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CANTLON: WOLF PACK OFF SEASON VOLUME 16

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. 

PLAYER & COACHING MOVEMENT

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.

NWHL & CWHL DRAFTS

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.

IN MEMORIAM

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.

IN MEMORIAM PART  TWO

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.

IN MEMORIAM PART III

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.

WORST KEPT SECRET IN HOCKEY BECOMES OFFICIAL – LINDY RUFF HIRED BY RANGERS

RANGERS NAME LINDY RUFF ASSISTANT COACH

BY: The New York Rangers

NEW YORK, July 10, 2017 – New York Rangers General Manager Jeff Gorton announced today that the team named Lindy Ruff as an Assistant Coach.

          Ruff, 57, has served as a Head Coach in the National Hockey League for the last 19 seasons (1997-98 – 2016-17). In 1,493 career regular season games as an NHL Head Coach, Ruff has posted a 736-554-78-125 record (.561 points percentage). He ranks fourth among head coaches in NHL history in regular season games coached, only trailing Scotty Bowman, Al Arbour, and Joel Quenneville. Ruff also ranks fifth among head coaches in NHL history in regular season wins, only trailing Bowman, Quenneville, Arbour, and Ken Hitchcock. Ruff has also coached 120 career Stanley Cup Playoff games in the NHL, and his teams have posted a 66-54 record in the playoffs (.550 winning percentage).

          Ruff began his head coaching career in the NHL with the Buffalo Sabres in 1997-98 and served as the team’s Head Coach for parts of 15 seasons (1997-98 – 2012-13). He is the Sabres’ all-time leader among head coaches in several categories, including games coached (1,165) and wins (571). After he had helped the Sabres advance to the Eastern Conference Final in his first season as the team’s head coach, he guided the Sabres to the Stanley Cup Final in his second season as Buffalo’s Head Coach in 1998-99.

Ruff also helped the Sabres advance to the Eastern Conference Final in two consecutive seasons in 2005-06 and 2006-07. He was named the winner of the Jack Adams Award in 2005-06 for being the NHL head coach “adjudged to have contributed the most to his team’s success” during the season. Ruff guided the Sabres to a 52-24-6 record during the 2005-06 season. He was also named a finalist for the Jack Adams Award in 2006-07, as he helped Buffalo win the Presidents’ Trophy (for having the best regular-season record in the NHL) for the first time in franchise history and establish a single-season franchise record with 53 wins.

Following his tenure in Buffalo, Ruff served as the Head Coach of the Dallas Stars for four seasons (2013-14 – 2016-17). He was selected as a finalist for the Jack Adams Award for the third time in 2015-16, as he guided the Stars to a 50-23-9 record and helped the team finish in first place in the Central Division and in the Western Conference during the regular season. Over Ruff’s four-year tenure in Dallas, the Stars ranked second in the NHL – and led the Western Conference – in goals per game (2.97). Dallas ranked either first or second in the NHL in goals per game in two of Ruff’s four seasons as the team’s Head Coach.

Before beginning his head coaching career, Ruff served as an Assistant Coach with the Florida Panthers for four seasons (1993-94 – 1996-97). During his tenure with the Panthers, Ruff helped Florida advance to the Stanley Cup Final in 1995-96. The Warburg, Alberta, native has served as a member of Canada’s coaching staff in several tournaments. Ruff helped Canada earn a silver medal while serving as the Head Coach at the 2009 IIHF World Championship and also served as Team Canada’s Head Coach at the 2013 IIHF World Championship. Also, Ruff earned a gold medal while serving as the Associate Coach for Team Canada at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia and the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

Ruff skated in 691 career NHL games over parts of 12 seasons in the league (1979-80 – 1990-91), registering 105 goals and 195 assists for 300 points, along with 1,264 penalty minutes. He played parts of three seasons with the Rangers (1988-89 – 1990-91) after being acquired from Buffalo on March 7, 1989, and he recorded 15 points (three goals, 12 assists) in 83 career contests with the Blueshirts.

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

KOHLER: PACK WIN AT HOME OVER THUNDERBIRDS

       VERSUS      

Hartford Wolf Pack 4, Springfield Thunderbirds 3

BY: Chris Kohler, Hartford Wolf Pack

Hartford, CT, April 7, 2017 – Nicklas Jensen’s goal with 2:21 remaining in the third period lifted the Hartford Wolf Pack to a 4-3 win over the Springfield Thunderbirds Friday night at the XL Center.

Rookie goaltender Chris Nell made 27 saves to post his first professional win for the Wolf Pack, and Marek Hrivik had a goal and an assist.  Chris Brown and Matt Carey also scored for Hartford.  Ed Wittchow, Tim Bozon, and Chase Balisy had the Springfield goals.

At 5:19 of the first period, the Thunderbirds took the early lead when Wittchow took a pass from Anthony Greco and fired a shot from the left point over the right shoulder of Nell to make the score 1-0.

Just 2:40 later, at 5:19, the Wolf Pack were able to respond and beat Springfield goalie Sam Brittain (22 saves).  Brown picked off a Paul Thompson pass just outside the Thunderbird blue line, to set up a one on one opportunity with the goalie that he converted with a perfect five-hole shot. Continue reading

CANTLON’S CORNER: MATT CAREY FINDING HIS ROLE IN HARTFORD

BY: Gerry Cantlon, Howlings

HARTFORD, CT A year ago Matt Carey was unsure of what he felt his role was as a hockey player, but now he feels he has found it in Hartford.

Carey was in Iowa playing for a struggling Wild team after being recalled from Quad City (ECHL) where he was having success.

“I really didn’t know what my role was there,” Carey said. “I am getting it here. If you put me on a line with River (Marek Hrivik) and (Nicklas) Jensen, I know I gotta go to the corners and get to the net, make a big hit and get them the puck. They do the goal work. I do the gritty work.”

Over the past seven weeks, Carey has become, along with Tanner Glass, the front line battering ram for this hockey team. Carey enjoys finishing checks and making players look twice to see who is incoming on the forecheck.

“You just have to work a little harder and try to create space for your linemates. On the goal in the Rochester game, I got a little lucky getting the tip in front, but Gilly (John Gilmour) and (Ryan) Graves did the work. I just picked up a little of the gravy there,” Carey, who’s hard work, not luck got that goal, said.

Head coach Ken Gernander, Carey’s development has been something to smile about in a season of ups and downs. Continue reading

CANTLON: HOPE FOR HARTFORD POSTSEASON DIMMED WITH LOSS IN PORTLAND

rp_hartfordwolfpackpuck_thumb.jpg      VERSUS      Portland Pirates

BY: Gerry Cantlon, Howlings

PORTLAND, ME – The Hartford Wolf Pack lost a heartbreaking 3-2 decision on Sunday to the Portland Pirates on a late goal. Despite the loss, their hopes of a playoff birth have not been extinguished, but they are very slim  indeed.

The Bridgeport Sound Tigers were beaten at the Webster Bank Arena by the visiting Lehigh Valley Phantoms 4-1 Sunday afternoon. The Wolf Pack play the last three games on the road in Canada starting Wednesday morning at 11:00 am with a game in Toronto against the AHL’s best, the Marlies. They end their regular season with a pair of games in St. John’s, Newfoundland.

The Pack record stands at 39-31-3-0 (81 points). For them to have any chance at all, they will have to win out and hope that the Sound Tigers lose one of their three remaining games. Should they finish tied with Bridgeport at the end of the regular season the Sound Tigers hold the first tiebreaker, regular season non-shootout wins (ROW). The Pack can only max out at 35 ROW, so the Sound Tigers would go to the postseason. Continue reading

SCRIVENS: NWHL’S RIVETERS SIGN TWO

NWHLNWHL NEWS: MORGAN FRITZ-WARD AND MADISON PACKER RE-SIGN WITH THE NEW YORK RIVETERS
2015-16 Assistant Captains Are First Players Named to Riveters’ Roster

BY: Jenny Scrivens , NWHL

NEW YORK, NYMorgan Fritz-Ward and Madison Packer are the first players to sign contracts with the New York Riveters for the 2016-2017 NWHL season, General Manager Chad Wiseman announced Wednesday. Fritz-Ward and Packer, whose leadership earned them assistant captain roles last year, each signed one-year contracts worth $15,000.

“Fritz-Ward’s speed, relentless work ethic and ability to play in any game situation make her a huge asset to our team,” said Wiseman. “She’s a leader both on and off the ice, and having her back in a Riveters jersey is an important first step for our club’s success next season.”

The Mason City, Iowa native recorded 6 points (4g, 2a) in 17 games for the Riveters last season, but didn’t appear in either of the two playoffs games against the Boston Pride due to an upper body injury.

“I’m very honored and excited to be welcomed back by the Riveters and can’t wait to get the season started,” said Fritz-Ward. “ I hope to bring back a strong work ethic and high energy to the line-up next season.”

“Packer is a natural leader and a proven winner at the college level,” said Wiseman. “She’s someone we will rely on to help the young players make the transition from college to professional hockey.”

Packer appeared in 16 regular season games for the Riveters, tallying 7 points (3g, 4a). In the Isobel Cup Playoffs, the Detroit native tallied another goal for a season total of four.

“I’m so excited and humbled to return to the Riveters next season,” said Packer. “I am extremely grateful to my friends and especially my family for all the love, support and encouragement they have shown me.”

“I think I learned a lot last year on and off the ice,” said Packer. “I’m hoping to take those lessons, both positive and negative, and use them to propel the Riveters through a highly successful second season.”

The Riveters finished their inaugural season in last place with a 4-12-2 record. In the Isobel Cup semifinals, they faced the top-seeded Boston Pride and dropped the three-games series in two games.

The restricted free agency began April 1 and lasts until April 30. Free agency begins May 1 and lasts until July 31. The 2016 Draft is June 18.

About the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL)
The NWHL is the first professional women’s hockey league in North America to pay its players. The inaugural season began October 11, 2015, with the Founding Four: Boston Pride, Buffalo Beauts, Connecticut Whale and New York Riveters. The Boston Pride became the first team in NWHL history to raise the Isobel Cup on March 12, 2016.

RANGERS: PAGING BRADY SKJEI… YOU’RE WANTED IN NEW YORK!

rp_new-york-r_thumb.gifRANGERS RECALL BRADY SKJEI FROM HARTFORD

BY: The New York Rangers

NEW YORK, February 23, 2016 – New York Rangers General Manager Jeff Gorton announced today that the team has recalled defenseman Brady Skjei from the Hartford Wolf Pack of the American Hockey League (AHL).

Skjei, 21, has skated in two games with the Rangers this season, registering two shots on goal and two penalty minutes. He made his NHL debut on Dec. 15 vs. Edmonton.

The 6-3, 215-pounder has skated in 52 games with the Wolf Pack this season, registering three goals and 19 assists for 22 points, along with 20 penalty minutes. Skjei is tied for second on the Wolf Pack in assists this season. He is also tied for first among Hartford defensemen in assists and ranks second among team defensemen in points in 2015-16.

RANGERS: HRIVIK RECALLED, PAILLE ASSIGNED

Hrivik Action Shot 3RANGERS RECALL MAREK HRIVIK FROM HARTFORD

Assign Daniel Paille to Hartford

BY: The New York Rangers

NEW YORK, February 21, 2016 – New York Rangers General Manager Jeff Gorton announced today that the team has recalled forward Marek Hrivik from the Hartford Wolf Pack of the American Hockey League (AHL). The team has also assigned Daniel Paille to Hartford.

Hrivik, 24, has skated in 52 games with the Wolf Pack this season, registering seven goals and 21 assists for 28 points, along with 16 penalty minutes. He has tied his AHL career-high in assists in 2015-16, recording 21 assists in 20 fewer games than when he established his AHL career-high last season (52 games in 2015-16; 72 games in 2014-15). Hrivik leads the Wolf Pack in assists, ranks second in points, is tied for second in shorthanded goals (one), and ranks third in shots on goal (118) this season. Hrivik has notched a point in four of his last seven games (one goal, three assists), including an assist last night at Springfield. In addition, he has registered 12 points (three goals, nine assists) and has posted a plus-11 rating in his last 17 games with the Wolf Pack. Continue reading

CANTLON’S CORNER: BUSY SCHEDULE FOR THE PACK THIS WEEKEND

gerry-150x130BY: Gerry Cantlon, Howlings

HARTFORD, CT – Everything is, “So far, so good,” in Pack-land as they prepare for another three-in-three weekend.

The Hartford Wolf Pack prepared to board a bus to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton where they will tangle for the first time this season with the Penguins. The game is a homecoming of sorts for Jayson Megna and Brian Gibbons who played the last two seasons together in Pennsylvania.

The Pack will then entertain the Providence Bruins on Saturday night at the XL Center as the nightcap to the double-header day that features the UCONN-Notre Dame game as a matinee at 3pm. On Sunday at 5pm, it’s the Rochester Americans making their first appearance in Hartford in twelve years. Continue reading