Good morning and welcome to “Cats & Coffee,” a weekly segment in which we get you caffeinated with an exciting look at the week ahead for the Florida Panthers.
The Florida Panthers have only been on hiatus for just over a week, but already fans around the South Florida area have begun to lament the absence of dazzling dekes, highlight-reel goals and astonishing saves in their lives.
Unfortunately, after experiencing the excitement of watching their hometown team reach the playoffs for just the fifth time in franchise history, many Panthers fans are simply left with a void in their hearts that only a six-ounce vulcanized rubber puck can fill.
As the sport of hockey continues to evolve into a year-round source of entertainment in the Sunshine State, however, fans will thankfully still be able to follow the Panthers in the news and on television throughout the upcoming weeks and months as players can be found participating in everything from international tournaments to local events.
With that in mind, here are a few things to keep an eye on in the week ahead…
The Panthers IceDen will be hosting the sixth annual Hockeyfest on Saturday, May 7 from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., giving both players and fans a chance to demo new hockey equipment through an interactive experience.
This year’s installment of Hockeyfest features exclusive demo opportunities from top equipment manufacturers, including Bauer, CCM, Warrior and True, as well as numerous off-ice activates such as street hockey, music, inflatables and food trucks.
Stanley C. Panther, the Panthers Energy Team as well as select Panthers players and broadcasters will also be in attendance for autograph and photo opportunities throughout the day.
Not interested in new equipment? That’s ok! For those simply looking for a good time at the rink, public skating will also be available from 1-3 p.m. for $10.
Located in Coral Springs, the Panthers IceDen is the official practice facility of the Florida Panthers.
PANTHERS AT THE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
The 2016 IIHF World Championship begins this week in Moscow and St. Petersburg, Russia, with Panthers forwards Aleksander Barkov and Jussi Jokinen representing Team Finland at the annual tournament.
Barkov, who had a career-high 28 goals and 59 points in 66 games with the Panthers this season, recorded seven points (4-3--7) in eight games during his World Championship debut in 2015. The 20-year-old center has also previously competed with Finland at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, winning a bronze medal.
Jokinen, meanwhile, has won a pair of bronze medals (2006, 2008) in six trips to the World Championship, most recently recording 11 points (3-8—11) in eight games in 2015. The 33-year-old forward has also won a silver medal (2006) and bronze medal (2014) at the Olympics with Finland.
Finland, which last won a gold medal in 2011, will open the 2016 World Championship against Belarus on May 6, with preliminary-round games scheduled through May 17. The bronze- and gold-medal games will be hosted in Moscow on May 22.
JACK ADAMS FINALISTS ANNOUNCED
After leading the Panthers to their fifth playoff appearance in franchise history, head coach Gerard Gallant is expected to be in contention for this year’s Jack Adams Award, which is given annually to the coach who is “adjudged to have contributed the most to his team’s success.”
In his second season behind Florida’s bench, Gallant led the Panthers (47-26-9) to a franchise record 103 points, capturing the Atlantic Division title as well as the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Gallant, who finished 11th in Jack Adams voting last season, was also one of four head coaches selected to the 2016 All-Star Game in Nashville, in large part due to his role in helping craft the franchise record 12-game winning streak that catapulted the Panthers into contention midway through the season.
The three finalists for the award will be announced this week.
PIRATES SEASON OVER
The Portland Pirates’ 2015-16 season ended with a 2-1 loss to the Hershey Bears in Game 5 of the Atlantic Division Semifinals at the GIANT Center on Sunday night.
Portland had finished the regular season with a 41-27-6 record, earning the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference in the Calder Cup Playoffs.
Rob Schremp led the Pirates in scoring with 21 goals and 42 points in 75 games.
Congrats on a great season, Pirates!