IceCaps will see many new pups, some old dogs at ‘The Pound’ tonight

Brendan McCarthy
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Bell signed to contract by St. John's; Slaney entering AHL Hall of Fame

When the St. John’s IceCaps take on the Hamilton Bulldogs tonight at Copps Coliseum — ‘The Pound’ — in the Bulldogs’ AHL season-opener, they’ll be facing a club very much like their own, one which has undergone an extensive renovation after a disappointing finish last season.

John Slaney

 

With Bonavista’s Adam Pardy joining the lineup this week, the IceCaps’ roster shows have 17 players who weren’t in St. John’s a year ago at the start of the 2012-13 campaign.

Hamilton, which like St. John’s failed to make the playoffs last spring, has undergone a similar transformation, with newcomers accounting to more than 50 per cent of the team. The intake includes kids like forward Ben Duffy, the QMJHL’s leading scorer last season, and veterans, like forward Martin St. Pierre, a five-time AHL all-star and the Bulldogs’ new captain.

Tonight’s game, with a 9 p.m. (NT) puck-drop, represents the start of a short, compact road trip for the IceCaps, who have a Saturday afternoon game in Toronto against the Marlies before returning home.

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When the IceCaps released tryout defenceman Zach Bell at the end of training camp a week-and-a-half ago, they expressed interest in keeping him within the organization, and that indeed has happened,

The IceCaps have signed Bell to an AHL contract and are expected to send him to their ECHL affiliate, the Ontario (Calif.) Reign.

The 20-year-old Bell, who was born in St. John’s and raised in Ontario, could have played as an overager with the Ontario Hockey League’s North Bay Battalion, but had remained at his family home in Brampton and had been seeking a trade from North Bay to a contender. His signing a pro contract puts that issue to rest.

In 234 games over four years with the Battalion (the franchise was located in Brampton prior to last season) the six-foot-two, 225-pound Bell had 17 goals, 28 assists, 253 penalty minutes and an overall plus-10 rating.

••••

Bell’s signing means there are 11 defenceman with St. John’s and two more contracted to the IceCaps/Jets and playing with the Reign (Cody Sol is the other assigned to Ontario).

With Zach Redmond, Kris Fredheim, and Travis Ehrhardt working their way back from injury and Adam Pardy arriving from Winnipeg, it likely won’t be long before there’s another move in relation to the  blueline corps. In addition to the three injured players, Patrick Cullity is another blueliner who didn’t appear in either of St. John’s season-opening games against Providence last weekend.

••••

John Slaney’s induction into the American Hockey League Hall of Fame was inevitable  — the St. John’s native is, after all, one of the greatest offensive defencemen in AHL history. However, with the AHL’s All-Star Classic — which annually includes the Hall of Fame induction ceremony — being held here in February, the timing was perfect for Slaney’s enshrinement.

A first-round draft pick of the Washington Capitals in 1990. Slaney turned pro with the Baltimore Skipjacks, the Caps’ AHL farm team.

In 1992-93 with the Skipjacks, Slaney set league records for goals (20) and points (66) in a season by a rookie defenceman.

In all, Slaney, played 631 AHL games, with 166 goals and 353 assists for 519 points, second-most all-time by an AHL rearguard. He’s one of only three players to have won the league’s top defenceman award twice.

Joining Slaney in the Hall of Fame  class of 2014 will be Bill Dineen, Al MacNeil and Bob Perreault.

Dineen played in the NHL and then spent a half-dozen seasons skating in the AHL. But he really made his mark as a coach in a career that saw him guide the Adirondack Red Wing to a couple of Calder Cup championships, while winning the league’s coach of the year honours twice.

MacNeil is another former NHL/AHL player who made a successful transition to coaching. A Nova Scotia native, MacNeil was player/coach for the Montreal Voyageurs and later returned behind the bench for the Vees after the team moved to Halifax. In 1975 and 1976, the MacNeil-led Nova Scotia Voyageurs won Calder Cup titles. In between his AHL stints, as a rookie head coach of the parent Montreal Canadiens, he guided the Habs to a Stanley Cup win in 1971.

Perreault, who died in 1980 at the age of 49, was a goalie who backstopped teams to four Calder Cup wins , two each with Hershey and Rochester. He ranks sixth in AHL history with 229 victories and third with 37 shutouts.

 

bmcc@thetelegram.com

 

 

Organizations: IceCaps, Ontario Hockey League, NHL American Hockey League Hall of Fame Montreal Canadiens Washington Capitals Montreal Voyageurs

Geographic location: Ontario (Calif.), St. John's, Brampton Toronto North Bay Winnipeg Nova Scotia Halifax Rochester

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