This week’s Farm Report has Scotty talking about the AHL and ECHL playoffs, the Ontario Reign not getting the support like they did in the regular season for the playoffs, reactions for clean-out day for some eliminated teams, a urge by the Springfield Falcons to support the team, plus coaching changes. Not only that, but the SPHL has their expansion draft, Manitoba has the Moose back, and We Hardly Knew Ye.
This week, Scotty looks at the possible demise of the Federal Hockey League, what Kristers Gudlevskis will show up for the Syracuse Crunch (spoiler: not the good one), how Liam Stewart is forging his own path beyond his famous bloodlines, while Columbus and Lake Erie are forging for Ohio to be the next hockey hotbed. The Macon Mayhem are making their presence known in the community, while we go through the last of the yearly awards, a new coach in Brampton, and We Hardly Knew Ye.
It all starts today with the ECHL’s Kelly Cup playoffs, as the Central Division kicks off the Western Conference side of things. As two of the newer teams are going to drop the puck tonight; it seems like the easy place to start for a playoff preview, with the Eastern Conference coming tomorrow.
(1C) Allen Americans vs. (4C) Tulsa Oilers
As they have the goalie with the most wins in the league (Riley Gill), the forward with the most goals in the league (Gary Steffes), the forward with the most points in the league (Chad Costello), and the top goal-scoring team in the entire league; the Allen Americans are going to be a hard out in these playoffs, especially in the Central Division play-downs. Especially to have someone like Gill, who has won a Kelly Cup two years ago in Reading; the Americans are primed to really take the playoffs by storm.
Yet, Tulsa has been able to play the Americans pretty close in their 17 match-ups, winning five games, losing two in extra time, and also playing several one and two-goal games. The Oilers are bring 40-goal scorer Adam Pleskach, 50-plus assist-man Drew Fisher, and solid rookie Jeff Jubinville to the fold and will give quite a task to the Americans’ defense. Thanks to Kevin Carr in net, the Oilers had their highest win total in team history since 2002-03.
That all said, with Chad Costello having himself an amazing year and putting up 15 goals and 31 points in the 17 games against Tulsa, it could be just a question of how many games the Americans will win this.
(2C) Rapid City Rush vs. (3C) Quad City Mallards
There might be no hotter team in the ECHL as the Rapid City Rush. The second half of the season, the Rush went 23-8-5 after the midway point of the season. Outside of the Jesse Schultz and Cody Ferriero up-front, one of the guys who played well against Quad City was Daniel Barczuk who had six goals and 10 points in the 13 match-ups the two had. With Mathieu Brisebois on the back-end contributing on the power play, the Rush are solid for scoring. One main questions is what can Danny Bottochio do in net, as he was only 5-3-3 in his appearances against the Mallards., but had a GAA under 2.00.
One thing for the Mallards is that they have two solid options in net with Parker Milner and Evan Mosher, which could be the determining factor for the Mallards when all is said and done. Yet, there’s a nice well-rounded aspect to the Mallards game, as they have gotten solid play from Mario Lamoureux, Justin Fox, and rookie Joe Perry, along with special teams’ help from Kevin Baker and defenseman Matt Duffy— the Mallards could very well will their way to win this series.
In a tight series like the Mallards and Rush have played this season; it’ll come down to how teams do in extra time, where the Mallards took three of the four extra time games. With their goaltending solidified with Milner back, the Mallards may have the edge– even with the Rush being the hottest team in the season half of the season.
(1P) Idaho Steelheads vs. (4P) Utah Grizzlies
When it comes to output, the Steelheads got plenty out of Wade MacLeod; who not only lead the team in scoring and ended up second in the league; but he also took control during the series against the Grizzlies with nine goals and 19 points this year against Utah. With the addition of Jason Bast off the IR for the playoffs, the offense should be solid for the Steelheads; who will also get plenty out of goaltender Olivier Roy and blueliner Gaelan Petterson in terms of keeping the Grizzlies off the scoresheet.
If anything, the Utah Grizzlies will rely on tight-checking and defensive play, as only the Wheeling Nailers and Quad City Mallards have less goals for the season than the Grizzlies had (213). The acquisition of Jacob Johnston early in the year helped the blue-line throughout the season, especially when through 13 defensemen in the season, many of whom are on the younger side of the age scale. It will be a test on Alex Krushelnyski and Michael Pelech if the Steelheads are able to neutralize leading scorer Mathieu Aubin.
Neither Roy nor Utah’s Igor Bobkov saw much time in net during the head-to-head match-ups, nor did they fare all that well when they got the chance. But with Roy back at full strength and the top offensive players for Idaho coming back; the Grizzles may be in an uphill battle to win this series.
(2P) Ontario Reign vs. (3P) Colorado Eagles
Though they haven’t faced the Eagles since February, the Reign have been quite solid since then– especially with Jussi Olkinuora playing solid down the stretch for Ontario. With the pick-up of Garry Nunn, the offense has been a little more explosive, as Nunn put up 21 points in his 15 games for Ontario. With Judd Blackwater and Matt White riding alongside, the offensive side is covered; even getting contributions from the blue-line from Matt Register and with forward Maxim Kitsyn— who had eight goals against the Eagles this year.
With the rotating net for the Eagles, it seems that Clarke Saunders has been able to overtake the crease from Doug Carr; especially when it comes to the Reign where he went 7-2-0; though he had an inflated 2.49 GAA. The one good thing for the Eagles is their spread out scoring with set-up man Trent Daavettila dishing to Brock Nixon and Taylor Vause; with Collin Bowman having the touch on the power play from the blue-line. There is also a lot of grit on the Eagles with both Darryl Bootland and Teigan Zahn putting up more than 200 PIMs this year on the 4th most penalized team in the ECHL.
If Saunders can stay healthy and hot against the Reign, the Eagles will only need to put up points in order to get past the Reign. That said, the Reign will be playing for pride, as it is their last season in the ECHL and they would want to go out with a bang before they move to the AHL.
The SPHL Playoffs got a little crazy and Scotty will run down the after effect of that, plus give you the low-down on the Yearly Honors the SPHL handed out thus far. Carter Rowney is on doing his best to ply his trade and go beyond most odds to get a NHL contract from first only signing an AHL-only deal. Consistency is Mike Monfredo’s mantra…and if it isn’t– it should be as he’s been more than consistent for the Quad City Mallards. The monthly awards came down, as did the weeklys, the new San Jose AHL team name, plus Syracuse’s push for the 2016 AHL All-Star Game. All that, and We Hardly Knew Ye.
This edition of the Farm Report has Scotty talking about some of the moves made at the ECHL trade deadline, the moves made by some AHL franchises, and what the move to California could really mean for the AHL and the NHL parent teams. Rod Aldoff is none too pleased with his two-time SPHL champion Ice Flyers, while the Quad City Mallards are flying together despite call-ups and injuries. All that, plus some news and notes, as well as We Hardly Knew Ye.
The Farm Report is back after a week off, but still a little worn out. Worn out is something the Hershey Bears aren’t because they’re on a huge run to start 2015 and it’s all thanks to Troy Mann. Toledo has welcomed back hockey with open arms and the team is doing what they can to return the favor to the community. Parker Milner is trying to find a community to settle down, while Tom Kuhnhackl has settled down into a new role in the Penguins organization. All that, plus News and Notes and We Hardly Knew Ye.
(Due to personal happenings, this was delayed a day– but luckily; none of the leagues played Monday. Therefore, it’s still all fresh.)
-Though their Saturday night comeback against Syracuse came up short, the Hershey Bears are quietly making a big leap to be the favorite coming out of the Eastern Conference. Philipp Grubauer stopped 50 of 51 shots he faced in the two of three games he played, both wins, while Pheonix Copley held down the fort Saturday despite getting down early and stopped 30 of 32 when losing in a shootout. Casey Wellman‘s four assists had him in the playmaker role, as Chandler Stephenson and Kris Newbury potted two goals on the weekend. Even more special was Connor Carrick registering the 20,000th goal in Bears’ history– the first team to do that in the AHL and second only to the Montreal Canadiens. Hershey has points in their last seven games and are third in the Eastern Conference, five points behind 1st place Syracuse.
-It was an explosive weekend for the Hartford Wolf Pack, especially when it came to Joey Crabb and Danny Kristo, who put up three goals a piece in the two Wolf Pack wins. Crabb has had five of his nine goals in the past nine games and has seemingly found his game since being out with the mumps in the middle of December. Kristo has been on a bit of a slump as he only has four goals in his last 17 games. One of the bigger hang-ups for the Wolfpack could be the consistency of the goaltending as Yann Danis let up six goals on Friday, though Mackenzie Skapski only let up one goal on 23 shots. The rookie Skapski is 20th in AHL in GAA (2.38), the best amongst the Wolf Pack goalies this year– which may be rough if Hartford wants to go far in the Calder Cup Playoffs this year.
-With two wins this weekend, the Reading Royals bumped their winning streak to seven games. Sean Wiles had two goals on Saturday to end his solid month (8g, 3a), while Zach Davies contributed a goal and two assists on the weekend from the blue-line. The goaltending tandem of Martin Ouellette and Connor Knapp each faced 31 shots in their starts with Ouellette stopping 30 and Knapp stopping 29. The win streak has the Royals up to second in the South Division, four points behind the Florida Everblades.
-With a stable roster, the Quad City Mallards are getting back into their comfort zone. The returning Mario Lamoureux put up three assists with Justin Fox putting up a goal and assists in wins against Wichita and Brampton. The power play for the Mallards accounted for four of the six goals over the weekend, while Parker Milner and Evan Mosher only let in one goal a piece. As they stand in a logjam for second in the Central Division, the Mallards could have a solid boost with all their players returning from the AHL and injury, just in time for a playoff push.
-With a pair of 4-3 overtime wins, the Peoria Rivermen have boosted back up to the top spot in the SPHL, though being in a tie with the Knoxville Ice Bears. Sean Morra had three goals and an assist on the weekend, including the game-winner on Friday against the Louisiana IceGators. Kyle Rank added two more wins to his league-leading 18, while team scoring leader Josh Harris had the game-winner on Saturday night while also giving Pensacola their sixth-straight loss.
-It was a second-straight sweep weekend for the Mississippi RiverKings, who took out Pensacola and Huntsville this weekend, which has put them five points out of the top spot in 4th. Ryan Marcuz had two goals and two assists and Byron Paulazzo putting up a goal and two assists. Adam Courchaine and Peter Di Salvo split the wins on the weekend.