Built To Be Champions The 1994-95 Albany River Rats

The 1994-95 season was a special one for the New Jersey Devils organization. It was a championship season that was on full display, with the franchise celebrating its 20th anniversary of winning its first Stanley Cup title. That club featured a number of players who honed their craft at Albany, Utica and other stops around the AHL. Speaking of which, that year was pretty special for the Devils top minor-league affiliate, the Albany River Rats.

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That season, the Rats won Albany’s first Calder Cup championship. It was the first time since the Montreal Canadiens and Nova Scotia Voyageurs, each won it in the same season, back in 1976-77. Seeing the 1995 squad back together, brought back a lot of great memories, leading some in Albany to hope for a reunion of their own.

Whether that happens or not, I thought it would be interesting to take a look back at how it all came together.

Devils Draft Picks

  • Brad Bombardir – 1990, 3rd round (#56 overall). Played to a plus 21 rating in the regular season and appeared in all 14 Playoff games for the River Rats, adding three assists.
  • Steve Brule – 1993, 6th round (#143 overall). Topped the club with a franchise best nine goals in the Calder Cup Playoffs. Brule netted the game winning goal against the Fredericton Canadiens, in Game 1 of the Calder Cup Final.
  • Kevin Dean – 1987, 5th round (#86 overall). The Captain and only player to have his name featured on both the Calder Cup and Stanley Cup that season. Dean was a plus 17 in the regular season and registered four helpers in the postseason.
  • Mike Dunham – 1990, 3rd round (#53 overall). Won 20 games during the regular season and six more in the Playoffs. Dunham posted a 3-0 shutout in the Game 4 Cup clincher at Fredericton. Dunham was named co-MVP of the Playoffs, winning the Harry (Hap) Holmes Memorial Award.
  • Cale Hulse – 1992, 3rd round (#66 overall). Led all defencemen with 215 penalty minutes during the regular season. Hulse’s goal in Game 4 of the Calder Cup Final at Fredericton, put the Rats up 2-0.
  • Jaroslav Modry – 1990, 9th round (#179 overall). In 14 Playoff contests, Modry recorded three goals and three assists.
  • Denis Pederson – 1993, 1st round (#13 overall). Appeared in three Playoff games that year, picking up a pair of penalty minutes.
  • Scott Pellerin – 1989, 3rd round (#47 overall). During the regular season, Pellerin tallied 23 goals and 33 assists. In the postseason, Pellerin netted six goals and added four assists. Included in that, Pellerin notched two goals in a Game 3, 7-6 victory, at the Providence Bruins. Pellerin also capped off the Rats’ scoring in a 3-0 Calder Cup clinching victory at Fredericton.
  • Ricard Persson – 1987, 2nd round (#23 overall). Persson registered eight points in nine postseason contests. In Game 4 of the Northern Division Semi-Final, Persson posted the eventual series winning goal, in a 5-1 victory over Adirondack.
  • Curt Regnier – 1991, 6th round (#121 overall). Regnier potted 20 goals in the regular season. In the first round against the Red Wings, Regnier netted the game winner in a 2-1, Game 1 victory.
  • Matt Ruchty – 1988, 4th round (#65 overall). Netted 26 goals and a team best 348 penalty minutes. Ruchty also topped all Albany players with 15 points in the Playoffs. It was Ruchty’s OT goal in Game 2 of the Northern Division Finals against Providence, that gave Albany a 5-4 win.
  • Corey Schwab – 1990, 10th round (#200 overall). Schwab won 25 games in the regular season and six more in the Playoffs. Schwab also shared in winning the Harry (Hap) Holmes Memorial Award for co-MVP and took home the Jack A. Butterfield Trophy.
  • Vadim Sharifijanov – 1994, 1st round (#25 overall). Sharifijanov recorded six points in nine Playoff games. Sharifijanov scored the Calder Cup clinching goal in Game 4 at Fredericton.
  • Jason Smith – 1992, 1st round (#18 overall). Amassed two goals and 19 penalty minutes, across eleven Calder Cup Playoff games for the River Rats.
  • Steve Sullivan – 1994, 9th round (#233 overall). Netted 31 goals and posted a team leading 50 assists and 81 points. Plus, Sullivan totaled 14 points in eleven Playoff contests for Albany,

Trades

  • Rob Conn – Traded to New Jersey from Chicago on January 30, 1995, for Dean Malkoc. Tallied a team best 35 markers. Among his ten points in 14 Calder Cup Playoff games for the Rats, were the two goals Conn netted in a 7-6 victory in Game 3 of the Northern Division Finals at Providence.
  • Bobby House – Acquired from the IHL Indianapolis Ice. Posted a goal and an assist in eight Calder Cup Playoff games for Albany.
  • Reid Simpson – Traded to New Jersey from Dallas on March 21, 1994, for future considerations. While Simpson was known for his fighting and he was second on the club with 268 penalty minutes, he also notched 18 goals during the regular season for the River Rats. During the Playoffs, Simpson collected nine points and 13 penalty minutes in 14 games.

Free Agents

  • Bill Armstrong – Signed by New Jersey on March 21, 1993. Joining the team in its move from Utica, Amstrong scored 32 goals for Albany. During Game 3 of the Northern Division Semi-Final, at the Adirondack Red Wings, Armstrong netted the eventual winner in the second period.
  • Bryan Helmer – Signed by New Jersey on July 10, 1994. Paced all Albany defencemen with seven markers in the regular season. Helmer also scored a goal, across seven postseason contests.
  • Pascal Rheaume – Signed by New Jersey on October 1, 1993. Tied with Ruchty for a team best 78 games played in the regular season. Rheaume cashed in 19 goals on the campaign and added nine points in 14 postseason games for Albany. In Game 2 of the Northern Division Semi-Final, hosting Adirondack, Rheaume registered the eventual 4-3 game winner in the third period.
  • Mike Vukonich – Signed by New Jersey in 1994. Notched 16 goals during the regular season for the River Rats.

Contributors

Additionally on that squad were players who didn’t get their names listed on the Calder Cup: Sergei Brylin, Chris McAlpine, Geordie Kinnear, Chad Quenneville, Krzysztof Oliwa, Sheldon Souray, Ben Hankinson, Todd Reirden, Dean Malkoc, David Emma, Brett Duncan, Todd Person and Chad Erickson.

About Michael Gwizdala

Michael Gwizdala is in his first season of writing for the Power Play Post Show. Michael will be covering the Albany Devils and chiming in on all things AHL, around the Empire State. Michael is also an NHL accredited writer, covering the New Jersey Devils for The Hockey Writers for three years. Michael has also written for the Times Union and has been published on numerous outlets on the web, such as BronxPinstripes.com. Additionally, Michael was once a Media Relations intern for the AHL Albany River Rats. Michael is also a graduate of The College of Saint Rose in Albany, NY.
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