Murray mastering the professional game

March 13, 2015

It’s an incredible story but one that has somehow crept under the hockey radar for the most part.

Pittsburgh Penguins goaltending prospect, Matt Murray, set an American Hockey League record by extending his shutout streak to 304 minutes and 11 seconds, taking him past Barry Brust, who had only just beaten Johnny Bower’s record in recent years.

He’s made an incredible beginning to his professional career in his rookie season, a start that must be unexpected in most quarters after a fluctuating spell in the junior game.

Murray was drafted by Sault. Ste. Marie in the second round (35th overall) of the 2008 OHL Priority Draft and made just 22 starts in the 2010/11 season as his Greyhound team finished last in the West Division.

He would begin the following year as the starter but lost his place to Dallas prospect Jack Campbell, who had come in via a trade in November.

After winning nine of his first 13 starts, Murray did not win a game in four November starts would only win four more games that season, with his confidence shaken. The irony of that now is that Campbell himself has had his struggles with the Dallas organisation and is currently trying to find his game in the ECHL after being usurped by Jussi Rynnas.

Murray was Pittsburgh’s third-round pick (83rd) in the 2012 NHL draft and really came into his own in his last two years of junior. Sault. Ste. Marie finished second and first in the West Division during that time, although there wasn’t much success in the playoffs that followed. After the second of those playoff exits, Murray joined Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (Pittsburgh AHL affiliate) and garnered his first action in the professional game.

Almost exactly eleven months ago now, Murray made his AHL debut for WBS against Utica, making 23 saves in a 2-0 loss. He then went on to make a third period relief appearance in the Eastern Conference Final, with Peter Manino pulled after allowing five goals. He would shut the door, stopping all eight shots though WBS still lost game three of the series 5-0.

Roll forward to this season and Murray began by recording a shutout in just his second game and followed that up by blanking St. Johns IceCaps in his tenth outing.

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His play was up and down as you might expect from a rookie, until the new year however, when he began 2015 with a shutout on January 2.

January would see a second duck egg, a 5-2 record and 1.55GAA despite being pulled at the months end, after allowing three goals in twelve shots.

As if that wasn’t enough, what followed was a remarkable run of form which eventually lead to his breaking the shutout record. Allowing one goal in two starts at the beginning of February before recording four straight shutouts, only seeing his streak broken with a heart breaking 1:11 to play in the third period against the Falcons in Springfield. His four consecutive shutouts were recorded against Portland Pirates, Providence Bruins, Bridgeport Sound Tigers and Manchester Monarchs respectively.

Murray’s nine shutouts this season ties the AHL’s mark by a rookie and it would have been ten for a new record barring the late goal in Springfield.

Blazing a trail, the rookie net minder leads the AHL in GAA, SV%, and unsurprisingly, shutouts.

His record of 19-8-2-1 is a big reason why WBS sit fourth in the Eastern Conference, pretty much nailed on for a post-season berth.

Murray has formed a good tandem with 27 year Jeff Zatkoff, who appears to be a good mentor for the young man, despite having the look of a career AHL’er about him.

With Thomas Griese currently occupying the number two slot in the Penguins organisation, if Murray continues to improve he could be a regular NHL player sooner than later if the start to his career stay’s on an upward curve.

A big and tall (6”4) netminder, the Thunder Bay native has an athletic style that isn’t always pretty to watch but he’s definitely showing a level of maturity and composure of a player beyond his tender years.

He has lots to work on, as does any young goaltender but he’s made an impressive start to his professional career and left his mark on the AHL already.

 


Marlies rookies lead way in School Day Win

February 25, 2015

The Toronto Marlies marked their second school day game of the season with their second victory, which left everyone at Ricoh Coliseum very happy bar the Charlotte Checkers.

Toronto only really played one very good period but it was enough to build a lead large enough for the victory.

Dominating the opening 90 seconds of play, the home team were for once able to make their dominance count shortly afterwards. Rupert and then Brown throwing the puck on net before Nylander showed a ton of determination in front to jab the puck home past a Charlotte defenseman and John Muse in net.

Leivo came within inches of making it 2-0 but his effort during an odd man rush produced a fantastic toe save from Muse who was going the wrong way.

A Toronto power play would be negated by Frattin but the home team owned the puck during four on four play and doubled their lead. Marshall throwing a floaty shot toward the net which Rupert deflected in.

Leivo yet again almost tallied but Muse had his number through the opening period. Despite various power plays, including a two man advantage, the Marlies couldn’t force home a third goal in an opening frame where they out-shot the visitors 13-4.

It was almost downhill the rest of the way for Toronto as Charlotte came out with fire in their belly and the home side were unable to match that intensity for the most part the rest of the way.

A wayward pass from Leipsic was intercepted by Woods and Gibson had to be sharp to turn aside the effort, just his sixth save of the game, two minutes into the middle frame.

The Checkers dominance continued as they owned zone time in Toronto’s end and were racking up the shots.

The turning point of the game for the visiting Checkers came with 6:41 to play in the second, as they had a perfectly good goal waived off as the official had already whistled the play down despite Gibson not having full control of the loose puck.

The shot clock at that point was tied at 14 and it must have been a dagger to Charlotte’s hearts when the Marlies extended their lead a minute later. McKegg sending Leivo away and he had Frattin for company and just one trailing defenseman to beat. Leivo showed confidence to ignore his team mate and rip a wrist shot past Muse in a flash.

Up 3-0 and twenty minutes to play this game was surely over right? Wrong. Charlotte came close to making a dent into their deficit eleven seconds, in as Trevor Carrick set-up Shugg who was denied by a combination of Gibson and the post.

Gibson then had to be equally brilliant to turn aside Charlotte on a power play that followed.

William Nylander almost closed the deal with a breakaway but he was hauled down while shooting and drew a penalty shot. The resulting effort was turned away by Muse who did well to stay with the forehand to backhand move that Nylander tried to pull off.

A double minor high sticking penalty by Marshall gave Charlotte one last chance with eleven minutes remaining but a combination of brave shot blocking and yet more solid play from Gibson kept them off the board.

It was then a real shame for the Toronto net minder that his shutout would be broken with just over four minutes left on the clock. With seconds left on another power play, Boychuck was the beneficiary of deflection in front to pot home from in close.

Any illusions of a comeback were extinguished by the hardworking Connor Brown who finally put this game to bed with an empty netter inside the last minute, after chasing down the loose puck.

Post Game Notes:

Two straight victories have kept the slim playoff hopes alive. Five points shy of eight place at the time of writing.

Rookie points scoring in this encounter came from Brown (3), Rupert (2) and Nylander (1).

Connor Brown has 44 points in 53 games, just one shy of the rookie lead held by Charles Hudon.

Ryan Rupert took his goals and assist tallies to ten, for 20 points in 35 games.

Christopher Gibson was once again a solid rock and stopped 30 shots. His 13th win on the season and was unlucky not to record his second shut-out on the year.

 


Marlies strike six in big comeback

February 23, 2015

Facing another goaltending alumni in Drew MacIntyre Sunday afternoon, the Toronto Marlies were desperate for a win to save an otherwise unproductive weekend.

Having played twice already, they faced a Charlotte Checkers team coming into Ricoh fresh, without any action since Thursday.

Troy Bodie had been officially announced as the new Marlies Captain for the rest of this season and his troops made a terrific start to the opening period.

Carrick with an effort just 19 seconds in that MacIntyre got enough of to send it high into the netting.

Carrick was proving a handful, no doubt looking to put one over his brother Trevor who plays for Charlotte, and his second effort seemed to handcuff MacIntyre who did well to recover.

The road team then struck to open the scoring against the run of play. Creating a rush from a turnover in their own zone, Aleardi beat the back-checking Ryan Rupert to a cross ice feed and his backhand five-hole finish was very nicely done.

That set-back with five minutes on the clock did nothing to quell the Marlies good play and they continued to dominate the first period.

Killing a penalty, Toronto drew a power play of their own and only MacIntyre denied them a tying goal as Leivo, Nylander and Rupert twice all wondered how they hadn’t tallied.

A nasty hit from Trevor Carrick on Froese, sent Toronto back on the power play but they were once again turned aside, no more so than on a highlight reel save.

Brown and Leivo went close before a huge rebound presented Leipsic with an open net and even the goal judge thought the new Marlies forward had scored but Drew MacIntyre threw out his glove hand behind and to his left to grab the puck. A quite remarkable save.

Bibeau wasn’t seeing much action but he had to be on his metal to deny McGinn with 12 seconds left on the clock during a penalty kill.

That save looked even better 42 seconds into the middle frame as Carrick finally struck.

Stripping the puck from his Trevor, he moved inside the last Charlotte defenseman and finished with as sweet a backhand effort as you’re likely to see.

Seconds after, Nylander then dispossessed Lowe of the puck and he would only be denied by MacIntyre as the wily old pro out waited the rookie, sliding across to make the stop.

Once again however, Charlotte responded with a sucker punch.

With the Marlies defense AWOL, Brody Sutter found himself in space in front of Bibeau and he gave the Toronto goalie no chance of making the save.

Josh Leivo has struggled to put the puck in the net this season compared to last but his individual effort tied up the game just four minutes later. Moving left to right behind the net, he came out the other side and spun around before firing home top shelf, short side, picking his spot perfectly.

The second half of the middle frame would bring see the home team’s performance drop a level and Charlotte started to take a hold.

It would garner them a power play goal with 1:12 left in the period but in truth it was far too easy for them.

McGinn left all alone and he deftly chipped the puck past Bibeau who once again had little chance to make any sort of stop.

Trailing 3-2 with twenty minutes to play, a big effort was needed and to their credit the Marlies responded. The legs didn’t look tired, or the minds jaded as they struck 37 seconds into the third from an unlikely source.

Carrick dropped a pass back to Froese, whose one timer produced a huge rebound that fell to Marshall in the high slot and the defenseman wasted no time in slapping home the loose puck for his first of the season.

Greg McKegg then took it upon himself almost single-handedly to take Toronto into the lead for the first time in the game. He drove across the blue paint but MacIntyre stayed with the puck to make a fine stop and shortly afterwards he couldn’t quite finish from an acute angle after more stellar work, this time down the left side.

The third period was one way traffic for a desperate Marlies team and they finally got their just rewards from another unlikely source.

Nylander with the puck down low on the left wing, looked up and saw MacWilliam jumping into the play and from halfway between the blue line and top of the left circle. With the puck in his wheelhouse MacWilliam absolutely hammered a one time effort past MacIntyre for just his second goal on the year. With the go-ahead goal timed at 8:30, Toronto could ill-afford to take their foot off the gas and on another nice set-up from Carrick, Leipsic was once again foiled by MacIntyre.

Sam Carrick was driving this Marlies ship like a man possessed and despite having defensemen draped over him, he powered his way to the net and despite two attempts he couldn’t force home the insurance marker.

To Antoine Bibeau’s credit he kept his concentration with the one-way traffic in front of him to make a pair of solid save with four minutes to play to ensure the lead stayed intact.

Thirty seconds later and Toronto made certain of the two points. A scramble in front as Leivo went close but credit to Greg McKegg who stayed with the play and was on hand to tap home to make it 5-3.

I don’t normally give many post game words to empty netters but it was a heads up play from Leipsic to ensure the win. He had a chance to shoot from just inside the blue line but he could have missed or been cut off by the trailing defenseman, so instead he showed team responsibility and maturity to instead look for Froese who had a far simpler chance to pot home into the vacant cage.

Post Game Notes:

First win in seven for Antoine Bibeau who had been on a 0-3-3 run.

I argued after Friday that Leipsic should be kept with Carrick and they teamed up well again today, along with Froese. Leipsic’s assist on empty netter means he has a point in each of his three games so far.

Matt Frattin hasn’t tallied a goal in five games now but he’s still an influence. Two assists for him in this one and 24 points in 35 Games.

Special teams continue to be an issue. PP was 0/4 while PK allowed 1/5. In fairness the power play looked much better today but MacIntyre was on fire.

Marlies fired 39 shots which I believe ties a season high. Through their last five games, though results haven’t gone their way, the average shots on net is up around 34, which is a huge improvement.

Spencer Abbott was absent with an upper body injury sustained Saturday.

 


Marlies tamed by Texas

February 22, 2015

Saturday’s have not been kind to the Toronto Marlies and they suffered yet another loss in a matinee game at Ricoh Coliseum.

To be frank they got exactly what the deserved as Texas out-played the home team and thoroughly deserved the two points.

Texas began like a team desperate to make the playoffs, recording the first five shots of the game and then hit the post. All that came in the opening five minutes as Toronto were lucky to come unscathed.

Well the Marlies were able to finally produce some offense, an odd-man rush came to nothing as Nylander should have done better to either shoot or find Brown despite a terrific play from the trailing defenseman. Leipsic was making an impression in his home debut and he went close with two efforts along with his new linemate Froese.

Toronto’s total of seven shots were produced during that spell of play and then a following power play.

Mikkelson with some pounding shots from the point was followed up by Nylander making some fancy moves around defenseman which look good on the highlight reel but again he looked for the pass rather than the shot.

Texas would take the lead in the 12th minute, which would see them end the period ahead. It wasn’t without controversy however as the marker would be credited to a tip in front from Henderson. It looked a debateable high stick but the officials chose not to use the video review in a baffling decision.

It was no more than the road side deserved however and they looked to continue their dominant play in the middle frame. Within 90 seconds they hit the iron again as Rallo saw his effort ring off the post and Texas domination of the first four minutes was only ended by a Marlies power play. Toronto failed to muster a single shot and it took Matt Frattin solo effort to produce anything of note as he beat two players before running out of real estate to put home his backhand effort.

The last eight minutes of the second were the Marlies best of the game and despite getting the shot clock close to parity they created very little in the way of clear cut chances or force Rynnas into making a save of any note.

The game was done as a contest inside the first five minutes of the third period with the Stars tallying twice in the space of 35 seconds. Like Friday night, another weak effort on the penalty kill allowed an easy chance in tight and Glennie made no mistake.

A slip from Knodel in his own zone presented Faille with the puck and he proceeded to take advantage by cruising by a flatfooted Stuart Percy and around the back of Gibson to score a beauty for his first ever AHL goal.

A real shame for Gibson however, who had been brilliant to keep his team in the game for such a long time despite Texas running riot.

Despite firing twelve shots in the final frame, Toronto never looked like mounting a comeback and only prevented Rynnas gaining the shutout inside the last two minutes.

With an extra attacker on, Frattin found Mikkelson from the slot and his first time effort gave the Texas netminder little chance.

A 3-1 reverse that makes the playoffs almost a forlorn hope for the Marlies who require some sort of miracle run to even give themselves a sniff with 25 games remaining.

Post Game Notes:

Toronto have many areas of concern after this game but especially slow starts to periods. Texas domination in the opening five minutes of each frame was not good enough from the Marlies point of view.

Leipsic has made an encouraging start to his Toronto career and picked up an assist to go with a goal on Friday. He does make things happen offensively though why his line was changed after a promising start Friday seems a strange decision to me.

Toronto’s special teams were terrible in this game and although it probably didn’t cost them the game it’s been a deciding factor in many more.

Sam Carrick was relegated to the fourth line and proceeded to lead the team in shots (6).

Christopher Gibson did everything in his power to keep the Marlies in this game. He recorded 29 saves but pertinently 24 of those were during the opening forty minutes.

A Sunday matinee against Charlotte Checkers and Drew MacIntyre awaits and I would expect some sort of response from this group.

 


Marlies comeback foiled in Utica

February 21, 2015

In another huge weekend for the Marlies, it didn’t get off to the best start with a loss in Utica Friday night.

The writing seemed to be on the wall heading into the third period as the Comets lead 2-0 and quickly extended their lead to three with a power play marker inside the opening minute.

Made worse by the fact the Marlies penalty kill abandoned Bibeau on the play that led to the goal, it looked game over.

Toronto required a spark and it came on the power play of all things and only two minutes after falling further behind. Rupert would be denied on the first occasion but on a feed from Brown he made no mistake from the slot.

With their tails up, Froese came oh so close to making a further inroad into the lead but Jacob Markstrom shut the door. It wouldn’t take Toronto long to put themselves further back in the game however.

The opening goal was a sweet move but the second was a thing of beauty and determination.

Leivo with the graft enabled Carrick to tee up Leipsic in the slot. He had to bat down the puck and sweep home in one movement to have a chance and he did just that with a fantastic debut goal.

There was still 14 minutes left to play and the Marlies were on top at this point, pouring forward and shooting on sight.

Surviving this two minute onslaught, Utica then responded with Bibeau having to be at his best with a shoulder save to deny Shinkaruk.

After two periods of calling next to nothing, the officials were then blowing the whistle on everything and sent Toronto on the penalty kill with nine minutes left on the clock.

It’d take the home team Comets just thirty seconds to extend their lead to two goals with a blast by Grenier from a cross ice feed, as Bibeau was going back the other way. A fantastic shot for his 11th of the season.

Toronto would then have to kill another penalty and as it was expiring came their best chance of getting back into this one. Tyler Biggs engineered his own breakaway and rushed in alone on Markstrom. The netminder got just enough of the Marlies forward’s effort to deny him

A late power play was boom or bust for the Marlies as they pulled Bibeau for the extra attacker. It proved to be bust as who else but former Marlie will Acton potted home the empty netter as Toronto were guilty of giving the puck away cheaply.

A 5-2 loss that didn’t really represent the true nature of a game that Toronto matched their high flying opponents but couldn’t force home the puck during the opening forty minutes.

Antoine Bibeau was called upon early to make some saves including a swift right pad effort to deny a wraparound. Toronto were growing into the game after a shaky beginning and the line of Leipsic, Carrick and Leivo were looking as threatening as any.

Chances were few and far between as both teams had rushes either way but little sustained pressure.

Bibeau denied Jeffrey on a play that looked suspiciously offside while Brown’s hard work almost teed up Nylander who couldn’t quite control the pass.

A slip from Knodel presented Grenier with a great chance but once again Bibeau was there to deny Utica.

Ironically after Toronto’s best shifts and sustained offensive pressure of the period they fell behind with five to play. Grenier with the feed and a snap shot from O’Rielly with traffic in front found it’s way top shelf into the net.

The Marlies responded with more pressure after surviving a little Utica pressure after the goal but Markstrom was more then equal to any shot he faced.

The road team earned themselves a late penalty in the first period which they were unable to turn into a tying goal despite Frattin’s best efforts. Froese tried a neat spin around backhand effort to beat Markstrom while Utica came close with a shorthanded blast from Frieson.

Back at even strength, Frattin showed poise down the right side, playing a perfect pass into the stride of the pinching Stuart Percy but his effort was deflected high.

Utica should then have really doubled their lead after a turnover by Biggs at the home teams blueline.

They over-passed the puck however, looking for the perfect play during the odd man rush.

On Utica’s first power play of the game Bibeau was superb in turning aside numerous efforts as the two minutes was almost spent exclusively inside Toronto’s zone.

Ironically the Marlies best shift offensive shift of the second period led to Utica doubling their lead.

Frattin, Leipsic and then Knodel went close but the home team then had a rush back down the ice.

This time they simplified and the third man into the play was Frieson and from one knee he absolutely smashed the puck past Antoine Bibeau.

That two goal lead proved a bridge too far to cross fro the Marlies in the third period but they’ve played worse this season and come out of a game with better outcomes.

Post Game Notes:

Stuart Percy made his long awaited return and looked great considering his absence.

Bryce Aneloski was also drafted into the ranks and wasn’t out of his depth.

William Nylander netted his seventh point of the season and is PPG pace through his last five games.

Ryan Rupert’s goal was his ninth on the year and he’s on a four game point streak where he’s tallied six points (4G/2A).

Brendan Leipsic made a fine debut. His goal was a nice reward in a performance where he showed speed, some of that feistiness we know and good chemistry with Carrick and Leivo.

Saturday’s game against Texas if it wasn’t before, is now a must win against a team the Marlies are chasing. Two victories this weekend would still keep the dream alive.

 


Carrick the hero in ACC goalfest

February 17, 2015

A day after a third period let-down in Ottawa’s NHL building, the Marlies required a bounce back performance at the home of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Binghamton Senators were once again the opponents and it was a crazy affair filled with good goals, poor defense, penalties and a whole lot of hate as these two teams have grown to dislike one another this weekend.

The antics began early as Biggs was given a shot in the back but Toronto failed to make the man advantage count. The best chance fell to Brad Mills on a breakaway but Christopher Gibson stood tall to turn the Centre man’s effort aside.

A MacWilliam penalty for interference would send the visitors on the power play but it was Toronto who struck short-handed. A two on one break developed with Carrick in possession. Ignoring Leivo he fired home the puck past Peter Mannino.

The Marlies came close to doubling their strength back at even strength. A smart backhand pass from McKegg found Leivo in the slot but his effort produced a shoulder save from Mannino.

Toronto’s lead would last less than six minutes as on a broken play Binghamton tied things up at 12:00.

Schneider threw the puck towards the net from a bad angle on the right side and the puck seemed to take a deflection or two, with the last perhaps coming from Loov and the puck found it’s way through Gibson’s legs.

Almost immediately McKegg came within inches of restoring the lead. His shot went through the legs of Mannino but somehow didn’t find the twine and was cleared by a railing defensemen. Frattin was having more of an impact game and showing speed around his man he threw a wicked shot on net that Mannino made a smart toe save on and unfortunately the puck evaded Carrick driving to the cage.

A mistake by Mikkelson then almost cost his team dearly as it allowed Greening a fantastic chance down the left but Gibson came up with the save and although the rebound only just evaded a following Binghamton forward.

Another Marlies PP went begging, though Leivo went close trying to go upstairs on two occasions and following that man advantage it was Binghamton who took the lead for the first team.

An innocuous looking play and shot was tipped home by Thompson in front. A nifty redirection but not enough pressure was put on the goalscorer.

Toronto still had the chance to tie things up before the buzzer as a turnover presented Froese with a great chance but his spin and shot first time effort was match by the B-Sens net minder.

The Marlies may have only registered nine shots in the opening period but they had some great chances and had plenty to feel good about. They required a positive start to the middle frame and they produced that in spades.

A good transition from their own end resulted in McKegg’s backhand shot producing a huge rebound for Leivo who showed a great deal of composure to chip the puck home almost in golf fashion past Mannino. The goal timed at 36 seconds would be followed up at the 3:07 mark with a go-ahead marker.

A terrific shift from Biggs and Bodie drew a penalty with the two almost combing for a goal.

On the delayed penalty it was Ryan Rupert on as the extra attacker who put home the rebound from Marshall’s effort.

The celebrations were then cut short as McLaren dropped the gloves with Kramer in what must be the most pointless fight of the season from the Marlies point of view, killing the momentum that had been the opening three minutes.

Toronto’s PK was having to work it’s socks off to keep out Binghamton and Gibson made a couple of nifty saves to deny the road team on their next man advantage.

Toronto then drew themselves a two man advantage in what felt like a pivotal moment of the game.

Not one player out on the power play wanted to take control of the situation in what became a pass-fest and made the B-Sens effort to kill the penalties a little easier.

The Marlies were able to shrug off that poor effort on the man advantage and strike for the third time in the second period. Nylander with the sweet pass to find the trailing and third man into the play Ryan Rupert who wasted no time getting his shot off that Mannino got a piece of but not enough.

Scheinder should have responded immediately for Binghamton with a great chance out in front but Gibson threw himself forward at his feet and smuggled the puck away from him.

Toronto started the third frame on the penalty kill and despite seeing that off, a penalty taken shortly afterwards would see the B-Sens draw within one.

Derek Grant with the marker not long after Connor Brown had almost scored a short-handed goal single-handedly.

In a brain art we’ve seen before this season, the Marlies allowed their visitors to tie the game with their second goal in 33 seconds. The impressive and dominating at times Jean Gabriel Pageau, with the finish after a feed from the behind the net by Puempel.

At this point the game was really in the balance as Toronto tried to find their feet after seeing their two goal lead evaporate inside the opening six minutes.

Sam Carrick has had an up and down season but when he’s hot, Slammin’ Sammy is a handful for anyone. A huge shot from Frattin was blocked in front and landed at the feet of a defenseman who had no idea where the puck was. As quick as grease lightening Carrick stole in and slapped the puck home before anyone including the net minder could respond to once again give his team the lead.

Holding a 5-4 lead with ten minutes left on the clock, Toronto needed to settle down the play but Gibson was still looking unsteady after the opening six minutes and he juggled a shot and was luck to see the puck hit the iron and stay out.

Binghamton were going for the jugular as the clock wound down and the feistiness level was certainly increased, more so after Brad Mills fired the puck toward the net on a delayed penalty against him.

Toronto’s power play once more failed to take advantage when a goal at that stage would likely have killed the game dead. Despite huge late pressure by the road team, the Marlies were able to keep the puck to the outside bar a mad scramble inside the last thirty seconds and they held on for a welcome two points.

Post Game Notes:

Despite yesterday’s poor result, four points from six “this week” is not a bad return and is at the level they need to produce the rest of the season.

Carrick’s two goal salvo was his first double of the season and took his tally on the year to five.

After just two assists through his previous ten games I hope this is a catalyst for him.

Ryan Rupert first’s pair of goals in an AHL game and he has eight on the season. That’s 17 points in 31 games for the rookie and he’s riding a three game point streak.

Eric Knodel registered two assists, his first multi-point game in the AHL. He’s been told to shoot more by all accounts and that booming shot is likely to rack him up more points and a first goal won’t be far away.

Christopher Gibson’s third straight victory and a recent record of 8-2-1 which began with a shutout on Boxing Day. A terrific comeback for a goaltender who couldn’t buy a win at certain stages.

Marlies PP was 0/6 and they were lucky in many ways it didn’t cost them the game. The incoming Brendan Leipsic may well help on that score but it really needs to start producing.

The heavy February schedule continues next weekend as they play a three in three. A trip to divisional leaders Utica is followed up by a pair of home games against Texas and Charlotte.

 


AHL goes Pacific

February 16, 2015

What most of us who follow the American Hockey League thought should happen but maybe never believed it would, came to some sort of fruition at the end of January 2015.

The AHL announced that from the 2015/16 season there would be a new division in the form of the Pacific, made up with brand new teams as NHL organisations made bold moves as regards the future of their farm teams.

The Anaheim Ducks will purchase the Norfolk Admirals and relocate it from Norfolk, Virginia, to San Diego, California. No name as yet (announcement due February 22) but the new San Diego team will play home games at the Valley View Casino Centre. Former teams in SD were known as Mariners and Gulls

The Calgary Flames will relocate the Adirondack Flames from Glens Falls, N.Y., to Stockton, California after just one season of the new franchise. Calgary has acquired the Stockton Thunder of the ECHL and will relocate that team to Glens Falls as the Adirondack Thunder.

Edmonton Oilers will relocate Oklahoma City Barons from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, to Bakersfield, California. The ECHL incarnation of the Bakersfield Condors will be relocating to Norfolk, Virginia to become the ECHL version of the Norfolk Admirals, replacing the original Norfolk Admirals of the AHL.

San Jose Sharks will shift the Worcester Sharks from Worcester, Massachusetts, to San Jose, California. No name has been confirmed but for the time being the former Worcester Sharks will play at San Jose’s NHL building.

The AHL franchise owned by the Los Angeles Kings will relocate from Manchester, New Hampshire, to Ontario, California. This team will be known as the Ontario Reign.

2015-16-Ontario-Reign-Logo-640x427

I know that’s a lot of information to take in but there will be doubtless more between now and October to digest.

All the organisations involved mentioned travelling and better access to watching their farm teams and prospects on a more regular basis, along with the capability to move players, especially call-ups with more ease and quicker. Also thrown out there was more practise time and it was hinted that the schedule could once more be reduced from 76 games, having recently been adjusted from 82.

Considering the majority of AHL games are played Friday-Sunday, this isn’t necessarily a compelling argument when often during homesteads, teams have often too much time to practise and go stale between competitive action during the season.

What this huge move forward might do is further change the landscape of the AHL in the very near future. There are still some huge distances between NHL teams and their affiliates and some examples are as follows:

St. John’s IceCaps – Winnipeg Jets 2980 miles/4800km

Utica Comets – Vancouver Canucks 2920 miles/4700KM

Portland Pirates – Arizona Coyotes 2600 miles/4180KM

Lake Erie Monsters – Colorado Avalanche 1400 miles/2250KM

Syracuse Crunch – Tampa Bay Lightning 1200 Miles/1900KM

San Antonio – Florida Panthers 1200 miles/1900KM

Milwaukee Admirals – Nashville Predators 550 miles/885KM

Now we know Winnipeg are going to relocate the IceCaps in the next season or two, most likely to North Bay if you believe reports. I wonder if there’s now not a little pressure on those AHL teams listed with the recent moves.

The Milwaukee/Nashville distance might not look a big deal but it’s still a days journey by car or more likely a flight to watch prospects etc. Cincinnati has an ECHL team and is only half the distance so there would be options if Nashville wanted the join the revolution.

There is still going to be more movement concerning divisions and most likely conference’s during the summer and we could have a real shake up. A no-brainer from my point of view would be placing the Toronto Marlies in the Eastern Conference along with the likes of Rochester and Hamilton.

The future is not set in stone in the AHL as the developmental league is going through one of the biggest developments of it’s recent history.

I may well speculate and what could happen at a later date.

 


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