Barons sign Allen’s Hanson, Tulsa’s T. Mele to PTOs

The Oklahoma City Barons look to return to the ice following the All-Star Break, taking on the Lake Erie Monsters tonight at the Cox Convention Center. Announced today, they’ll be adding a couple faces to the team for tonight’s game.

The Allen Americans Greger Hanson makes his second trip to Oklahoma City, having previously been called up in early December. Hanson made one appearance in a game against Grand Rapids, held scoreless with two penalty minutes. Since then, Hanson signed a PTO with the Worcester Sharks, appearing in 11 games with them and scoring one goal, three assists. So far this season with the Americans, Hanson has 27 points in 25 games.

The Tulsa Oilers Tommy Mele hasn’t yet made his AHL debut. In 43 games with Tulsa, Mele has scored 13 goals and 12 assists. He currently leads Tulsa in penalty minutes with 136, more than his last two ECHL season combined.

Last weekend in Charlotte, the Barons had a full line-up of forwards, but no healthy extras as Ryan Hamilton and Josh Winquist have been out for a short while, and Kale Kessy and Kellan Lain have been out for an extended period of time and look to be out for the remainder of the season.

No word on if these moves are for insurance purposes, or someone’s not able to go following today’s morning skate. Keep it tuned for any further updates.

OKC Barons Host Lake Erie Monsters This Weekend

Photo by Steven Christy

The weekend has arrived and so have the Monsters. Not Godzilla. No Bigfoot. No Babadook (if you’ve not seen this film, see it with the lights on). Instead we get the always ferocious group of hockey folk from Ohio (God’s country) where there just might be a scary creature hiding in the waters, but most certainly on the ice.

The Lake Erie Monsters are having a rough go this season. Just barely over .500 mid-way through the season, the team from the Cleveland area can’t seem to pull the strings to get Pinocchio to dance. Coming off two big wins against San Antonio, and two losses against the Iowa Wild, the Monsters are attempting to gain as many points as they can before the hunt for playoff spots officially begins.

Nestled in eleventh place in the Western Conference just behind Hamilton and Texas, they are the only team in the league who haven’t passed the 41 game mark. This means they have games in hand on everyone as we march in to February, and that’s good news even for team’s with the worst of luck.

The Monsters are a team that can score (115 goals on the season), but struggle to keep the puck out of their own net. Tied for the second most goals allowed in the Western Conference, the squad is really out-matched defensively. Those same defenders love to score, they just don’t love to defend, and that’s a problem (also see Brad Hunt).

Led by two defenders (one currently with the squad), the point snatchers for the Monsters are Maxim Noreau and Stefan Elliot (the latter with Nashville at the moment). Behind them are five Monsters with twenty points or more including three with ten or more goals a piece. While strong defending is usually a mark of the Monsters, the forwards on this squad have a tendency to be burned. Not good.

With save percentages above .900 the two Monsters tenders to watch are Calvin Pickard, who gets the most starts, and backup Sami Attokallio. While the percentages suggest they aren’t entirely awful, they both are very close to allowing three goals a piece per game, and that’s probably a big problem. Again, both blue line defending and offensive posturing are issues, so these goaltenders aren’t entirely to blame.

What the Monsters are saying:

Agozzino had a goal and an assist last time out to help the Monsters to a win, and he has become the second Monster this season to notch goals in three straight games.  Agozzino has 10 goals on the season.  Agozzino is also plus-four over his last two games and plus-six over his last five games.

Look for a Bachman / Brossoit double-take at home this weekend. Bachman is in the top ten in the most important statistical categories in the AHL (Saves, Wins, SV%), and Brossoit has show flashes of brilliance. Both have things to prove, and will look to further enhance their teams chances of remaining the best team in the West.

Ryan Hamilton, Josh Winquist, Kale Kessy, and Kellan Lain remain on the injured list for the Barons, but luckily all seven defenders on the team are healthy. No news on whether or not a call-up is coming to replace the injured Nikitin in Edmonton, but I assume it happens sometime this weekend. Assume for a moment that Davidson goes, that allows Gernat/Musil to play more consistent minutes without healthy scratches. That’s good news.

Gernat / Musil / Marincin have all been wildly inconsistent, but a good break might have done them well. Look for these three specifically to prove themselves down the stretch. They need to make good on some sideways play for the last three weeks.

Big things are happening for the underdog, Iiro Pakarinen. He responds well to being centered by Bogdan Yakimov which points every bit to the sensational play by the centerman that Edmonton really really wants to be a good one.

From the team:

“It was important to get back on our skates after a well deserved break. We have a lot of guys banged up, and the break has given us a time to get them back in.” – Gerry Fleming

The game begins tonight at 7pm. See you then!

What will the AHL divisions look like next year?

This map will be changing fairly soon.

The biggest debate now that the AHL West movement is about to be announced, is what will the divisions look like within the AHL next season. There’s a lot of possibilities of course, so I’ll tackle the ones that are being debated with my reasoning on why they’ll be in that spot. This is all going under the assumption that the league keeps the 15/15 split with the conferences, which could always change.

The California division (working name of course) will feature the five new teams making the trip to the West Coast. San Diego, San Jose II, Bakersfield, Ontario, and Stockton. Being as far west as they are, they’ll be seeing a lot of each other.

The current Midwest division features OKC, Texas, San Antonio, Iowa, and Charlotte. With as many teams moving west, I’m putting Charlotte in the east (one of the highly debated topics, I’ll go into it later). And we know by now that Oklahoma City is gone. Joining the Midwest, I’ve got Milwaukee and Rockford. As much as I tried to keep those two with Chicago, the only way that it probably could happen is if the league went with a 16/14 western favor split.

The North loses Rochester and Utica to the east and Adirondack to the move west, they gain Grand Rapids, Lake Erie, and Chicago to join Toronto and Hamilton. If you’re bussing from the east to play in Rockford or Milwaukee, you have to hit Chicago first, prompting my putting Chicago there.

And now we look at the East. In the East division, I’m putting Charlotte. Biggest reason I put Charlotte there, is they’re now an island in the southeast part of the country. This way, they go into a conference where teams are still close and they can get those road trips in easily. They replace the moving Norfolk team to join Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Hershey, Lehigh Valley, and Binghamton.

The Northeast division, as much as I’d have loved to put Binghamton here to resurrect the “Empire” division, it didn’t fit well logistically. Rochester and Utica move east to join Syracuse, Albany, and Bridgeport.

And finally in the Atlantic, with Worcester and Manchester leaving, Springfield and Hartford shift over to join St. John’s, Portland, and Providence.

So to recap for the “too long; didn’t read” crowd:

California: Stockton, Bakersfield, San Diego, San Jose II, Ontario
Midwest: Texas, San Antonio, Rockford, Milwaukee, Iowa
North: Chicago, Grand Rapids, Lake Erie, Hamilton Toronto

East: Charlotte, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Binghamton, Hershey, Lehigh Valley
Northeast: Utica, Rochester, Syracuse, Albany, Bridgeport
Atlantic: Hartford, Springfield, St. John’s, Portland, Providence

Any changes you’d make? Let us know in the comments.

AHL Media Put On Red Alert, Press Conference Tomorrow

This weekend when the American Hockey League President and CEO, David Andrews, said that the Pacific movement of his league was “a work in progress” he truly meant that there was progress, but of the quickened variety.

Announced today the AHL will hold a press conference in San Jose, Calfornia at 12:30 Pacific to announce something “major” that will impact the 2015-16 season. Thus the creation of a Pacific Division (or whatever it will be called) is finalized, and we now get to hear what we have all known for months.

In attendance are the following individuals:

David Andrews, President and Chief Executive Officer – American Hockey League
Bill Daly, Deputy Commissioner – National Hockey League
Michael Schulman, Chief Executive Officer – Anaheim Ducks
Bob Murray, Executive Vice President and General Manager – Anaheim Ducks
Brad Treliving, General Manager – Calgary Flames
Kevin Lowe, Vice Chair, Oilers Entertainment Group – Edmonton Oilers
Luc Robitaille, President, Business Operations – Los Angeles Kings
John Tortora, Chief Operating Officer – San Jose Sharks
Doug Wilson, General Manager – San Jose Sharks

That is a ton of heavy hitters in the NHL, and it certainly means they aren’t messing around when it comes to a true Pacific portion of the league.

Follow details here at Tend The Farm in the coming days.

Travis Ewanyk Suspended One Game

Photo by Steven Christy

In a recent feisty series against the Charlotte Checkers, Travis Ewanyk was a part of some “funny business” that included a check and continuing altercation (of sorts) on Brendan Woods. The suspension will keep Ewanyk out of the lineup for Friday’s game against Lake Erie.

Ironically, Ewanyk scored his second goal of the season in that series.

Official AHL Release:

The American Hockey League today announced that Oklahoma City Barons center Travis Ewanyk has been suspended for one (1) game as a consequence of an interference incident in a game at Charlotte on Jan. 23.

Ewanyk was suspended under the provisions of AHL Rule 28.1 (supplementary discipline).

Ewanyk will miss Oklahoma City’s game Friday (Jan. 30) vs. Lake Erie.

AHL All-Star Game Included 26 Goals, 4 Hat Tricks, 99 Shots

The AHL All-Star Game 2015 was the usual prospect-heavy, unfriendly to goaltenders, and overall goofy endeavor. This isn’t to say that it wasn’t wildly entertaining as time went on, just that there wasn’t much hockeying going on.

I’ll just leave the box score here for you to chuckle and gab about:

The game was what you have come to expect – 26 goals, 4 hat tricks, 99 shots, 3 goaltenders, no penalties, tons of smiles.

The Oklahoma City Barons players didn’t have wonderful, eye-popping evenings, but they seemed to be having a swell time.

Brad Hunt seemed poised to have a rough night while Magnus Hellberg was lit up like the fourth of July. Recorded one shot, and on the ice for several goals, Hunt had the atypical defensive All-Star Game, well, um, game.

Andrew Miller added two assists on a line with Charlie Hudon and Mark McNeill. He looked good, but then again everyone looked good. Except…

The goaltenders for both squads were abused by every minute of this game. Richard Bachman faced 23 shots and let in 4 goals in 20:00 of the third period. He was caught somewhere between Magnus Hellberg’s 6 goals allowed and Jacob Markstrom’s 2, but remained the only tender facing over 20 shots. So I suppose there is a silver lining.

It turns out that the 4 goals to 2 in the first period would be the deal sweetener for the Western Conference as they’d eventually win 14-12 in front of 3,835.

 

David Andrews Addresses AHL Pacific Division

David Andrews spoke yesterday on the “State of the AHL” and as the President and CEO of the storied league he had some very interesting things to say (or rather it’s what he didn’t say) about the move Westward for a large portion of his teams.

“I want to first of all address the elephant in the room,” said Andrews as he addressed the media, “We have, as you know, been in the process of working with the West coast teams in the National Hockey League about the eventual creation of a Pacific Division in our league. This process, in its most recent form, has been ongoing for two and half to three years.”

He quickly acknowledged that the situation is ongoing and “complex with many moving parts”. This points to the continued process of affiliation changes, and movement of team’s that have traditionally been in other locales. Andrews categorized the landscape of the AHL in January of 2015 as “unsettled”.

Despite continued reports that teams are moving West, and owners like Ken Young in Norfolk have been forced to sell, Andrews owns the mantra that “there is work to be done.”

After the initial statement on the Pacific Division, Andrews refused to take questions or further elaborate on the matter.

A huge thanks to the PPP Show for the audio from David Andrews.

Todd Nelson Coaches Son’s Junior “A” Squad In Dallas

How did you spend YOUR All-Star break?

During the NHL All Star break, Edmonton Oilers coach Todd Nelson joined a new coaching staff – at least for the weekend. Todd’s son, Colton Nelson, is currently playing for the Junior “A” Oklahoma City Blazers of the Western States Hockey League where he has notched six goals and thirteen assists in twenty-four games. On a recent trip to play the Dallas Snipers (they would sweep the weekend), Todd Nelson took over as “bench boss” for a tender father / son moment.

Below is a lovely set of photos by Candace Riley, who has been doing remarkable work photographing the team this season. The moment was too precious and too unique not to share with you, and we are grateful that she gave us a glimpse in to one of my favorite moments of early 2015.

Follow Candace on Twitter to see her amazing photos:

Bachman, Hunt, & Miller Represent OKC In AHL Skills Competition

The American Hockey League All-Star festivities are officially underway. Utica has welcomed the AHL fans with open arms, and thus we kick things off in fine form with the Skills Competition.

Richard Bachman, Brad Hunt, and Andrew Miller will represent the Western Conference and the Oklahoma City Barons across seven events. The Skills Competition will be broadcast via AHLLive and on Fox Sports Southwest in Oklahoma City (click here to find it in your area), and begins tonight at 7:00pm central.

Here is the event list with OKC Barons representatives in bold:

Event #1 – Puck Control Relay

Race #1
Shane Prince (BNG) Ty Rattie (CHI)
Alexander Khokhlachev (PRO) Brad Hunt (OKC)
Matt Taormina (WOR) Charles Hudon (HAM)
Winning team earns one goal

Race #2
Joe Whitney (ALB) Connor Brown (TOR)
Tim Kennedy (HER) Stefan Elliott (LE)
Chris Wideman (BNG) Brendan Leipsic (MIL)
Winning team earns one goal

Race #3
Aaron Ness (BRI) Phil Varone (RCH)
Winning player earns one goal for team

Race #4
Jonathan Marchessault (SYR) Cal O’Reilly (UTI)
Winning player earns one goal for team

Event #2 – Fastest Skater

Heat #1
Austin Madaisky (SPR) Andrew Miller (OKC)

Heat #2
Colin Miller (MCH) Emile Poirier (ADK)

Heat #3
Vladislav Namestnikov (SYR) Ryan Murphy (CHA)

Individual with fastest time earns one goal for team
Fastest team average time earns one goal

Event #3 – Rapid Fire

Heat #1
Chris Bourque (HFD) Magnus Hellberg (MIL)
Brendan Shinnimin (POR)

Heat #2
J.F. Berube (MCH) Mark McNeill (RFD)
Teemu Pulkkinen (GR)

Heat #3
Tom Kostopoulos (WBS) Richard Bachman (OKC)
Derrick Pouliot (WBS)

Heat #4
Philipp Grubauer (HER) Drew Shore (ADK)
Maxime Fortunus (TEX)

Heat #5
Chris Wagner (NOR) Jacob Markstrom (UTI)
Jordan Weal (MCH)

Heat #6
Connor Hellebuyck (STJ) Brendan Leipsic (MIL)
Bobby Sanguinetti (UTI)
Team with the most total saves earns one goal

Event #4 – Hardest Shot

Connor Carrick (HER) Alex Petrovic (SA)
Brandon Manning (LV) Matt Dumba (IA)
Austin Madaisky (SPR) Brad Hunt (OKC)
Colin Miller (MCH) T.J. Brennan (RFD)
Team with the higher average speed earns one goal
Player with hardest shot earns one goal for team

Event #5 – Accuracy Shooting

Paul Thompson (ALB) Stefan Elliott (LE)
Shane Prince (BNG) Emile Porier (ADK)
Tom Kostopoulos (WBS) Mark McNeill (RFD)
Chris Bourque (HFD) Maxime Fortunus (TEX)
Player with most hits in fewest attempts earns one goal for team
Team with most total hits in fewest attempts earns one goal

Event #6 – Pass & Score

Heat #1
Chris Wideman (BNG) Magnus Hellberg (MIL)
Brendan Shinnimin (POR)
Alexander Khokhlachev (PRO)

Heat #2
J.F. Berube (MCH) Connor Brown (TOR)
Charles Hudon (HAM)
T.J. Brennan (RFD)

Heat #3
Paul Thompson (ALB) Richard Bachman (OKC)
Joe Whitney (ALB)
Derrick Pouliot (WBS)

Heat #4
Philipp Grubauer (HER) Teemu Pulkkinen (GR)
Ty Rattie (CHI)
Matt Dumba (IA)

Heat #5
Jonathan Marchessault (SYR) Jacob Markstrom (UTI)
Vladislav Namestnikov (SYR)
Matt Taormina (WOR)

Heat #6
Connor Hellebuyck (STJ) Phil Varone (RCH)
Cal O’Reilly (UTI)
Bobby Sanguinetti (UTI)
Each individual goal scored counts toward overall team score

Event #7 – Breakaway Relay

Round #1
Chris Wagner (NOR) Andrew Miller (OKC)
Aaron Ness (BRI) Brendan Leipsic (MIL)
Shane Prince (BNG) Ryan Murphy (CHA)
Connor Carrick (HER) Alex Petrovic (SA)
Jordan Weal (MCH) Drew Shore (ADK)
Tim Kennedy (HER) Emile Poirier (ADK)
vs. Magnus Hellberg (MIL) vs. J.F. Berube (MCH)

Round #2
Brendan Shinnimin (POR) Connor Brown (TOR)
Derrick Pouliot (WBS) Brad Hunt (OKC)
Joe Whitney (ALB) Charles Hudon (HAM)
Brandon Manning (LV) Mark McNeill (RFD)
A. Khokhlachev (PRO) Maxime Fortunus (TEX)
Chris Bourque (HFD) Bobby Sanguinetti (UTI)
vs. Richard Bachman (OKC) vs. Philipp Grubauer (HER)

Round #3
Paul Thompson (ALB) Teemu Pulkkinen (GR)
Chris Wideman (BNG) T.J. Brennan (RFD)
Matt Taormina (WOR) Matt Dumba (IA)
J. Marchessault (SYR) Ty Rattie (CHI)
V. Namestnikov (SYR) Phil Varone (RCH)
Tom Kostopoulos (WBS) Cal O’Reilly (UTI)
vs. Jacob Markstrom (UTI) vs. Connor Hellebuyck (STJ)
Each individual goal scored counts toward the overall team score

 

AHL & ECHL Locations Nearly “Official” For Edmonton Oilers

As much as it pains me to say this – it looks like Edmonton Oilers hockey is done in Oklahoma City for good. The pipe dream of “flip-flopping” ECHL cities for AHL ones (in OKC) is officially up in smoke as it appears that Bakersfield and an additional location will fill the minor affiliated situation for the Oilers.

Norfolk Admirals owner, Ken Young, who has been a hero in that area of Virginia for procuring high caliber hockey has confirmed that the team has been sold.

He tells WAVY-TV that the team is being sold:

It is not a happy week for Young, who 11 years ago was considered the savior of Hampton Roads hockey when he bought the AHL Admirals, keeping them in Norfolk. NHL owners, have decided they want their top minor league teams closer to home, so this weekend the forced sale will be announced. Young said the Anaheim Ducks will move the franchise to California at the end of this season.

“We didn’t have any choice,” Young said. “It was either keep a team that would not have an affiliation, so we would not have dates or have to sell to Anaheim, which if the Pacific division gets voted on by the American Hockey League this weekend then what we know as the AHL team will end up going out west.”

That is the bad news, but here is the good news for hockey fans: Young has already cut a deal to bring the Bakersfield Condors to Norfolk. The Condors are a minor league team owned by the Edmonton Oilers.

“We are certain to have an East Coast Hockey League team here next year, so we won’t miss a season, no question that players go from the ECHL to the NHL and some to AHL, but we’ll have high quality hockey here, and we’ll have as much as fun at Scope, I don’t know that we will have a 28-game winning streak, but we will have a lot of fun there.”

Not only does this statement further emphasize the the immediacy that the NHL has in creating a true Pacific Division of the AHL, but it also points to the fate of the Bakersfield Condors.

In short, Bakersfield becomes the AHL affiliate of the Oilers, and Norfolk (Yes, Virginia) becomes the ECHL destination for the Oilers ECHL affiliated squad.

This confirmed report by WAVY-TV and the quotes by Young confirm things that have been discussed since early September when the continued AHL Pacific Division chatter erupted.

The real head-scratcher is again about geography. If the AHL and NHL want affiliations in close proximity, why move the ECHL franchises East?

The NHL might be considering the “over-saturation” problem that had plagued the AHL for years. So many teams were packed in to the East Coast that it necessitated a move to the West (and thus the creation of a Pacific Division). They knew that affiliation spots would become fewer and farther between as a large segment of teams moved West. That is giving a lot of credit to owners and decision-makers that, in the end, look for the greatest profit. But I think they seriously considered this.

Something else to consider is that the Pacific Division of the AHL will help create a legitimate EAST COAST hockey league. Meaning that NHL affiliates will be West (for teams in West), as will the AHL affiliate. The ECHL affiliates (of those with AHL Pacific Division teams) will all be East. Interesting.

Growth, monetary gain, and arena’s already willing to host hockey could all be reasons for AHL Pacific Division teams to keep their ECHL franchises East, but I have another theory.

Maybe, just maybe, the NHL is going to shift the way they view their affiliations. In essence the AHL becomes a place for NHL draft picks, and carry-over of NHL 50 man rosters. The ECHL becomes a place for the un-drafted and veterans trying to prove overall worth. Filling AHL rosters might be tough in a scenario like this, but we have seen the tightening of a roster in Oklahoma City in that last two seasons that gave us very few scratched players on a given night (assuming all are healthy).

Lots of moving parts here, and a lot more things to uncover. This weekend through next weekend will be monumental for the state of minor league hockey in the United States. Stay tuned.

Congratulations to the Edmonton Oilers who will have Edmonton, Bakersfield, Norfolk as destinations to add to the itinerary.