Better Know An Affiliate: Buffalo Sabres

AHL: Rochester Americans (46-23-5-2, 2nd in North, lost in first round)
TEAM LINEAGE: This is the second go-round for the Sabres and the Rochester Americans. The Sabres returned to Rochester in 2011, but prior to that– they spent 1979 until 2008 with the Americans in one of the longest affiliations in history. In between Rochester stints, the Sabres put their top young players in Portland with the Pirates, while before their first landing in Rochester, the Hershey Bears and Cincinnati Swords were the top affiliate of the Sabres, though the Salt Lake Golden Eagles of the old WHL was the first Sabres affiliate in history.
FREQUENT FLYER CANDIDATES: While Viktor Olofsson could make the team out of camp on the mid-six at the left wing (though he could be fighing CJ Smith for that spot), Rasmus Asplund could have trouble trying to break through the center depth of the Sabres– not only the ones they have now, but the ones they have coming up, as well. If all goes well for Arttu Ruotsalainen in his transition to North America, he could see some time on the shuttle back and forth.

ECHL: Cincinnati Cyclones (51-13-5-3, 1st in Central, lost in second round)
TEAM LINEAGE: While they started in the ECHL, the Cyclones really made their mark in the IHL before coming back to the ECHL in 2002. However, with the Sabres, they’ve only been around two seasons. Prior to that, the Elmira Jackals, BC Icemen, South Carolina Stingrays, St. Thomas Wildcats, Erie Panthers, and Winston-Salem Thunderbirds were some of the secondary affiliates for the Sabres.
NOTABLE GRADUATE: One of the more notable graduates of the Cyclones is David Desharnais, who played his first pro season in Cincinnati and put up 106 points in 68 games, while also potting 33 points in 22 playoff games, helping the Cyclones to the 2008 Kelly Cup. Other alums include Byron Froese and Cory Conacher both got their early career going in Cincinnati.

Minor League Weekly: Anas Going Wild, Wings Sneaky Good, Defiel Stepping In Solidly

AHL

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Via Iowa Wild Trading Card Set

-I’ve barked a lot about Sam Anas in the past and now he’s really showing the AHL what he’s made of. The Bethesda, Maryland product hold the longest goal-scoring streak of the season with seven goals in six straight games, while on top of that, setting a franchise record with points in the last nine games (8g, 5a). Anas currently leads the team in points with 23, while he’s only five points away from surpassing his points total from his rookie season.

-With four-straight wins and points in nine of their last 10, the Rochester Americans are hitting their groove in the mid-point of the season. Being led by rookie CJ Smith, the Amerks are right behind the Toronto Marlies in the Eastern Conference and North Division in points percentage. The Amerks have also gotten plenty out of their veteran defensemen in Zach Redmond and Stuart Percy, who are not only putting up points offensively, but also protecting Linus Ullmark defensively. Ullmark, also, is posting the seventh best save percentage in the AHL with a .924 mark.

ECHL

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Photo from Kalamazoo Wings Facebook

-Keep an eye out on the Kalamazoo Wings in the new year. They’re an interesting team with both goalies having an above 3.00 GAA, but still ninth in the ECHL for total goals-against on the season. Their offense isn’t that grand either, ranking 19th of the 27 teams in the league for goals for, but somehow they’re still two points back of fourth in the Central with six games in hand. Veteran Justin Taylor is on a pace to break his career-highs in goals, assists, and points– all of which he set last year, while second-year Wing Tyler Biggs has been a solid compliment offensively to Taylor.

-It seems that if the Norfolk Admirals wanted to win, they need to play the Orlando Solar Bears almost every game. The two teams have faced off for their past five games with Norfolk coming out on top in four of the five. The Admirals have also won six of their last 10, which coincides with the announcement that the Nashville Predators terminated their affiliation. They’ve seen to temporarily leveled out the uneasy ship, but they’ll need just a bit more help to get back into playoff contention, though there’s plenty of time left.

SPHL

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Photo from Pensacola Ice Flyers Facebook

-After Sean Bonar signed in the ECHL and Greg Dodds bad luck in net, Gordon Defiel has stepped in to help out the Pensacola Ice Flyers between the pipes and keep their top standing in the SPHL. Defiel hasn’t lost in regulation in seven games and ranks second in the league in GAA and save percentage behind his teammate Dodds. With a solid two-goalie system in waiting, the Ice Flyers are set-up nicely to keep their top spot in the SPHL.

Ontario vs. Berlin Shows the Need for More Transcontinental Games

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The International Frozen Friendly (Photo Courtesy of the Ontario Reign)

On February 13th, the Ontario Reign will host Eisbaren Berlin in what is being called the International Frozen Friendly. The German Elite squad will be the first European team to play an AHL team since 2014 when Farjestad BK played the Toronto Marlies and the AHL All-Stars. Both Eisbaren and Ontario are owned by the Anschutz Entertainment Group.

This is a concept that is needed more when it comes to minor league hockey. Granted, this is something that a team in the Pacific Division can afford to do since they play eight less games; but that notwithstanding, the idea is something more teams should do. It has gone the other way with the Rochester Americans going to participate in the Spengler Cup in 2013, but it seems like it’s something few and far between– especially during in-season play.

Whether or not Berlin will bring their top squad remains to be seen, but it should lay the groundwork for the AHL to maybe explore something with other European teams. If hockey is truly universal, then this is something that would be great as a yearly exhibition between the AHL side and a European squad. Sure, if the European teams lose a lot to the “AAA” pro squads, they may be a little hesitant, but it’s something that needs to be drifted.

That, or the AHL tries to get into that Champions’ League thing that the European leagues have every season. Sure– it’s a pipe dream to make that logistically work in terms of travel and scheduling, but it would be a fun sight to see and maybe actually get more eyes on leagues that fans may not be totally accustomed to.

There’s no losers in all of this– this helps out the AHL get attention on a semi-global scale with the Europeans looking at this game as a nice little gimmick, Berlin gets help with a North American tour of sort, and the game wins when you have a clashing of ideas and cultures when it comes to how teams are coached and how players are developed. More leagues need to look into it and if they can make it work with travel and money– why not have that?? It’s something that helps the sport overall and I think in the end– that’s the goal of everyone in the game of hockey.