BY: Gerry Cantlon, Howlings
HARTFORD, CT – Here’s this week’s news from around professional hockey.
STANLEY CUP FINALS
The Pittsburgh Penguins and the San Jose Sharks started the final series of the hockey season on Memorial Day, and a Connecticut kid played a big part.
Farmington native, and Avon Old Farms grad, Nick Bonino, scored with 2:25 left in regulation off a superb pass from Kris Letang, and flipped his shot high to the short side, to give the Penguins a 3-2 victory in Game One.
The Penguins, in the Sidney Crosby era, are seeking their third title. Behind the bench is Mike Sullivan, the ex-New York Rangers assistant coach under John Tortorella. Sullivan is at the helm after being promoted from the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins earlier in the year. Sullivan replaces the fired Mike Johnston. Former Ranger and one-time Hartford Wolf Pack/CT Whale, Carl Hagelin gets his second shot at the Cup.
Ex-CT Whale, Tim Erixon, is one of the Penguins’ Black Aces.
The San Jose Sharks are making their first appearance in the final in their 25- year history. The Sharks feature Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau, who have a combined 2,778 NHL games without a Stanley Cup. One of the Sharks Black Aces is former Wolf Pack and Sound Tiger Micheal Haley.
The Sharks radio play-by-play voice is Dan Rusanowsky, a Milford native, and former voice of the New Haven Nighthawks. Rusanowsky becomes the second Nighthawks alumni announcer to call a Stanley Cup final. Hockey Hall of Famer from the Los Angeles Kings Nick Nickson called two Stanley Cup championships in LA.
AHL CALDER CUP PLAYOFFS
It’s the Lake Erie Monsters and the Hershey Bears who will battle for the 80th Calder Cup title.
Hershey knocked off regular offensive powerhouse, the Toronto Marlies, in five games. The Bears won Game Five by a 3-2 score clinching their appearance in the championship final. In the history of the AHL, these two cities have produced the most titles the Bears 11 and Cleveland 10 mostly in the late 1950’s and 1960’s period.
In the history of the AHL, the two cities where Lake Erie and Hershey are located have produced the most titles. The Bears have won eleven in Chocolate-town and Cleveland has won ten, though theirs came mostly in the late 1950’s and 1960’s.
In the 21st century, the Bears have won the title three times. The last victory came in the 2009-2010 season when they beat the Texas Stars in six games, (4-2). They won the previous season against the Manitoba Moose and they were also victorious in 2005-06 beating the Milwaukee Admirals all four games to two.
Cleveland last appeared in the Calder Cup Final as the original Barons lost to the Rochester Americans four games to two. Their last title came in 1964 when they swept the Quebec Aces, who featured Fred Glover who would eventually make his way into the AHL Hall-of-Fame. Glover was the team’s leading scorer, PIM leader, and their head coach!
One thing the league won’t have to worry about is attendance in this series. Hershey and Cleveland have always been on top of the AHL’s attendance figures.
The Bears feature ex-Wolf Pack players Chris and Ryan Bourque, who was last year’s captain before being traded for Chris Brown at the NHL trade deadline. Chris won the regular season scoring title and was named the AHL MVP. In this playoff season, he has become the all-time leading playoff point-earner in Hershey. The elder Bourque surpassed Mike Nykoluk (74 points, 1958-1972) who went on to be a Rangers assistant coach in the late 1970’s and the head coach ifor the Toronto Maple Leafs for three seasons.
The Bears also have Chandler Stephenson, the nephew of ex-Whaler Bob Stephenson, former Sound Tiger captain, Aaron Ness, and assistant coach Randy Murphy, an ex-Wolf Pack.
Lake Erie features ten ex-Springfield Falcons from a year ago when Columbus switched its affiliation. Among them is their defenseman, Steve Eminger. The ex-CT Whale ended last year tearing his right knee up at the XL Center as a member of the Providence Bruins. Eminger rehabbed and signed mid-season with the Monsters. Ex-Sound Tiger tough guy Brett Gallant is a Monster too. On defense is Stratford native, and former Fairfield Prep and Taft Prep, player Jamie Sifers. Also on the roster is Westport native, and Choate Prep grad, Mike Paliotta and former Rangers defenseman, Justin Falk.
One of the assistant coaches is former Beast of New Haven, Nolan Pratt.
The London Knights are kings of Canadian junior hockey.
It took overtime to overcome a great effort by QMJHL champs, the Rouyn Noranda Huskies, seeking to achieve one of the biggest upsets in Memorial Cup history.
The Huskies attempt would certainly rank with another major underdog story dating back to 1979. In that year, the high-powered Brandon Wheat Kings lost 2-1 in overtime to the Peterborough Petes.
It was not a shock considering London’s top line consisted of Mitch Marner (Toronto), Christian Dvorak (Arizona) and Matt Tkachuk (2016 draft eligible) factored in the game winner and game-tying goals.
At 7:13 Thachuk came off the left-wing and snapped a wrister that Dvorak got the shaft of his stick on redirecting it just past the Huskies’ goalie, Chase Marchand. Tkachuk, was given credit for the game-winning tally and second goal of the game.
It looked like the Huskies would engineer their upset as Julien Nantel’s bang-bang rebound at 9:13 would hold up. The goal came off great pass from Alexandre Fortin.
The Knights had won 17 in a row showed and demonstrated why they are such an offensive juggernaut under head coach Dale Hunter.
Trailing 2-1, Dvorak took a pass from Aaron Berisha and zipped a backhander in at 15:49 to tie the game at two. The eventual tournament MVP, Marner nearly won it in regulation in the last minute hitting the crossbar from fifteen feet out. Marner had 14 points in the four games he played.
London has Max Jones (son of ex-Nighthawk, Brad Jones, 2016 draft eligible), goalie Brendan Burke (son of Hartford Whalers’ Sean Burke) and ex-Wolf Pack Mike Martin (team scout).
The host Red Deer Rebels were eliminated by the Rouyn Noranda Huskies 3-1 last Friday night to get to play London. That ended the season for Jake Debrusk son of ex-Wolf Pack Louie DeBrusk, Ivan Nikolishin son of ex-Whaler Andrei Nikolishin and Adam Musil son ex-NHL’er Frantisek Musil and nephew of ex-Whaler and Ranger Bobby Holik.
Brandon head coach/GM Kelly McCrimmon is the younger brother of late Whaler Brad McCrimmon.
The goal of the tournament was scored by Brandon’s John Quenneville (second cousin of former Whaler and Blackhawks coach, Joel Quenneville) on the second night of the tournament against Rouyn-Noranda. See it HERE
In a move that could affect the makeup of the Wolf Pack coaching staff next season, Rangers assistant coach, Ulf Samuelsson, has been hired Ron Francis, the Carolina GM and his long-time friend and former Hartford Whaler teammate. Samuelsson becomes the third head coach in the Charlotte Checkers AHL history. Samuelsson replaces Mark Morris, the ex-New Haven Nighthawk, who took the job at his alma mater, St. Lawrence University (ECACHL).
Samuelsson played 1,080 NHL games, 463 of them in Hartford and for his career had 31-145-176 and 1,110 PIM. In Hartford, Samuelsson’s number 5 and Francis’ number 10 hang in the rafters of the XL Center. He was the assistant coach in 2005-06 with the Wolf Pack and in 2004-05 with Avon Old Farms prep school when they had a goalie from Hamden named, Jonathan Quick.
Samuelsson has all four of his children involved in hockey. The eldest Philip split last year with the Arizona Coyotes and the Springfield Falcons. Henrik played all season in Springfield (nee Tucson). His daughter Victoria is a sophomore with the Penn State University varsity women’s team and the youngest child, Adam, has committed to Boston College this past spring and played with the CT Jr. Rangers (USPHL-Premier) last year.
This leaves an opening in New York where it’s likely that Wolf Pack assistant coach, Jeff Beukeboom, is likely to get the promotion call to work with the defenseman there as he has the last four years in Hartford.
WORLD CUP HOCKEY ROSTERS
The rosters are set for the September inaugural tournament patterned to capture the great Canada Cup series in the 1980’s. Some of the usual suspects with CT ties will be a part of various lineups.
Team Europe – Nino Neiderreiter, and Franz Nielsen (Sound Tigers) and Mats Zuccarello (CT Whale)
Team Finland – Mikko Koskinen (Sound Tigers) and Lauri Korpikoski (Wolf Pack)
Team North America – J.T. Miller (Wolf Pack) and Sean Couturier (son of Nighthawks Sylvain)
Team Russia – Artem Anisimov (Wolf Pack) and Vladimir Namestnikov (son of Wolf Pack Evgeni)
Team Sweden – Cal Hagelin (CT Whale)
Team USA – Jonathan Quick (Hamden), Max Pacioretty (New Canaan) and a trio of ex-Wolf Pack Ryan McDonagh, Ryan Callahan, and Brandon Dubinsky.
WOLF PACK PRIORITY DATES
The Wolf Pack regular season home opener is one of seven dates the team released as guaranteed home dates for the 2016-17 AHL season.
The 20th season of the franchise, now longer than the Hartford Whalers were in the Connecticut capital will commence at home on Friday, October 14th. The six other released special dates are; Wednesday, November 2nd 11:00am, Friday, November 25, Saturday, December 10, Friday, January 6, Friday, January 20, and Friday, January 28.
The full AHL schedule will be released in mid-August. The league needs to wait until after the NBA schedules are released. Why? Lake Erie and San Antonio are owned by NBA teams and play in the same building. The two teams are last NBA/AHL connections. Milwaukee will play at University-Wisconsin Carver Arena because the BMO Harris Center is being torn down and Charlotte already has moved to the Bojanglee Coliseum.
ON THE MOVE
Milford native, Mark Arcobello, who played collegiately at Yale and his public school hockey at Fairfield Prep, and prep school at Salisbury Prep (winning a championship at both), has signed with SC Bern (Switzerland-LNA).
Max Talbot who split last season between Providence and Boston is heading to Lokomotiv Yaroslavl (Russia-KHL).
Ex-Pack Corey Potter who split last year with Springfield and Milwaukee and got a brief late season recall to Nashville will be joining former Wolf Pack teammate Dane Byers in Cologne (Germany-DEL) next season.
Domink Uher from Wilkes Barre/Scranton heads back home to HC Sparta Prague of the Czech Elite League (CEL). Zach Phillips, who spent most of the year with Providence, but was reassigned to three different teams in the second half Chicago (AHL) and Atlanta and Kalamazoo (ECHL), heads to Sweden to Tingsryds AIF (Sweden-Allsvenskan).
Zach Phillips, who spent most of the year with Providence but was reassigned to three different teams in the second half of the season, Chicago (AHL) and Atlanta and Kalamazoo (ECHL), heads to Sweden to Tingsryds AIF (Sweden-Allsvenskan).
Former pair of CT Whale players taking up new European residences, Casey Wellman goes from Spartak Moscow (Russia-KHL) to Frolunda HC (Sweden-SHL) the defending champions. Francois Bouchard goes from HC Val Pusteria (Italy LIHG A-League) to GHC Bordeaux (France-FREL).
Manitoba Moose announced its new head coach will be Jets assistant coach Pascal Vincent who has extensive QMJHL coaching experience before becoming an NHL assistant coach.
PRE-SEASON NHL GAME IN BRIDGEPORT
The New York Islanders will host their third NHL pre-season game at the Webster Bank Arena on Saturday, October 1st against the Washington Capitals at 7pm.
WJC TOURNAMENT SCHEDULE
The highly regarded tournament returns to North America on Boxing Day in Toronto and Montreal with a twist on the format between the two cities for the tournament.
Toronto ACC (Air Canada Centre) will host one group featuring the US, Canada, Russia, Slovakia, and Latvia. Then in Montreal at the Bell Centre the other group (Finland, Sweden, Czech Republic, Denmark, and Switzerland) for the preliminary round. Each city will host the quarterfinal round and the semifinal round and medal games will be held in Montreal.
The US squad could feature UConn’s Tage Thompson and Ridgefield native, Chad Krys. Slovakia will likely have incoming UConn freshmen and Ranger draft pick, Adam Huska, in net and another slick skating center, Husky Max Letunov , who will be playing for Russia.
HALL OF FAME
Steve Moria, a one-time New Haven Nighthawk who played all 105 games of his AHL career in the Elm City, was inducted in the British Hockey Hall of Fame. Moria was the last Nighthawk to play actively in pro hockey.
Moria played until he was fifty before retiring five years ago. He played in over 1,339 games in Britain including their National team and World Championship teams with 3,043 total points in his career.
He played his last three season with Basingstoke (EIPHL) as a player-coach in fact 10 of his British season he held that title.
Among the teams he played for included Fife (Scotland), London, Milton Keynesn, Nottingham, Swindon, Blackburn and the Cardiff Devils in Wales where he was held in very high regard for 12 years and the Slough Jets. He played in all the leagues that have been around the UK such as the EIHL, BNL, EIPHL, BD 1 & 2 and BISL.
He is from Vancouver and played Junior A hockey in Richmond, BC for three years in the BCHL. He played collegiately at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks when it was a Division 2 program and is their Hall of Fame as well.
The hockey world took a double whammy this week with the loss of one-time Whaler Rick MacLeish 66, (meningitis and other complications) and Tom Lysiak 63, (Leukemia) who both had battled these illnesses for several years.
MacLeish gained his stardom with the Philadelphia Flyers as one of its top scorers during their Broad Street Bullies days in the early to mid-1970’s.
He was drafted in the first round fourth overall by the Boston Bruins in 1970 from Peterborough (OHL). He never played for the Boston. The Bobby Orr-led Bruins halfway through his first year of pro playing in the minors playing with Oklahoma City (CHL) he was a part of three team trade between Philadelphia, Toronto and Boston.
He struggled to find his game until he broke out in 1972-’73 season with 50 goals and 50 assists. He was one of six Flyers to hit the 50 goal mark in franchise history (Reggie Leach, Bill Barber, John LeClair, Tim Kerr and March Recchi) were the others.
He scored the Stanley Cup game winner for the Flyers first Stanley Cup in 1973-’74 beating the heavily favored Bruins 1-0 in Game 6 led the play playoffs in scoring with 13 goals and nine assists, but he lost out on the Conn Smythe trophy to teammate Hall of Fame goalie Bernie Parent both times.
On the Flyers second and last Cup winning team in 1974-75 he had 20 points in 13 games the team was also the last Stanley Cup team to win with a lineup that was comprised of all Canadians. He was an NHL All-Star three times in his 12-year career.
MacLeish had great speed for the time, one of his patented moves to come across the blue line and shift to his off-wing shooting side, going against the grain before firing his hard and very accurate wrist shot. He led the Flyers team in scoring in 1976-77.
He escaped what could have been a life threatening incident in a late season game in LA in 1978. MacLeish slid into and was accidently cut on the neck by the skate blade of Marcel Dionne. The injury resulted in MacLeish receiving 80 stitches to close the wound.
MacLeish came to the Whalers in the summer of 1981. he arrived in the Connecticut capital with Blake Wesley (former Whaler Glen’s older brother) and big tough winger Don Gillen. The trade sent Fred Arthur and Ray Allison the otheer way. All five players never made an impact for their teams. The only notable exception was defenseman Fred Arthur who would retire two years later to become a doctor.
The Whalers traded MacLeish to Pittsburgh for defenseman Russ Anderson, who still lives and works in Connecticut. Two years later MacLeish retired as a member of the Red Wings.
Lysiak was a second overall selection in the 1973 draft for the first incarnation of NHL hockey in Atlanta, the Flames. He was also drafted by the WHA’s Houston Aeros. Denis Potvin of the Islanders went first overall.
Lysiak played junior hockey for the Medicine Hat Tigers (WHL) winning the scoring title his last two years when he had Lanny MacDonald as his winger before being taken fourth overall by Toronto. He played in the 1974 Memorial Cup tournament.
He played for the Flames for six years leading them in scoring five of the six years, and made three straight NHL All-Star game appearances. He was the face of the franchise and retired to the Atlanta area.
Lysiak was part of what was then the largest trade in NHL history in 1978. The move was an eight player trade between Atlanta and the Chicago Blackhawks. Lysiak was the Flames’ team captain at the time.
He played seven years with Chicago before retiring in 1985 after 919 NHL games with 292 goals and 843 points.
Lysiak might most be remembered for his twenty game suspension for tripping linesman Ron Foyt on October 30, 1983 against the Hartford Whalers. The suspension remains one of the longest in NHL history and has been the standard for player contact with an official. It set a standard that even holds to this day as it was used as a measuring stick this past season for the crosscheck hit by Calgary’s Dennis Wideman on linesman Don Henderson.
Lysiak’s daughter, Jessica Lee Lysiak, is married to San Jose Sharks’ defenseman, Justin Braun, who’s competing for the Stanley Cup. He will miss tonight’s game to be with his wife and family. Braun’s agent is former New England and Hartford Whaler Tim Sheehy.