Friday, October 30, 2009

News & Notes

  • Brett Bellemore may not rack up the points, but his smart defensive game is evident in his plus/minus tally. The Albany Times Union has more on Bellemore, who proudly leads the team with a +4. 
  • Justin Peters has developed into a highly skilled goaltender and solidified himself as the Rats' go-to starter. The Troy Record catches up with the fourth-year netminder. 
  • The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins took over first place in the East Division Thursday with a win over the Manitoba Moose. Former River Rat Ryan Bayda scored 39 seconds into overtime to break the 0-0 tie. The Penguins have a one-point lead and a game-in-hand on the Rats heading into the weekend.
  • Injured players should soon be returning in waves. Mike Angelidis, Steven Goertzen, Michael Ryan and Brett Carson should be coming back in the next few weeks. 
  • Erik Cole of the Carolina Hurricanes, who fractured a bone in his leg earlier this month, is expected to return to action as early as this weekend. Cole, along with injured Canes' D-man Tim Gleason, are back at practice in Raleigh. Forward Brandon Sutter and defenseman Jay Harrison are Carolina's only healthy two-way players. Forward Stephane Yelle, who recently cleared waivers, is also eligible for reassignment. Yelle will become ineligible on November 26th at noon or after ten games of NHL play, whichever comes first.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Injured Rats getting better

Steven Goertzen, who suffered a concussion last Friday, was back on the ice today practicing with the team. He wore a yellow no-contact jersey. Goertzen will probably miss both games this weekend and shoot for a return next week. 

Brett Carson, Mike Angelidis and Michael Ryan were also on the ice today. All have been practicing in yellow for about a week. Coach Jeff Daniels said he expects all three to return to action by mid-November. 

The Albany Times Union has more.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Sutter competing for spot

There is no denying it. The Rats' parent club, the Carolina Hurricanes, have not started well. The Canes are 2-5-3 in their first ten contests and currently sit in 12th place in the NHL's Eastern Conference. They are winless in the last six games. 

Management is ready to shake things up. 

In an unexpected move, the Canes recently put Stephane Yelle, the team's fourth-line center, on waivers. Yelle cleared waivers today at noon, but his future with the Hurricanes is uncertain. Carolina obviously considers him expendable. 

The top candidate for Yelle's spot is Brandon Sutter, who was recently recalled to fill the void created by the suspension of Tuomo Ruutu.  

Sutter and Yelle are both expected to be in the line-up for the Canes on Wednesday and Saturday, but someone will have to sit out when Rutuu returns to action on Sunday.

The job is up for grabs.

If Sutter or another River Rat takes the spot, the Canes will have to make a choice in regards to Yelle. They could scratch him, release him, assign him to Albany or maybe make a trade. 

With the Hurricanes' roster in a state of flux, don't be surprised if more call-ups are around the bend. 

Weekend news & notes

Friday post-game coverage:
Saturday post-game coverage:

Sunday post-game coverage:
More news:
  • Brandon Sutter was called up to Carolina Saturday after the Canes' Tuomo Ruutu was suspended for three games by the NHL for a hit on Darcy Tucker of the Colorado Avalanche. Sutter centered the Hurricanes' third line and played a regular shift in his first NHL appearance of the season on Saturday against the Minnesota Wild. Sutter will likely play for the Canes again on Wednesday and next Saturday. 
  • Sutter may never be coming back, even after Ruutu returns. The Hurricanes placed fourth-line center Stephane Yelle on waivers. Yelle's ice-time has been limited and now he could be on the way out the door. That would open up a permanent space for Sutter on the NHL roster.
  • Steven Goertzen suffered a concussion Friday night against Rochester. He did not play Saturday or Sunday. His status for next weekend is questionable. He was playing fantastic up until the injury. 
  • The Rats called up Jacob MicFlickier from the ECHL's Florida Everblades on Saturday. MicFlikier, who was signed by the Rats during the offseason, is currently the Blades' top scorer with two goals and three assists after four games. He attended the Rats' training camp and skated well during the preseason. He did not arrive at the Times Union Center in time for warm-ups on Saturday, but was on the bench when the puck dropped. MicFlickier scored a goal against the Phantoms 13:49 into the first period. Watch it here.
  • The Rats collected only two of six possible points over the weekend. It was undoubtedly a tiring and mostly disappointing three-day stretch. But all things considered, the Rats played solid. Not perfect, but solid. When the chips were down, they never gave up. They pushed Friday night's game to the last seconds, and despite being down 4-1 on Sunday they showed true spirit and poured on the pressure late in the game. The team is showing character and several players are stepping up in the wake of injuries and call-ups. 
  • Justin Peters continues to play phenomenal hockey. His ability to stay focused under pressure is most impressive. His puck-handling skills are also much improved. After six games, Peters has registered four wins, a GAA of 2.33 and a SV% of .923. He has been named a star-of-the-game in three of his six contests. 
  • Captain Pat Dwyer is playing as passionate as ever. You can tell he takes the role of captain very seriously. He is always coming through when it counts. His hunger for the puck gets the whole team going. He is possibly the Rats' most valuable player. 
  • There is little doubt Zach Boychuk will be a future NHL star. He is the pure definition of raw talent. He is always moving his legs, creating opportunities and drawing penalties. His game-winner against Adirondack was an absolute beauty. He's a natural. 
  • After six home games, Zack FitzGerald is already a fan favorite. His physical style of play is a valued commodity for the Rats' young and undersized club. The opposition fears his presence. He was punishing the Phantoms all night on Saturday. If anyone is fired up for the rivalry, it's him.  
  • There is no telling where the Rats would be without the services of Jonathan Paiement. His willingness to block shots has been invaluable.
  • Attendance at the Times Union Center has been less than spectacular. In six games, the Rats have averaged 3,332 people a contest. Only four AHL teams are drawing smaller crowds. Adirondack is in the middle of the pack with an average attendance of 4,238. Time to step it up Albany!
  • The East Division is extremely tight. Less than four points separate the first and last place teams. Albany and Hershey are tied with 10 points. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and Adirondack have nine a piece (the Penguins have two games in hand, the Phantoms have one). Binghamton and Syracuse have eight points each. Norfolk has six with a game in hand.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Caniacs watch tonight for free, which broadcasts AHL games online, is offering a free preview tonight. Anyone not able to attend this evening's game, including our loyal followers in Raleigh, can watch the Rats battle the Rochester Americans from their computers, for free. Go here for more.

Goertzen doesn't need title

Veteran Steven Goertzen doesn't need a letter stitched to his sweater to be a team leader. The Albany Times Union has the story. 

Samson a consistent scorer

Jerome Samson leads the Rats in scoring for the second year running. The undrafted third-year forward is establishing himself as one of the league's elite players. The Troy Record has more.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Michael Ryan skating with Rats

Michael Ryan, who suffered a concussion in a preseason game with the Carolina Hurricanes about a month ago, is back in Albany and skating with the River Rats. League rules do not allow an injured player to be officially reassigned until they are cleared to play, but Ryan is practicing lightly with the team in preparation for his return. Pete Dougherty at the Albany Times Union has the news.

Canes lose another D-man UPDATED

Just as the Carolina Hurricanes regained one defenseman, they lost another.

The good news: Joni Pitkanen is back skating a regular shift with the Canes and playing fantastic. The bad news: Tim Gleason could be the organization's latest defensive casualty.

Gleason left tonight's game against the New York Islanders with an upper body injury. We are still waiting for an update on his condition. 

At the start of the season fans in Albany were expecting Casey Borer, Jay Harrison and Brett Carson to hold down the Rats' blue line. Borer never made to training camp; Harrison never made it to Albany; and Carson was injured in his second game. 

The saga continues. 

During the offseason the Rats wisely signed Jonathan Paiement and Benn Olson for defensive depth. Less than four weeks into the season, both are proving to be invaluable. 

UPDATE: Gleason went in for X-rays after the game. He is now listed as day-to-day, so we assume nothing is fractured. According to Chip Alexander, Gleason will probably sit out Friday's game against the Colorado Avalanche. Jay Harrison will be back in. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

News & Notes

  • The Rats' front office is hoping to draw some big crowds at the Times Union Center this weekend, especially on Saturday for the second game of the Northway rivalry. Promotions were announced today, including a giveaway of River Rats' Thurderstix to the first 5,000 fans. Bring your friends. Get those curtains open!
  • The River Rats' ECHL affiliate, the Florida Everblades, have started the season with a 1-1-1-0 record. Jacob Micflikier, who has a two-way deal with the Rats, leads the Blades in points with a goal and three assists. Rob Hennigar, who is also signed on a two-way deal, is the team's second highest scorer with a goal and two assists. Veteran goaltender Mike Morrison, another two-way player, has been in net for two of Blades' three games, registering a win and an overtime loss, and stopping 44 of 49 shots. The Fort Myers News-Press has a nice article on Morrison.
  • In Carolina, defenseman Joni Pitkanen finally appears to be on the path to recovery. When Pitkanen returns to full strength, Jay Harrison will likely be headed to Albany. There is a possibility the Canes will keep Harrison as a seventh D-man, but informed sources think otherwise.
  • Michael Ryan, who suffered a concussion in a NHL preseason game on September 21, has been out of action for a full month now. We would be lying if we said we weren't worried. Still waiting for an official update on his condition. When he gets healthy, expect him to play in Albany.
  • Casey Borer is back home in Minnesota recuperating from neck surgery. We don't expect him to be at full strength until January at best.

Monday, October 19, 2009

River Rats weekly recap

The Rats' website recaps the third week of the season and previews the fourth. 

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Video highlights from Saturday

Video highlights from Saturday's game against the Phantoms are available on YouTube. Watch here and here.

Rats fall to Sharks, 5-3

The River Rats' four-game winning streak came to an end today in Worcester as Albany fell 5-3 to the Sharks. 

After giving up two goals in the first period, the Rats were forced to play catch-up for the rest of the game. Albany was able to pull within one on two separate occasions, but they never made it out of the hole.

A defensive breakdown midway through the first allowed the Sharks to send a cross-ice pass from one set of hash marks to the other. Netminder Mike Murphy went side-to-side and made a huge kick save, but the rebound landed in the slot square on the stick of Worcester's Andrew Desjardins for an easy goal. 

Minutes later the Sharks went up 2-0 by cycling the puck and running traffic in front of the net. A shot from the top of the circle by Worcester's John McCarthy was deflected directly in front of the crease by Jamie McGinn, leaving Murphy no chance.

Captain Pat Dwyer took things into his own hands on the next shift, scoring top shelf on a breakaway and bringing the Rats back within one.

But the Sharks did not slow down. Worcester again took a two-goal lead 34 seconds into the second period. Some nifty stick work behind the net and a quick pass in front by Worcester's Steve Zalewski caught both defenders and Murphy off guard.

Worcester made it 4-1 less than two minutes later. Sharks' center Logan Couture, despite being hooked down by Bryan Rodney, found a rebound off a point shot and put it over Murphy's shoulder from an incredibly sharp angle. 

Captain Pat Dwyer responded again less than a minute and a half later. Receiving a nice pass in front from Drayson Bowman in the corner, Dwyer quickly shuffled the puck from left to right and then fired, beating the defenseman and the goaltender. 

That's where the game stood until late in the third period. 

Albany, trailing 4-2 with about two minutes remaining, pulled netminder Mike Murphy.

Jamie McBain scored from the point with 1:11 left on the clock. Assists went to Jerome Samson and Brandon Sutter.

Unfortunately, the Rats' last minute efforts were too late. The Sharks held on and landed an empty net goal with less than two seconds to go, sealing the deal at 5-3.

Post-game coverage:

Rats defeat Phantoms in OT, 2-1

Post-game coverage:

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Rats focused for rivalry

The River Rats are staying focused in preparation for tonight's game against the arch-rival Adirondack Phantoms. The Troy Record has the story. The Albany Times Union has more.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Rats unveil rivalry uniforms

The River Rats will be wearing special uniforms for their 12-game series with the Adirondack Phantoms. The red jerseys are designed to imitate the Rats' logo. Albany is spelled out in familiar font across the chest with each player's number located underneath. The uniforms feature a classic-style trim of white, gray and black. Catch a peek at the Rats' website. To see what the Phantoms will be wearing, click here.

Blanchard suspended

Nicolas Blanchard has been handed a one-game suspension by the AHL for his actions Wednesday night against the Norfolk Admirals. 

Blanchard was assessed a five-minute major boarding penalty for a retaliatory hit on Norfolk's Matt Smaby. Blanchard took exception to an open-ice hit Smaby placed on Steven Goertzen.

Blanchard will miss tomorrow night's contest against the Adirondack Phantoms. Brad Herauf will fill in.

Rivalry reborn

Chris Fitz Gerald of the Troy Record takes a look back at the good old days of Albany vs. Adirondack hockey, a rivalry that will return tomorrow night.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Rats outrank Admirals, 3-1

Post-game coverage:
Update: Technical difficulties slowed us down today. Our apologies. 

See clips of the goals by Goertzen and Chaput. Don't get your hopes up for a shot of the hit by Blanchard. Looks like the cameras missed it.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Murphy's Mailbag

Goaltender Mike Murphy will be hosting a segment on the River Rats' website this season known as "Murphy's Mailbag." Fans can send Mike questions and he'll hunt down the answers. E-mail your questions to Catch the first episode.

News & Notes

  • With two leaders injured early in the season, players like Nicolas Blanchard are stepping up to fill the void. The Troy Record has the story. 
  • Undrafted sensation Jerome Samson continues to play above and beyond expectations. The Albany Times Union calls the speedy forward a "young veteran."
  • Rookie Drayson Bowman was ranked #3 on this week's "Hot List" composed by the Hockey News. Bowman and Zach Boychuk lead the AHL in rookie scoring with five points each.
  • D-man Joni Pitkanen of the Carolina Hurricanes is still out of action with knee soreness. He will not play tonight against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Canes' star forward Eric Staal missed practice yesterday with "tightness" but is expected to play tonight. Chip Alexander and Paul Branecky keep us updated.
  • Local actor, producer, hockey fan and now internet comedian Donny Ferlazzo shows off his new River Rats' "training program" on YouTube. A little weird.
  • Not Rats related, but legendary defenseman Chris Chelios, who started playing in the NHL back in 1983, just joined the AHL's Chicago Wolves. No joke. Get the full story at Puck Daddy.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Peters' brother shows resemblance

Anthony Peters, 18, is just like his big brother Justin. He's a goalie with an edge. 

The younger sibling, who plays between the pipes for the Saginaw Spirit of the Ontario Hockey League, showed his family resemblance on October 3, going toe-to-toe at center-ice with the netminder from the Sarnia Sting. Peters made quick work of his opponent. Read about it in the Saginaw News. Watch it here.

The Spirit won the game, 3-1.

Monday, October 12, 2009

News & Notes

  • The River Rats' website recaps last week and previews the next. 
  • Video highlights from Friday's game against Portland are available on YouTube
  • Defenseman Jay Harrison will not be joining the Rats any time soon. Hurricanes' D-man Joni Pitkanen is still not skating at practice in Raleigh. Harrison has been playing well in Pitkanen's absence.
  • The Rats are holding a contest on Facebook. The fan to post the "rowdiest" office picture gets an ice-level suite for Wednesday's game. 
  • Season ticket holders will be treated next Tuesday night to free dinner with the team at Broadway Joe's on South Pearl Street. RSVP by Friday.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Rats clobber Amerks, 6-1

Superior special teams, dynamic offense, solid defense and spectacular goaltending. That pretty much sums up the River Rats' win Saturday night against the Rochester Americans. Albany dominated the game, 6-1. 

Rookie netminder Mike Murphy had a stellar professional debut, stopping 28 of 29 shots and proving almost invincible. His chance at a shutout was spoiled with only 6:03 remaining in the third period. 

Speedy playmaker Jerome Samson took home a goal and three assists. Samson, who led the River Rats in scoring last year, is now approaching the top of the league with seven points in three games. 

Samson is gifted at finding and creating passing lanes. If someone is open with room to shoot, chances are Samson will find him. Last night he made several smart plays under pressure, including a no-look pass to Drayson Bowman, who ripped it home.

Bowman last night maintained his goal-per-game pace and also picked up two assists. Bowman now has five points in three games. 

Captain Pat Dwyer continues to lead by example, creating opportunities out of sheer will. Dwyer tallied two points with a goal and an assist. 

Center Stefan Chaput, who was assigned a larger role after Mike Angelidis was injured, had a three-point night with a goal and two assists. 

Forward Nick Dodge and rugged defenseman Zack FitzGerald also scored. 

Zach Boychuk and Harrison Reed picked up an assist each. 

The Rats' energetic offense had Rochester's back against the wall. The Americans were simply too slow to keep up with Albany's youthful talent. 

Meanwhile, in their own zone, the Rats looked more focused than ever. 

Despite the loss of top D-man and alternate captain Brett Carson to a broken wrist, the Rats played a solid defensive game, perhaps the best of the season thus far. 

Albany forced Rochester's forwards to the outside and did a good job of covering the traffic in front of Murphy. 

The Americans stayed even on shots, but lacked genuine opportunities. 

When the Americans did break through, Murphy was there to respond. 

When the shutout was lost, nobody was more disappointed than rookie defenseman Jamie McBain, who made an uncharacteristic turnover in his own zone that led to the goal.

McBain knew his mistake cost Murphy the doughnut. You would have thought the game was on the line the way McBain smashed his stick in anger afterwards. The giveaway was a bad slip, but the emotion McBain showed for his teammate was good to see. The boys are truly pulling for each other. 

Bryan Rodney and Jonathan Paiement had a great game. Hard to believe Paiement spent so much time in the ECHL. 

Big Benn Olson played in his first contest of the season. His physical stay-at-home defense and enforcer mentality kept the Americans in check. 

Matthew Pistilli skated in his first professional game. He had a couple of good shots and played well. 

The River Rats went 2-for-8 on the power play, with Bowman and Samson hooking up for both goals. The Rats' penalty kill remained flawless, going 6-for-6 and standing at 12-for-12 on the season.

Brad Herauf was a healthy scratch. 

The Rats' record now stands at 2-1-0-0, good for second place in the East Division. Albany trails Hershey by two points and has a game in hand. 

The Rats play Wednesday night at home against the Norfolk Admirals.

More post-game coverage:

Brett Carson out 4-6 weeks with broken wrist

Brett Carson (top right) skates towards the bench after snapping his wrist Friday
(Photo by "akoszuta')

Top defenseman and alternate captain Brett Carson is expected to miss four to six weeks with a broken wrist. Carson was injured when he was checked into the boards Friday night against Portland. 

Nicolas Blanched will serve as acting alternate captain while Carson is out. Benn Olson will fill in on defense. 

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Rats sink Pirates 5-2

Brandon Sutter camps in front of goaltender Jhonas Enroth
(Photo by 'akoszuta')

Prospects Zach Boychuk, Brandon Sutter, Chris Terry and Drayson Bowman put on a show last night for the Albany faithful, helping the River Rats sail past the Portland Pirates by a score of 5 to 2. 

The Rats' young offensive talent skated circles around the Pirates' defenders with a tremendous display of speed, passing and playmaking. 

The Rats came out firing on all cylinders from the get-go, dominating the first period in shots 16 to 5.

Zach Boychuk did an excellent job of quarterbacking an early power play. Boychuk hustled to keep things alive in the offensive zone, and for the second time in two games he found Brett Carson open at the point. Carson, who continues to develop his offensive game, put the puck home with a little help from Brandon Sutter in front. 

Sutter had a great game, tallying a goal and an assist. He is very smart when it comes to positioning, both offensively and defensively. 

Sutter also has the brains to keep up with Boychuk, who scored his first professional goal on a nice give-and-go with Sutter in the third period. 

Boychuk picked up three points on the night with a goal and two assists.

Boychuk commented after the game that the team is developing genuine chemistry, a fact that was evident from the stands. 

Drayson Bowman and Chris Terry are proving to be a dynamic combo in their own right. They both know how to think on their feet and move the puck in heavy traffic. They were dishing and dealing throughout the game and teamed up for a power play goal in the second period. 

Terry scored again in the third, finishing the night with a goal and an assist. 

Bowman and Terry each have two goals in two games. 

Jerome Samson maintained his reputation for pouncing on loose pucks. After Zach Boychuk was stopped on a breakaway in the second period, Samson beat the defenders to the rebound and rattled it home. He is looking better than ever.

Pat Dwyer, on the ice and on the bench, is proving why he was named captain. Dwyer's ability to move the puck down low is invaluable. He assisted Chris Terry's second goal in the third period.

Justin Peters was fantastic in net. He kept the Rats comfortably ahead in the second and third periods with several high-concentration saves. He stopped 24 of 26 shots. 

Peters was also the subject of an amusing video segment that was played on the Jumbotron during a media timeout. In the clip, Peters is identified by several of his teammates as the Rats' "toughest" player. Skaters on the bench couldn't help from sneaking a peek at the screen as highlights were shown of Peters fighting during last year's season-ending brawl. The fans enjoyed the moment.

The worst news from the night is that Brett Carson left the game in the third period after taking a hard hit in the defensive zone. He remained on the bench for a moment, but eventually returned to the locker room. He was holding ice on his wrist. His status is unknown, but we should know more tonight. 

Benn Olson and Matthew Pistilli were healthy scratches. Olson will be in the line-up tonight if Carson is unable to play. 

The Rats take on the Rochester Americans at 7 p.m. at the Times Union Center. 

More post-game coverage:

Boychuk looking for Albany impact

Zach Boychuk is featured in an article by staff writer Mike G. Morreale and in a piece by Pete Dougherty at the Albany Times Union.

Friday, October 9, 2009

News & Notes

  • Defenseman Zack FitzGerald is spotlighted in the Troy Record.
  • Goaltender Mike Murphy will get the first start of his pro career this weekend. Coach Jeff Daniels says Murphy will likely play against Rochester on Saturday.
  • Forward Harrison Reed will play in his first contest of the 2009-10 season tonight against the Portland Pirates. Reed was impressive at training camp and in the preseason. Expect him to skate hard. Phil Janack has more.
  • Fans in Albany can forget about seeing defenseman Jay Harrison in the short-term. Carolina D-man Joni Pitkanen remains day-to-day. Pitkanen, who underwent knee surgery in September, skated in his first contest of the season Tuesday night, but did not play in the third period because of soreness in his knee. Pitkanen also sat out of practice the last two days. That means Harrison will be back in the line-up for Carolina this weekend. 
  • Coach Jeff Daniels tells Phil Janack that the injury to Carolina's Erik Cole should not affect things in Albany, at least not for the time being. Former River Rat Tim Conboy filled in for the Canes Tuesday night in a 2-1 shootout win over the Tampa Bay Lightning. Conboy had a fight in the first period, but did not play a regular shift. He registered only 3:25 of ice-time. Conboy will likely play again tonight in the Canes' contest against the Florida Panthers. 
  • Portland tonight will be without blueliner Joe DiPenta, who was recently handed a one-game suspension for taking a two-handed chop at Kip Brennan of the Springfield Falcons.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Angelidis out 4-6 weeks with separated shoulder

Albany River Rats' forward and alternate captain Mike Angelidis suffered a separated shoulder when he crashed into the end-boards during the second period of Saturday night's game. Angelidis missed the end of last season with a similar injury. He went in for MRI testing yesterday. Still no timeframe on his return. Update: Angelidis is expected to miss four to six weeks. Phil Janack has more

Mike Angelidis
(Photo by Jennifer Bock)

Angelidis tells the Schenectady Daily Gazette: "I felt good, got my first fight, got my legs going, I felt pretty good out there, and then .. it's just been a bad year for me right now. Two shoulder separations and a bus crash. It's tough."

Pitkanen, Conboy to play; Ryan feeling better

According to Chip Alexander of the Raleigh News & Observer, Carolina Defenseman Joni Pitkanen, who has been out with a bum knee since the start of the season, should will return to action tonight against the Tampa Bay Lightning. 

If Pitkanen proves to be fully recuperated, the Canes will have a decision to make regarding D-man Jay Harrison: assign him to Albany or keep him in Raleigh as a seventh defenseman. 

Also scheduled to play for Carolina tonight is former Albany captain Tim Conboy. With Carolina forward Erik Cole out with a leg fracture, Conboy is getting a chance to skate. The Canes appear comfortable with the current roster, at least for the time being.

Michael Ryan, who suffered a concussion during the Hurricanes' second preseason game on September 21, says he is feeling much better. Still no definitive word on his return, but we expect it to come sooner rather than later. 

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Erik Cole out with leg fracture

Winger Erik Cole of the Carolina Hurricanes fractured a bone in his lower left leg last night after receiving a nasty hip check from Boston's Dennis Wideman. Cole is expected to be out of action for four to six weeks.

Canes coach Paul Maurice says Tim Conboy will be in the lineup for Carolina's next game on Tuesday night. Don't be surprised if a player from Albany is soon recalled for extra backup.

Rats fall in sloppy opener

Pat Dwyer, David Kolomatis
(Photo by J.S. Carras, Troy Record)

Hockey season has officially started. 

Last night a crowd of 6,507 gathered at the Times Union Center for game #1 of the Albany River Rats 2009-10 season. 

The River Rats showed spirit, but defensive breakdowns quashed any chance of victory against the opportunistic Manchester Monarchs. Albany was defeated 6-3. 

The Rats controlled most of the second and third periods, outshooting the Monarchs 38 to 31, but Manchester netminder Jonathan Bernier was sharp and Albany failed to convert on several key chances. 

In the end, it was poor defensive coverage that cost the Rats the game. 

Throughout the night the Monarchs created opportunities on Albany's mistakes. 

The River Rats gambled in the offensive zone, giving up far too many odd-man rushes. 

Manchester was allowed space coming over the blue line, which gave their speedy forwards the jump on the Rats' defenders. 

The Monarchs were also allowed to move the puck down low and across the crease on more than one occasion. 

Suffice it to say, the Rats have some work to do at practice this week. 

Still, the night wasn't all bad. 

The Rats left open some defensive holes, but they dominated large portions of the game with an impressive forecheck. In the future, if the Rats can close the defensive gap and maintain the same offensive pressure, they should be a very powerful team.

The most thrilling moment of the night came at the end of the second. The Rats, having trailed 3-1 since the first, controlled the period but had nothing to show for it. They were finally rewarded with just 0.4 seconds on the clock. Pointman Brett Carson took a pass from Zach Boychuk and roofed it blocker-side. The building was filled with hope.

Bryan Rodney, Brett Carson, Zach Boychuk
(Photo by Jennifer Bock)

The Rats tied the game early in the third, but any chance of finishing on top was erased by three consecutive Manchester goals. 

Scoring for the Rats in addition to Carson were rookies Drayson Bowman and Chris Terry (see videos here and here). It was the first professional goal for both. Bowman played exceptionally well and earned second star honors.

First-year forward Zach Boychuk again displayed unbelievable offensive determination. He helped generate numerous opportunities. He is always dangerous and pursues the puck like a bloodhound.

Zack Fitzgerald deserves accolades for having the courage to go toe-to-toe with Manchester heavyweight Kevin Westgarth. Fitzgerald gave up several inches in height and roughly 40 pounds in weight, yet still held his own (barely). At the time, the Rats were playing sluggish and had just gone down two goals. The fight put the bench back on its feet. The effort was appreciated by Fitzgerald's teammates and by the fans. That's what counts. 

Justin Peters stopped 25 of 31 shots. He allowed six goals, but none were particularly soft. 

Alternate captain Mike Angelidis was injured in the second period after going hard into the boards. He left the ice favoring his shoulder and did not return. 

Harrison Reed, Matthew Pistilli and Benn Olson were scratched. 

The River Rats play again next Friday at home against the Portland Pirates.

Bridgeport signs Trevor Gillies

Former River Rats' enforcer Trevor Gillies has been signed by the Bridgeport Sound Tigers on a one-way AHL contract. Gillies was recently released from training camp with the Rochester Americans. He must pass a physical to complete the deal. The Sound Tigers' website has the story

Update: Gillies passed his physical and is now officially a member of the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. The Dansbury News-Times has the story

Gillies chose to sign with Bridgeport instead of Rochester because the Amerks have too many veterans. The AHL, being a development league, allows each team to dress only six veteran skaters per game. A veteran is any player with more than 260 games of experience in the AHL, NHL, IHL and Europe. Each team is allowed a seventh vet, as long as that skater has played in 320 games or less. 

Gillies has 327 contests under his belt and Rochester already has six vets. He didn't want to sit because of a technicality. 

For those wondering, the River Rats have only two veterans on the current roster, Pat Dwyer and Steven Goertzen. Jay Harrison and Michael Ryan, who are currently in Carolina, are also considered vets.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Boychuk enjoys learning experience

Dynamic forward Zach Boychuk is going through the learning experience of his life, picking up the knowledge and skills necessary to reach his NHL potential. Chris Fitz Gerald of the Troy Record checks up on Boychuk's journey from juniors, to international competition, to the pros.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Captains featured in Troy Record

Forwards Pat Dwyer and Mike Angelidis are spotlighted in the Troy Record today. Read the stories here and here

Hockey's Future previews River Rats

Our friend Cory Lavalette previews the 2009-10 Albany River Rats for Hockey's Future.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Captains named

Team captains were officially named today at practice. Phil Janack has the story.

News & Notes

  • Several players tell Chris Fitz Gerald of the Troy Record they are excited about the talent of this year's team.
  • "Forget last year's losing team, and the bus crash, and the revolving roster. As it looks now on the eve of the season, the Albany River Rats look good this year -- very good." Those are the words of columnist Mark McGuire at the Albany Times Union
  • With the team looking strong and a new Northway rivalry in the works, the River Rats front office is hoping to bring hockey fever back to Albany this season...and it just might happen. Pete Dougherty has the story at the Albany Times Union.
  • Goaltender Justin Peters is set to be the River Rats' rock in net this season. Chris Fitz Gerald reports for the Saratogian.
  • Phil Janack talked with coach Jeff Daniels and several players during media day with the Rats. Read Janack's story at his new blog, My Phil-osophy. Update: Janack covers today's practice here

Bayda assigned to Wilkes-Barre

Forward Ryan Bayda, who recently signed to two-way deal with the Pittsburgh Penguins, has been assigned to the team's AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. 

The River Rats will face-off against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins eight times this season. The first game is on November 18 at home.

From 2002 to 2008, Bayda bounced between the Carolina Hurricanes and the team's AHL affiliates in Lowell and Albany. He also spent a year with the Manitoba Moose in 2005-06. 

Bayda played a total of 81 games with the River Rats between 2006 and 2008. He scored 39 goals and 37 assists while wearing an Albany uniform.

Bayda spent all of the 2008-09 season with Carolina, skating in 70 regular season games and 15 playoff contests. 

Carolina added significant offensive depth during the offseason, reducing Bayda's chances of retaining a spot in the starting line-up. 

This summer Bayda rejected a two-way offer from the the Canes in hopes of finding a one-way deal elsewhere.