Crunch goaltending conundrum as they get set to play Norfolk

It all started with the Tampa Bay Lightning heading into Ottawa to face the Senators.

Early in the first period of Tampa’s loss to the Senators — nearly two minutes in, to be exact — Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop was clipped in the back of the head by a teammate’s skate. Nikita Kucherov, the offending player, was forced to leap the downed Bishop after the goaltender sprung from his crease to attack a 50-50 puck that careened off the boards toward him.

And then it was up to Anders Lindback, Tampa’s backup, to fill the net.

Later in the game, Lindback was barrelled over by Senators forward Cory Conacher. He would finish the game, but now? Now he’s on the sideline. This leaves the Lightning in the unfortunate position of having to call up both their starting and backup goaltenders from the Syracuse Crunch.

Cedrick Desjardins — he, who just recently took a puck to the face while sitting on the bench — and Kristers Gudlevskis have both been recalled to the Lightning, and may both be called upon to suit up when the Lightning play the Montreal Canadiens in Montreal on Saturday.

Normally, the situation in this case would be a trickle down effect. However, the Crunch find themselves in an almost impossible spot: they’ve had to take a goalie on loan, and need to sign another on a tryout just to fill the backup position.

Riku Helenius, who had just finished spending some time in Florida of the ECHL, may have been the next in line for the crease. If — you know — he hadn’t been suspended for breach of contract. got in touch with Julien Brisbois, the Crunch general manager, who said Helenius left Florida after the team’s game on Wednesday. Subsequent phone calls from Brisebois went unanswered, and the Syracuse GM told SyracuseHockey he was “disappointed” and that the decision was “obviously. . . his decision, not ours.”

To fill the net, BriseBois has called on Allen York. The 24-year-old York has been a journeyman since breaking into the NHL with the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2011-12. Since appearing with the Jackets, York has spent 19 games in Springfield with the Falcons, 11 games with ECHL Evansville, one with Charlotte, six with Texas, one in Rockford, and another six in ECHL South Carolina, where he comes from to make his appearance for the Crunch.

There has yet to be word on who will start for the Crunch, but one could assume it will be York. BriseBois has yet to sign a backup to a tryout to appear in Syracuse as the Crunch host the Norfolk Admirals tomorrow night.

UPDATE: From, the backup goalie for the Crunch on Saturday is expected to be Grant Rollheiser. He’ll be brought in on a tryout from the Central Hockey League’s Brampton Beast. In 20 games with Beast, Rollheiser has gone 10-9 with three shutouts, a .914 SV%, and 2.99 GAA.


AHL Today: Barons snap two-game skid, beat Marlies

AHL Today is a roundup of the night that was, the day ahead, and anything you may have missed. Your quick look at what’s going on around the league.


To Watch:

  • BINGHAMTON at MANCHESTER: When the Senators head in to Manchester to play the Monarchs, they’re looking to pull themselves even closer to the top of the Eastern Conference. After a convincing 6-3 win over the Worcester Sharks their last time out, the Senators are hoping to continue their winning ways. The last time the two teams faced off this season, which came earlier this month, the Sens walked away with a 5-4 OT win, and Bingo’s Mike Hoffman lead all scorers with a goal and two assists.
  • TORONTO at SAN ANTONIO: In their past two games, the Rampage have knocked off the top two seeds in the West. Friday night, with a win over the visiting Toronto Marlies, the Rampage could complete the trifecta. The Marlies, leading the Western Conference’s North Division and sitting third in the conference, roll in to San Antonio following a travel day and ruminating on their 5-3 defeat to the Oklahoma City Barons. A late-November contest was the only match up between the two teams, and that game saw the Marlies double up the Rampage 4-2.

Last Night:

  • OKLAHOMA CITY 5, TORONTO 3: Brandon Kozun notched his first two points as a Marlie, both helpers, but they weren’t enough to bring the Marlies closer to the top seed in the West. After the Barons relinquished two two-goal leads — they lead 2-0, and 3-1 — Oklahoma City finally pulled away for good thanks to a Jack Combs tally with just over six minutes to go in the third. An Anton Lander empty-netter sealed the deal, as goaltender Richard Bachman and the Barons skated away with the ‘W’.


Abbotsford Heat
Blair Jones (F) From: Calgary Flames
Trevor Gillies (F) From: Orlando Solar Bears
Adirondack Phantoms
Chris VandeVelde (F) From: Philadelphia Flyers
Charlotte Checkers
Cam Ward (G) From: Carolina Hurricanes
Aaron Palushaj (F) From: Carolina Hurricanes
Hamilton Bulldogs
Christian Thomas (F) To: Montréal Canadiens
Portland Pirates
Jesse Mychan (F) To: Colorado Eagles
Texas Stars
Pat Nagle (G) To: Idaho Steelheads
Russ Sinkewich (D) To: Toledo Walleye
Dustin Jeffrey (F) To: Dallas Stars
Syracuse Crunch
Riku Helenius (G) From: Florida Everblades
Maxime Parent (F) From: Florida Everblades
Utica Comets
Frank Corrado (D) To: Vancouver Canucks

News & Notes:

  • A nice story by Wayne Fish on longtime AHL official Scott Adams, who is calling it a career after 20 years calling games in the ‘A’. Adams, on his passion for hockey: “When I’m skating, I feel like a little kid. When I saw the little kids skating on the rink next to the Winter Classic (in Michigan), I was almost crying.’’ [The Intelligencer]
  • Sean Shapiro on Jamie Oleksiak, who could one day be a superpower on the Dallas Stars’ blueline, but for now, he’s working out of a tough time with the help from a Stanley Cup champion. [The Statesman]
  • The Hershey Bears and Adirondack Phantoms are going to be busy this weekend, playing a weekend pair that starts with a 7 p.m. EST game tonight in Glens Falls and ends with a game starting at 1 p.m. in Philadelphia on Saturday.

Trevor Gillies inks deal with Heat

It seems Brian Burke’s directive — you know the one? It goes something, something, truculence? — has trickled down to the AHL.

The Abbotsford Heat announced today they have signed pugilist Trevor Gillies to an AHL contract. Gillies, you may recall, was part of the infamous brawl between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the New York Islanders. You may remember him as the guy shouting from off-ice at a downed Penguin. Yes, it’s that Trevor Gillies.

Depending on your definition of impressive, Gillies has some impressive numbers. In 676 games split between the NHL, AHL, and ECHL, Gillies has racked up 2,866 PIM. Before inking his deal with the Heat, Gillies spent three games with SM-Liigas HIFK (54 PIM), and five games with Orlando of the ECHL (21 PIM).

But I am sure Gillies is being brought in for his scoring prowess. In those 676 games, Gillies has contributed to the tune of 11 goals and 32 assists.

The one-time Anaheim Duck — Gillies was there during the Burke years — will be available to the Heat for the weekends games when they host the Hamilton Bulldogs.


Harry Zolniercyzk puts hat in Goal of the Year race

It might be appropriate, what with the Super Bowl just around the corner, to say that Harry Zolniercyzk went into Beast Mode, if only temporarily.

Zolnierczyk, who is in the middle of a career year with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, buried his 13th of the season last night as the Pens shutout the Syracuse Crunch, and he did it with style.

Signed by the Philadelphia Flyers after four years at Brown University, Zolnierczyk was dealt to the Anaheim Ducks, who subsequently traded the 26-year-old forward to the Pens in exchange for Alex Grant.

A Toronto, Ont. native, Zolnierczyk is on pace for the most productive season of his professional career. With 24 points (13-11) in 34 games, Zolnierczyk has already surpassed his career best in points in a single AHL campaign.



AHL Today: Amerks win streak to five, Hoffman pots four

AHL Today is a roundup of the night that was, the day ahead, and anything you may have missed. Your quick look at what’s going on around the league.


To Watch:

  • TORONTO at OKLAHOMA CITY: These two teams don’t play very often — they’ve only faced off six times in the last five years — so there’s not a long history here. However, of note, Will Acton will be facing off against his former team for the first time since leaving the Marlies to head to the Barons this past summer. Oklahoma is coming into the game having lost back-to-back games in regulation, and are hoping to avoid a slide that would put them ever further back in the West. Already near the basement, the Barons are on the verge of losing their season if they can’t right the shit. A loss to the Marlies would not help their cause.

Last Night:

  • ROCHESTER 4, CHICAGO 1: The Wolves struck just fifteen seconds into the game, but they wouldn’t pot another. After Adam Cracknell’s opening salvo, the Amerks held steadfast and came back in waves potting four unanswered. Goals for Rochester came from Kevin Porter, Brayden McNabb, Colton Gillies, Alex Hutchings. Johan Larsson contributed with a pair of helpers, and the Amerks have pushed their streak to five.
  • SAN ANTONIO 4, TEXAS 2: There are dominating, three-period shot-barrage type wins, and then there are what you could call goalie wins. For San Antonio, you could call the victory over Texas a goalie win, as Michael Houser stopped 44 of 46 shots sent his way. Jed Ortmeyer had two tallies for the Rampage, including the game-winner which came in the first frame. In the loss, Stars goaltender Josh Robinson allowed four goals on just 18 shots.
  • BINGHAMTON 6, WORCESTER 3: The Mike Hoffman show rolled into Worcester as the Binghamton forward potted his 19th, 20th, 21st, and 22nd goals of the year. A five point night for Hoffman — he added an assist, just for good measure — helped the Sens handily defeat Worcester. Forward Scott Fleming made his debut for the Sharks after getting the call to the ‘A’ from the ECHL’s Fort Wayne Komets.

(Moves, news, and notes after the jump.)

Continue reading

Cumberland County Civic Center make offer to Pirates

When the Portland Pirates and the Cumberland County Civic Center couldn’t reach an agreement on a lease to begin the season, the Pirates picked up and moved operations to nearby Lewiston, ME. A new lease agreement put forth by the CCCC could bring the Pirates back home.

The lease agreement, first reported by Maine Hockey Journal’s Chris Roy, was approved by trustees of the CCCC by a 6-2 vote. However, Roy reports that the agreement must be accepted by Feb. 3 or the deal expires.

In April of last year, the two sides had agreed to an outline of a lease agreement, but talks later broke down over parts of the deal. One issue was the division of money received from the sale of liquor on the premises.

In December, Ron Cain, a minority owner at the time the initial talks broke down, acquired a majority stake in the team.

Roy tweeted out he wishes he could be “more optimistic about today, but the reality is this is it. If both sides can’t agree this time. Its over.”

The Portland Pirates front office was unavailable for comment at the time of this writing. This story will continue to develop.

Varone makes most of call up, pots first career goal

Phil Varone was on pace to shatter his previous career high for points in season as a professional. Tough break for Varone, though, because his AHL point total could stay at 33 if he keeps playing well in Buffalo.

Varone, a native of Vaughan, Ont. and the assistant captain of the Rochester Americans, got the call exactly a week ago that he was on his way to Buffalo, and since he has made the most of his opportunities.

After scoring his first goal last night, Varone spoke with The Buffalo News’ Amy Mortiz and broke down his play so far in the bigs.

“I think more in the ‘A’ I try to control the puck around the perimeter and find my teammates,” said Varone of his style with the minors. “Here I need to be a little more simple and that’s why I’m just trying to get to the net more. I’m going to start hopefully feeling more comfortable and making plays with the puck but for right now I’m just going to go to the net and hopefully bang a few in.

“The more games you play the more you’re going to understand what you need to do to create space for yourself and to get open. That’s been my focus right now. Once I get more comfortable I’ll be able to make more plays with the puck.”

Varone First Goal small tagThe Sabres, definitely not atop the league, are giving shots to their young guns in a down season with hopes of building a team that can win in the future. Varone, if this chance in the NHL is any indication, is a part of those plans. Drafted by the San Jose Sharks in the fifth round of the 2009 entry draft, Varone went unsigned before inking a free agent deal with the Sabres.

Of his first goal, Varone told Moritz that it was good to get the pressure of his shoulders.

The Sabres will head into action again on Thursday when they head to Phoenix to take on the Coyotes, and it will be up to the Desert Dogs to try and stop the red hot Varone.

(Cover image courtesy

AHL Today: Glens Falls close to finding out future, Utica win streak halted

AHL Today is a roundup of the night that was, the day ahead, and anything you may have missed. Your quick look at what’s going on around the league.


To Watch:

  • CHICAGO at ROCHESTER: Rochester puts its four-game winning streak on the line when they take on the Wolves. Over their last four games, the Amerks have outscored their opponents 16-8. The tandem of Nathan Lieuwen and Matt Hackett have been formidable for Rochester. The teams haven’t faced each other this season, but they’re meeting each other as they both start to roll. Chicago is on a two game streak of its own. Should be a great game. Of note, the Amerks will be without top point-getter Phil “Don’t Call Me Joe” Varone who is up with the Buffalo Sabres.
  • SAN ANTONIO at TEXAS: The Stars host the Rampage at home, where they’re 21-3-0-3 against San Antonio in the last five years. Texas has picked up a point in each of the seven contests between the two teams so far this season, and a single point will draw them into a tie for first place in the West. Texas will still be without goaltender Cristopher Nilstorp, so expect Josh Robinson to get the call. The last time the two teams met was Dec. 28, when the Stars walked away with a 5-2 victory.

Last Night:

  • LAKE ERIE 3, UTICA 2 (SO): Benn Ferriero continued his hot streak, picking up a goal and an assist, but it wasn’t enough as the Comets dropped the game to the Monsters in a shootout. Calvin Pickard picked up the win for the Monsters, making thirty saves and stopping every shot in skills competition. Joey Hishon’s shootout tally proved to be the winner.
  • CHARLOTTE at NORFOLK (ppd.): Due to weather, the Admirals and Checkers had their tilt postponed to March 4.
    (Moves, news, and notes after the jump.) Continue reading

AHL Today: A look at the PPL Center, Utica goes for five

AHL Today is a roundup of the night that was, the day ahead, and anything you may have missed. Your quick look at what’s going on around the league.


To Watch:

  • LAKE ERIE at UTICA: As Lake Erie heads into Utica, this isn’t just a battle of some basement dwellers, it’s a battle of teams heading in very different directions. Winless in their last eight games, Lake Erie has dropped seven games in regulation as the Comets have snapped their most recent skid, rattling off four straight wins. Joacim Erikkson, fresh off being named Player of the Week, will likely get the call for the Comets. Lake Erie will get goaltender Sami Aittokallio back from his recall with the Colorado Avalanche. Only nine points out of a playoff spot, it’s a bit too early to really write off the Comets, but they’re going to need to extend this win streak and have many more like it to get back in the race.
  • CHARLOTTE at NORFOLK: The Admirals have points in six straight heading into their game with the visiting Checkers. Charlotte has won the last three meetings between the two clubs, but needed overtime and shootout to do so. On a four game winning streak themselves, the Checkers are going to be without leading scorer Aaron Palsuhaj, who just earned himself a call to the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes. The Ads’ best bet is to keep the Checkers off the powerplay, as the team is moving along at nearly a 25% clip.


Sami Aittokallio (G) From: Colorado Avalanche To: Lake Erie Monsters
Aaron Palushaj (F)
 From: Charlotte Checkers To: Carolina Hurricanes
Petr Mrázek (G) From: Detroit Red Wings To: Grand Rapids Griffins
Cody Beach (F) From: Kalamazoo Wings To: Chicago Wolves
Colton Sissons (F) From: Milwaukee Admirals To: Nashville Predators
Danny Hobbs (F) From: Elmira Jackals To: Binghamton Senators
Thomas Heemskerk (G) From: Worcester Sharks To: Quad City Mallards
Jordan Szwarz (F) From: Phoenix Coyotes To: Portland Pirates
Connor Murphy (D) From: Portland Pirates To: Phoenix Coyotes
Olivier Roy (G) From: Alaska Aces To: Abbotsford Heat
Drew MacKenzie (D) From: Alaska Aces To: Abbotsford Heat
Zach McKelvie (D) From: Abbotsford Heat To: Alaska Aces
Jordan Kremyr (F) From: Abbotsford Heat To: Alaska Aces
Jordan Schroeder (F) From: Utica Comets To: Vancouver Canucks
Nicholas Rioux (D) From: Iowa Wild To: Quad City Mallards
Brandon Pirri (F) From: Rockford IceHogs To: Chicago Blackhawks
Anders Nilsson (G) From: New York Islanders To: Bridgeport Sound Tigers
Matt Donovan (D) From: New York Islanders To: Bridgeport Sound Tigers

News & Notes:

  • Really nice work by 100DegreeHockey’s Stephen Meserve on the Texas Stars league leading powerplay. [100DegreeHockey]
  • The AHL Power Rankings for Week 17 have gone live on Chirps From Center Ice. Jason has been doing a great job with these, so go take a look. [ChirpsFromCenterIce]
  • After nearly a month on the road, the Rochester Americans are back on home ice. [WHEC]
  • The Milwaukee Admirals are hosting a, get this, Jamaican Vortex Night. Three fans will get a trip to Jamaica, and there will be a Bob Marley tribute band. You think you’d see this in the NHL? C’mon. [Milwaukee Admirals]
  • The brand new PPL Center is on its way to completion. (s/t @breakground, @Ike_Richman)
    Screen Shot 2014-01-28 at 11.44.26 AM
    (Click to enlarge)

Three straight wins get Eriksson Player of the Week nod

The Utica Comets haven’t looked basement dwellers this past week.

Vancouver’s top affiliate put together four straight wins, getting back some of the ground they lost after dropping six straight before the current win streak.

In the streak, goaltender Joacim Erikkson had had a shutout and overtime victory, and things are looking up for the Comets.

Eriksson is in his first season in North America after signing with the Canucks in the summer. In 24 games for the Comets this year, Eriksson has posted an 11-11-1 record with three shutouts, a .911 SV%, and 2.63 GAA.

The 23-year-old Eriksson, a Gavle, Sweden native, got the call in one NHL game this season when he suited up on Jan. 15 against the Anaheim Ducks. In 36 minutes of work, Eriksson stopped 25 shots and allowed six goals.

Eriksson should get the call again on Tuesday as the Comets look to extend their win streak to five when they host the Lake Erie Monsters.