Weekend notebook: Silver Knights welcome back coach

Photo: Las Vegas Review Journal

📝 by Patrick Williams

Good times are back for the Henderson Silver Knights, and that goes well beyond the win-loss column in the American Hockey League standings.

The Silver Knights announced Thursday that head coach Manny Viveiros has been medically cleared to return to the Henderson bench. Viveiros, who was diagnosed with prostate cancer in October, took a leave of absence for surgery in early December. He will jump right back into action when the Silver Knights meet the visiting Colorado Eagles in tonight’s AHLTV Free Game of the Week (10 ET/7 PT).

Viveiros will also resume his work with a team that just weathered a punishing five-game stretch against division foes Ontario and Stockton, two of the top four teams in the entire AHL. Henderson hosts Colorado tonight and Saturday followed by a two-game set next week with San Jose.

Fifth in the grueling Pacific Division (17-11-2-1, .597), the Silver Knights will face a Colorado team that has been tearing through opponents with an eight-game winning streak and a 10-game points streak (9-0-1-0) entering the weekend. The Eagles (19-11-3-2, .614) opened a six-game road swing Wednesday by taking out San Diego, 5-3, and have taken a hold on third place in the division.

The Silver Knights’ recent work has left the team in a position to take a second-half run just as Viveiros steps back behind the bench. In a statement released by the team Thursday, Viveiros said, “I am thrilled to be able to return to coaching and to once again be with my players and fellow coaches, whose support has been so significant throughout these last few months.

“After recent tests and scans, my doctors have given me clearance to return to my full-time duties with the team, and my prognosis is very good.”

Viveiros returning is not the only news for the Silver Knights. The team named third-year defenseman Brayden Pachal its new captain last week. After he wore the “C” for a pair of games at Stockton last weekend, tonight will be his first opportunity to do so at Orleans Arena. The 22-year-old Pachal joined the Golden Knights organization in 2019 after captaining Prince Albert to a Western Hockey League championship in 2018-19.

Pachal said that playing with having former Silver Knights captain Patrick Brown last season provided him with ample guidance.

“I learned a lot,” Pachal said of Brown. “[He] is the most professional guy I’ve ever been around, just the way he comes into the rink and the stuff he does on a daily basis is something that anyone can admire.”

Pachal and the rest of the team’s leadership group also have had to guide the club through the emotions surrounding their head coach’s battle this season.

“The news with Manny was a shock to everybody,” Pachal said. “We wanted the best for Manny to get the treatments he needed. To have Manny around the rink right now, it’s a big boost for us.”

Pachal also acknowledged the work done by assistants Joel Ward and Jamie Heward in Viveiros’ absence.

“All the players bought into what they were telling us. I think when you can have two former NHL players, [we] love to learn from them, and when they talk everyone should listen.”

The Eagles lost leading scorer Dylan Sikura on recall to the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday; Sikura, who skated for Henderson last season, has 31 points (14 goals, 17 assists) in 29 AHL games. However, the Eagles still present plenty of danger with forward Kiefer Sherwood (13 goals and 16 assists in 24 games) back from the Avs. Jordan Gross also leads all AHL defensemen with 29 points (seven goals, 22 assists) through 28 games, including three three-assist performances in his past five outings.

Viveiros closed out his statement with one last sentence as tonight’s return approaches: “Now I am ready to return behind the bench for the second half of the season and to lead this exceptional group of men towards the playoffs and a Calder Cup run.”


One of hockey’s top goaltending prospects has joined the powerhouse Chicago Wolves.

The Carolina Hurricanes sent Jack LaFontaine this week, and he made his AHL debut with the Wolves in a 2-1 overtime loss to the Texas Stars on Wednesday, making 15 stops.

The 24-year-old LaFontaine, a 2016 third-round pick by Carolina, left the University of Minnesota early to sign with the Hurricanes on Jan. 10. Last season at Minnesota he captured the Mike Richter Award the top NCAA’s goaltender after going 22-7-0 with a 1.79 goals-against average, a .934 save percentage, and five shutouts. He was also named the Big Ten conference’s Goaltender of the Year and tournament Most Outstanding Player.

Even with Eetu Makiniemi out since Dec. 17, LaFontaine’s arrival could give the Wolves one of the deepest goaltending pools in the AHL. Head coach Ryan Warsofsky also has veteran Alex Lyon and promising Beck Warm at his disposal.

The Wolves (24-7-4-1, .736) rank third overall in the AHL going into tonight’s match-up with the visiting Grand Rapids Griffins.


Just when the Laval Rocket had finally taken off, they found themselves grounded once again.

The Rocket endured a 26-day hiatus created by COVID-19 postponements before resuming play Jan. 12. They won three of four games before last weekend’s home-and-home with Belleville was rescheduled to later in the season, when the hope is that Place Bell and CAA Arena will have reopened to fans.

Laval is back in action this weekend with their first-ever trip to Texas to take on the Stars tonight and Saturday. That starts a five-game road swing and a run of 10 of 13 games away from home for the Rocket (15-11-2-0, .571), who hold fourth place in the North Division.

Their 44 games remaining tie Laval for most in the AHL, but head coach Jean-François Houle will have improved roster health to help tackle that schedule. The team announced that forward Joël Teasdale (knee) is set to return after being out all season. Captain Xavier Ouellet is healthy after being out since Nov. 27, giving the Rocket blue line a massive boost. Defenseman Josh Brook, who has also been out all season with a knee injury, has been activated and could be poised to make his 2021-22 debut soon as well.


Ontario has taken over first place in the Pacific Division.

Back-to-back wins in San Jose this week have the Reign (22-6-3-2, .742) on an 8-0-1-1 tear and put them ahead of Stockton (23-7-3-1, .735) as they prepare to visit the Heat on Saturday.

Reign captain Brett Sutter skated in his 1,000th career professional game on Thursday and picked up an assist in Ontario’s 7-1 win. Sutter ranks 12th all-time with 940 games played in the AHL.

Ontario has taken over as the AHL’s top offense with 4.06 goals scored per game, with 47 goals in their last 10 games. The Reign also lead the league in power-play efficiency (38-for-132, 28.8 percent), including a 7-for-10 clip in their last four games.

T.J. Tynan, who won the Les Cunningham Award as the AHL’s most valuable player last season with Colorado, has exploded for 19 points (three goals, 16 assists) in his past nine games to close the gap for the AHL scoring lead to five points behind leader Andrew Poturalski of the Wolves. Tied for third in AHL scoring is linemate Martin Frk with 19 goals and 19 assists for 38 points in 28 games played; Frk picked up another goal Thursday, giving him five in his past four contests.

Jordan Spence rounded out Thursday’s big win with an assist, extending his scoring streak to 10 games. Spence’s 23 points on the season are tied for the most among AHL rookie defensemen.


Help has arrived for the Springfield Thunderbirds, who have dropped eight of their last 10.

Earlier this week the Thunderbirds received defenseman Calle Rosen along with forwards Alexey Toropchenko and Dakota Joshua from the parent St. Louis Blues, and all were in the lineup Wednesday night in Hartford. The trio all dressed in Wednesday’s 5-1 loss to the Hartford Wolf Pack, as did goaltender Charlie Lindgren, making just his third AHL start since Nov. 27.

Springfield’s roster also added 869 games of NHL experience when James Neal was assigned to the club by the Blues on Wednesday. Neal, with 10 NHL seasons of at least 20 goals, has two goals and two assists in 19 games for St. Louis in 2021-22.

The Thunderbirds host Lehigh Valley tonight and Providence on Saturday at the MassMutual Center.


🏒 Hockey Canada announced that defenseman Tyler Wotherspoon (Utica Comets) and forwards Adam Cracknell (Bakersfield Condors) and Josh Ho-Sang (Toronto Marlies) will be on Canada’s men’s hockey team at the 2022 Winter Olympics next month. Eric Staal, who had a brief stint with the Iowa Wild earlier this month, is also on the roster. The United States will have Providence Bruins defenseman Aaron Ness and goaltender Pat Nagle from Lehigh Valley.

🏒 Thanks to a 9-2-2-1 run in their past 14 games, Lehigh Valley has been able to undo some of the damage from a 3-11-4-1 start that had anchored the Phantoms last in the Atlantic Division. Now up to sixth place at 12-13-6-2 (.485), the Phantoms visit Springfield and Hartford before hosting the rival Hershey Bears on Sunday. Captain Cal O’Reilly, scoreless in his first nine games this season, now leads the team with 23 points in 32 contests.

🏒 Despite having 27 player transactions since last Saturday, Hartford has won two of its past three games. The Wolf Pack host Providence tonight before Saturday’s date with the Phantoms. Keith Kinkaid made 25 saves in Wednesday’s 5-1 win over Springfield, improving to 13-2-2 (2.47, .916) this season.

🏒 The Charlotte Checkers’ visit to Syracuse on Saturday will mark a return for some Florida Panthers prospects who spent the 2020-21 season with the Crunch. Last season Syracuse and the parent Tampa Bay Lightning brought in the Panthers as part of an AHL dual affiliation.

🏒 The return of veteran playmaker Chris Terry gave the Bridgeport Islanders a boost last weekend. Terry, who had missed the previous five games, collected four points (two goals, two assists) in three games to take him to a team-leading 30 points (13 goals, 17 assists) this season. Goaltender Jakub Skarek has won five consecutive starts for the Islanders.

🏒 Utica is rolling again, sweeping a home-and-home series with Syracuse last weekend and then shutting out visiting Providence on Wednesday. At 23-5-4-0 (.781), the Comets have taken back the AHL overall standings lead from Chicago. Nico Daws made 28 saves in his first North American pro shutout on Wednesday night.

🏒 Injuries to goaltenders Max Lagace and Hugo Alnefelt prompted Syracuse to recall Amir Miftakhov from Orlando of the ECHL, and in his first AHL game since Dec. 11, Miftakhov took first-star honors Wednesday with 24 saves in defeating the visiting Cleveland Monsters, 3-1. The 21-year-old, who is in his first North American season, went to Tampa Bay as a 2020 sixth-round pick.

🏒 The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins have taken wins in five of their past seven games going into a Friday-Saturday set at Cleveland. The Penguins polished off the visiting Monsters, 5-1, on Monday night.

🏒 Toronto continues a nine-game road swing in Belleville tonight; Saturday’s scheduled rematch with the Senators has been moved to Apr. 30. The Marlies, 3-2-1-0 so far on the journey, wrap up the trek next week with games at Grand Rapids and Cleveland.

🏒 Cleveland forwards Trey Fix-Wolansky and Brendan Gaunce each had a hat trick in the Monsters’ 7-3 win against Rochester last Saturday.

🏒 Texas has a five-game point streak after going 3-0-1-1 to complete a six-game road trip. The Stars play 10 of their next 12 games at H-E-B Center in Cedar Park.

🏒 Back from the Edmonton Oilers, Seth Griffith potted two goals Wednesday night to help Bakersfield knock off Tucson, 6-2. Griffith now has 17 points (five goals, 12 assists) during his current eight-game scoring streak. Cooper Marody contributed two assists, and Olivier Rodrigue won his fourth consecutive start in net. The Condors are on a 9-1-2-1 run as they take on the Roadrunners again tonight and Saturday.

🏒 Rochester’s sixth annual “Pink the Rink” Fight Cancer Together Night will be Saturday when Utica visits.

🏒 The expansion Coachella Valley Firebirds released their new home and road jerseys this week, and also announced a 10-year arena naming rights deal with financial technology company Acrisure. The AHL’s 32nd franchise starts play next season in an affiliation with the Seattle Kraken.


🏒 A total of 112 AHL graduates have made their NHL debuts this season.

Michael McNiven’s long path to the NHL finally took him to the Montreal Canadiens’ crease. McNiven, an undrafted netminder who began his pro career in 2017 with Laval, relieved Cayden Primeau in a loss to the Minnesota Wild on Monday.

Lehigh Valley’s Linus Sandin debuted for the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday night at the New York Islanders. The 25-year-old forward had heated up with five goals in seven AHL games before his recall.

Manitoba defenseman Johnathan Kovacevic played his first NHL game Thursday night for the Winnipeg Jets. Winnipeg took Kovacevic as a third-round draft pick in 2017, and the 24-year-old has put up 14 points (seven goals, seven assists) through 32 AHL games this season.

🏒 Spencer Martin, recalled from Abbotsford earlier this month, earned the first win of his NHL career with 33 saves in Vancouver’s 5-1 victory at Winnipeg on Thursday. Martin, who had not appeared in an NHL game since February 2017, has made three starts for the Canucks in the last week and has stopped 113 of 118 shots (1-0-2, 1.59, .958).

🏒 Quinton Byfield scored his first NHL goal in the Los Angeles Kings’ 3-2 win on Long Island on Thursday night. Byfield has four goals and two assists in 11 AHL games with Ontario this season.

🏒 Belleville has rookie blueliner Jacob Bernard-Docker back from the Ottawa Senators. The 2018 first-round pick has picked up a pair of goals and an assist in 18 games for the B-Sens. Belleville also added goaltender Filip Gustavsson and captain Logan Shaw from Ottawa but lost defenseman Lassi Thomson and forward Egor Sokolov to recalls.

🏒 Alex Stalock’s start for Bakersfield on Sunday was his first game action since August 7, 2020, when he was with Edmonton in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The 34-year-old missed the entire 2020-21 season with myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle).

🏒 Hershey lost forward Joe Snively on recall to the Washington Capitals. Snively, who is tied for third in league scoring at 38 points (15 goals, 23 assists) in 35 games, chipped in two shorthanded goals in the Bears’ 6-2 win over Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Tuesday.


Charlotte’s five-game trip starts Friday night at Utica… Cleveland has a rare three-in-three home weekend; after hosting Wilkes-Barre/Scranton twice, the Monsters then have Utica in for a make-up game Sunday… After playing eight of 10 games at Van Andel Arena, the Griffins hit the road this weekend, starting tonight in Chicago… Milwaukee hosts Rockford tonight followed by the Griffins on Saturday… The Central and Pacific Divisions have pair of cross-divisional match-ups ― the Abbotsford Canucks travel to Winnipeg and see Manitoba for Saturday and Sunday matinees while the San Diego Gulls have two games at Iowa beginning tonight.


“I thought we played well. We had some opportunities. We outshot them heavily… but at the end of the day it’s black-and-white. You win or you lose, and we lost.”

— Chicago Wolves head coach Ryan Warsofsky to the team website after Wednesday’s overtime loss to Texas