CANTLON’S CORNER: WOLF PACK OFF SEASON VOLUME 13

Wolf Pack Off Season Volume 13

BY: Gerry Cantlon, Howlings

HARTFORD, CT Just when there seemed like there might be a lull for a bit in the heat of the summer, there comes LOTS of hockey news this week starting with the Hartford Wolf Pack rounding out the coaching staff. 

PACK NAME NEW ASSISTANT COACH

The Wolf Pack announced the hiring of Joe Mormina as the sixth assistant coach in team history.

Mormina comes to Hartford after coaching as an Assistant with Mercyhurst University Lakers (AHA) located in Erie, PA. Mormina was there for one season following his retirement as a player.

Standing 6’6, Mormina played 670 AHL games with six teams including Manchester, Albany, Adirondack, Syracuse, Rochester and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, where he was named Captain. He logged 31 career goals, 120 assists, 151 points, and 837 PM. Over an eleven-year professional career, he played one game in the NHL and that came with the Carolina Hurricanes.

Mormina is a native of Montreal and Philadelphia drafted him in the sixth round, 193rd overall in 2002. Mormina spent four-years in college at Colgate (ECACHL).

Mormina has a small, but amusing, side note in Wolf Pack history. While playing with Syracuse, he was the player who was sucker punched by Sean Avery after he scored his last pro goal, a shorthanded breakaway. Avery’s actions touched off a wild line brawl in Hartford. Avery was ejected and never played another shift of pro hockey again.

(A full interview with Mormina will appear in next week’s column)

PACK INSURANCE POLICY CASHES OUT

Goalie Jeff Malcolm, an energetic team player for the Wolf Pack organization the last two years, has elected to retire and pursue career opportunities outside of hockey. Malcolm had a four-year pro career after helping Yale win its first NCAA Division I title. Malcolm was a consummate professional, highly respected by both his coaches and teammates alike.

US OLYMPIC STAFF NAMED

The first steps for the US Olympic hockey team for the Pyeongchang, South Korea Games coming up from February 9-25 came on Friday morning.

USA HOckey announced who the main seven men will be to guide and put together the US team.

The GM will be Jim Johansson, whose has been involved in management at USA Hockey for twenty years and who played some pro hockey in the old IHL.

One-time assistant coach under the late Tim Taylor at Yale, Ben Smith, is the team’s Director of Player Development. Taylor is a 2016 US HHOF inductee for his work with the US Women’s Olympic team. In 1998, as the head coach of the squad in Nagano, Japan, the team brought home the Gold medal.

The Men’s National Team will be lead by former New York Ranger (1988-1990) Tony Granato, a coach with four different NHL teams experience. He is presently the head coach at the University of Wisconsin (Big 10).

Granato will have four assistants. They include current Yale University (ECACHL) head coach Keith Allain who guided the Bulldogs to the NCAA Division I title four years ago.

Chris Chelios, who has 26 NHL seasons and four Olympic teams (one non-NHL squad in 1984 in Sarajevo then known as Yugoslavia now Bosnia-Hercegovina) under his belt. He will also have Ron Rolston, who was the Springfield Falcons head coach two years ago, and who’s been on the bench for Buffalo and Arizona in the NHL.

The last assistant is former Hartford Whaler, Scott Young. Just last week, Young was named the Director of Player Development for the defending Stanley Cup champion, Pittsburgh Penguins. His appointment came after his being an assistant coach at his alma mater, Boston University (HE) for the last three years. Young will be inducted into the US HHOF in December with the 2017 class.

The US Women’s Olympic team’s head coach is former Hartford Wolf Pack and New Haven Nighthawk player Robb Stauber.

PLAYER AND COACHING MOVEMENT

On Tuesday, the Providence Bruins were the last AHL team to name its head coach for the upcoming season. The P-Bruins named Jay Leach to lead the team with Spencer Carberry as their new assistant coach.

Leach was the Baby Bruins’ Assistant for the past two years after serving as an assistant with Wilkes Barre/Scranton. Leech was briefly the interim head coach after former Rangers assistant coach, Mike Sullivan, was promoted to lead the parent Pittsburgh Penguins. He was then an associate head coach under current Wilkes-Barre/Scranton head coach, Clark Donatelli.

Leach played for eight AHL teams over 499 games. That run included stops with Bridgeport, Providence, Springfield, Worcester, Lowell, Albany, Portland, and Norfolk. During his career, Leach amassed 25 goals and 87 points.  Leach served as captain on three of those teams. He also made it to the show where he played 70 NHL games and putting three points and 60 PM on his stat sheet. In the NHL, he saw action in New Jersey, Montreal, San Jose, Tampa Bay and Boston. Originally a draft pick of the Phoenix (nee Arizona) Coyotes in 1998. Leach went 115th overall in the fifth round after playing at Providence College (HE).

Leach is the nephew of a former AHL coach, and University of New Haven player of the same name, who is currently the associate head coach for the University of Maine Black Bears (HE). Another uncle, Steve, played over 700 NHL games primarily with Boston but also included stops in Washington and Ottawa.

Former Sound Tiger head coach, Steve Stirling, who was an assistant coach in Binghamton for the last three years, is no longer in that role. He stays with the Ottawa organization, but as a pro scout.

Former Sound Tigers Chris Campoli and Steve Webb are working with the NHLPLA as divisional player representatives.

Former Wolf Pack, Stu Bickel, has re-signed with San Diego for next season.

Ex-Pack, Ryan Haggerty, re-signs with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton a new one-year AHL deal.

Logan Roe, a former Kent Prep player, re-signs with Florida (ECHL).

Nick Johnson of Windsor, CT, signs a one-year deal with South Carolina (ECHL). His two older brothers, Keith and Gregg, both played there previously.

Gregg Johnson played on the 2009 Kelly Cup title team, while Nick split last year with two teams in the Czech Republic, HC Plzen (Pilsener) and HC Dynamo Pardubice. Those teams play in the Czech Elite League where Nick has played since graduating from Sacred Heart University (AHA). He finished the season with EHC Wolfsburg (Germany-DEL).

Johnson’s coach in South Carolina, Ryan Warsofsky, was a teammate in college with the Pioneers.

Several more AHL’ers signed in Europe just as those leagues prepare to open training camps.

The latest include Matt Clark of San Antonio, who signs with HC Bolzano (Italy-AEHL). He replaces William Wrenn, who was brought out of his deal. Wrenn signed with an unnamed KHL team. Andrej Nestrasil, who split the year with Charlotte and Carolina, is heading to Neftekhimik (Russia-KHL) while Danish winger Patrick Bjorkstrand Ontario signs with Kookoo (Finland-FEL).

Ex-Pack, Justin Fontaine who was included in the trade to Bakersfield for Taylor Beck, signs with Dynamo Minsk (Belarus-KHL). Fontaine was going to Bakersfield as David Musil departed to Tucson at the trade deadline. He chose to return to his native Czech Republic where he will lace up the skates with HC Ocleari Trinec in the Czech Elite League (CEL). His uncle is former Whaler and Ranger, Bobby Holik.

Anthony Camera who split the season between St. John’s and Kalamazoo (ECHL) has signed with Odense (Denmark-DHL) and Nick Ebert goes from Texas to HC Slovan Bratislava (Slovakia-KHL).

The total number of AHL players who’ve signed in Europe stands at 67.

Former Wolf Pack/Ranger, Gordie Dwyer, is the new head coach for Dynamo Minsk (Belarus-KHL),

Ex-Pack, Paul Crowder, after a taking a year off, has put his name to a contract with Cardiff (Wales-EIHL).

Brandon Alderson, who played three games with the Pack on recall from the Greenville Swamp Rabbits and who had a recall with Syracuse, signs with Heilbronner (Germany DEL-2).

Ex-Pack, Josef Balej, goes from HC Martigny (Switzerland-LNB) to Medvescak Zagreb (Croatia-AEHL).

Alexander Nikolishin, the youngest son of former Whaler, Andre Nikolishin, signs with HK Lida (Belarus-BHL),

Several more US collegians signed their first pro contracts this week. Gage Asmus of North Dakota (WCHA) signs with Colorado (ECHL) while J.T. Stenglein late of Michigan State (Big 10), put his name on a contract with Kalamazoo (ECHL). Troy Crema, from Dartmouth College (ECACHL) and who played a few games with Rochester, signs with Orlando (ECHL).

The latest pair of players to sign are Todd Skirving of R.I.T. (AHA), who signs with Orlando (ECHL) while Willie Raskob University of Minnesota-Duluth signs with expansion Worcester (ECHL).

A trio of players signed with Iowa (AHL). Evan Janssen from national champion Denver University (NCHC), also Christian Frey from Ohio St. (Big 10) and Ian Brady all signed. Brady played two games with Rochester at the end of the year.

Brady Shaw, son of former Whaler Brad Shaw, who’s out of the University of Vermont (HE) signs an AHL deal with San Antonio to play next season, Brady played with the Rampage and some with Colorado (ECHL) after the Catamounts season ended.

The number of Division I players to sign North American pro contracts is now 167. Toss in the number of Division III players and that number inflates to 188 in total. 43 have signed in Europe. Goalie Jamie Hill of the University of New Hampshire (HE) signs with HC Chamonix (France-FREL) is the latest collegiate Euro signee; six players are in both categories.

Former Ranger, Corey Millen (1990-1992), was named Director of Hockey Operations for Air Force Academy (WCHA).

ECHL secondary affiliation changes continue. Arizona strikes a one-year deal with Ft. Wayne to work with Tucson. Winnipeg has inked a deal with the expansion Jacksonville (FL) Ice Men who relocated from Evansville, IN and Edmonton has a new partner for Bakersfield, the Wichita Thunder.

25 of the 27 ECHL teams have an affiliation. Eventually, the plan is for the league to mirror the NHL and AHL with a 31-31-31 arrangement. When Seattle officially gets an NHL expansion team, then like the NHL and AHL, the league will cap out at 32 teams.

SUMMER HOCKEY TOURNAMENTS

The WJC Summer Showcase is winding down. On Friday, the US took on Finland and defeated them 4-3. Finland led going into the final frame, but the US team stormed back for the win.

On Saturday (8/5) the always entertaining US vs. Canada game hits the air at 7pm from the USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth, MI. The game will broadcast on The NHL Network and TSN.

The final US team roster is made up from their Blue and White squads.

Two of the four goalies on the roster include incoming Quinnipiac (ECACHL) freshmen and Detroit Red Wing draft pick, Keith Petruzelli, and USNDTP (USHL) Dylan St. Cyr, who’s the son of former New Haven Senator Gerry St. Cyr His mother is Manon Rheaume the first woman to play goal in an NHL game.

Rangers draft pick Sean Day, who is expected in Hartford camp next month, and incoming Yale freshmen, Phil Kemp (Greenwich/Brunswick Prep), are manning the blue line for Uncle Sam’s squad.

Connecticut-connected boys up front for Team USA include, Pat Harper (New Canaan/Avon Old Farms/Boston University), Jack Badini (Old Greenwich/CT Oilers) who is Harvard (ECACHL) bound, Logan Brown (Ottawa-OHL), the son of former Whaler, Jeff Brown, and Max Jones (Sudbury-OHL), who is the son of former New Haven Nighthawk, Brad Jones.

Ridgefield native Chad Krys was injured during the preliminary games and was not on the final roster.

The US won its opening game 3-2 over Sweden. Logan Brown got the primary assist on the first goal with a sharp pass from the left wing corner to a wide open Riley Tufts. Keith Petruzelli played the first 30 minutes in net making 15 saves on 16 shots. Dylan St. Cyr finished the game with 21 saves on 22 shots.

Sweden’s Lias Andersson, the Rangers first round pick in June, scored both of Sweden’s goals.

At 16:07, Andersson opened the games scoring with a nifty wrist shot from atop the right wing faceoff circle. The shot beat a partially screened Petruzelli high to the glove side. Andersson scored the second goal on the powerplay jumping all over a rebound of Richard Karlstom’s shot past a fallen St. Cyr, who made the original save, depositing the bouncing puck into an open net at 12:29 of the second. The goal tied the game at two.

Quinn Hughes’ right point shot on the powerplay off a pass from Kieffer Bellows held up as the game-winner for the US. Casey Mittelstadt had two assists for Team USA.

Canada stormed back in their first game from a 4-2 deficit to start the third period and won 5-4 in overtime over Finland. Matthew Phillips (Calgary) scored twice in the third period and Michael McLeod had the game-winner.

The Ivan Hlinka tournament will be played in two weeks in the Czech Republic. It will then begin an every year rotation in Canada starting in Edmonton next summer.

The tourney honors the late Hlinka who played for the Czechoslovakian National Teams during the Communist-era. He eventually defected to the West and played for the Vancouver Canucks.

The Canadian team was named and features Jack McBain, Toronto (OJHL). He’s the son of former New Haven Senator, Andrew McBain. The team’s assistant coach is former Hartford Wolf Pack, Drew Bannister, the head coach of Sault Ste. Marie (OHL).

TITANS FOLD

The fifth team and second in the Federal Hockey League (FHL) that called Danbury home has called it quits.

After just two seasons, the Titans cited increased the exploding cost of worker’s compensation insurance as the primary reason for shutting down. They follow the Danbury Whalers who lasted amazingly five seasons and left with a blizzard of unpaid bills and used a real toilet in a chuck-a-puck promotion…

The previous Danbury incarnations included the NEPHL New England Stars, and the EPHL’s Danbury Mad Hatters both lasted one season. The controversial UHL Trashers lasted two brawling, fight-filled seasons before they were shut down by the Feds as part of massive corruption scandal regarding the waste disposal business in Connecticut that brought down ownership.

Former Danbury Whalers coach and New Haven Knights player, East Haven’s Phil Esposito, the all time winningest coach in FHL history was let go by the Watertown Wolves (FHL) after one season because of a new ownership change.

IN MEMORIAM

One of the major influences of the junior hockey in Quebec and with the WHA Nordiques and the development of pro hockey in Quebec right into the NHL, Maurice Fillion passed away at 75. Read about HERE

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