appears to be safe.

There is always a chance that a National Hockey League team comes calling, but this next season will be interesting for Murray if he stays. In his 17 years as a head coach, only five of his teams have not qualified for the playoffs. Four of them came in his first year at the helm of the team.

The Baltimore Skipjacks won 30 games in Murray’s first year as a professional head coach, then won 26 of their first 45 before he got called up to the NHL. The Florida Panthers won 30 games in 1998-99, then 43 the following year. He inherited a particularly young team in Los Angeles and won 34 games in his debut campaign, but he then guided them to back-to-back 46-win seasons.

Once the team gets the system and understands his coaching methods – and he understands them as players – they almost exclusively improve. But will these same players return next year? Roughly 10 of them will have their contracts – either NHL or AHL – expire at the end of the year.

Holmgren said restricted free agents – like Manning, Shane Harper and Blake Kessel – would likely receive qualifying offers, though a final decision would not be made until the offseason. The Flyers cannot sign more than 50 players to NHL contracts, and there are a number of those that are set to begin next season. Alt, Alderson, Cousins, Flanagan and Mathers, for example, are five.

On an AHL level, the Flyers are pleased with the efforts of Jon Sim and Zack FitzGerald as veteran presences in the locker room. Both of those players have also expressed an interest in returning.

“We’ll certainly have a conversation with Jon,” Holmgren said. “I think he’s been older guy for the young guys that we have here. And Zack, obviously, he provides a certain element. We like Zack.”

Others, Holmgren said, would be examined a case-by-case basis. It becomes a numbers game at some point, and there are only so many roster spots that are going to be available in Glens Falls.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Laughton impresses 4/14

Scott Laughton is not long for Glens Falls, but he is leaving a lasting impression while he is here.

He recorded an assist in his first American Hockey League game on Friday night, then scored his first professional goal less than 24 hours later to help the Phantoms beat the Connecticut Whale.

The 18-year-old Laughton, a standout center for his junior hockey team in Oshawa, Ontario, was Philadelphia’s first-round pick in the 2012 NHL Draft. The National Hockey League’s transfer agreement with the Canadian junior leagues dictates that he must either spend next season in the NHL, presumably with the Flyers, or be returned to his junior team until its concludes its season.

He could theoretically join the Phantoms again once that happens – like he has done this season – but it would not be for more than a handful of contests. And with the Phantoms set to move to a new arena in Allentown, Pa., the following season, the window to see Laughton play here is small.

In his limited time here, Laughton has been strong on face-offs in all situations – the power play, the penalty kill and even-strength – and has shown the defensive instincts that got him drafted 20th overall, and a five-game audition with the Flyers at the start of this lockout-shortened year.

On the play on which he scored his first pro goal, he picked up an errant pass that had bounced off New York Rangers’ playoff hero Chris Kreider’s stick just outside the Whale blue line. Shorthanded, he rushed into the zone and fired a shot that hit a defenseman and fluttered into the net behind goalie Cam Talbot for a 1-0 lead. The whole sequence unfolded in a matter of seconds.

“That’s why he’s a first-round pick,” Phantoms coach Terry Murray said Saturday night. “Those are the things those guys do. They have talent, they have skill, they have instincts. They have a high IQ on the ice. You make plays with the puck, you make plays without the puck and that’s why these guys are players that end up in the National Hockey League – and very effective players.”

The first-round draft pick label is one that will stick with Laughton throughout his career, whether he likes it or not. There is a certain level of play that is expected out of such players.

So far, Laughton has played at that level. Had he not been, he would have been pulled off the team’s No. 1 line, or the special teams units. But he is still there, and has excelled with the added responsibilities that come with them, despite playing just eight career games as a professional.

“It’s all a level playing field now. It doesn’t matter if you’re a first-round pick or a seventh-round pick,” Murray said Saturday. “When you turn pro, it’s ‘What are you going to do for me now?’ It’s not what you have done. He’s got a lot of growing to do. He’s a fine player, he’s a good person. There’s a nice upside to it, but it’s time to start showing what you can do right now. That’s how you earn your right to get on the ice. I’m not going to hand him ice time because he’s a first-round pick. You have to go out and do the right things, play the right way – and he’s doing that.”

Laughton projects as a two-way center, but he is primarily regarded for his defensive play. When he was invited to Philadelphia’s training camp – and subsequently made the roster – he drew comparisons to Sean Couturier, a similar talent who did the same exact thing the prior season.

When they sent him back to Oshawa – in part so as not to burn a year of his entry-level contract in this labor-shortened season, also because Daniel Briere became healthy – Laughton made a conscious effort to focus on improving his offense, finishing with 23 points in his final 17 games.

“I think I knew what I had to work on,” Laughton said. “I was pretty good defensively, and I think that’s why I stayed (in Philly). I wanted to work on my offensive game and this summer, getting bigger, to try to make that step. It’s always a big guy’s game, so just try and get bigger and faster.”

If he does that, there is a good chance that these next three games in Glens Falls could be his last.

“It’s a big summer for him,” Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren said Sunday afternoon. “He needs to get stronger, like most young kids. When you’re playing in the NHL, you’re playing against a lot bigger and stronger guys than you’re used to playing against probably in junior hockey or even in the American League. In the five games he played at the start of the year for us, he didn’t look out of place there either. In the game Friday night, I thought he was one of the better players. Today, playing three-in-three, he’s holding his own for an 18-year-old kid.”

Holmgren said speed has never been Laughton’s issue, and that it’s primarily just packing muscle onto his 6-foot-1 frame. He was listed at 177 pounds at the start of the year, but is building it up.

“He just needs to continue to develop and mature physically and get stronger,” Holmgren said. “A lot of times, you can’t really speed that up. It just happens as you get older.”

Friday, April 12, 2013

Dan Miner Bobbleheads 4/13


GLENS FALLS -- Dan Miner has worked in radio for three decades, and for Glens Falls hockey
teams for 22 years.

He still gets butterflies when he signs on in the morning, and the first time he cues up the public address microphone at the Civic Center. If he did not, he says he’d be in the wrong line of work.

But Miner is a different kind of nervous for Saturday’s Adirondack Phantoms home game.

That is because the first 2,500 fans through the Civic Center doors – the same ones he has walked through since they first opened in 1979 – will be handed a bobble head doll bearing the likeness of the 1983 Whitehall High School graduate, a longtime staple of the local hockey and radio scenes.

“I’m nervous about it, but in a good way. I hope everything comes together, and that 2,500 people actually show up,” he joked. “That’s been my biggest nightmare. There are 2,500 of these things. What happens if there are only 2,100 people? What are they going to do with the other 400?”

Miner probably does not have to worry about those fears coming to fruition.

The Phantoms are playing the Connecticut Whale, the top affiliate of the New York Rangers, and Christian rock band The Wrecking will perform after the game as part of Faith and Family Night.

More than 3,500 tickets have already been sold, according to the Phantoms.

The team anticipates that fans will be lining up at the doors waiting to get in, and Miner himself is bringing a small army of friends and family to witness the game at which he will be immortalized.

“I’ve got 65 tickets that I’ve got just from people that I know that are coming with me,” Miner said. “That doesn’t include other people that I know that are going with other groups. It’s just really overwhelming. It’s been a lot of fun. It really has been. I’m know I’m going to get busted.”

Miner, who co-hosts the morning drive show on WCKM, where he is the station manager, initially believed the Phantoms were busting him when they approached him last summer with the idea of creating a bobble head version of himself. It was not until the Phantoms released a promotional schedule, listing Dan Miner Bobble Head Night as April 13, that Miner realized they were serious.

“I really thought the whole thing was a prank,” he said.

Since the giveaway was announced, Miner has been getting all kinds of congratulatory messages.

“I’ve been hearing from people that I literally have not heard from in 20 years that I know from the Civic Center,” he said in a telephone interview earlier this week. “I’ve heard from classmates that I graduated from high school with back in 1983. … This has taken a whole life on for itself.”

The same could be argued of Miner’s radio career, which began not that long after he left high school. He was one month into his studies at Adirondack Community College, now SUNY Adirondack, when he accepted a job with a radio station in Ticonderoga. He has been with Regional Radio Group in Glens Falls for 16 years, and currently serves as a station manager.

His involvement with Glens Falls-based hockey games began before that, however.

After first covering the team for the Ticonderoga radio station during the 1985-86 season, he became the in-arena host for Adirondack Red Wings games beginning in 1991. In 1999, he became the public address announcer for the Adirondack IceHawks United Hockey League team.

He has taken the latter role with the Phantoms, as well as working as an off-ice official. He is perhaps best known for his signature catchphrase – “Not tonight” – which he says after announcing the names of particular scratches for that night’s game.

He borrowed the idea from Adirondack Red Wings public address announcer Greg Patrei, who read it without the inflection and flair that Miner provides. It has now become a sort of rite of passage for some players, a sign they are respected for something they have done on the ice.

“Not everybody qualifies for it,” Miner explained. “You have to earn that, and it goes for the home guys and the away guys as well, too. I do my studying up to see who deserves one for the away team when they’re scratches and for the home team I know pretty much.”

The Phantoms initially toyed with the idea of having the bobblehead Miner say “Not tonight,” but ultimately decided against it. Still, Miner remains in a state of disbelief on the eve of the giveaway.

When he began his radio career 30 years ago, this was something that never crossed his mind.

“I don’t know many people that set out that goal when they’re young and say ‘This is what I want to do.’ I’ve worked on my profession, I’ve worked on my craft and I’ve been able to do it. I’ve been able to make a good living doing it,” Miner said of his radio career. “I still enjoy it. … It’s just a passion. I’ve been really lucky. I’ve worked with some really good people and I’ve been given opportunities that a lot of people would never be able to get. I’ve been very fortunate.”

At the conclusion of the game, Miner will celebrate with his friends and family, some of whom he first came to games with as an Adirondack Red Wings fan in 1979. While “Not tonight” may be his way of showing certain players respect, this gesture is the team’s way of showing Miner theirs.

“He’s been involved with hockey for so long,” Phantoms Executive Vice President Chris Porreca said. “He’s our PA announcer. He’s an ambassador for hockey. We thought it was the right thing to do.”

Springfield 3, Phantoms 2 4/12

Adirondack Phantoms coach Terry Murray said after this 3-2 loss to the Springfield Falcons that it was an inability to generate any momentum on three second-period power plays that did them in.

An alternate theory: The Phantoms just didn't dress enough offensive firepower or experience.

The 18 skaters that Adirondack dressed scored 71 total goals for the Phantoms this year before the start of the game. For comparison, Springfield’s top four goal-scorers – Jonathan Audy-Marchessault, Ryan Craig, Nick Drazenovic and Spencer Machacek – had totaled 70 for the Falcons between them.

Of the 20 players the Phantoms dressed, two were making their AHL season debuts. Another four weren’t with the team three weeks ago. Three more were rookies, and four were second-year pros.

That left all of seven players with more than two seasons of professional hockey on their resumes, and the players at times seemed like they were struggling to find that coveted chemistry on the ice.

That's not a knock on the caliber of talent the Phantoms had in the line-up. A lot of these newcomers have the potential to go on to have successful careers in this league and beyond. You can see why Scott Laughton has already played five games in the NHL. Great vision on both offense and defense. He wanted to have the puck on his stick, and knew how to find teammates he'd skated with once. Mark Alt picked up his first professional point on Matt Konan's tying goal in the third period. Kyle Flanagan has developed some great chemistry with Marcel Noebels, who is more confident than ever.

At this point in their careers, however, they ran into one of the best teams in the American Hockey League, which is playing some of its best hockey of the season as they try and wrap up home ice throughout the Calder Cup Playoffs. And the Falcons skated away with a narrow, one-goal victory.

"I thought overall our game was good," Murray said. "I liked our execution most of the time. I liked our compete was pretty good. The young kids, for their first game, I thought they were pretty good."

There was a glaring, 15-minute stretch that was a notable exception to that.

The Falcons outshot the Phantoms 10-3 over the final 15 minutes of the second period, and Murray pointed the blame for that squarely on the team's power play not being able to generate momentum.

He could have lived with going 1-for-6, so long as the Phantoms got scoring chances on the power play and were able to translate that into some sustained pressure in the five-on-five play. Instead, they got absolutely nothing going when they spent 4:00 of a 4-minute, 13-second span in the second period on the power play, and then that was what ultimately carried over into their five-on-five play.

“You need to have some momentum carry over so that you can come out and play nice tempo and just follow through with your next shift five-on-five,” Murray said. “I thought we looked a little out of place with our five-on-five, and that was a direct result of what happened on the power play.”

Did Springfield make a penalty killing adjustment after allowing a goal in the first period? Was it something on Adirondack's end? Did it have anything to do with the No. 2 power play unit consisting of three players who were playing either junior or collegiate hockey less than one month ago?

"Maybe a little lack of focus between periods," said Matt Konan, who eventually knotted the score 2-2 with a drive from the center point in the third. "Coming out flat, not making the passes. Not supporting each other. Playing too spread out so you couldn't connect the passes. That's what hurt us."

The game-winning goal was a bit of a broken play. The Phantoms went to clear the puck out, but it hit a defenseman and the Falcons jumped on the loose puck. They worked it to Spencer Machacek in the slot, and he backhanded a rebound past Brian Boucher just 4:24 before the final horn. Ballgame.


Here's Murray on Scott Laughton, who centered the team's No. 1 line and No. 1 power play unit and also spent time on the penalty kill after just having a Friday morning skate to meet his new team: "He's a very intelligent player. He has a high IQ on the ice. I thought he handled the workload -- and considering he'd been out of the line-up even in the OHL in the playoffs ... because of his suspension, to get back in after being out of a game situation for almost two weeks, he handled it very well."

Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren was here, and that probably had to do with Laughton playing that role. Keep in mind that this is a player who made the Flyers' roster out of training camp, but was sent back to major juniors so as not to burn a year of his entry-level contract on this 48-game season.

Laughton said it was good to see that the coaches had the confidence in him to put him in that role. He said he wasn't expecting to be placed in a role like that or to get that amount of playing time. Also, he said he had skated while he was suspended, so it wasn't like he was coming in completely cold.

It seemed like he was hungry to have the puck on his stick and carry it into the offensive zone. From what I gather, that's the way that Nick Cousins played in his season debut in Bridgeport on Sunday.

"I focus on my defensive game a lot," Laughton said. "I felt when I came back to Oshawa from the Flyers, I thought my offensive game took off. That was pretty nice, just try and get my numbers up."

Mark Alt, who referred to himself this week as a defensive defenseman, was thrust on the No. 2 power play. He only had seven assists with the University of Minnesota this season, but has been a point-producer in years past. He recorded his first assist on Konan's goal. Murray: "What we saw in our three days of practice is the ability to get the puck to the net. He has a very good shot. He's got nice mobility and pretty good vision on the ice. I think we saw that on that ... play to tie the game."

Andreas Lilja took Alt under his wing. Spent time talking to him on the bench and in breaks in play.

"I've only been here a week," Alt said. "Laughton just came in yesterday or today. There was kind of that 'We're just going to get out there and try to gel as fast as we could.' I think we did the best we could."

Wellwood, Suellentrop 4/12

Had the chance to catch up with Philadelphia Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren as he prepared to watch the Adirondack Phantoms take on the Springfield Falcons here at Glens Falls Civic Center.

There were a couple items of note from that conversation.

First, he said that Phantoms winger Eric Wellwood faces an expected nine-month road to recovery after undergoing surgery this week to surgically repair multiple tendons and ligaments that were severed in that freak accident in Sunday's game at Bridgeport. Most notably, Holmgren said that Wellwood's Achilles tendon was approximately 70 percent severed. It is believed Wellwood accidentally cut himself with his own skate as he stumbled to the ice while killing a penalty.

Nine months from today would be January 12, 2014.

Secondly, he said the Flyers organization is not currently considering having Oshawa Generals defenseman Colin Suellentrop, a fourth round draft pick in 2011, join the Phantoms on an amateur try-out contract. Suellentrop's junior season ended earlier this week, but Holmgren noted how the Phantoms already have eight healthy defensemen on the team. Things could get crowded back there.

Scott Laughton, the Philadelphia Flyers top pick in the 2012 NHL Draft, is making his American Hockey League debut tonight, centering a line with Tye McGinn and Jason Akeson. Mark Alt, the defenseman the Flyers acquired in the Luke Pither trade, is making his pro debut. He's paired with Andreas Lilja. Their arrivals give the Phantoms a total of nine rookies in uniform this evening.

The Phantoms have also switched up the lines a bit.

Garrett Roe, who had been centering McGinn and Akeson, dropped down to fourth-line duty. Zack FitzGerald and Derek Mathers are flanking him. The Marcel Noebels-Kyle Flanagan-Jon Sim and Rob Bordson-Nick Cousins-Brandon Alderson lines remain unchanged from practice this week.

More after the game.
-- MC


Alderson, Cousins reunited 4/12

Brandon Alderson and Nick Cousins have traded the red-and-white sweaters of their junior team, the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, for the black, orange and white of the Adirondack Phantoms.

They have gone from being two of the oldest players in their locker room to two of the youngest.

Their demeanor around each other, however, has not changed. The two forwards, the best of friends, were near inseparable in their final season of junior hockey. They played on the same line. They lived in the same house. And now, they are embarking on their pro careers together.

“Those two guys have great chemistry,” Phantoms coach Terry Murray said earlier this week. “When you speak to them in meetings individually, they always compliment each other and the kind of chemistry and feel they had for each other. That’s an important part of the game.”

Cousins and Alderson have taken slightly different paths to the American Hockey League.

Cousins, 19, is a Philadelphia Flyers draft pick, their third-round choice in 2011. He has been a perennial point producer in the Ontario Hockey League, and has grown his totals from 68 in his draft year to 88 last season to 103 this year, the 10th-highest total in all Canadian major juniors.

Alderson, 21, was an undrafted free agent that had never really emerged as a top-tier scoring threat until this season, his overage year, when he produced 28-36-64 in 67 games with the Greyhounds. That about equaled the 69 points he scored in his two prior seasons combined.

The Flyers signed him to an entry-level contract in March, and he joined the Phantoms when his junior season ended earlier last week. Alderson made his professional debut while Cousins stayed back in Sault Ste. Marie to answer to a sexual assault charge, which was ultimately withdrawn.

“It was tough mentally,” he said. “Obviously, it was a long eight months for me – and my family as well – but at the same time, you have to block all that stuff out and go out and play hockey. When I stepped on the ice, nothing else mattered other than just playing hockey and playing my game.”

Now that they have both settled in, Murray has reunited the two Greyhounds on the same line: Cousins stands at center, with Rob Bordson to his left and Alderson manning the right wing.

“It gives me a little bit of familiarity out there,” Alderson said of the line earlier this week. “We worked well together in junior. Hopefully it will translate over here the next couple of games.”

Their individual styles of play are conducive for the other to be successful.

Alderson stands at 6-foot-4, and is the more physical of the two players. He crashed and banged to create room for the 5-foot-11 Cousins to work his magic in the offensive zone. Cousins was a visionary with the puck, and recorded 76 assists. That was second in the OHL, 16 above the No. 3.

Alderson reaped the benefits of that, scoring a career-high 28 goals. He thought the game like a shooter, and liked to drive wide down the wing. As he did that, Cousins would go to the center of ice and draw defenders with him before dropping it off to Alderson for a shot. Another popular play saw Cousins turn up in the slot and hit Alderson as the trailer, creating more quality chances.

“I don’t want to pump his tires (i.e. inflate his ego), but he’s a big body,” Cousins said. “He creates space for me and he knows where to be on the ice. I know where to find him and I know when he wants the puck. We complement each other well. He sees the ice well. He’s a smart player.”

Here’s the interesting part: The Phantoms don’t plan to break the two of their creativity or chemistry.

The Phantoms have their own system, which is different than the one they are used to playing in Sault Ste. Marie, but players have some wiggle room when it comes to play below the face-off dot. From there, it becomes less of a rote, tactical approach and more of an individual using his talent.

“The systems that we play, it kind of fits my style of game,” Cousins said. “I like to create a lot of stuff on the offensive side of the puck. I think our system fits that way. I’m still new to all the systems. … It’ll take a little bit of adjustment for the first part, but hopefully I fit in well.”

So far, so good. Cousins made his season debut in a 4-1 loss to Bridgeport Sunday, and left a good first impression on the coaching staff. He took the body at any available opportunity, and did not appear nervous. He will look to build on that when the Springfield visits Glens Falls Friday night.

“He wanted to have the puck on his stick,” Murray said. “As a young player, to me, that’s not always the case. Sometimes (in) your first game, you’re a little jittery. You want to get it off your stick and move it right away. He wanted it on the breakouts and through the middle of the ice to attack. I like that kind of an attitude. That’s a little bit of that cockiness, inner arrogance that all pro players need to have in order to be successful.”

There is one noticeable change in Cousins’ game, though. The Phantoms emphasize checking – back and fore – and Alderson joked that Cousins had more hits that game than he did all season in Sault Ste. Marie. Asked about Alderson’s comment, Cousins said that it was a conscious effort.

“I think he’s right,” the center said with a laugh. “If you want to play at the next level, you have to play a 200-foot game. You have to play on both sides of the puck. That’s what I’m trying to improve on every day. That’s where I need to get better if I want to play at the next level. I think that was just the first step of improving my 200-foot game.”

Thursday, April 11, 2013

FitzGerald named Man of the Year 4/11


GLENS FALLS – Zack FitzGerald’s on-ice reputation precedes him.

The defenseman-turned-forward is one of the toughest players the American Hockey League has ever seen, and is exactly one fighting major away from earning his 1,500th career penalty minute.

When he signed with the Adirondack Phantoms over the summer, the eighth-year pro joked he almost needed to take out a public service announcement to apologize to any fans he may have “disrespected” when he came to the Civic Center as a rival. Antagonizing their team was his job.

FitzGerald never took out that advertisement, but he still won over the fans in record fashion.

They began to embrace FitzGerald before he even donned a Phantoms jersey for the first time, starting a “Free Fitzy” movement to encourage coach Terry Murray to put him in the line-up as he sat out as a healthy scratch. When he finally played, fans made him T-shirts and two mammoth signs that both spanned several panes of Plexiglas as the Phantoms took the ice for warm-ups.

And FitzGerald embraced them, appearing at radio shows, schools and youth hockey practices. He was one of the more popular players for fans to meet in post-game skates and autograph sessions, and he scribbled his name and number on more items than he can possibly remember.

It never got old, and it never will.

FitzGerald on Thursday was named the Adirondack Phantoms’ Man of the Year, which honors his contributions to charitable organizations and the Glens Falls community. He is now one of 30 finalists for the AHL’s Yanick Dupre Memorial Award, which is presented to the league’s Man of the Year.

“It definitely doesn’t hurt to be recognized,” FitzGerald said. “That’s not what it’s all about, but of course when you get praise for something it always feels good. In the end, it’s all about the fans. Really, it’s about the kids. It’s about the community. I think this is a great hockey town. I hated coming here, playing against this team. Now I love playing for them. It’s been great.”

It is the first such honor in FitzGerald’s career, though he has always felt a strong connection to the fans. He has been in their shoes before, back in his home of Two Harbors, Minn. He was six years old when his older brother, Rusty, began playing for the University of Minnesota-Duluth.

“I’d go to the games,” he said. “I’d wait for the sticks, the autographs. I know what it’s like to be there and I know what it’s like to get reaction from players and stuff. Why wouldn’t I? It’s part of the game. If a kid is yelling your name and you don’t have time for him, then I have a problem.”

His persona as a player is rooted in part in an experience he had when he was younger – probably about 11, he figures. Hall of Fame winger Brett Hull, who played his college hockey in Duluth, held a golf tournament there, and Wayne Gretzky was one of the participants. FitzGerald went.

“We watched (Gretzky) tee off and I had a broken arm at the time. He came up to me and asked me what it was,” FitzGerald said. “I told him it was a hockey injury. He was really nice and signed it for me and wished me luck and everything. That could have been it right there. … Wayne Gretzky, the greatest hockey player in the world, just came up to me and asked how my arm was.”

FitzGerald, throughout his career, has been like that. Via Facebook and Twitter, he keeps in touch with fans he has met in cities from Winnipeg to Charlotte to Albany. It was a fan in the latter city who is credited with starting the “Free Fitzy” movement with a sign bearing that text. She brought it to an early Phantoms game in Albany after FitzGerald had sat out Adirondack’s first five games.

Mind you, FitzGerald being in the line-up would have probably brought pain to her own team.

It evolved into a Twitter hashtag, #freefitzy, and then another #fitzyfreed, when FitzGerald made his season debut the following night. Fans have presented him with T-shirts with both messages.

“That picked up quick,” FitzGerald said of the movement. “It spread like wildfire. I couldn’t believe it. … They’re not even here and they still want me to play. That’s love and I appreciate that.”

The Yanick Dupre Memorial Award, however, is not exclusively presented based off fan reaction.

Reigning winner Nick Petrecki, a Clifton Park native who plays for the Worcester Sharks, was honored for his role in that team’s reading and fitness programs, as well as a holiday toy drive.

FitzGerald has done his part for charity. In post-game jersey auctions for causes like cancer research and homeless teenagers, it has not been rare for him to take the microphone away from the emcee and auction off his own uniform in an attempt to drive up the dollar amount. He has also volunteered his own time after team practices for one-on-one hockey clinics with children.

Knowing all that, it is no surprise that he has enjoyed a meteoric rise in popularity in Glens Falls.

In one post-game autograph session, FitzGerald was stationed along the left-wing boards. The line of fans waiting to meet him, at its peak, stretched across the ice to the right-wing face-off dot.

At some point this season, one Phantoms fan asked FitzGerald to sign a portion her skin. He obliged. She then went to a tattoo parlor and had the artist turn the signature into a tattoo.

“I thought that was pretty epic,” FitzGerald said. “I love tattoos. That’s a commitment right there.”

These are the same fans that used to boo him, and cheer when Phantoms punched him in the face.

“Everything just happened so fast,” FitzGerald said Thursday. “Everybody embraced me really quick, and I appreciate that because for a player like myself, I’ve been moving around a bit. It’s been hard to find a home. When people make it feel like home, it’s that much more comfortable and exciting. It makes you want to play for the team and the organization that much more.”

So much so, in fact, that FitzGerald said he is interested in re-signing with the Phantoms, even though he has been a healthy scratch in 37 of the team’s 70 games. That is four more than he had missed in the past four seasons combined. When he has played, it has seldom been at his natural position.

But he has been lauded for his unbridled positivity, and being a vocal leader in the locker room. He has never publicly complained about the role he plays on the team, or his lack of playing time.

That is just not who he is.

“It’s out of my hands,” FitzGerald said of the notion of returning. “But as far as I’m concerned I want to come back.”

Adirondack Phantoms Man of the Year winners
2013: Zack FitzGerald
2012: Cullen Eddy
2011: J.P. Testwuide
2010: Logan Stephenson

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Great Scott 4/10

It is entirely conceivable that the line-up card Terry Murray fills out for Friday night's game against Springfield bears the names of 10 rookies, six of whom were in amateur hockey just three weeks ago.

Scott Laughton has joined the Adirondack Phantoms, the team announced Wednesday, and became the latest Philadelphia Flyers prospect to join the professional ranks after his junior season concluded.

Laughton, 18, Philadelphia's first-round pick in the 2012 NHL Draft, just finished a playoff run with the Oshawa Generals in which he produced 7-6-13 in 13 games. That came on the heels of the most productive regular season of his junior career, during which the center scored 23-33-56 in 49 games.

He also had a five-game audition with the Flyers at the end of the lockout, but was returned to Oshawa so as not to burn a year of his three-year, entry-level contract in the shortened, 48-game season. His time with the Phantoms will not affect when the first year of that contract kicks in.

Laughton joins forwards Kyle Flanagan (St. Lawrence University), Derek Mathers (Peterborough), Brandon Alderson (Sault Ste. Marie) and Nick Cousins (Sault Ste. Marie) and defenseman Mark Alt (University of Minnesota) as the players who have joined Adirondack after becoming AHL-eligible.

All six could theoretically join Marcel Noebels, Ian Slater, Matt Konan and Cal Heeter in the line-up Friday, giving the Phantoms one of their youngest -- if not the youngest -- line-ups in team history.

The only possible hang-up is if Laughton is deemed ineligible for some of Adirondack's games, as he has not finished serving the five-game suspension he was handed for a hit from behind in the OHL playoffs. AHL bylaws require players who are under suspension in another league to have their case reviewed by the AHL President, David Andrews, before they are granted eligibility in the AHL.

Laughton has three games remaining on his suspension. Harry Zolnierczyk had two games of his four-game NHL suspension when the Flyers sent him down earlier this year, and he was not required to sit out any games before he played. But the suspension reviews are done on a case-by-case basis.

Murray had no updates on whether the Phantoms were considering bringing defenseman Colin Suellentrop, Philadelphia's fourth-round pick in the 2011 NHL Draft, in on an amateur try-out. Suellentrop was teammates with Laughton in Oshawa, so his junior season has also come to an end. The 19-year-old Florida native produced 5-20-25 in 66 OHL games with the Generals this season.

In a seperate transaction, the Flyers returned Tye McGinn to the Phantoms. He had produced 3-2-5 in 18 games with the Flyers, but had sat out Philadelphia's last two games as a healthy scratch. Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren told the team's website there is a chance Daniel Briere, who had missed the past nine games with a concussion, could return to Philadelphia's line-up tomorrow.

That might have knocked McGinn further down the depth chart in Philadelphia, but instead he will go back to being a top-line presence with the Phantoms. He recorded 11 points in seven games in a pseudo-conditioning assignment last month after returning from an orbital bone injury he suffered in the NHL, and went back to creating havoc in front of the opponents' net on Adirondack's power play.

He found chemistry with fellow second-year pros Garrett Roe and Jason Akeson during that stretch. The trio were linemates in McGinn's rookie season, and may possibly be reunited this weekend. Eric Wellwood had played left wing on that line recently, but he is scheduled to undergo a second surgery tomorrow to repair the ligament and tendon damage he suffered in the Bridgeport game Sunday.

In other injury news, Murray said veteran goaltender Scott Munroe will have season-ending surgery to repair cartilage in his knee. Munroe felt some discomfort in the knee at the start of the season, but played through it with the help of a cortisone shot. With Adirondack having three goalies on the roster now, though, the timing is somewhat ideal for Munroe to have the procedure. It should not affect his offseason training regimen, Murray said, and will help him to get back to speed sooner.

Brandon Manning, who left Friday's game with an injury, practiced in a no-contact jersey and felt good. If he feels good at practice tomorrow, Murray said Manning will be able to return this weekend.

Matt Mangene, who played the first period of Saturday's game before he was taken out, did not participate in Tuesday's practice. He had been hit in the back of the head during Adirondack's March 30 game against Binghamton. "He just didn't feel good at the end of the period," Murray said.

More tomorrow.
-- MC