The first round of the American Hockey League’s Calder Cup Playoffs are set.
One series will feature Grande Prairie Storm alumnus’ Carter Rowney, and the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins), taking on Darren Kramer, and the Binghamton Senators (Ottawa Senators affiliate), on Friday night in game one of the AHL Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, a best-of-five series.
Rowney, of Sexsmith, and Kramer, of Peace River, were both teammates with the AJHL’s Grande Prairie Storm in 2008-2009 when they captured an Alberta Junior Hockey League title.
“We had a couple of games down the stretch against Binghamton and he’s (Kramer) been in the line-up… I’ve definitely seen him on the ice,” said Rowney, adding that the pair have kept in touch via social media.
“He plays a hard game, he’s a very hard competitor. When he’s out there, you definitely got to be on your toes and be willing to get gritty and get into battles with him and hopefully it comes your way more so often, but he’s a hard-working player out there.”
Rowney, who grew up playing minor hockey in Grande Prairie, had 35 goals and 43 assists in ‘08-’09, which was his final year with the Storm. He then played four seasons in the NCAA with the University of North Dakota, where he helped guide the team to two Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) championships in the three years. The former Storm forward went un-drafted and signed an amateur try-out contract with the AHL’s Abbotsford Heat – the Calgary Flames’ AHL affiliate – in April 2013, scoring his first pro goal on April 14, 2013 against the Toronto Marlies.
Kramer was in his rookie season in ‘08-’09 with the Storm after playing for the Midget AA Royals in Peace River. He would then go on to play two more seasons with the Storm including captaining them in 2010-2011 for 10 games, before making the jump to the WHL’s Spokane Chiefs. The Ottawa Senators drafted Kramer in the sixth round (156th overall) of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. After his career with the Chiefs, Kramer spent time with the Elmira Jackals, of the East Coast Hockey League, but has spent a majority of his time with the Binghamton Senators.
“He never backed down from anyone. He played a great team game. He was a great teammate for everyone on and off the ice – willing to do anything to sacrifice himself for the betterment of the team,” recalled Rowney, of playing alongside Kramer with the Storm.
The Senators finished third this season in the AHL’s Eastern Conference with a 44-24-3-5 record and the Penguins finished sixth with a 42-26-3-5 record. The B-Sens won four of their six meetings against the Penguins this season.
Rowney says facing Kramer and the Senators will be no easy task.
“They got a lot of skilled players up there either on the defensive or offensive line and if you make any mistakes, they definitely make you pay for it,” he said.
The winner of the series will play either the St. John’s Ice Caps or Albany Devils in the second round of the AHL playoffs.
Since the title with the Storm, the 24-year-old Rowney describes the past five seasons as “…an adventure…”
“It’d kind of crazy how fast it all happens. When you grow up, you’re always idolizing the Storm and when you get on the Storm finally, it’s kind of surreal at that moment when you’re playing for the Grande Prairie Storm,” he said, adding that he’s grateful for his opportunities to play professional hockey.
In early October 2013, Rowney signed a two-way contract with Wilkes-Barre and was then assigned to the Wheeling Nailers, of the ECHL, where he posted 13 goals and 31 assists in 39 games.
His ECHL performance didn’t go unnoticed.
Rowney played 24 regular season games with the AHL squad, notching two goals and two assists, splitting time between the Penguins and Nailers. He says his role with the Penguins is being an energetic, two-way, third or fourth line player who contributes on occasion.
“The (AHL) game is faster. You’re playing with better, bigger and stronger players – just being able to adapt to that and making quicker decisions, I think that’s something you really need to learn how to do faster,” he said, of adjusting between the ECHL and AHL.
Kramer, who had two goals and two assists in 45 games with the Senators this season, was not available for comment at press time.