Category Archives: UConn Hockey


CANTLON’S CORNER: Wolf Pack Off Season Volume 15

BY: Gerry Cantlon, Howlings

HARTFORD, CT – You would think there might be a slow down for the dog days of summer, but hockey, like any other business, is at work around the world 365 days a year. Here’s what’s happening.


On Sunday at Avon Old Farms at Jennings Fairchild Arena from 10:30 am to 12:30 am hockey’s chalice will be on display a donation of $10 as a charitable donation for the Connecticut Children’s medical Center this will be for Nick Bonino’s turn.

Then the prized silverware on Monday goes to the Bolton Ice Center for Ron Hainsey who played there and is more os a semi-private as they want all the youth groups who play out of the arena for a chance to get their picture taken.

Getting there early for parking is important at both venues. Continue reading



BY: Gerry Cantlon, Howlings

HARTFORD, CTOn Monday, the XL Center dodged a major deflected puck yet again.

A secondary attempt to make ice on Wednesday proved successful and averted what could have been a major problem with kicking off the 2017-18 hockey season at the aging XL Center for both the AHL’s Hartford Wolf Pack and the UConn Huskies of Hockey East.

With two weeks to go before the Wolf Pack open their training camp, and just three weeks before their first home game, there was genuine concern that there would have been a disruption in the first month of Hartford’s regular season schedule.

Had the inability to make ice continued, the team would have had to find other venues to play their games. Places that would have received serious consideration to host the Wolf Pack and UConn would likely have included Quinnipiac University or the Ingalls Rink at Yale University. Had that occurred, it would have tested the relationship of the CRDA and Spectra in terms of the responsibility to pay for a rink rental in that situation. Thankfully though, they were successful making ice and none of that came to pass.

The Wolf Pack added to the drama with a stunning, and unexpected announcement on Monday. The team’s lone pre-season game at Trinity College, the annual Ryan Gordon Foundation game at Koeppel Community Center Rink, played to aid the Wolf Pack scholarship fund, was moved to the XL Center. The game will be played at noon and is closed to the public.


The state budget crisis, with more twists and turns than a pro wrestling show, may have finally produced a budget and a big winner will be the XL Center.

Reports surfaced that an approval of $115 million toward the re-boot of the arena has been made. In a rare move, the agreement disregarded a finance committee recommendation made back in March.

The city’s run-down XL Center arena would get the money over two years as part of a budget plan that was debated Thursday night and early Friday morning by the state House and Senate.

Sen. John W. Fonfara, (D) – Hartford, and co-chairman of the legislature’s finance revenue and bonding committee said the capital plan includes $40 million for the current fiscal year and $75 million for 2019.

The allocation is just shy of the $125 million sought by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy but is higher than the $75 million approved earlier this year by the finance and bond committee.

The amount included in the budget plan is close to half of the $250 million needed for a recommended, top-to-bottom makeover proposed for the arena. The project envisioned as being spread out over three or four years. Excluded are the demolition costs as well as the cost of acquiring the title to the atrium, a major linchpin to the re-boot plan.

CRDA Executive Director Mike Freimuth did not return calls for comment.

Late Friday, the budget process was tossed into a blender as three Democrats broke party ranks to vote in favor of the Senate Republican budget proposal. The House also received support from enough Democrats to pass the budget which did not include funds for the XL Center. Governor Malloy has already gone public saying he is going to veto the budget. How this will be resolved and what the XL Center future is, remains nebulous.

(AP News story was included in this segment)


Ex-Wolf Pack/CT Whale, Brandon Mashinter, signed an AHL deal with the San Jose Barracuda. For Mashinter it returns him to his first pro organization. and ex-Pack John Mitchell signs an NHL training camp PTO with Chicago.

Ex-Pack, John Mitchell, signs an NHL training camp PTO with Chicago.

Former CT Whale, Christian Thomas, signs an AHL free agent deal with Wilkes Barre/Scranton.

Enfield’s Robbie Baillargeon is in the Washington Capitals camp. He signed an ECHL deal with their affiliate South Carolina in the summer. He will also likely be in Hershey Bears (AHL) camp at some point.

Mark Kastelic, son of former Whaler, Ed Kastelic, who has one year of junior eligibility left with Calgary (WHL) is in San Jose training camp as an undrafted invitee.

Mathieu Sevigny, son of ex-Pack Pierre Sevigny, and who was born in Hartford and went undrafted with a year of junior eligibility left with Sherbrooke (QMJHL), is in the Winnipeg Jets rookie camp as an invitee.

The Bridgeport Sound Tigers announced four players signed to AHL contracts in advance of their opening training camp next week.

The four include defenseman Mike Cornell, who played with the Sound Tigers in 2013-14, returns from EHC Straubing (Germany-DEL). The others are Matt Lane (Elmira-ECHL/Rochester), Kellen Jones, the Quinnipiac grad and grandson of former New Haven Blade Terry Jones, and who played in Bridgeport last season, and Pat Cullity, who played three games last year in Missouri (ECHL) (nee Kansas City) and 36 games with the Sound Tigers.

Ben Holstrom, the Sound Tigers captain the last two years and who played in every regular season game both seasons, is attending the parent New York Islanders’ training camp on a PTO deal. Goalie Stephon Williams signs with San Jose (AHL) and defenseman Loic Leduc who split the last two years between the Sound Tigers and Missouri (nee Kansas City) of the ECHL signs with Reading (ECHL).

Goalie Stephon Williams signs with San Jose (AHL).

Defenseman Loic Leduc, who split the last two years between the Sound Tigers and Missouri (nee Kansas City) of the ECHL, signs with the Reading Royals (ECHL).

Former Quinnipiac player, Zach Tolkinen, moves from Kansas City (ECHL) to Wheeling (ECHL) this season.

Ryan Segalla (Salisbury Prep/UCONN) signs with Reading (ECHL).

Mike McKee, a former Kent Prep player, signs a minor league deal with the St. Louis Blues. Should he not make the NHL roster, McKee will be placed on an unaffiliated AHL team since the Blues do not have an AHL affiliate this season. ANother option could be sending McKee to the team’s ECHL affiliate in Indianapolis. McKee is presently on St. Louis’ Traverse City tourney team.

Another AHL’er has signed in Europe. Marc Hagel leaves the former Binghamton Senators and signs with Lorenskog IK (Norway-NEL). That makes 83 AHL’ers who have signed for Europe for this season.

Ex-Sound Tiger, Kirill Kabanov, who first signed with IK Oskarshamn (Sweden-Allsvenskan) this summer, canceled that contract to sign with the Aalborg Pirates (Denmark-DHL).

Former Sound Tiger, Victor Bartley, signed a two-year deal with Orebro HK (Sweden-SHL).

Stephen Seeger (Stamford/Brunswick Prep/CT Oilers), who played junior hockey last year with the Merritt Centennials (BCHL), signs a deal with Lowen Frankfurt (Germany DEL-2).

Jordan Ciccarello (New Hartford/South Kent Prep/Sacred Heart University) re-signs with SG Cortina (Italy-AlpsHL).

Ryan Cole of Trinity College (NESEAC) in Hartford signs with Kongsvinger (Norway-NEL).

A few more US collegians signed deals. Nolan De Jong of the University of Michigan (Big 10) signs with Colorado/San Antonio (AHL) while Davis Jones University Alaska-Fairbanks (WCHA) signs with Cincinnati (ECHL).

Steve Collins of SUNY-Geneseo (SUNYAC) is in Washington Capitals training camp. Collins signed an AHL/ECHL two-way deal with Hershey/South Carolina (ECHL). Collins was the SUNYAC Herb Hammond MVP of the conference and its top goal scorer. He was among the top Division III players in the nation last year. The late Herb Hammond was a long time amateur scout for the New York Rangers.

These signings now make 189 Division I players signing North American pro deals. If you include the 25 players from Division III, that number is 214. 46 signed in Europe making 260 college players from last year transitioning to professionals.

Ex-Sound Tiger, Jordan Hill, retired from playing due to injury. He immediately hooked up as the second assistant coach for the Owen Sound Attack (OHL) for this season. He joins another ex-Sound Tiger, Alan Letang, as an assistant coach.

Former Wolf Pack, Danny Syvret, has retired from playing ending his career. The previous two years, Syvret spent in the German DEL, last year with Nuremburg. He is taking the next step in his professional life in the financial services industry where he hopes to better help players with managing their money.

Syvret does leave open the possibility that he might play again if a contract comes along to his liking. It would most likely be in a Euro league or as an AHL injury cover for a team shorthanded.

Syvret’s younger brother, Cory, played in the AHL and ECHL. He has also announced his retirement and is training to be a referee. He will likely end up in the OHL this year.

The comeback attempt by 42-year-old ex-Pack, Anders Myrvold, was short lived. Myrvold retired at the conclusion of training camp with Valerenga (Norway-NEL).


The annual tournament didn’t get the results the Rangers had hoped for to start the 2017-18 hockey season

The team finished eighth out of eight teams with a 1-3 record.

The Rangers split their first two games. They got a 3-2 win over Chicago and then were shutout by Carolina 4-0.

In the victory, the Baby Rangers scored the game’s first two goals in a 1:20 span. Malte Stromwall tallied the first goal and Ryan Gropp adding the second at 9:50 of the first period. The eventual game-winner came off the stick of defenseman Sean Day midway through the second period.

The Baby Blackhawks scored twice late in the third period to spoil a shutout bid by goalie Chris Nell. The goals came just 1:32 apart with the second coming on the powerplay.

The Hurricanes pitched a 4-0 shutout spoiling the debut of Russian goalie, Alexander Georgiev, who stopped 29 of the 32 shots he faced. The  Rangers had just 19 shots on goal with almost half of them coming from just two players, Ty Ronning and defenseman Neal Pionk. The duo had four each.

The Baby Rangers then dropped their third tourney game 4-1 to the tournament’s host team, the Detroit Red Wings. Gropp scored the lone goal. Nell made 32 saves on 35 shots. Luke Esposito (Greenwich/Brunswick Prep) had an assist and was a plus-two for the Red Wings.

The Rangers closed out the tourney playing in the seventh-place game against Dallas and suffered a 4-1 loss.

Stromwall scored the only Rangers goal, his second of the tournament. Lias Andersson had his best game of the tournament setting up the goal for his first point of the tourney. He had a game-high five shots on net. Georgiev was in goal for the Baby Blueshirts facing 26 shots making 23 saves.

Players of note in the tournament include former UConn Husky, Tage Thompson, the son of ex-Wolf Pack and current Bridgeport head coach Brent Thompson. The younger Thompson, now with the St. Louis Blues, had the best performance of the tournament with four goals and nine points leading all scorers.

Thompson closed out his sterling efforts with a three-point (2g, 1a) effort as the Blues dropped Detroit 5-1 in their last game capturing fifth place.

Thompson, had a tough first game going minus-three in a wild 8-5 loss to Minnesota, but had a much better outing in his second game. Thompson picked up a goal and two assists in the third period of a come-from-behind 7-6 overtime victory over Dallas. Thompson scored the game-tying goal with 2:29 left in regulation.

Thompson picked up a goal and an assist including the game-winner, unassisted at 15:32 of the third period of a 3-2 win over Columbus.

The Blues’ Adam Musil, the nephew of ex-Whaler and Ranger, Bobby Holik, also got an assist in the first two games played. He tallied the game’s first goal against Columbus and overall had two goals and four points in four games.

Carolina goalie Callum Booth (Salisbury Prep) helped Carolina to capture third place with a 5-0 shutout of Minnesota. Booth stopped all 29 Wild shots and picked up an assist as well. He also stopped 34 of 36 shots in a 6-2 Carolina win over Detroit. Booth then found himself on the wrong side of a 9-2 shellacking by Chicago where he surrendered eight of the nine goals before getting lifted with just under a minute left in the game.

Booth could be the starting goalie for Charlotte on opening night in Hartford in two weeks at the XL Center.

The aforementioned Luke Esposito picked up an assist in his second game a 4-3 loss to Chicago as did his teammate Dominic Turgeon, the nephew of former Whaler, Sylvain Turgeon.


The project to renovate the Seattle Key Arena is moving ahead with alacrity and by the end of the year, a deal could be in place with a framework that could see the NHL in the #14 TV market as early as 2020 as an expansion franchise and the 32nd NHL team. Read about it HERE




BY: Gerry Cantlon, Howlings

HARTFORD, CTThe annual fan event, “Paint The Ice” held at the XL Center was postponed Tuesday morning after a serious issue was discovered on the ice surface.

The brand new ice making system, which was hooked up to the old chiller system, was unable to make a complete sheet of ice. Spots of concrete in the area where the Hartford Wolf Pack defends twice were visible. The ice crew, and a local refrigeration company, Carrier, were on site trying to locate the problem and develop a remedy.

CRDA Executive Director Mike Freimuth was also on site. His only comment, “They have a month to get it ready.“ Freimuth was referencing the October 6th Pack home opener against the Charlotte Checkers.

Hartford PR Director, Bob Crawford, said the team hopes to reschedule the event in short order.

With training camp opening, a mere three weeks away, the hope is the Wolf Pack, and the UConn Huskies Hockey East squad will have the time to get adequately used to the brand new surface and in-rink conditions. Along with the ice, there are new dasher boards and a brand new, seamless Flex-glass. These renovations were part of a necessary 4 million dollar overhaul of the ice making system that started in early April. The process went full steam ahead in mid-May and included the pouring of a brand new concrete floor in mid-July.


After last year’s porous performance and the downward slide the Wolf Pack have had the past few years, the team took a major step in turning that around with the announcement of the signing of veteran center, Joe Whitney to a one-year AHL deal.

Whitney played for four years with Albany after completing a strong Division I college hockey career at Boston College (HE) where he tallied 142 points in 161 games for the Eagles.

Whitney has practically owned the Wolf Pack in his AHL career. Two years ago while skating with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, he had nine points in five games including, not one, but two hat tricks. Whitney’s career numbers against Hartford during his years in Albany and Bridgeport are staggering. He’s registered 37 points in 33 games. Whitney suffered a broken leg midseason while with the Sound Tigers in 2015-16. Last year, he signed a lucrative $325K deal with the San Antonio Rampage. However, it didn’t work out too well.

Last year, he signed a lucrative $325K deal with the San Antonio Rampage. However, it didn’t work out too well.

Whitney and the Rampage team struggled as he posted just 28 points in 55 games. Whitney was dealt at the trade deadline to the Tucson Roadrunners where he logged just eight points in 19 games to finish out the year. Tucson, like the Wolf Pack, did not qualify for the AHL Calder Cup playoffs.

This signing, along with the signing of Paul Carey, and former UConn star, Cole Schneider, gives the Wolf Pack a bonafide number one line to start the season and will likely be their top powerplay unit.

Continue reading


Wolf Pack Off Season Volume 16

BY: Gerry Cantlon, Howlings

HARTFORD, CT – Each week we inch closer and closer to the start of the 2017-18 Hartford Wolf Pack hockey season. Still, teams are making moves in pursuit of being the only team to win their last game of the entire season. 


Winger Michael Joly, who signed a free agent out of the QMJHL last summer with Hartford, has departed and headed out West. Joly signed a one-year AHL deal with San Antonio. Joly struggled early last season, then caught fire in the ECHL with the Pack’s ECHL affiliates, the Greenville Swamp Rabbits. Upon his return to the American League, Joly was playing well for the Wolf Pack. A teammate’s errant shot from center ice late in the season caught Joly under his visor. The shot cracked his orbital bone, ending his season.

After four years in Hartford, defenseman Tommy Hughes, as expected, has moved on, signing a contract to play for the Hershey Bears this coming season.

Former Quinnipiac goalie Michael Garteig signed another one-year AHL deal with Vancouver and will start the season in Utica.

Another former Quinnipiac Bobcat, Justin Agosta, signs with Manchester (ECHL).

Ex-Sound Tiger Chris Langkow returns from Europe where he split last year with HDD Olimpija Ljubljana (Slovenia-AEHL) and VIK Vasteras HK (Sweden-Allsvenskan) and signs with expansion Worcester (ECHL).

Ex-Pack Vladimir Vorobiev was elevated from an assistant coach, which he’s been the last four years, to head coach for Dynamo Moscow (Russia-KHL).

The AHL Euro list has added Nikita Jevpalovs who left the San Jose Barracuda and heads back home to Dynamo Riga (Latvia-KHL). Fellow Latvian, Richard Burkharts, who split the season with Springfield and Manchester (ECHL) signs with HC Zlin (Czech Republic-CEL).

Chris Carlisle of Binghamton signs with HC Bolzano (Italy-AEHL).

28 of the 30 teams in the AHL have now lost at least one player signing in Europe. The list has 77 players signing overseas.

Harvard’s Alex Kerfoot pursued by the New York Rangers and nine other NHL teams, settled on signing an ELC (entry level contract) with Colorado.

Eric Sweetman of St. Lawrence (ECACHL) signs with Texas (AHL).

UCONN’s Evan Richardson signed his first pro contract with Tulsa (ECHL). Doyle Somerby of Boston University (HE) signs with Cleveland (AHL). James De Haas of Clarkson University (ECACHL), signs with Lehigh Valley and his collegian teammate, A.J. Fossen, signs with RoKi (Finland Division-I).

Blaine Byron of the University of Maine (HE) signs with Springfield.  Danny Smith of R.I.T. (AHA) signs with Rapid City (ECHL) and Anthony Flaherty of Division III National champion, Norwich University, (Southfield, Vermont) signs with Rapid City.

That makes 182 Division I collegians signing North American pro contracts and 22 players from Division III. The total now stands at 204. Toss in another 45 signing in Europe and that’s 249 players moving from the American college hockey ranks to pro hockey.


The two professional women’s hockey leagues, the NWHL-National Women’s Hockey League and CWHL-Canadian Women’s Hockey League, recently held their respective drafts.

Two Yale players were taken in the NWHL Draft. Mallory Souliotis was taken by the Boston Pride which is coached by former Wolf Pack, Thomas Poeck while Eden Murray went to the CT Whale under new head coach, Ryan Equale (Wilton/UCONN)

Taylor Cianfarano of Quinnipiac University was selected by the New York Riveters coached by another ex-Pack, Chad Wiseman.

In the CWHL Draft, Nicole Kosta of Quinnipiac was selected the Markham (Ontario) Thunder and fellow Lady Bobcat Taryn Baumgardt was taken by the Calgary Inferno.


On Friday, some very sad and tragic news as former CT Whale Ticket Sales Director, Bob McCaffrey, passed away suddenly in South Carolina.

McCaffrey, a Hartford native, working for the ECHL South Carolina Stingrays was battling cancer the past two months and had his last chemotherapy treatment that morning.  He was a passionate man and a former member of the US Air Force. After the CT Whale dissolved, McCaffrey worked for the AHL’s Manchester Monarchs for two seasons before moving to South Carolina in 2012.

His father, Jim McCaffrey, has been a goal judge for 19 of the 20 seasons in Hartford. He recently beat prostate cancer in the spring. Deepest condolences are sent to his mother, Barbara, and his sister, Karen, and the entire McCaffrey family.


Another link to New Haven’s minor pro hockey history has passed away.

84-year-old, Parker MacDonald, passed away in a Branford nursing home last Thursday. His wife Janice MacDonald, who passed away in 2011, was the PR Director for the Nighthawks in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. She was the first woman to win the PR Person of the Year Award.

MacDonald’s career started out in his hometown of Sydney, Nova Scotia where he played with the junior Sydney Millionaires. He then moved on to play major junior with the famed, Toronto Marlboros in the mid-1950’s. He played in the AHL with the old Pittsburgh Hornets for four seasons (1952-56). MacDonald got his first NHL action with one game with the Maple Leafs in 1956. The following fall he played for the Providence Reds, then the Rangers farm team, and played with the Rangers from 1956-60.

MacDonald was back in the AHL. His first was with the Buffalo Swords and then with the Springfield Indians in the early 1960’s.

MacDonald actually got some playing time with Mr. Hockey, Gordie Howe, in Detroit when he broke into a six team league in 1960. He then spent a split season in Hershey before going back to Detroit where he stayed from 1961-65. He played the rest of his career from 1965-1969 with Boston, Detroit and then the expansion Minnesota North Stars.

MacDonald had some more AHL time back with Pittsburgh and then closed his playing career with Memphis South Stars of the Central Professional Hockey League (CPHL).

His coaching career started with the Iowa Stars in the original Central Hockey League in 1969-70. There, MacDonald coached a young Rick Dudley who would eventually become a New Haven coach. he also coached a future Ranger in Walt McKechnie, a future WHA scorer in Danny Lawson, a long time North Star in Dennis O’ Brien and a goalie, Gilles Gilbert, who had a good run in Boston. Then he moved onto to Cleveland (AHL) the following year but was replaced midseason by John Muckler in 1970-’71.

MacDonald then took on the job with the AHL expansion, New Haven Nighthawks. He was the most successful and longest serving Nighthawks head coach and compiled a record of 221-151-43. He went to back-to-back Calder Cup finals as a Rangers affiliate from 1978-1979. his teams got swept both times by the Maine Mariners, the top farm team of the Flyers.

He won the Louis Pieri Award in 1978-79 as the league’s coach of the year. His only interruption in New Haven came when he started his second season in Minnesota but was replaced midseason. His last coaching stop was in Los Angeles as an assistant coach in 1980-81, and then later as a head coach in 1981-82. He was again replaced at midseason with a 13-24-5 record in 42 games by another New Haven hockey legend, Don Perry.

A Nighthawks player who remembers him fondly, was then just a young kid out St. Mary’s, Ontario, Dan McCarthy.

“I had great respect for Parker. I had a tough first year with knee injuries, but he never gave up on me and always gave me a chance,” remarked McCarthy.

“He came and ran a practice working on game situations, but he expected you do the rest, get in shape, work on what he talked about, and work on your weak points. He expected you to be a man and he thought of you as a pro. He didn’t say, ‘Ah he’s a rookie, a first-year guy.’ He thought of you as a pro and among equals in the locker room. Looking back on it years later, I really appreciate that man-to-man approach. There were no analytic guys back then. You had expectations to meet. Parker was a fair and tough coach.”

He also had a sense of humor.

“One night in Syracuse, I got a breakaway from the red line with about ten seconds to go in regulation.  I missed it, so we have to go to overtime. I get back to the bench and Parker goes, ‘Thanks, McCarthy, now you’re cutting into my drinking time.'”

Parker MacDonald, a great part of New Haven and Connecticut hockey history rest in peace.


The late first head coach of the Wolf Pack the effervescent and erudite, E.J. McGuire, was posthumously elected to Greater Buffalo Region Hall of Fame.

McGuire was obsessed with being healthy. He passed away in 2011 because of a rare blood cancer.

He started out as a head coach at Brockport University. He then went to the NCAA at the Division II level in the ECAC West. That was where he encountered a young, Mike Keenan, who was then the head coach of Rochester. After his five years there, he would become Keenan’s assistant. They went to the Stanley Cup Finals twice, losing to Wayne Gretzky’s Edmonton Oilers in 1985 and 1987.

He came from what was known as the First Ward of the city. Ironically, the ceremony was held around the corner from McGuire’s childhood home. His intellect was always off the charts. McGuire earned a Ph.D.d in Kinesiology/Psychology from the University of Waterloo (Ontario, Canada) in 1990 certainly testifies to that.

He was a head coach twice in the pros and once in Canadian major junior. He coached Guelph (OHL) for two seasons where he earned a record of 80-41-10 in 132 games. His team lost in OHL Finals to Peterborough and then semi-finals to the Ottawa 67’s. Some of the players he coached those two seasons included ex-Wolf Pack players Dan Cloutier and Ryan Risidore and a trio of ex-Beast of New Haven players in the recently retired, Herbert Vasilijves, Dwayne Hay and Andrew Long,

Another Chris Hajt was recently named an assistant coach for the Buffalo Sabres.

McGuire coached the Maine Marines in 1991-92 with a 23-47-10 record and missed the Calder Cup playoffs.

He coached the first two Wolf Pack teams. In 160 games, McGuire had a a record of 81-55-17 mark and lost in the semifinals in six games his first year to the St. John Flames. He lost in his second year to the eventual Calder Cup champion Providence Bruins in a four game sweep.

He returned for one year as an assistant in Philly before becoming the Director of the NHL Central Scouting Bureau where he revamped and modernized the department.

After his passing, the NHL created the EJ McGuire Award of Excellence which is awarded to the draftee who best exemplified strength of character, competiveness, and athleticism.

He richly deserves to be in the Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame and a spot in the Hockey Hall of Fame in the builders wing should be next.


CANLTON’S CORNER: Wolf Pack Off Season Volume 11

BY: Gerry Cantlon, Howlings

HARTFORD, CT – NFL football camps are opening. In basketball, the free agent signing period is in full-swing while in the NHL, nothing seems to be slowing down as the summer moves along.


Of the many problems that existed for the Hartford Wolf Pack last season, the most glaring concern was between the pipes as the goaltending was far beneath an acceptable level.

The theory was that with both Magnus Hellberg, returning off a solid season, and a healthy and seeming revitalized Mackenzie Skapski, who is now fully recovered from hip surgery, could be the foundation upon which the team could build as the team’s young members adjusted to life in pro hockey.

It’s pretty apparent, that never materialized.

Hellberg freely admitted at the end of the year that he was sub-par. He seemingly was always fighting the puck and had problems shoulder high to his glove side and getting beaten early in too many games. Skapski just never seemed to recover sinking deeper and deeper on the depth chart as the season progressed.

Skapski never seemed to recover and sunk deeper and deeper on the depth chart as the season progressed.

After such an impressive training camp in New York, Skapski had a terrible performance in an early season game in Providence. “The Buffalo Killer,” as Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault dubbed him in his rookie season after two wins against the Sabres, dropped to 0-4 and was getting beaten cleanly on long shots. He also was apprehensive in his decision making deciding to stay back in his net instead of getting to a loose puck that the Bruins Jake DeBrusk raced in to get before beating him to the top shelf. His performance earned him a return ticket to the ECHL and the Greenville Swamp Rabbits, where he remained except for a few emergency recalls. Skapski ended the year with his getting bombed in a 6-1 shellacking in his only playoff appearance. He did not even dress for the following game.

Hellberg has since signed in Beijing, China with the Kunlun Red Star, a KHL team there. Continue reading


Here’s your first look at the new floor in the XL Center after all the work to repair the ice. It now needs to cure for the next 30 days…



New Floor is Ready…Get Set…Pour

BY: Gerry Cantlon, Howlings

HARTFORD, CT The long overdue new floor for the XL Center‘s two ice hockey teams, the Hartford Wolf Pack and the University of Connecticut Huskies of Hockey East is about to become reality.

On Friday (7/14), at 7 am the concrete began to flow. It comes at a time when skepticism is high because of the various state and city financial woes. In spite of all of that, the pour is something for Hartford/UConn hockey fans to cheer about.

“We got 12 miles of pipes welded and we’re set to pour concrete on Friday for five to six hours with 30+ concrete trucks in one continuous pour. Everybody has worked very hard to get to this point,” A clearly relieved CRDA Executive Director, Mike Freimuth said. “It involved a lot of planning and man-hours to do this. We got the green light from all the pressure tests and the inspectors and engineers are in agreement. We’re ready to go.”

This has been a major task for the CRDA that has taken a year of planning to execute.

“We were able to get a lot of prep work done beforehand as the last few events were being held in the building and that made a difference,” Freimuth stated. “Dimeo (the company with the winning bid on the project) is a very talented group. There are only two or three companies that do this type of work. They were very precise and have a very strong team. They have gotten a lot of work done in a short time space.”

Even this final stage requires ballet-like choreography with the moving of 30+ concrete mixer trucks during a six-hour, continuous pouring cycle. It’s not an easy task.

“We have to keep them coming in on a time cycle so that concrete isn’t sitting too long in the trucks. To get them in is tremendous logistics; getting them off the highway and out of Friday traffic will be a challenge. There are a lot of variables ongoing here.”

To aid the process of the concrete to start the process of cooling and settling, two key elements have to be in place.

“We have to keep the blower fans going at maximum speed. Having those trucks with engines running, there’s a tremendous amount of carbon monoxide build-up which can be bad for concrete and we have water in the pipes at full pressure. If you don’t and start pouring that concrete, they would shift and probably break. The (water) pressure keeps all that work in place. We have done very extensive pressure tests at full capacity. I don’t know the exact PSI, but the system was completely flushed and tested by our engineers so we’re ready to roll,” remarked Freimuth.

Technology will aid the process as well.

“Throughout the pouring process, there will be a laser guiding the work to make sure that the concrete surface remains flat and level and will go up to midnight on Friday.”

Once the pouring is complete, the floor must remain untouched for a 30-day curing period. Concrete has generates its own heat, so it must be allowed to settle correctly before the final stage of putting in the new dasher boards and glass are installed properly to meet the necessary markings of the 200 x 85 surface.

Dealing with a whole new set of code changes that didn’t exist when the floor was put in place in 1979 after the roof collapsed was another thorny piece of the puzzle.

“One of the prep pieces we did was put in the markings for the dashers before this pour has been done and the break in the humidity on Friday will also aid the process because it gets taken out of the equation. That was good fortune for us as well.

“The code issues were multiple in nature. We had a team that had to make sure step-by-step we met all the new changes that exist, and there were many to incorporate in a job of this scope… This isn’t doing your driveway.”

Off-ice matters continue to remain in a holding pattern with no end in sight due to the state budget mess. There’s also the double economic whammy of the state’s $5 billion deficit over the next two years as well as the City of Hartford’s downgrade of its bonding status to junk bond status. Add in the growing likelihood of the state’s capital city filing for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection very shortly. These factors have all made the CRDA’s already considerable challenge to get funding for an XL Center reboot exponentially tougher.

“It certainly doesn’t help the situation, that’s for sure,” Freimuth said. “We can do very little moving ahead because we literally have no idea what money might be allocated from our request. We have no idea except the operating budget for the building will be lower, but no idea by how much. We literally are going day by day. We have heard of the possibility of a July 18th date for a budget, and then again, we have heard nothing will be done (regarding the budget). (It’s) not an easy environment to work in. So getting the rink repair project done at least makes us feel as if we’re getting things accomplished.”

Another area that has been adversely impacted is, the CRDA’s efforts to seek outside financing and the creating of a public-private partnership to financially get the project of making a new arena possible. The RFQ process yielded just four inquiries and only one proposal.

“The atmosphere is difficult. With no budget, you really can’t fully answer questions and we have a three-person committee within the CRDA working on this and they are left with the task of trying to develop strategies and we have very little to work with. The Q & A process is made very difficult to accomplish anything right now.”

Well, at least you a new ice surface is almost there.


Cantlon’s Corner:

Wolf Pack Off Season Volume 10

BY: Gerry Cantlon, Howlings

HARTFORD, CTAnother week of hockey activity and the Hartford Wolf Pack are right in the middle of it.


The American Hockey League honored the Hartford Wolf Pack for its 2016-17 Team Business Services, with an award for excellence in community service among Eastern Conference teams. The award was announced Wednesday evening at a gala reception during the AHL Board of Governors’ Annual Meeting at Hilton Head, SC.

“We are extremely proud of our staff’s and players’ dedication to giving back to the Hartford-area community, and that it has been celebrated with this tremendous AHL honor,” Chris Lawrence, General Manager of the XL Center and the head of Wolf Pack Business Operations for Spectra said in a press release.

“With the amount of time and effort the entire league puts into the service aspect of our business, it’s a credit to everyone involved with the team to be recognized. We look forward to continuing to make a positive impact in the Capital region.”

The Wolf Pack’s community outreach program, under the leadership of Manager of Community Relations, Frank Berrian, has continued to grow numerous signature elements. The Wolf Pack’s “Read to the Rink” reading program, sponsored by ProHealth Physicians’ Healthy Me, involved several dozen area schools. The “Hockey in the Streets” effort once again brought the fun and healthy exercise of street hockey to the youngsters of Camp Courant throughout the summer.

The Wolf Pack’s annual “Bowl-a-Thon” in support of Special Olympics Connecticut raised over $13,000, and the team staff’s efforts at, “Holiday Light Fantasia” in December helped generate nearly $7,000 for the Channel 3 Kids Camp. Also, the Wolf Pack players as well as the team’s iconic mascot, Sonar, combined to make nearly 200 community appearances during the 2016-17 season. Those appearances ranged from school and hospital visits to youth hockey events, holiday toy deliveries, and all manner of community parades and celebrations.

The hard-charging, and ever present Sonar, who seems to work 480 days a year, was the biggest reason that award was presented. He is at various school functions during the regular season and the off-season as well. Sonar appears all throughout the greater Hartford community. Most recently, Sonar was at the Enfield Fourth of July celebrations this past weekend and does some great charity work too.


The Pack has officially lost their leading scorer from last season, Nicklas Jensen.

In a team press release, Jokerit Helsinki’s (Finland-KHL) GM and former New York Ranger and NHL great Jari Kurri announced that the Danish forward agreed to a two-year deal with next season being an option year.

The 24-year-old forward led Hartford with 32 goals (second best in the AHL) and 55 points. Jensen came to the Wolf Pack in a deal trade with the Vancouver Canucks for Emerson Etem on January 8, 2016. In his brief tenure with the Pack, the one-time first-round selection by Vancouver in 2011, played very well offensively. Jensen is a swift skater with a very powerful shot and a quick release. He was the Pack’s lone AHL All-Star representative last season. Jensen earned one, seven-game recall by the Rangers last season.

His rights along with former Rangers prospect and CT Whale Tim Erixon were acquired in an April 20th KHL trade with Salavat Yulaev. Expect an announcement on Erixon’s signing in the coming weeks.

The AHL to Euro list gained five and lost one.

The latest was winger Mark Olver, the younger brother of ex-Pack, Darin Olver. He played with Tucson/Bakersfield last season joining the Condors at the trade deadline. Olver heads to his brother’s former team, Eisbaren Berlin (Germany-DEL). That move was announced by the Polar Bears GM and former New Haven Nighthawk, Stephane Richer. The two brothers will play against each other this season when they play ERC Ingolstadt.

Ex-Pack, Chad Nehring has left Binghamton (nee Belleville) and signed with Fischtown (Germany-DEL). Patrick Mullen, who split last year between Dynamo Riga (Latvia-KHL) and then left to sign with Rochester, goes to Linkopings HC (Sweden-SHL). William Wrenn of Toronto signed with HC Bolzano (Italy-AEHL) and Evan Mosey of Rockford signed with Nottingham (England-EIHL).

Ex-Springfield Thunderbirds goalie Reto Berra, who, two months ago had signed in his native Switzerland with HC Fribourg-Gotteron (NLA) just after the season ended, executed his NHL exit clause to sign just a one-year, one-way deal for $700K with Anaheim/San Diego (AHL). Last season in Springfield, Berra made $1.5 million on a one-way deal. His Swiss contract will remain the same (minus the one year term) should he sign for next season.

A player signing can execute the clause in their contract by July 31st (just before Euro training camp opens) without penalty.

That makes 50 players who have signed in Europe and 26 of 30 AHL teams that have lost at least one player.

Adam Johnson, of the University of Minnesota-Duluth, was the 34th underclassmen from college hockey to sign a pro deal. He goes to Pittsburgh.

Johnson is 23-years-old and is classified as an academic junior. The numbers may be skewed, but that’s the world of college hockey today.

Cal Peterson, the goalie from Notre Dame, has also left. Peterson signed a three-year entry-level deal with Los Angeles paying $925K/$70K AHL. The Kings will have to compensate the Buffalo Sabres who originally drafted him with a 2018 draft pick.

Kyle Mackenzie and Josh Monk, both of Providence College, signed with the expansion Worcester (ECHL) team. Rhett Holland of Michigan State who played three games with Idaho (ECHL) after the college season ended has signed with HC Dynamo Pardubice (Czech Republic-CEL). He is the third Spartan to sign overseas.

That makes 154 Division I players have signed North American pro deals since the end of the college season (regular & postseason). Add in 20 from Division 3, and another 31 who completed or left school (Division I and III) and signed in Europe. The NCHC conference lost the most underclassmen at nine.

Schools who lost the most players were Minnesota-Duluth, Michigan Tech and Western Michigan University with six each. Boston College, Minnesota and Bowling Green lost five and Boston University saw four leave. They all were pure freshmen.

Ex-Pack and Thunderbird Dylan McIlrath, of the Calder Cup champion Grand Rapids Griffins, signed a one-year two-way deal with Detroit at $675K-NHL/$275K-AHL.

Former Sound Tiger and Avon Old Farms player goalie Parker Milner signs a one-year AHL deal with Hershey. He spent a portion of last season with Hershey and had a strong playoff run helping the South Carolina Stingrays to the ECHL Kelly Cup final before they were beaten by the Colorado Eagles.

Goalie Steve Michalek (Glastonbury/Loomis Chaffe) signs a one-year deal with Minnesota ($715K-NHL/$70K-AHL). He spent last year with the Iowa Wild playing 30 games with a record of 13-14-1-1 and a 2.63 GAA

Brody Sutter has left the Springfield Thunderbirds to sign with Manitoba.

Ex-Pack defenseman Matt Gilroy switches KHL teams leaving Spartak Moscow (Russia) to join Jokerit Helsinki (Finland). Vladimir Denisov goes from Traktor Chelyabinsk (Russia-KHL) to Dynamo Minsk (Belarus-KHL).

Jared Eng, formerly of Sacred Heart University (AHA) and who left after two years completed school and playing hockey in Canada at Simon Fraser University (BICHL). He leaves Bjorbo IF (Sweden Division-2) to play for KRS Heilongjiang (China-VHL) next year.

Peter Quenneville, the former QU Bobcat, goes from Aalborg Pirates (Denmark-DHL) to HC Dynamo Pardubice (Czech Republic-CEL) next season.

Ex-Pack Travis Oleksuk re-signs with HC Bolzano (Italy-AEHL).

John Dunbar, an ex-QU Bobcat, split last year with HC Mulhouse (France Division-1) and Norfolk (ECHL) signs with the Guildford Flames (England-EIHL) who were promoted to the top league starting this fall.

Former Springfield Falcon, Scott Barney, switches teams in the Asia League Ice Hockey (ALIH) going from the Beijing-based China Dragon, that’s leaving the league, to join Anyang Halla in South Korea.

Former New Haven Nighthawk Mark Morrison makes it to the NHL as an assistant coach with Anaheim after six years as an AHL assistant (four years in St. John’s two in Winnipeg with the Manitoba Moose). His resume includes stops all over the hockey map including the two farthest points in Canada. The first was Victoria (WHL) where he was the head coach/GM for five years and the aforementioned, St. John’s (AHL).

He also was a player/coach for ten years with the Scottish based Fife Flyers then playing in the British National League (BNL).

Some other coaching changes include former Beast of New Haven forward Herberts Vasiljves, who just retired from playing a few months ago, was named as the assistant coach for his native Latvia U-18 National Junior team.

Former Sound Tiger Jeff Hutchins was named the head coach for the British U-18 National Junior team. He will continue as assistant coach and Director of Player Development for the Fife Flyers (Scotland-EIHL).

Congrats to former AHL player, Jordan Smith. He lost his sight in one eye ten years ago which ended his pro career after just two seasons in Portland. It was his injury that ushered in the mandatory half visor rule. Smith was hired as an associate head coach with Sudbury Wolves (OHL). He was the head coach for Sault Ste. Marie (NOJHL) last season.


Hallelujah! An early AHL schedule!

As promised, the AHL released the 2017-18 schedule. The release came a month earlier than usual to the delight of the sales staff of all 30 teams and their fans.

The Wolf Pack will open the regular season on October 6th at the XL Center against the Charlotte Checkers, the top affiliate of the Carolina Hurricanes. It’s the earliest opening for the Wolf Pack in some time and the first time Charlotte is back in Hartford since the 2010-11 season. The teams met four times that year going 2-2 each winning their home games. Charlotte now plays at the Bojangles Coliseum in Charlotte having left last year from the Time Warner Cable Arena, the home of the NBA Charlotte Hornets.

Because of division realignment, Charlotte was finally airlifted out of the Western Conference and put back into the East where they belonged in the first place. Charlotte will have a new head coach making his debut that night, former Hartford Whaler, Mike Vellucci.

The Pack will be the home opener the following week for the Springfield Thunderbirds on Saturday, October 14th.and will meet them the most times this season, twelve (six home and six away). Bridgeport and Providence will face the Pack the second most in 2017-18 at ten times (five home and five away), and Charlotte eight times (four home and four away).

Hershey, Lehigh Valley, and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton will duel with the Wolf Pack six times (three home and three away).

Sadly, just two meetings (one home and one away) with the Canadian-based teams in the East from the North Division. They will all visit in the first month of the regular season (Toronto on Friday, October 13, Belleville on Friday, October 20 and Laval on Sunday, November 12).

The Pack home starting times for all Friday night games will start at 7:15 pm. Non-Sunday games start at 7:00 pm. On December 23rd, March 3rd and March 24th start time is 3:00pm. On Saturday, November 4th  and January 27th the puck will drop at 7:30 pm. All Sunday home games are 5:00 pm starts except March 4th when the game will begin at 3:00 pm.

The second longest AHL home opener is Bridgeport. They won’t be at the Webster Bank Arena until October 21st against the Laval Rocket, which is the Canadiens top farm team after their relocation from St. John’s. Laval, a suburb of Montreal, will open their new building, The Place Bell Centre, against Belleville on October 6th.

The longest home opener is a tentative one. on November 1

On November 1st the Belleville Senators will play in a renovated Yardmen Arena, which is undergoing a massive $20 million dollar makeover, against the Syracuse Crunch.

The complete AHL schedule team by team is HERE


Every year in Israel as a celebration of Jewish athletes and their skill level. For The Maccabiah Games, this is the 20th anniversary year, and ice hockey is an official sport. The games are ongoing. They started on July 4th and will end on July 17th.  The games feature just over 40 sports. The country has three hockey arenas. There’s one in Metula near the Lebanon border, Eliat, Ma’alot and a now a fourth new arena in Jerusalem that is to be christened in these games.

The hockey features a junior level of play. There’s an open division covering ages 18-39 and a Masters division for players over 40.

The American Open roster features three CT connections.

Current UCONN junior Max Kalter is on the team with a fellow Husky, from UCONN’s club hockey team (ACHA Division 2) in Benjamin Pulley. Sacred Heart University Pioneers (AHA) backup goalie Samuel Bernard-Boymel is the third player. The team’s assistant coach is former Wesleyan University (Middletown) player Casey Fratkin.

The US Junior team roster features one player with CT ties, Ethan Gorelkin of Choate Rosemary Hall (Wallingford).

The Canada’s open team features a former Sound Tiger training camp invitee, Aaron Berisha. He eventually went back to Canadian college hockey and played for former Nighthawk Trevor Steinburg at St. Mary’s University in Halifax last year.

In the Masters Division, former New Haven Nighthawks from the mid-80’s Brian Wilks now 51 is playing for Canada.




BY: Mitch Beck, Howlings

HARTFORD, CT Last week, Gerry Cantlon gave Howlings readers an in-depth report (Find it HERE) on the latest happenings with the renovation work currently going on at the XL Center.

Gerry was just provided ten pictures by the CRDA detailing the progress on those repairs.

Here they are:






BY: The New York Rangers

Name: Lias Andersson 
Position: Center Height: 6-0
Weight: 200 Shoots: Left
Born: October 13, 1998
Birthplace: Smogen, Sweden 

2016-17 Notes: Skated in 42 games with HV71 of the Swedish Hockey League (SHL), registering nine goals and 10 assists for 19 points, along with a plus-21 rating and 18 penalty minutes … Established SHL career-highs in several categories, including games played, goals, assists, points, and plus/minus rating … Ranked eighth in the SHL – and led all junior players (younger than 20 years old) in the league – in plus/minus rating … Ranked second among all junior players in the SHL in goals and assists, and tied for second among all junior players in the SHL in points … Registered five points (four goals, one assist) and 18 penalty minutes in 16 playoff games while helping HV71 win the Le Mat Trophy as Swedish Hockey League Champions … Tied for fifth on HV71 in goals in the playoffs; also ranked second among all junior players in the SHL in playoff goals … Recorded two goals in three games with HV71’s junior team in SuperElit … Registered three goals and posted a plus-two rating in seven games while representing Sweden at the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship.

Career Highlights: Helped Sweden earn a silver medal at the 2016 IIHF World U18 Championship; recorded nine points (five goals, four assists) in seven contests and was selected as one of the Top Three Players on his team in the tournament … Helped Sweden earn a silver medal at the 2015 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament … Has skated in 64 career SHL games over parts of two seasons (2015-16 and 2016-17), registering 19 points (nine goals, 10 assists), along with a plus-14 rating … His father,  Niklas Andersson, played parts of six seasons in the NHL (1992-93; 1995-96 – 1997-98; 1999-00 – 2000-01) with Quebec, the NY Islanders, San Jose, Nashville, and Calgary … His uncle, Mikael Andersson, played in the NHL for parts of 15 seasons (1985-86 – 1999-00) and is currently a European Scout with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Career Transactions: June 23, 2017 – Selected by the Rangers in the first round, seventh overall, of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft

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