If the AHL season ended today, well that would be one short tease of a season. All joking aside, the top of the AHL standings have a distinctly Empire State look about them. Pacing the field and positioned atop the Western Conference are the Utica Comets with 14 points. Jump over to the Eastern Conference and you’ll find the Albany Devils and their 13 points leading the charge up top. Mind you, in a New York minute, everything can change. That said, there was a lot to be excited about along the Thruway in October.
- Utica Comets (6-1-2-0, 14 points, 1st place Western Conference) – Jacob Markstrom knows a thing or two about playing in Upstate, suiting up for 37 games with the Rochester Americans in 2010-11 campaign. Recently named AHL player of the week, Markstrom along with his dazzling goals against average of 0.99 and his shutout string of 238:08, fell just 30:09 shy of the league record, after yielding a goal to Alexander Guptil of the Binghamton Senators on Friday evening. Before dropping that 4-3 OT decision to the B-Sens, Utica had run off four straight victories. Thus far, Utica is powered on offense by Cal O’Reilly, whose eleven points are tied for third best in the AHL and by newcomer Dustin Jeffery and his four goals and eight points in all. The Comets can also play defense, ranking seventh on the penalty kill. Utica is starting right where they left off the second half of their inaugural season, the hottest thing on ice. Utica will also be hosting the AHL All-Star Game this season.
- Albany Devils (6-0-0-1, 13 points, 1st place Eastern Conference) – It has been a start of epic proportions for the A-Devils. Their start is not only tied for the best in franchise history but also squares with the finest opening to a season in Albany AHL history, right with the 1994-95 Albany River Rats, who began that year 4-0-3 and oh by the way, also won the Calder Cup. Normally when one thinks Devils, the conversation turns to goaltending and defense and they have that. Yet this team can fill it up too. Albany led the AHL with 32 markers in October. Paul Thompson and Scott Timmins lead the squad with nine points apiece. Thompson leads the AHL with seven goals as well. In six out of seven games, Albany has boasted at least one multiple goal scorer. Albany ranks third on the power play and tenth on the penalty kill. The Devils skate into November on a five-game winning streak and are the only remaining AHL team yet to suffer a regulation or overtime defeat.
- Rochester Americans (6-2-0-0, 12 points, t-4th place Western Conference) – Well Terry Pegula, two out of three ain’t bad for your Rochester Americans, Buffalo Sabres and Buffalo Bills, as far as good starts go. Rochester has won two straight contests and closed out October with a 3-0 blanking of the Syracuse Crunch, at the Salt City. Blue liner Chad Ruhwedel tops the club with nine points. Additionally, Joel Armia, Phil Varone and Mikhail Grigorenko all lead the Amerks attack, potting four goals apiece. With the extra attacker this year, Rochester is ninth in the league. The Amerks are also the fourth most penalized team in the league.
- Binghamton Senators (3-4-2-0, 8 points, t-10th place Eastern Conference) – Following a rough stretch, the B-Sens ended October on a high note, edging the aforementioned Comets, in a 4-3 OT contest at the Utica Aud. “Missed it by that much.” The B-Sens are having a Maxwell Smart type start to their season, win or lose, eight of their first nine contests have been decided by a single goal. Leading Binghamton in scoring with six goals and eleven points is Chris Wideman, ranking him tied for third in the AHL in points. Those six tallies also tie Wideman for second in the league. Bingo is also a commendable 12th in the AHL on the penalty kill.
- Syracuse Crunch (3-4-1-0, 7 points, t-12th place Eastern Conference) – A new division but still scuffling are the Crunch. Is the honeymoon over with Tampa in ‘Cuse? So far the Crunch appear to be a streaky team and are still in the feeling out process. Having won three straight and garnered points in four consecutive games, Syracuse has now dropped three straight to end October. Jonathan Marchessault leads the club with seven points thus far. They hope that off-season acquisition Jerome Samson can rev it up in the goal column in November. The Crunch will also look to improve their special teams units in the second month of the season.
- Adirondack Flames (3-5-1-0, 7 points, t-9th Western Conference) – Hockey is still in Glens Falls and still as vibrant as ever. Despite the “Scorch” mascot debacle, an opening night drubbing to the team just down I-87 and a 12 game suspension to Trevor Gillies, the Flames have rebounded and found their footing of late. Nothing will ever be the Adirondack Red Wings but one can sense that fans are more optimistic about this squad than its predecessors now back in PA. On the year, Adirondack is third in the league in penalty minutes. The Flames are also an impressive second overall on the power play, although their penalty kill ranks dead last. Before his recent call-up to Calgary, Michael Ferland was leading the A-Flames with four goals and nine points. Also called up was second leading scorer Markus Granlund and his five points. Adirondack has won two consecutive contests and will need to be resilient going forward.