The 1995-96 Albany River Rats A Look Back

The Albany Devils are off to a historically great start. Through 22 games, Albany sports a ledger of 15-4-3-0 (33 points), registering a .750 winning percentage. Riding a franchise best six-game winning streak, these Devils may be rivaling the best team in Albany AHL history.

In 1995-96, the New Jersey Devils affiliated Albany River Rats went 16-5-1 through their first 22 contests. Those defending Calder Cup champions would run off a winning streak of 15 straight and an unbeaten string of 21 consecutive contests. On the whole, Albany finished an AHL best 54-19-7 (115 points), recording a .719 winning percentage.

Will this Albany club match or surpass its predecessor of some 20 odd years ago? Only time will tell. Speaking of time, we take a look back at that 1995-96 squad.

Brad Bombardir –

Bomber won the Calder Cup with Albany and the Stanley Cup with the 1999-00 Devils. Bombardir last played in the NHL with the Nashville Predators in 2003-04. In 1995-96, Bombardir had six-goals, 25-assists and a plus/minus rating of +38, topping all Rats’ blueliners. Bombardir presently serves as the Director of Player Development with the Minnesota Wild.

Bryan Helmer –

Helmer won three Calder Cups during a 20-year pro career (Albany (1) Hershey (2)).  Set an AHL record for points by a defenceman. Helmer netted 14-goals and added 30-helpers, along with 107 penalty minutes and a +29 rating in 1995-96. Helmer recorded two goals in the Calder Cup playoffs against the Cornwall Aces. Helmer serves as an assistant coach with the AHL Hershey Bears.

Steve Brule –

As with the aforementioned Bombardir and Helmer, Brule paced the club with 80 games played. Brule, who was a member of the 1994-95 Calder Cup squad, added to his accolades in 1995-96, tallying 30-goals for Albany. Brule last played for Jonquiere Marquis of the LNAH, in 2012-13. Currently, Brule Academie De Hockey Joel Bouchard.

Bobby House –

A member of the 1994-95 Calder Cup team, House had a huge 1995-96 campaign. That season, House netted a team leading 37-goals and posted a club best 86 points in 77 contests.  House last played during the 2004-05 campaign with the Hamburg Freezers of the German Elite League.

Scott Pellerin –

Another member of the 1994-95 Calder Cup squad. Pellerin took over the reigns of the captaincy from Kevin Dean in 1995-96. That season, Pellerin notched 35-markers, 82 points and racked up 142 penalty minutes in 75 games. After playing 536 games in the NHL, Pellerin retired following the 2003-04 season.  Pellerin presently serves as Director of Player Development with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Patrik Elias –

During the 1995-96 season, a then 19-year-old Elias, scored 27-goals, totaling 63 points in 74 games, playing alongside Pellerin and Steve Sullivan. In four playoff games, Elias registered a goal and an assist. Presently, Elias is an alternate captain with the New Jersey Devils. Elias is the all-time leading scorer in Devils franchise history, registering 407 goals, totaling 1,002 points. Elias has also played for two Stanley Cup championship winning teams in New Jersey.

Geordie Kinnear –

Across 73 games in 1995-96, Kinnear, who was a member of the 1994-95 Calder Cup team, racked up 170 penalty minutes. The man affectionately as “Champ,” would play parts of seven seasons with Albany and would also serve as an assistant coach with the team. In 1999-00, Kinnear appeared in four games with the Atlanta Thrashers. Additionally, Kinnear’s number four still hangs from the rafters in Albany. Presently, Kinnear is an assistant coach with the AHL Charlotte Checkers.

Eric Bertrand –

In the 1995-96 season, Bertrand played 70 games, scoring 16-goals and totaled 199 penalty minutes. Bertrand played four years with the Albany River Rats and got into 15 NHL games between New Jersey, Atlanta and Montreal. In 2012-13, Bertrand last played professionally with Sorel-Tracy Carvena, of the LNAH. Currently, Bertrand works as an Account Executive at Colgate Palmolive in Quebec.

Vadim Sharifijanov –

The “Sharif” totaled 14-goals and 42 points in 69 games, during the 1995-96 season. Sharifijanov was a member of the 1994-95 Calder Cup team and played parts of five years with Albany.  He last played in the NHL during the 1999-00 season with the Vancouver Canucks. Sharifijanov was spotted playing in some lower level Russian leagues until the 2009-10 season.

Pascal Rheaume –

Rheaume potted 26-markers that season, across 68 games. Rheaume, who totaled 68 points that season, added a goal and two helpers in the playoffs. Also a member of the Rats 1994-95 Calder Cup and 2002-03 Devils Stanley Cup winning squads. Rheaume played parts of six seasons with Albany. Rheaume last played in the NHL in 2005-06 and the AHL in 2009-10.  Rheaume is currently is an assistant coach with the AHL Iowa Wild.

Denis Pederson –

Yet another returning member on the 1994-95 Calder Cup winning team. During the 1995-96 season, Pederson posted 71 points, with 28-goals and 43 helpers. In four playoff contests, Pederson picked up a goal and a pair of assists. Pederson played parts of three seasons with the River Rats. Pederson last played in the NHL for the Predators in 2002-03.  His final professional season came with the Berlin Polar Bears in 2011-12.  Pederson now lives in Langley, British Columbia and works in real estate at Royal LePage Brookside.

Ricard Persson –

Also a member of the 1994-95 Calder Cup team, Persson set a franchise record for goals by a defenceman with 15, across 67 contests. Persson led Albany blueliners with 46 points and had a rating of +31.  Persson last played in the NHL during the 2001-02 season, with the Ottawa Senators.  His final professional season came with Cortina SG of Italy in 2009-10.

Darin Kimble –

During the 1995-96 season, Kimble accumulated 144 penalty minutes in 60 games. An NHL veteran of 311 games, Kimble last played professionally in 2001-02 with the UHL Missouri River Otters. Currently, Kimble resides in Granite City, IL, coaching advanced youth hockey.

Chris McAlpine –

McAlpine played 48 games for the Calder Cup squad in 1994-95 and was a member of the Stanley Cup champion Devils, playing 24 contests in 1995. McAlpine played parts of three seasons in Albany. In 1995-96, McAlpine had 19 points in 57 games, along with 72 penalty minutes and was a plus 21. McAlpine skated in 289 NHL games, last playing for the Los Angeles Kings in 2002-03 and professionally with the AHL Cincinnati Mighty Ducks in 2004-05. Presently, McAlpine is a Player Rep at Octagon in Minnesota.

Steve Sullivan –

A member of the Calder Cup-winning club in 1994-95. Sullivan scored 33-goals and had 42 helpers and 75 points in 1995-96.  Sullivan also had three goals in four playoff games.  Sullivan played in over 1,011 NHL games and scored 290 goals. Sullivan played parts of three years with Albany and was elected into the River Rats Hall of Fame. Presently, Sullivan serves as a Player Development Coach with the Arizona Coyotes.

Krzysztof Oliwa –

Another member of the 1994-95 Calder Cup club. Oliwa piled up a team-leading 217 penalty minutes across 51 games in 1995-96. Oliwa played parts of four years with the River Rats. Oliwa amassed 1,447 penalty minutes in 410 NHL games. In 1999-00, Oliwa became the first Polish player to win a Stanley Cup, as member of the Devils. Oliwa last played in the NHL in 2005-06 and was involved for a time with the Polish national team. Currently Oliwa is the Owner, GM and Head Coach of the USPHL Kalkaska Rhinos.

Mike Dunham –

Co-winner of the Harry (Hap) Holmes Memorial Award with the 1994-95 Calder Cup champs. In the 1995-96 campaign, Dunham won 30 games, posting a goals-against average of 2.52. Dunham played parts of four seasons in Albany.  Dunham last played in the NHL for the New York Islanders in 2006-07.  Currently, Dunham is the Goaltending Coach with the New York Islanders.

Cale Hulse –

The solid defenceman Hulse had 215 penalty minutes on the 1994-95 Calder Cup winning squad. In 1995-96, Hulse was a plus 27 and had 107 penalty minutes in 42 games, before being dealt to the Calgary Flames. I remember as a kid I was not very happy that Cale was traded but I digress. Hulse played parts of three years with Albany and netted a goal in the Calder Cup clincher at Fredericton.  Hulse accrued 1,000 NHL PIM and was an alternate captain for the Flames, Predators and Coyotes and last played in the NHL during the 2005-06 season. Presently, Hulse is a Senior Advisor of Business Development and in Alumni Relations with the Coyotes.

Peter Sidorkiewicz –

“El Sid,” played parts of four seasons with the River Rats. During the 1995-96 campaign, Sidorkiewicz had a goals against-average of 2.95, registering 19 victories and three shutouts. An NHL All-Star with the Senators, Sidorkiewicz suited up for 246 NHL games. Sidorkiewicz last played professionally in the AHL with the River Rats in 1997-98. Currently, Sidorkiewicz is an assistant coach with Dornbiner EC of the Austrian Hockey League.

Mark Strobel –

Strobel played 28 games with the 1995-96 River Rats, posting a goal and an assist, along with 36 penalty minutes. Strobel last played professionally in the AHL with the 1996-97 Rats. After his playing days, Strobel was an assistant coach at the University of Minnesota-Duluth and the University of Nebraska-Omaha. Strobel is currently an Associate Men’s Head Coach with The Ohio State Buckeyes.

Dan Keczmer –

When the Devils traded Hulse to Calgary, one of the players they received in return was Keczmer. Keczmer had been playing for the AHL Saint John Flames and suited up for 17 games with the River Rats in 1995-96. In those 17 games, Keczmer recorded four assists. A veteran of 235 NHL games, the defenceman Keczmer last played professionally in 1999-00 for the AHL Worcester IceCats. Keczmer presently lives in Nashville, TN, working as the VP of Distribution for Carlin Obrian.

Bill Armstrong –

A member of the Rats 1994-95 Calder Cup title team, the London, Ontario native and master of the “high wrap trick shot,” totaled seven points in ten games that season, before being dealt to the IHL Detroit Vipers.  While Armstrong’s career was cut short by a brain tumor, after his playing days he would become an assistant coach with Guelph Storm and serve as a scout with the Tampa Bay Lightning.  Currently, Armstrong is working in Real Estate in the London, Ontario area.

Robbie Ftorek –

Ftorek won consecutive Louis A.R. Pieri Memorial Awards for best AHL coach in 1994-95 and 1995-96.  Ftorek would also coach the Devils, Boston Bruins, River Rats again, the Erie Otters of the OHL and was an Assistant Coach with the old AHL Abbottsford Heat.

(Note: There were many more players who contributed to the River Rats that season. Those who played in less than ten games that year, are listed here: Rob Pattison, Petr Sykora, Jay Pandolfo, Reid Simpson, Peter Ambroziak, Kevin Dean, Sheldon Souray, Curt Regnier, Bob Hoffmeyer, Mike Vukonich, Brad Willner, Nathan Perrott, Mike Strobel, Corey Schwab, Matt DelGuidice, Andre Racicot, Mike Heinke).