Category Archives: UConn Hockey

CANTLON’S CORNER: WOLF PACK OFF SEASON VOLUME 8 – HOLD ON, THIS COULD GET BUMPY

Wolf Pack Off Season Volume 8 – HOLD ON, THIS COULD GET BUMPY

BY: Gerry Cantlon, Howlings

HARTFORD, CT – The NHL Draft is upon us and there is SO much going on in the NHL that has an effect on every team let alone the Hartford Wolf Pack.

LATE BREAKING NHL DRAFT NEWS

The New York Rangers swung a major pre-draft trade with the Arizona Coyotes as they dealt center, Derek Stepan and their backup goalie, Antti Raanta, for New Jersey-native, defenseman, Anthony D’Angelo who split last year between Arizona and the Tucson Roadrunners (AHL) and the number seven overall pick in the 2017 draft.

The Ranger will have two first rounders as they will also select in the 21st spot. The Rangers look to replenish the team prospect depth, which is presently very low in Hartford. The Wolf Pack finished last in the AHL last season and they dismissed their long-time head coach, Ken Gernander, and hired Keith McCambridge to replace him.

The surprising part of the deal was the inclusion of Raanta. This creates an opening in New York for a backup goaltender, something the team will need to address. The Rangers have second-year pro, Brandon Halverson, and rookie Chris Nell both under contract for next season. They are the only other goalies in the organization right now.

*Cantlon’s Corner will have draft recap on Monday*

PLAYER & COACHING MOVEMENT

Ex-Pack Chad Johnson was traded by his hometown Calgary Flames to the Arizona Coyotes for another goalie Mike Smith.

Former Sound Tiger, Ryan Strome, was sent to the Edmonton Oilers for the highly skilled, Jordan Eberle.

One NHL coach going out and one coming in with CT connections.

Coming in is former Sound Tigers head coach Jack Capuano. He is one of the good guys in the game and he becomes the associate head coach with the Florida Panthers. Cap will work with the recently hired new head coach Bob Boughner.

Heading out is the Head Coach of the dysfunctional Arizona Coyotes. He is former Hartford Whaler, Dave Tippett, who leaves with four years left on a contract extension. Tippet was relieved the day before the draft!

The Coyotes are in complete disarray as an organization. They have no Head Coach, no Director of Player Operations, no captain, have become established as one of the least attended teams. They have an expiring arena lease after this season and no prospects for a new one to be built in the eastern part of Phoenix. Oh, and they also have the lowest payroll in hockey.

Ex-Pack Chris Bourque signed a two-year extension with Hershey with the second year being a mutual option for the 31-year-old forward.

Washington also signed Christian Djoos, the son of former Ranger, Per Djoos.

Nick Lukko, formerly of Salisbury Prep, signed a one-year deal with the Reading Royals (ECHL). His father is Peter Lukko is the CEO of the NHL Florida Panthers.

Joel Vermin, one of the top performers for the Syracuse Crunch in their Calder Cup run, has formally announced his signing with HC Lausanne (Switzerland-LNA) on a five-year contract to return to his homeland.

Petr Straka, who was with Albany Devils last year, also heads home to play with HC Plzen (Pilsner) in the Czech Republic Elite League (CEL).

A fellow Czech, Matej Stransky, leaves Texas for Severstal Cherepovets (Russia-KHL). That makes for 36 AHL’ers (22 of 30 teams so far have lost at least one player) to sign in Europe and with completed expansion draft and tonight’s amateur draft expect a few more names to be added just as the July 1st NHL/AHL free agency kicks in.

Ex-Pack/CT Whale Blake Parlett, who split last year with KHL Medvescak Zagreb in Croatia before their finances went south and finished the year with Tappara (Finland-FEL), has signed with Eisbaren Berlin (Germany-DEL) for 2017-18.

Former UCONN Husky Brant Harris (AHA years), who spent most of last year with the Florida Everblades (ECHL) and eleven games in Bridgeport has signed with EC Salzburg (Austria-AEHL) for the next season.

Another UCONN Husky from last year who left school mid-season, defenseman Joona Kunnas, who split the rest of the year with Illves Tampere (Finland-FEL) and a few games with Leki (Finland Division-1), has signed with Grenoble in the French Elite Magnus league for 2017-18.

Former Salisbury Prep product, Jerry Pollastone, signs for another year with Vienna (Austria-AEHL).

Ex-Sound Tiger Paul Flache was named Associate head coach for Flint (OHL).

Former New Haven Senator, Jake Grimes, signs a one year extension as assistant coach with Peteborough (OHL).

Ex-Pack, John Tripp, leaves ETC Crimmitschau (Germany DEL-2) where he started his coaching career mid-season last year, gets a gig with Braehead (Scotland-EIHL) for next season.

Former New Haven Knights assistant coach, Scott Bell, who has been an amateur scout for the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins the last five years, and was a former University of Minnesota Golden Gopher two time captain, has taken the assistant coach job at his alma mater who play in the Big 10 conference.

Leon Hayward, an assistant coach at Avon Old Farms (CTPREP) the last three years has taken the assistant coach position with Bloomington (USHL). After his five-year minor pro career,  spent mostly in the ECHL with some AHL time with the Providence Bruins and the Manchester Monarchs, the Northeastern grad was also an assistant at Taft Prep (Watertown) for four years.

EXPANSION DRAFT & NHL AWARDS

Certainly, the Las Vegas Golden Knights had some Connecticut hockey flavor for their first 30 players on their roster.

Former Wolf Pack Oscar Lindberg, underutilized by the Rangers, was selected as was former CT Whale, Jonathan Audy-Marchessault, who had a breakout 30 goal campaign with Florida Panthers.

Two ex-Sound Tigers were among the 30. Goalie Jean-Francois Berube and former #1 pick of the Islanders, defenseman, Griffin Reinhart.

Gathering some trophy hardware was one time New Haven Nighthawk assistant coach and former Ranger coach John Tortorella. Now with the Columbus Blue Jackets, Tortorella garnered the Jack Adams Award (Coach of the Year).

Ex-Pack Brady Skej was named to the NHL All-Rookie Team.

HOCKEY NEWS

Congrats to the US Hockey Hall of Fame Class of 2017 that will be inducted in December.

One of the inductees is former Whaler Scott Young who played 197 games in Hartford with 138 points and is the currently an assistant coach with the Boston University Terriers (HEA).

Another CT connection is Ben Smith who was an assistant coach at Yale (ECACHL) for six years under the late Tim Taylor. He help guide the US Women’s Team to Olympic gold in Nagano, Japan in 1998.

Just the second official in history and the first in 43 years Kevin Collins (Springfield, MA) will be inducted for his work on ice and his work off ice to help develop the officiating fraternity in all levels of hockey.

The first and last official inducted was the late “Big Whistle”  Bill Chadwick known mostly by the older generation for his work as Rangers color commentator on Channel 9 in the 1970’s and 1980’s with Jim Gordon.

Ron Wilson, the long time NHL head coach who has worked almost every level and team for USA hockey is the other.

Providence Bruins Kevin Dean promoted to Boston as an assistant coach after just one year as the head coach.

Bridgeport signed former Quinnipiac Bobcat Travis St. Denis to a one year AHL contract for next season. The Sound Tigers also saw the Islander resign Steve Bernier to a two year two-way deal at $650K-NHL/$225K-AHL (1st year)/$250K (2nd year).

Former Yale Bulldog Denny Kearny who split last year with HC Bolzano (Italy-AEHL) and Cardiff (Wales-EIHL) will play with the recently promoted Milton Keynes team (England–EIHL).

This will be a quiet summer as far as AHL franchise movement next off season will likely not be.

It looks likely that St. Louis will likely place their full AHL team according to several hockey sources in Indianapolis. They will upgrade the Indy Fuel from ECHL to AHL in 2018-19. Currently Indy is Rockford’s ECHL affiliate.

It looks like the Colorado Avalanche will finally get their AHL affiliate in Colorado as they wanted to for several years. The same hockey sources have indicated that likely the Colorado Eagles will too be upgraded from the Avalanche ECHL affiliate to AHL affiliate.

The Avalanche really had wanted the now defunct Central Hockey League, the Denver Cutthroats to be that team, but it never worked out.

The relationship in San Antonio with the Rampage owners, the NBA San Antonio Spurs has soured greatly. The Spurs are very disappointed with the on ice product especially last year when the Avalanche spent a lot of free agent money in the off season for a more competitive squad and finished with the third worst record in the AHL.

Then of course the unknown situation for the Rangers with the unresolved XL Center issue also hangs in the balance will Vancouver continue on in Utica.

The Pacific Division could see a small change as Calgary may look to move within California not because of the arena or fan support, rather a very serious real gang violence issue in Stockton that affects the players and staff. The two cities mentioned they are said to be exploring are Fresno and Sacramento, but no final decision has been made.

-Rapid City becomes the new ECHL affiliate for the Iowa Wild. Expect New Jersey to announce they will make Adirondack (Glen Falls) their ECHL affiliate for Binghamton where they just moved their AHL team from Albany.

CANTLON’S CORNER: WOLF PACK OFF SEASON VOLUME 6

Wolf Pack Off Season Volume 6

BY: Gerry Cantlon, Howlings

HARTFORD, CT – Never a dull moment in hockey. Plenty to review as news still pours in from the Hartford Wolf Pack and the rest of the hockey world.

WOLF PACK SIGN ANOTHER DEFENSEMAN

The first signing under the Chris Drury regime as Wolf Pack GM has been made.

The Rangers signed defenseman Brenden Kotyk, 25, from the NCAA Frozen Four runner-up University Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs (NCHC) who fell 3-2 to Denver University.

Kotyk, who stands 6-6 and weighs 240 pounds, spent three seasons with the Bulldogs.  He is a native of Regina, Saskatchewan.   Continue reading

CANTLON’S CORNER: WOLF PACK OFF SEASON VOLUME 4 PART ONE

BY: Gerry Cantlon, Howlings

HARTFORD, CTSo much going on in hockey that occasionally you need some time to reflect in order to get your thoughts in order. This was a week like that.

GERNANDER FIRING

It was tough thinking about the fact that Ken Gernander will be no longer be the face of Hartford Wolf Pack hockey.

This is no small matter. It’s a Titanic-sized earthquake that split the road down the middle in the magnitude of its stature. The franchise will have his jersey snuggly hanging from the rafters to remind the fans what was, and has been. People truly need to appreciate what a titan Gernander became in Connecticut’s capitol city. That description would likely make him cringe as Gernander always had a very self-effacing demeanor. It may make him uncomfortable but is undeniably true. Continue reading

CANTLON’S CORNER: XL CENTER ENTERS CRITICAL FINAL MONTHS

CANTLON’S CORNER: XL CENTER ENTERS CRITICAL FINAL MONTHS

BY: Gerry Cantlon, Howlings

HARTFORD, CT When the legislative session ends next month, there will be a better picture of the future of the XL Center.

What is yet to be decided will be in terms of the ability of the state to provide the money to start the planning and design concepts of a renovated XL Center, or will the countdown start for the eventual end of the building in the next two to three years.

The state Bond Commission began to hand money for project requests two weeks ago. The XL Center received none and for a reason.

“The XL Center funds have to be authorized as part of the budget before they can get to the bond commission,” CRDA Executive Director, Mike Freimuth said.

On Thursday afternoon,  Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy stopped by to tour the ongoing work to replace the 42-year-old XL Center’s outmoded and aging ice making facility. Malloy was there to renew his call for funding the reboot of the arena. Malloy stressed the importance of the building in the overall formula to economically jumpstart the city of Hartford.

“To make Hartford or any city livable, having a state of the art facility is a part of the equation. The vitality of a building is important to the city,” Malloy said. Continue reading

CANTLON’S CORNER: PACK OFF-SEASON NOTEBOOK – WEEK TWO

CANTLON’S CORNER: PACK OFF-SEASON NOTEBOOK – WEEK TWO

BY: Gerry Cantlon, Howlings

HARTFORD, CTWhile the lights may be out in Hartford, there is still plenty of hockey going on still in the ECHL, AHL, and NHL.

AHL PLAYOFFS

The Hershey Bears have a three-games-to-two lead in their playoff series with the Providence Bruins after the weekend’s action. On Thursday night, Hershey won a 2-1 OT thriller with, who else but ex-Hartford Wolf Pack, Chris Bourque scoring both goals. The team got the win despite registering just 15 shots on goal. Bears’ goalie Pheonix Copley stopped 39 of 40 Bruins shots. The series is a 2-3-2 format with Game 4 on Friday going to the Bruins in a reversal of the score from the previous night and their own 2-1 win.  In Game 5 on Sunday in Providence, it took OT to get a result again, and Hershey won again as Madison Bowey scored 1:58 into overtime to give the Bears a 3-2 win.

Meanwhile, back in Thursday’s game, Bourque got his first goal early in the third and then the second, the game winner, the other came at 7:23 in overtime both on the powerplay. The Bears evened up their series with Providence at one with Travis Boyd scoring the overtime game-winner in Game 2. Continue reading

CANTLON’S CORNER: 2017 WOLF PACK OFF SEASON VOLUME ONE

CANTLON’S CORNER: 2017 Wolf Pack Off Season Volume One

BY: Gerry Cantlon, Howlings

HARTFORD, CT – There is LOTS of news going on regarding the New York Rangers and their top affiliates in Hartford and even in Greenville With the Swamp Rabbits. We will give to you a weekly series all summer keeping you up to date on all of it.

Week One has plenty to offer.

PLAYERS SiGNINGS

The Hartford Wolf Pack team makeover for 2017-18 is clearly underway.

The first two off season signings were on defense.

The latest is from the collegiate ranks in right-handed shooting rearguard, Neal Pionk. Continue reading

CANTLON’S CORNER: THE FUTURE OF THE XL CENTER IS DOWN TO THE HOME STRETCH

CANTLON’S CORNER: THE FUTURE OF THE XL CENTER IS DOWN TO THE HOME STRETCH

BY: Gerry Cantlon, Howlings

HARTFORD, CT – It’s an off-season of apprehension and happiness at the XL Center.

The apprehension factor just got a bit higher last week.

A key legislative committee for the state legislature that approves large-scale capital development projects, The Finance, Revenue, and Bonding Committee, made a recommendation to approve just $70 million over the next two years ($40 million in 2018 and $30 million in 2019). The original request was for $125 million, or half of the total $250 million said to be needed to renovate the 42-year-old building.

This procedural vote still must go to the full General Assembly for approval. Currently, the state has no place in the budget and the current negotiations are, not surprisingly, acrimonious and have broken down. The budget gap over the last year, seems to always be a floating number, has dipped even further into the red for this year. The State Budget office estimates the deficit has escalated for 2018 to a projected $2.3 billion and $2.7 billion in 2019.

CRDA Executive Director Michael W. Freimuth, despite not getting the result he wanted, maintains his confidence that this is the fifth inning of a nine-inning game.

“This is one step in the budget process. It does have to go before the General Assembly to be voted on and accepted by the Governor. There are a million moving pieces to the budget process. It’s not finished. It’s pretty obvious we have major budget issues ongoing. As of today, things are very unclear and we’re nowhere near close to final budget numbers. When the session ends then will be able to assess where we are and how to go forward.”

If the figure stays as is, and is not modified in any way, for Freimuth, it will represent a small victory in a very long-term strategy that has been structured because of the state economics.

“We have always thought this to be a four-year project,” Freimuth said. “The first year would be planning, design, and cost analysis needs to be done. This level of funding could allow that to start. Clearly, next year is absolutely critical. It’s when we have to prepare and begin the true, heavy lifting. The construction part needs to begin, and yes, we have to have the funding in place. We also have the expiration of contracts with our two main tenants, MSG and UCONN. That adds pressure to the situation no question.”

Freimuth admitted the budget battle, as well as the questions and concerns from the state legislators regarding the project, have now given the CRDA a new element to add to the equation—private financing.

“Given the economic realities we have before us, we are going to be studying and looking at our options in (the private financing) area. We are going to see what the marketplace is for this, and how it could be incorporated as part of this project.”

The state budget shortfall for the current fiscal year has now ballooned to $389.5 million after the April tax deadlines. This reflects a sharp decline in revenue for state government whose current budget year ends June 30th. The current legislative session is to end in little over a month from now, on June 7th. Continue reading

CANTLON: WOLF PACK WRAP UP DAY

Wolf Pack Wrap Up Day

BY: Gerry Cantlon, Howlings

HARTFORD, CT – The XL Center arena was dark. The ice is gone. Almost no equipment remains in the locker room as the picture was that of a 2016-17  AHL season Hartford Wolf Pack clearly over. While it may be over for the players, for the off ice staff was still at work with their season-ending multiple tasks.

The only news of the day was that the New York Rangers will not be recalling as many players for the playoffs as there have in the past to be a part of the Black Aces squad. The Rangers are ready for a crucial Game 4 in their Best-of-Seven series with the Montreal Canadiens. The Rangers find themselves down two games to none. Magnus Hellberg, who was recalled earlier in the week was on the bench in the place on Antti Raanta. Hellberg may remain the only recall, but that remains undetermined.

“The list is truly not finalized as of yet. There are several contractual and other matters that need to be ironed out, but I can say there will be very few players going to New York,” Head Coach Ken Gernander said. Continue reading

CANTLON’S CORNER: PEDRIE ENJOYING THE LEARNING CURVE


Photo by Joshua Warnock

CANTLON’S CORNER: Pedrie Enjoying the Learning Curve

BY: Gerry Cantlon, Howlings

HARTFORD, CT It’s been a baptism of fire for Vince Pedrie in his ascension from the college to the professional hockey world.

Pedrie signed as a free agent out of Penn State University after their elimination by the eventual National Champion Denver University Pioneers and has been adjusting to the professional game since becoming a member of the Hartford Wolf Pack.

“It’s has been a quick adjustment to learn the systems, the team, the pace of play and everything here. The staff and my teammates have been phenomenal in helping in that regard. It’s a lot thrown at you,” Pedrie said.

One thing abundantly evident is that since his arrival, Pedrie demonstrates a lot of confidence in his ability to handle the puck and does it very well. He has been and is getting time on the power play as a result. Right off the bat, Pedrie plunked two assists, his first pro points, when the Pack beat the Springfield Thunderbirds and then against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers saw Matt Carey deflect his shot for a goal. Continue reading

CANTLON’S CORNER: PACK HEAD TO HERSHEY FOR THE WEEKEND

CANTLON’S CORNER:

Pack Head to Hershey for The Weekend

BY: Gerry Cantlon, Howlings

HARTFORD, CTThe Hartford Wolf Pack officially are eliminated from the Calder Cup playoffs. They will, however, get to play the role of spoiler for the rest of the regular season.

The Pack will get their first shot at that as they head into the lion’s den this weekend to play the Hershey Bears on both Friday and Saturday nights. The Bears find themselves in a mad dash with both the Bridgeport Sound Tigers and the Providence Bruins as the three teams battle it out to make it to the post-season.

The AHL affiliates of the Washington Capitals (Hershey), The New York Islanders (Bridgeport) and the Boston Bruins (Providence), respectively, each have 77 points. The Sound Tigers (37-21-2-1) and Bruins (34-18-5-4) both have a .631 winning percentage while the Bears (33-18-83) trail with at .621.

With fifteen games remaining on the schedule, the Wolf Pack, sadly, are nestled dead last among 30 teams with a 21-35-3-2 record (47 points), a hugely disappointing .385 winning percentage. Continue reading