Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Antler Banter: Season 1, Volume 17

Antler Banter is back for the seventeenth time already! Can you believe it's been four months since True North Sports and Entertainment announced the return of the AHL franchise to Winnipeg? Yeah, it feels like the announcement was yesterday for me as well! In saying that, we've got some stories to bring forth from the world of the American Hockey League that include a new uniform, a few signings, and the biggest moment of the off-season for all thirty AHL clubs as the schedule is finally ready to go! If hearing that the schedule is ready doesn't make you giddy, you might want to check for a pulse because that's the signal that hockey season isn't that far off! Let's get rolling on another edition of Antler Banter!

Utica Goes Third

The Utica Comets had been teasing all summer about a third jersey, and today they finally unveiled it. As you can see to the right, the new uniform looks pretty darn swell! First off, I love the green uniform. If there's a colour that has been under-utilized in hockey, it's the bold green colour. The Comets' alternate logo really works with the puck flying across the "U". The blue is a little lighter than what the Comets normally wear, but it fits very nicely in this scheme. This actually feels like a throwback uniform with the lighter blue and bold green, and I have to say that I'm a fan of this alternate. The numbering and lettering is single-colour white in the Vancouver Canucks' style, and the white really pops on the green. That's a snazzy uniform, Utica.

Here's hoping we get to see that uniform in Winnipeg. Yes, it's a long shot, but the Utica Comets have make the alternate jersey world look good!

Utica Gets Cracknell-ing

Sticking with the Utica-based AHL franchise, the Canucks signed veteran Adam Cracknell to a deal on Wednesday. The 30 year-old forward played 17 gameswith Columbus last season in the NHL while appearing with both Springfield and Chicago in the AHL where he had 20 points in 40 games between the two clubs.

Cracknell has played in a few cities over his career thus far, but he's a serviceable player who should provide some good depth for the Canucks if called upon this season. Expect Cracknell to play with the Comets this season, but call-ups could come often.

IceCaps Get A Manitoban

The St. John's IceCaps announced today that they signed former Blackhawks draft pick and Manitoba-born defenceman Travis Brown to a one-year, two-way deal. The blueliner spent last season with the Moose Jaw Warriors and Victoria Royals in the WHL. Brown was chosen 149th-overall in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft by Chicago.

The youngster will attend the rookie tournament in September at London, Ontario with the rest of the Canadiens rookies where he'll see action against three other teams' rookies. It's always good to see a good kid from Manitoba getting a chance to follow his dreams!

Wolves Sign Blain

The Chicago Wolves announced on Tuesday that they has signed defenceman Jeremie Blain for the second time in his career. Blain spent last season with Utica and the ECHL's Kalamazoo K-Wings where he saw action in the Kelly Cup Playoffs.

Blain saw action in 25 games for the Wolves in 2012-13 where he posted eight assists and 48 penalty minutes. He is a former fourth-round pick at 91st-overall by the Edmonton Oilers in 2010. While Blain won't set records for the Wolves this season, he's a solid signing who will round out their blue line nicely for this upcoming season.

Phantoms Go KHL

The Lehigh Valley Phantoms announced on Saturday that they had signed defenceman Logan Pyett to a one-year deal. Pyett spent last season in the KHL with Vladivostok and Cherepovets where he posted five goals and ten assists in 53 games.

Pyett has also skated with Chekhov Vityaz in the KHL, and has donned the jerseys for both the Grand Rapids Griffins and Connecticut Whale here in North America. Thus far in his AHL career, he has 30 goals and 102 assists in 362 career games, so it's not like he can't score at the professional level. He'll be a solid contributor this season with the Phantoms.

Wolfpack Find A Veteran

It's been some time since the name Brian Gibbons has hopped up on this screen, but the former Pittsburgh Penguin has found a new home with the New York Rangers after agreeing to a one-year, two-way deal way back on July 1. Gibbons' signing flew under the radar after a rather forgettable season with the Blue Jackets and Falcons where he suffered a knee injury, and he'll look to crack the Rangers' roster this season.

"It's a great opportunity," Gibbons told Mike Loftus of The Patriot Ledger. "Hopefully I can find some kind of role there." The undrafted forward could provide the same speed and tenacity he showed with the Penguins when he cracked their line-up as a fourth-line forward, and that would replace some of the speed given up by the Rangers in their trade of Carl Hagelin. Either way, Gibbons has a shot with one of the better teams in hockey. And if he doesn't crack the roster, he'll be playing with a solid Hartford Wolfpack team this season!

Clear Your Calendar

If you've been waiting to see your AHL team's schedule, you only have to wait a few hours longer! The AHL announced today that the schedule will be revealed for all thirty AHL clubs tomorrow at 1pm ET!

Of course, no one is saying anything at this point, but we do know the Manitoba Moose will play their home opener on Thursday, October 15. Who will it be against? We'll know all come tomorrow at noon in Winnipeg. Head over to the AHL site or check out the Manitoba Moose site for more details!

That'll wrap up another edition of Antler Banter this week. I am going to be digging through the schedule tomorrow to look at key match-ups and important dates in the AHL season this year as the league celebrates its 80th anniversary! Tune in next week as we break down the schedule in pointing out the key games for the Manitoba Moose!

Until then, keep your sticks on the ice!

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