SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … The American Hockey League announced today that Rick Kowalsky of the Albany Devils is the winner of the Louis A.R. Pieri Memorial Award as the AHL’s outstanding coach for the 2015-16 season. The award is voted on by fellow coaches and members of the media in each of the league’s 30 cities.
With six games remaining in the regular season, Kowalsky has already steered Albany to the best record by New Jersey’s AHL affiliate since 1999, while managing a roster that has seen only five skaters miss fewer than 15 of the team’s first 70 games. Kowalsky’s club is currently third in the overall AHL standings at 42-18-8-2 (94 points, .671), and 13 players have skated in both Albany and New Jersey this season alone with five A-Devils making their NHL debuts, including Scott Wedgewood, Joseph Blandisi and Vojtech Mozik. Under Kowalsky’s guidance, Albany ranks second in the AHL in team defense, allowing 2.26 goals per game, and second in penalty killing (87.9 percent) as well.
At 44, Kowalsky is the fourth-youngest active coach in the AHL but has the third-longest tenure with his club as he completes his sixth season as Albany’s bench boss. Kowalsky has a record of 213-203-38 at the helm of the Devils since he was named to the post on Aug. 10, 2010. Prior to joining Albany, Kowalsky was coach of New Jersey’s ECHL affiliate in Trenton from 2006-10 and was named that league’s coach of the year in 2009. A native of Simcoe, Ont., Kowalsky played 12 professional seasons after being drafted by the Buffalo Sabres in 1992, including 183 games in the AHL.
The Louis A.R. Pieri Memorial Award, which was first presented in 1968, honors the late Mr. Pieri, a long-time contributor to the AHL as the owner and general manager of the Providence Reds and a member of the American Hockey League Hall of Fame. Previous winners of the award include Frank Mathers (1969), Fred Shero (1970), Al MacNeil (1972, ’77), John Muckler (1975), Jacques Demers (1983), Larry Pleau (1987), Mike Milbury (1988), John Paddock (1988), Marc Crawford (1993), Barry Trotz (1994), Robbie Ftorek (1995, ’96), Peter Laviolette (1999), Claude Julien and Geoff Ward (2003), Claude Noel (2004), Randy Cunneyworth (2005), Kevin Dineen (2006), Mike Haviland (2007), Scott Gordon (2008), Scott Arniel (2009), John Hynes (2011), Jon Cooper (2012), Willie Desjardins (2013), Jeff Blashill (2014) and Mike Stothers (2015).
In operation since 1936, the American Hockey League continues to serve as the top development league for all 30 National Hockey League teams. Nearly 90 percent of all players competing in the NHL are AHL graduates, and through the years the American Hockey League has been home to more than 100 honored members of the Hockey Hall of Fame. The 2015-16 regular season ends on Apr. 17, and then 16 clubs will continue to vie for the league’s coveted championship trophy when the 2016 Calder Cup Playoffs get underway the following week.
The winner of the 2015-16 Aldege “Baz” Bastien Memorial Award (outstanding goaltender) will be announced Monday.