MINOR LEAGUE MONDAY: P-Bruins Rolling, Williams Pride of the Monarchs, DeLaVergne is All or Nothing

AHL

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-The streaky team of the week is the Providence Bruins, who have won their last seven games. After getting embarrassed 8-2 by Charlotte on November 25th, the P-Bruins haven’t lost and have won four of the seven game in extra time. While Kenny Agostino hasn’t been able to get into a rhythm that got him the MVP last year, Austin Czarnik has been picked up the scoring with 21 goals in 18 games. There’s a tough patch for the P-Bruins, who won’t play on home ice until January 5th as they go on an eight-game road swing.

-Despite being minus-six in the goal differential category, the Texas Stars have still managed to be one of the hotter teams in the Western Conference. With eight wins in their last ten, including their current three-game winning streak, the Stars are looking to add a little more punch to their game. However, they’ve taken a hit with Jason Dickinson getting called up to the NHL. While Travis Morin and Curtis McKenzie hold down the fort, the Stars will need to get more consistent secondary help, as well as some key stops from their goaltending. Rookie Landon Bow has been solid with 10-4-0 record, but the hope is that he’ll improve on his 2.65 GAA as the season goes on and he continues to adjust.

ECHL

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-Charles Williams is a great story. The rookie goalie from Manchester has been a great addition to the every day line-up, leading the ECHL in GAA (1.98) and save percentage (.936) while being tied for second in wins (10) . This is after he had an amazing season at Canisius College (21-7-5, 1.82, .949) after transferring from Ferris State due to lack of playing time. With a chance to get playing time, Williams got into the top-10 in voting for the Hobey Baker Award and was Canisius College men’s player of the year. Williams went a perfect 3-0-0 when he joined the Monarchs at the end of last season.

-While he hasn’t gotten any weekly or monthly awards, Michael Joly out of Colorado should be getting plenty of recognition. Sure, he’s a Cy Young nominee (many more goals than assists)– but his 19 goals and six power play goals lead the league. With the help of Matt Register and Drayson Bowman, Joly and the Eagles are in prime position to defend their Kelly Cup title in the franchise’s last season in the ECHL.

SPHL

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-Mike DeLaVergne is an interesting subject. He leads the SPHL in GAA (1.98) and save percentage (.944), as well as being undefeated in regulation– but in his two losses he’s given up three and five goals a piece, but in his wins– it’s one or less. DeLaVergne is really an all-or-nothing goalie. It will help the Huntsville Havoc for DeLaVergne to push Keegan Asmundson and maybe get more time between the nets. For a team in the middle of the standing– it’ll probably come down to the goaltending to get them into a better spot in the playoffs.

Minor League (Not) Monday: Sommer at the Summit, ECHL North Heating Up, SPHLers Moving on Up

AHL

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-A big congratulation to Roy Sommer of the San Jose Barracuda for getting his 700th AHL career win this past weekend. Sommer has been a soldier for the San Jose Sharks organization since he came in as an assistant coach in 1996-97. He has coached San Jose’s AHL affiliate since 1998 from Kentucky to Cleveland to Worcester and now San Jose. For a guy who has never coached in the NHL, he should be considered for the Hockey Hall of Fame when he’s done, not only for the wins record in the AHL, but for being 3rd all-time for most games coached in the professional ranks, currently at 1,833– behind only Barry Trotz and Scotty Bowman.

-The hottest team in the Eastern Conference is the Syracuse Crunch. With a six-game winning streak, the Crunch have been able to get back into the North Division playoff picture. Though Cory Conacher is up with the Lightning, Michael Bournival and Matthew Peca have been able to pick up the slack. A balanced attack on offense has been able to help, as well, with 13 players potting at least three goals on the season.

ECHL

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-The North Division could be one of the races to look at as the season goes along. All the teams are sitting at .500 or better to start the season, with only five points separating the fifth spot from the top spot. While the Manchester Monarchs are trying to get some distance with their four-game winning streak, Wheeling is right behind them with three of the top-ten in scoring on their roster (Cody Wydo, Reid Gardner, and Garrett Meurs). Reading, Adirondack, and Brampton are still contenders and who knows what Worcester could be doing as they keep going along.

-Though they are following Toledo in the standings, Cincinnati has a strong scoring presence, with both Shawn O’Donnell (10pts in seven games) and Justin Danforth (9pts in six games) with two of the longest point-scoring streaks in the league. With Eric Knodel helping out on the power play and Anthony Peters holding down the fort in net– the Cyclones are in a prime spot to battle Toledo for top-spot in the Central.

SPHL

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-One of the biggest stories is how the downfall of the affiliation in Norfolk of the ECHL plucked a lot of players from the SPHL. Max Cook (Fayetteville), Nick Miglio (Peoria), and John Rey (Birmingham). As the season goes on, depending on the fate of the Admirals, more names could be going that way. While it’s good for those players and the league to be a developmental asset, the teams may feel the crunch, especially if it’s late in the season and they lose a top guy when they need them the most.

Minor League Monday: Marlies Rolling, Herbert Streak Snapped, Sholl Leading Thunderbolts

AHL

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Photo by Christian Bonin/TSGphoto.com

-With seven-straight wins, the Toronto Marlies are again atop the AHL in points, which should be no surprise. The past few years, the Marlies have been the favorites as the season went on, though they have no Calder Cup to show for it…yet. Andreas Johnsson has led the way for the Marlies with 17 points on the year, which includes his current seven-game point streak (4g, 5a). Garret Sparks has dazzled in net with a 1.50 GAA to go with his ten wins on the season.

-The team chasing the Marlies for league supremacy is the Manitoba Moose. After finishing at the bottom of the Western Conference their first two years back in the AHL, the Moose have been quite a surprise this year with their young stars finally getting the hang of playing in the pros. Both second-year pros Jack Roslovic (11g, 11a) and Brendan Lemieux (5g 6a) are better than a point per game– 1.05 and 1.10 respectively– while veteran Mike Sgarbossa (8g, 12a) and Buddy Robinson (7g, 7a) have provided solid secondary scoring. A bigger surprise is the bouncing back of Eric Comrie (8-4-1) who has been solid in net for the Moose with a 2.30 GAA and .927 save percentage in 13 games.

ECHL

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-A round of applause to Caleb Herbert, who finally had his 17-game point-streak snapped on Friday night. The Swamp Rabbits’ forward had 11 goals and 17 assists for 28 points during the streak that began since the beginning of the season. Herbert, unsurprisingly, leads the ECHL in points, with teammate Allan McPherson two points behind him before a trio of Wheeling Nailers pop up– Cody Wydo, Reid Gardiner, and Garrett Meurs.

-With points in seven of their last ten, the Colorado Eagles are making the most of their last season in the ECHL in their title-defense season. Michael Joly is leading the way in the ECHL in goals with 13 and has only one of his 16 games has been held pointless. Matt Register has helped out on the back-end quarterbacking the power-play and holding down play in his own end. All the while, Joe Cannata has been a near-perfect 7-0-1 on the year since being placed in Colorado by the Avalanche from San Antonio.

SPHL

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-Quietly, the Evansville Thunderbolts are having a great sophomore season in the SPHL. The play of Tomas Sholl since he came from Macon, he’s been solid with a 4-1-0 record with a 2.00 GAA in Evansville. Justin MacDonald is leading the league in goals with nine, while MacDonald, along with Dylan Clarke and John Scorcia are point-per-game players. The Thunderbolts also boast a great road record with points in six of their eight road game on the season (5-2-1). With one more road win, Evansville will match their entire road win output from last season.

Minor League Monday: Baby Pens Rolling, Pat Nagle’s Dominance, RiverKings Looking For Crown

AHL

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-It’s about time to talk about the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. With only one shootout loss in their last 11 games, the Baby Pens are the class of the AHL so far this year. The interesting part is that there’s not one Penguin in the top-20 in scoring. That said, Daniel Sprong has been great this season with nine goals in 14 games. After major shoulder surgery kept him out most of last season, his first full pro campaign has been off to a good start. Casey DeSmith has also been a great find for the Penguins, going 8-0-1 this season and in the top-five in GAA and save percentage.

-The Chicago Wolves are feeling the expansion crunch. While they have some players still from the St. Louis Blues, the Wolves do have the majority of Vegas Golden Knights prospects– though they are not the top of prospects. Sure, it doesn’t help that both goalies were plucked from Chicago to get into Vegas and they had to scramble to get Kasimir Kaskisuo from Toronto to make sure they had someone to play. The play of quadruple-A player Teemu Pulkkinen has been one of the small bright spots, but unless Maxime Legace or Oscar Dansk come back soon– it could be a huge uphill climb from the basement for the Wolves.

ECHL

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-Pat Nagle is continuing his solid play in the ECHL, but this time it’s with the Toledo Walleye. After signing with the Grand Rapids Griffins this summer, Nagle was assigned to Toledo and since then, hasn’t lost in regulation. With a 10-0-2 record to start the season, Nagle is filling the void that was left when Jake Paterson was not given a qualifying offer. It’s hard to say that Nagle hasn’t been the top ECHL goalie over the past four years, as he is 93-29-17-4 since the start of the 2014-15 season, which includes playoffs.

-In a very top-heavy South Division, the South Carolina Stingrays are possibly the underappreciated team of the top-four. With points in eight of their last 10, the Stingrays have gotten it done in every way possible. The return of Jeff Jakaitis hasn’t been as great as his record shows, while having him post a 5-1-1 record, his GAA and save percentage are among the worst in the league (3.13/.884). However, Steven Whitney and Nick Johnson has created the goals with six a piece, while Joe Devin and Kelly Zajac have provided the set-ups.

SPHL

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-Quietly, the Mississippi RiverKings are putting together a great start to their season. Tied for first in the league, the 7-2-0 RiverKings have gotten contribute from all-around, especially from the newcomer Donald Olivieri, who has three goals in his three games with Mississippi. Both Devin Mantha and Derek Sutliffe lead the team with four goals a piece, while Tyler Green is 5-1-0 and tied for wins in the league.

Minor League Monday: Checkers, Gladiators Streaking Upward, Bulls Not So Much

AHL

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-It may not be because of the move to the Eastern Conference, but the Charlotte Checkers are out to one of the best starts in the AHL this season. Despite only Lucas Wallmark being in the top-20 in points, they are tied for most goals in the league. Valentin Zykov and Warren Foegele are in the top-15 in goals this season, while Alex Nedeljkovic has taken over the reigns from Jeremy Smith and has not lost a game in his seven starts yet this year.

-After missing the playoffs their first two years back into the league, the Manitoba Moose are looking to change that this year. With points in eight of their last 10 games (6-2-1-1), the Moose are atop the Central Division. After finishing up last season with 11 points in 10 games, Jack Roslovic is continuing to lead the Moose with eight goals and 17 points in the first 15 games for the Moose.

ECHL

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-Following an 0-4 start, the Atlanta Gladiators have woke up and put together a 7-0-0-1 record since the first four games. Phil Lane and Thomas Frazee have been a huge factor, both of whom have had a nine-game scoring streak with Frazee’s being snapped on Saturday (4g, 10a), while Lane’s (8g, 6a) continues on.

-Despite being at the bottom of the Mountain Division, the Rapid City Rush have won four-in-a-row, including a weekend sweep of the Kelly Cup champion Colorado Eagles. Kenton Miller has been the offensive leader with seven goals and 11 points, but the real question going forward is how their goaltending is going to fare. Even with Adam Vay and Steve Michalek getting the last four wins, you have to wonder if they can keep up the solid play and lower that team GAA of 3.76.

SPHL

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-The start of the revamped Birmingham Bulls is probably not what everyone thought was going to happen…or maybe it was for an expansion team. Through six games, the Bulls are winless and only have six goals for the entire season while giving up 22. If there is a bright spot, it might– oddly enough– be in their goaltending. Mavric Parks has the most saves in the SPHL and is fourth in save percentage (.914) even though he sports an 0-5-0 record.

-Pensacola is still undefeated and it’s interesting that they aren’t the top scoring team in the league. Their balanced attack has put three players in the top-10 in points (Stephen Hrehoriak, Garret Milan, Jessyko Bernard) while also having a great goaltending tandem in Sean Bonar and Greg Dodds. If they can stay healthy– they will be the class of the league once again.

Minor League Monday: Roadrunners Setting Pace, Thunder Cracking in ECHL, Trask Getting Mayhem Going

AHL

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-Unlike their parent affiliate, the Tucson Roadrunners have been utterly successful this season, getting off to a 5-1-1 start to the young season. Seventeen of the 24 players who have played a game this year have a goal on the season, while Dylan Strome leads the team with 10 points (1g, 9a). Three of the top-five in team scoring are rookies with Strome, Nick Merkley, and Kyle Capobianco. While Adin Hill and Marek Langhamer have played well, rookie Hunter Miska definitely is dealing with the pro learning curve, posting a 3-0-0 record, but a dismal 4.02 GAA and .884 Sv%.

-In his third full pro season, Lehigh Valley Phantom Danick Martel is priming himself for a breakout year. In only 10 games so far, Martel has 10 goals (half of his total all of last year) and is second in league scoring with 13 points. With the help of rookie Mike Vecchione, as well a veterans Phil Varone and Greg Carey, the Phantoms are off to their best start (7-2-0-1) since 2007-08 when they started 8-1-1. Both Alex Lyon and Dustin Tokarski have played well in their appearance, though Lyon seems to be the horse leading the way for Lehigh Valley.

ECHL

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-The first Marvel game happened this weekend and the jerseys were nothing sure of spectacular. The Worcester Railers, as the Incredible Hulk, defeated the Utah Grizzlies, as Thor, 4-1 in the first game of the branded era. The win gave the Railers their third on the season in five games, placing them third in the North Division. The loss put the Grizzlies at 3-5-0 on the season, putting them next to last in the difficult Mountain Division.

-Speaking of the Mountain Division, break up the Wichita Thunder. A team that last year was dead last in the Central Division and next to last in the league has become one of the last unbeaten teams in the league (along with the Reading Royals). After a difficult time in the AHL, Kyle Platzer has found his scoring touch with the Thunder, potting five goals and six assists for the Thunder. In net, both Joel Rumpel and Shane Starrett have three wins while being in the top-5 in the league in GAA and save percentage.

SPHL

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-Jake Trask helped the Macon Mayhem get their first win and first points of the season this weekend thanks to his four goals and two assists Friday and Saturday. Trask’s hat-trick on Friday helped the Mayhem get an overtime loss against the Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs; while on Saturday, Trask got the first goal to help Macon get their first win of the season. Trask now leads the league in goals and points with four and seven respectively.

-There’s no wonder why the Peoria Rivermen are atop the SPHL. They not only have the most goals in the league, they have distributed the points, as well. 16 of the 18 rostered skaters have a point on the year, with Michael Economos not having a point because he hasn’t played a game year. However, while the offense is good, the fact they only have a plus-4 goal differential is a bit of a concern. Eric Levine and Michael Santaguida have had a lot of goal support, but will need to steal some wins if the deep forward crew has a dry run.

Minor League Monday: Jankowski Potting Points, Beast Licking Wounds, Mayhem Being Settled

While this blog encompasses the hockey landscape, there needs to one day that is dedicated to the lower levels of hockey on this blog when there isn’t a big story that going around the hockey blogosphere. And if just one day is not enough, you can head over to my friends at TheSinBin.net for your fix on almost every team in minor league hockey.

AHL

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-After being one of the last cuts of the Calgary Flames, Mark Jankowski is making every minute count while with the Stockton Heat. In his first six games, Jankowski has five goals and eight points, putting him tied in goals with another Flames cut, Garnet Hathaway and two points behind Andrew Mangiapane for total points.

-The Vegas Golden Knights goaltending situation is in peril, if you hadn’t heard. It’s in so much disarray that they have taken both of their AHL prospects out of Chicago, Oscar Dansk and Maxime Lagace, which leaves CJ Motte as their only rostered goalie for now. Luckily, the Wolves don’t play until Wednesday morning, so they have time to go ahead and get a back-up for Motte. Just goes to show you can never have enough goaltending depth.

ECHL

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-This is definitely not the start of the season the Brampton Beast wanted after their record-setting season last year. After getting into their first playoffs in the ECHL era of the team, the Beast are out to an 0-4-1 start. While Brandon Marino is putting up the goals (4g, 2a), the secondary scoring is still in need of a boost. There’s also a need to get more of their defense to help out rookie goalies Marcus Hogberg and Michael McNiven, as the team has given up a league high 24 goals.

-With the additions of always dangerous Mitchell Heard and Michael Kirkpatrick, the Florida Everblades are off to a blazing start. The team is a plus-9 in the goal-differential to the young season (only behind the Allen Americans) and a lot can be attributed to Heard and Kirkpatrick making a big impact, as well as rookies Steven Lorentz and Nelson Armstrong jumping in feet first for the ‘Blades.

SPHL

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-It has been a rough start to the season for the defending champion Macon Mayhem. With this past weekend yielding only one goal for the team while giving up nine in two games, it’s been the typical hangover we see from some champions time and again. The roster does have some of the returning players from that championship team, so it’s not like they aren’t used to pressure. While they can have a bit of hiccup, the short season in the SPHL makes it so they have to get back in the win column quickly before it gets too out of hand.

-Sean Bonar is building off his strong season last year with Fayetteville, but this time with the Pensacola Ice Flyers. A shutout in his first game with Pensacola was a great way to make a good first impression with his team, but the fact he’s getting goal support is even better for the SPHL’s reigning MVP and top goaltender going into a new season. It wasn’t easy, as Bonar faced 36 shots against the reigning champs in Macon, but once the defense tightens up, the Ice Flyers will surely be one of the teams to beat this SPHL season.