ALBANY, NY – Last week, after the American Hockey League released the 2016-17 season schedule, I had a chance to list a few things that piqued my interest regarding the slate of games, including a balanced division schedule, only six three-in-threes, and having nine of the last 12 games at home. Now, I want to share with you five home games that I/m looking forward to, and I’m sure fans will as well.
Don’t forget, that later this week the Albany Devils Podcast will return as I will be joined by Devils’ Vice President of Communications, Kevin Zalaznik, to talk about the schedule and the upcoming season.
• Home Opener / October 15 vs. St. John’s
No better place to start then the Home Opener which takes place on Saturday, Oct. 15 against the St. John’s IceCaps at 5:00pm. While the Devils’ season begins the night before at Providence, the Home Opener will be a chance for fans to get there first look at what should be a very different looking Devils team with a number of young prospects getting their first taste of the pro game. It will have been 156 days since Albany fans last saw their team on home ice…they’ve waited long enough!
• A Familiar Foe / October 28-29 vs. Toronto
This game marks the first time the Devils face off against the team that knocked them out of the 2016 Calder Cup Playoffs last year, the Toronto Marlies. The two teams played a grueling seven game series in the Division Finals with the Marlies edging Albany in the final contest. I firmly believe one of the main reasons Toronto lost to the Hershey Bears in the Conference Finals in just five games had to do with how much energy it had to expend against the Albany. While the Marlies, who led the entire AHL with 114 points and a winning percentage of .750, are unlikely to be as good as they were last year, it would be foolish to think they won’t be one of the top teams in the North Division, and a team that Albany will have to battle for the top spot.
• One and Done / November 11, February 3, February 17
For the second season in a row, the Devils will take on the Hershey Bears, Lehigh Valley Phantoms and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins two times each. This means that those three teams will be at Times Union Center just one time each during the regular season. Hershey, which arrives on Nov. 11, is coming off an Eastern Conference Championship and a trip to the Calder Cup Finals. Lehigh Valley, in the Capital District on Feb. 3, failed to make the playoffs last year, but look for it to have a strong showing after picking up some proven AHL contributors such as T.J. Brennan (two-time Eddie Shore Award winner) and Andy Miele (averaging over 62 points a season over the last five years and averaging 68 points over the last three years). Wilkes-Barre, in town on Feb. 17, have made the postseason 14 straight years and are consistently one of the top teams in the league.
• Worth the Wait / April 1
No, it is not an April Fool’s joke, the Hartford Wolf Pack, the AHL affiliate of the New York Rangers, will not play at Times Union Center until April. These two teams will play each other four times, two at XL Center and two in Albany. The two home games are both slated for April (the second game is April 12th). It’s always a fun environment when the Wolf Pack are in town and the fans of the Rangers descend upon TUC. Add in the fact that it’s late in the season and will most likely have playoff implications and you’re looking at a pretty enticing matchup.
• Playoff Primer / April 15
The regular season comes to a close on Apr. 15 with the Devils playing host to the Rochester Americans. As Albany has done in the past, this will be the annual Fan Appreciation Night, which is always a great event allowing the team to say “Thank You” to our great fans. If everything goes to plan and a postseason berth is already be clinched, this will be a great opportunity to get ready for a deep playoff run!