According to an article by Kevin Zalaznik at TheAlbanyDevils.com, Rick Kowalsky, the head coach of the Devils’ American Hockey League affiliate has been named the winner of the 2016 Louis A.R. Pieri Award as AHL Coach of the Year.
Kowalsky is the bench boss of a team that has gone 42-18-8-2 (for 94 points and a .671 win percentage) and has jumped out to the best record for a Devils’ AHL affiliate since the 1999 Albany River Rats. He won the award on Friday when Albany still had six games left. Since then, they beat the Syracuse Crunch 4-3 in a shootout, lost to the Binghamton Senators, 2-1 and defeated the Toronto Marlies 3-0. The rest of their schedule includes a home game against Binghamton, a game at the Rochester Americans and a home game against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.
The A-Devils were third overall in the AHL at the time of the award announcement. Zalaznik mentions that Kowalsky is the fourth youngest coach in the AHL (at 44 years of age), yet has the “third-longest tenure with his club” (six seasons behind the Albany bench). Kowalsky has been in the Devils’ organization since 2006 (he coached the Trenton Devils of the ECHL from 2006-2010 – he was named coach of the year in the ECHL in 2009 too).
Zalaznik points out that all of what Kowalsky has achieved has been done with a revolving door of a roster. The New Jersey Devils have called up 13 players this season from the AHL club, yet the A-Devils have stayed the course.
Among other notable winners of the Louis A.R. Pieri Award listed in Zalaznik’s article are the late Fred Shero, two-time Stanley Cup winner with the Flyers and father of current Devils GM Ray Shero, who won the award in 1970, former New Jersey coach Robbie Ftorek, who won the award in 1995 and 1996 while coaching the Albany River Rats, the then-AHL affiliate of the Devils, current Devils scout Claude Noel, who won the award in 2004 and current New Jersey bench boss John Hynes, who won the award in 2011.
The Albany Devils have already qualified for the 2016 Calder Cup Playoffs and recently extended their lease at Albany’s Times Union Center, ensuring that they will remain in the New York state capital through 2018-19.