By Mike Buskus
Albany Week in Review #19
To be shut out is bad. To be shut out twice in a row is very bad. That happened to the Albany River Rats in the week just past, as the team gained only two of a possible six standings points, with a 3-2 win over Springfield on Wednesday. On Friday, February 8, 2002, Springfield blanked the Rats, 4-0, with Falcons’ goaltender, Dieter Kochan, getting the victory and Rats’ netminder, J.F. Damphousse, taking the loss. The next night, Ilja Brzygalov, of the Cincinnati Mighty Ducks, shelled the Rats by the identical, 4-0 cushion.
The scoreless skid actually added up to 156 minutes and 28 seconds, since Albany’s last scored at 3:32 of the second period on Wednesday.
The offensive drought was due in part to illness or injuries, with top scorer, Steve Guolla, still side-lined from broken facial bones incurred in the first period of a road game on February 1. Daryl Andrews, Stan Gron and Max Birbraer, missed action from the flu (as did assistant coach, Geordie Kinnear). Brian Gionta and Christian Berglund remain with the Devils.
Albany goaltenders again got a workout, with J.F. Damphousse facing 39 shots at home on Wednesday in the team’s lone victory (37 saves), and 40 against the same opponent on the road in a loss (36 saves). Ari Ahonen confronted 54 shots on Saturday, making twice as many saves (50) as the Ducks’ goaltender (25).
Albany Week in Review player of the week
With no one registering any big numbers on offense this week, the attention of AWIR was necessarily centered on defense. This week, AWIR has selected Benjamin Carpentier as Albany’s player of the week. In a week in which just about every Albany player was in the red for plus-minus stats (not a collective surprise, since the team scored two even-strength goals, while giving up eight), Carpentier was “plus 1” for the week. (Only one other Rat, forward Andreas Salomonsson, also at +1, was in the black on the plus/minus ledger.)
Besides his steady presence on the blue line, Carpentier showed that he is a team player. When Ted Drury, just back from a concussion, was on the receiving end of a borderline legal check from behind into the boards, Carpentier went to Drury’s defense at the Springfield Civic Center on Friday. Carpentier wound up with a double-minor penalty, but so, too, did his opponent from Springfield.
Carpentier also showed some street-smarts, as well. The penalty was assessed at 19:18 of the first period. As he was skating to the penalty box at the start of the second period, Carpentier spoke to the referee and gestured to Drury, pointed to his own head and then touched the plexiglass to make his point. Referee Chris Rooney nodded his head, as if to acknowledge that he understood why Carpentier took exception to the hit that sent Drury into the boards. Carpentier undoubtedly would have fought a Falcon or two if necessary, but linesmen had separated him and Martin Grenier of Springfield. Clearly, Carpentier had stood up for his teammate and, to make sure the reason did not elude the referee, Carpentier politely explained it to him before the second period skating resumed.
So, for decent defense during a week in which the team defense suffered a lot, as well as for standing up for his teammate, Benjamin Carpentier is Albany Week in Review’s choice for player of the week.
Here and there
Jiri Bicek will travel to St John’s, Newfoundland, as the Albany River Rats’ lone representative at the AHL All-Star Game. The skills competition will be held on Wednesday, February 13. The game, which pits “Planet-USA” players, including Bicek, against “Canadiens,” will be held on Thursday, February 14. This is his second trip to the All-Star game. He represented the Rats in Rochester, along with Pierre Dagenais, two years ago.
The River Rats announced that a special promotion night, geared to residents of Schenectady County, will be held on Friday, March 15, when the Rats entertain the Hartford Wolf*Pack. Ticket prices will be reduced for residents of that county, and promotional incentives will be offered by area business and educational institutions.
This appears to be an effort to size up potential interest of that area as a possible site to relocate the team. Last year, the team revealed that it had commissioned architects to design a possible 8,200 seat arena which could be built with private funds. The idea was to free up more cash flow for the team, since the current lease with the Albany Pepsi Arena does not share any parking or concession revenues with the team.
Broadcaster John Hennessy under consideration for Devils’ job
With the news that long-time Devils’ radio play-by-play announcer, Mike Miller, will leave the New Jersey organization in several weeks to assume the post of vice-president and general manager of the Toledo (ECHL) hockey franchise, the question arises: whom to appoint to anchor WABC’s radio broadcasts of the Devils on 770-AM.
The logical choice, in the opinion of many including Albany Week in Review, would be John Hennessy. Hennessy, now in his ninth season as the voice of the Albany River Rats, actually filled in for Miller during last season when Miller was recovering from throat cancer treatments. Hennessy completed the regular season in New Jersey, then handed the microphone back to Miller, who anchored the Devils’ Stanley Cup defense. Hennessy provided post-game coverage for WABC during the playoffs.
Hennessy is second in tenure in the American Hockey League only to Don Stevens, the voice of the Rochester Americans. Hennessy’s broadcasting manner is second to none. A smooth, fluid delivery complements his command of the sport. His preparation is meticulous, always having the statistics and news of the teams and players at his ready command.
Hennessy is a gentleman, as well, always treating staff, coaches and opposing players with respect in his interviews and in casual encounters with them. Press box attendants at road venues know and like him.
Even the fans in HersheyPark Arena like the guy. For those unfamiliar with that classic venue of six decades of service to hockey fans (about to be replaced next season by the new, Giant Arena), the visitors’ press box in Hershey is literally surrounded by fans. It is a small concrete bunker whose access requires passage past fans’ seats. But, the fans in Hershey routinely accord Hennessy friendly greetings, hardly surprising since he makes friends easily.
In his nine years of service to the Devils and the River Rats, Hennessy is as loyal and as professional as any one could hope or expect. He manages to balance enthusiasm for the sport and the team with fair and balanced broadcasting. If you cannot get to the game, you think you are at the game when listening to John Hennessy on the radio.
While the New Jersey Devils undoubtedly also have other capable candidates from whom to chose for the WABC 770-AM radio anchor seat, the Devils would do very well indeed to select Hennessy.
And, like other aspects of a good AHL farm club, the Albany River Rats just happen to have on hand a replacement for Hennessy, should the need arise. Jonathan Scherzer filled in capably for Hennessy last season when Hennessy was filling in for Mike Miller with the Devils.
So, stay tuned. To WABC, 770-AM for the Devils. And to WTRY, 980-AM for the Rats.