Ahh, the Amtrak Rivalry to kick off the home opener. Couldn’t have asked for a better opponent. One problem, especially to those who didn’t follow this news story late last season, the team is a little different this year.
Late last season it was announced that the Vancouver Canucks would not renew their deal to keep the Chicago Wolves as their AHL affiliate. Enter the St. Louis Blues who waved “so long” to the Peoria Rivermen. What became of Peoria? The Rivermen were wrapped up and shipped off to Utica, New York to become the Utica Comets – the new Canucks affiliate.
So, recap time. The Wolves are still here but were given a heart transplant. The Wolves of last year are now the Utica Comets. And the Peoria Rivermen, as we know it, no longer exist… outside of a Southern Professional Hockey League team that bears its name.
I don’t know about you but that makes me sad.
According to Hockey’s Future’s Top 20 prospects for the St. Louis Blues, the Amtrak rivals have seven of the Top 20 on their roster: Jake Allen G (3), Ty Rattie RW (4), Dmitrij Jaskin RW (5), Joel Edmundson D (9), Jani Hakanpaa D (10), Yannick Veilleux LW (13), and Cade Fairchild D (18).
Jake Allen is certainly deserving the top nod as far as prospects go on the Wolves roster. The 23 year-old goalie is entering his fourth year of professional hockey and enjoyed a solid stint in the NHL last year with the Blues. Last year in Peoria, Allen produced a 13-19-2 record, 2.89 GAA, and a .904 SV%. Yet, with the Blues he played better with 9 wins from 15 starts, 2.46 GAA, and a .905 SV%. He has also started the season off with two wins in two starts with a razor sharp .973 SV%. In my book, he is the heart and soul of the team. If he is on his game the rest of the team responds. That was the case for him last year and so far in this young season.
Last year the Admirals clobbered the Wolves in the Amtrak rivalry by winning ten of twelve contests. The head-to-head against the Rivermen last year (more prevalent), the Ads went 8-2-0-2.
Against the Rivermen last year: Mark Van Guilder tallied four goals and five assists while Austin Watson put up five goals and three assists. For those with a good memory as well, you might recall that goaltender Magnus Hellberg absolutely owned the Rivermen last season: 5 games, 4 wins, 3 shutouts, 0.6 GAA, and a .979 SV%.
Either way you slice it, last year’s Wolves or Rivermen, this is favorable meeting for the Ads. The Wolves enter with a 2-3-0-0 record in five games against the Ads 2-0-1-0 in three. The Bradley Center should be set for a fun home opener for the Ads.