On the Farm: The 2014-2015 Springfield Falcons
After claiming back to back Northeast Division championships, the Springfield Falcons seek their third consecutive title as the 2014-2015 unfolds.
Like any season in the "A", this season the Falcons will showcase some familiar faces, along with some new blood as they look to build on the successes of the past two seasons.
The biggest change for the team will be behind the bench where Jared Bednar takes the reins from Brad Larsen. Larsen spent four seasons here, two as an assistant and two as head coach, earning his spot on the Columbus bench.
Bednar's biggest coaching success so far, was winning the ECHL's Kelly Cup in 2009 with the South Carolina Stingrays. He'll be joined this season by Nolan Pratt, who enters his fourth season as a Falcons assistant. New to the coaching staff this season is Toby Petersen. Petersen closed out a 14 year pro career winning the Calder Cup with the Texas Stars last spring.
Few things are as predictable as off-season changes in the AHL. There's no exception to that as the new season gets ready to drop the puck. Some new faces up front for Springfield include:
Josh Anderson - Anderson was the fourth round pick of the Jackets in the 2012 Entry Draft.
Mike Hoeffel - Selected 57th overall by the New Jersey Devils in 2007, Hoeffel has skated most of the last four seasons for the Albany Devils. At 6'4", he shows both speed and physicality.
T.J. Tynan - After finishing up his collegiate career for Notre Dame, Tynan played three games for Springfield at the end of last season. MassLive featured Tynan in an article available here.
Riley Wetmore - He saw time on both coasts during his first full time pro season, playing for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers in the "A" and the Stockton Thunder in the ECHL.
Josh Brittain - Entering his fifth pro season, Brittain has seen playing time in both the AHL and the ECHL in each of his first four seasons. He was originally selected in the third round by the Anaheim Ducks in the 2008 Entry Draft.
Jaime Sifers - Jaime returns to North America after playing the past three seasons for the Mannheim Eagles in the German league. His resume includes playing time with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Minnesota Wild as well as Toronto, Houston and Chicago in the "A".
Corey Cowick - Cowick joins the Falcons after playing most of the past four seasons with the Binghamton Senators. Similar in stature to Mike Hoeffel, Corey can mix it up as well as show a scoring touch.
Kerby Rychel - One of the last cuts from Columbus camp, Rychel is about to embark on his first pro season. The Jackets' #1 pick in the 2013 draft, big things are expected for him.
Jerry D'Amigo - The other last minute cut from C-bus. D'Amigo finished up last season with the Maple Leafs after playing parts of three seasons for their AHL affiliate, the Marlies. In 197 AHL contests, Jerry has tallied 103 points.
They will be joining familiar faces Ryan Craig, Trent Vogelhuber, Sean Collins and Lukas Sedlak at forward.
The defensive unit for the Falcons adds Hubert Labrie who saw playing time for the Calder Cup champion Texas Stars last season. Another new face on "D" is Brett Ponich. Ponich checks in at 6'7" and 225 pounds. He's played for Peoria and Chicago in the "A" and Kalamazoo and Evansville in the ECHL.
Back on the Springfield blueline this season are Frederic St. Denis, Will Weber, Austin Madaisky, Dennis Urban and Thomas Larkin.
This season's goaltending tandem, while lacking in pro experience, comes very highly regarded with Anton Forsberg and Oscar Dansk guarding the Falcons net. AHL veteran Scott Munroe was signed to an AHL contract and has been sent to the Falcons new ECHL affiliate, the Kalamazoo Wings. This was a good move to add depth within the organization.
I took in the Falcons final pre-season game last Sunday at The Nest. What I took away from the 3-2 shootout win over the Hartford Wolfpack was an up tempo, fast paced squad. It seemed that the game was skated at a faster pace than I've seen in the past. Hubert Labrie showed a nice offensive touch from the blueline, scoring a goal and adding an assist. Anton Forsberg played very well in the Falcons goal. Mike Hoeffel scored the Falcons other goal, finishing off on a nice feed from Austin Madaisky.
The Falcons open the season with two road games, both in Syracuse. First up is this Saturday night, followed by Friday October 17th. Speaking of the Crunch, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the departure of long time friend and Falcons broadcaster, Mike Kelly. Late this summer, Mike accepted a position with the Crunch. He'll be missed, and I wish him all the best.
Springfield opens their home schedule on Saturday October 18th against the Hershey Bears.