Good Sunday morning!
What an interesting weekend so far…let’s start with recapping Friday night’s events. What should have been a very good 4-1 win for Worcester–Jonathan Cheechoo had two goals and rookie goaltender Jeff Jakaitis holding his own in net–turned into something completely different for the Devils in the last 10 minutes of the game. What I think started this awakening was simple enough…a heavyweight battle between Pierre-Luc Leblond and Frazer McLaren. Leblond took the fight, and immediately after the comeback was on. Brad Mills brought the Devils within 4-2 17 seconds after the fight. Then while on a power play, the goal came loose behind Jakaitis. Matt Anderson swarmed in and batted it into the net, bringing the Devils to within 4-3 and sparking a scrum in front of the net involving Adam Henrique and Jamie McGinn. The last minute was probably one of the most exciting and unexpected things I have ever seen in this building. Down by a goal, Dave Caruso was pulled for the extra attacker. With 53 seconds left on the clock, Adam Henrique managed to get the tying goal in net. About 40 seconds later, something interesting happened. Apparently referee Geno Binda had the teams face off in the Sharks zone instead of the neutral zone, and the Sharks bench became incensed. I didn’t see the actual incident from my angle, but Worcester assistant coach David Cunniff (son of former Rats coach John Cunniff) threw a pen at one of the linesmen out of anger and nailed him in the helmet. Obviously he was shown the door and the Sharks were given a bench minor. 8 seconds into the ensuing power play, former Shark Steve Zalewski (who is called Zeus by friends, I was sitting near his fan club from home), of all people, batted in the game winner with 4 seconds left on the clock, completing the improbable 5-4 comeback. I should also mention this was in front of a season high crowd of 5521, thank you GE for Kids in Free Day.
Afterwards, I was outside by the Sharks bus hoping to visit with a friend of mine on the team, Dan Dasilva. Knowing the events, I knew I had to be careful with my words…I mean what do you say to someone who just saw his team blow a 3 goal lead like they did? I didn’t have to worry about that, he simply came over, said a quick hello and said he couldn’t talk, he was in a bad mood. Completely understandable. I talked with Nathan Perkovich and Jeff Frazee, both told me they should be back playing soon, Frazee as early as next weekend (I feel like a reporter now haha). When I got home to start writing up my Binghamton preview, I jumped on Twitter quick and saw a message from Dan’s Twitter account, basically apologizing to the “Albany fans waiting” for him. I messaged him back saying I was sorry for what he and the team went through and hoped to visit soon when he was in a better mood. What I got a few minutes later reinforced my reasons why I’m into hockey (and baseball) in the first place: I got a response from Dan personally apologizing to me and thanking me for all the support over the years (we’ve known each other since the ’06-’07 season when he was a Rat for one season). So Dan if you happen to see this: You’re welcome.
Moving on to last night. I went to Glens Falls to see Checkers-Phantoms since I was unable to travel to Binghamton for Devils-Senators. Very good game at the Glens Falls Civic Center, a goaltending duel between two of my favorite former Rat goalies: Michael Leighton and Mike Murphy. Chris Terry gave the Checkers a 1-0 lead after one, then former Rat Michael Ryan tied the game very early on in the 2nd period. The game stayed rather uneventful through late in the 3rd period (Geno Binda actually let them play), then Eric Wellwood scored the go ahead goal for Adirondack with less than 2 minutes remaining. Murphy gets pulled for the extra attacker, and with 28 seconds left a scramble in front of Leighton resulted in Matt Pistilli getting home a controversial tying goal. All the Phantom fans were screaming it shouldn’t have counted because it was not a direct shot. But Binda allowed it, and now I have to agree with Binghamton goalie Robin Lehner…the Phantom fans are idiots. One loud woman in particular next to us started yelling at us. Whatever. Nothing doing in overtime, which lead to an epic 7 round shootout. I feel bad for Bryan Rodney, he went to do his patented slow down move, but hit a bad patch of ice and fell flat on his stomach. Naturally Leighton came out of the net and pushed the puck to the side. Finally in the last round Zach Boychuk got the game winner and the Checkers won 3-2 in a shootout.
Meanwhile, out west in Binghamton (I was reading along tweets from the Devils official and B-Sens official, along with my new friend Joy from the Binghamton Press & Sun Bulletin), the Devils got some reverse karma from Friday night. Steve Zalewski remained hot, scoring 2 more goals (so far I think I know who got the better of this deal), and the Devils mounted another comeback after being down 3-1 in the 2nd period, coming back to tie it at 3 in the middle of the third. The game went to overtime, and this time it was the B-Sens with the last second magic, Mike Hoffman gets a goal past Mike McKenna at 4:59 of OT. Yes folks with one second left on the clock. It was the Devils’ first OT loss of the season, but they still gained a standings point and stayed ahead of Adirondack and Syracuse in the standings.
Today it’s back to the local rivalry for the first time in over a month, as the Devils and Phantoms meet this afternoon in Albany. The two teams better get used to each other, because half of March’s schedule involves them playing each other a lot. That includes a home and home the first weekend of March and two trips to Glens Falls in a 5 day span. Both teams have been trying to get out of the worst team rut and have been pretty successful, so this should make for an interesting afternoon.