Despite all the roster changes this week as New Jersey’s training camp went on, the Devils still had a tough 3 in 3 weekend stretch to face, as they took on two divisional opponents with a lot of travel mixed in. And it wasn’t a bad showing, gaining 4 of 6 points, but a big weakness prevented them from making it so much more. Looking back on the weekend:
The weekend began with the first trip north of 2013 for Game #5 of the Time Warner Cable Cup series. Matt Anderson put the visitors on the board 3 minutes into the game. Then the Phantoms, despite barely having that many scoring chances, made those chances count. Jason Akeson would tie the game at 1 on a power play, then rookie Marcel Noebels would give the Phantoms the lead under two minutes later. All that despite having only 3 shots on goal. Albany would finish the period outshooting Adirondack 15-5, but staring at a 2-1 deficit. Second period was virtually all Devils, as they probably produced one of their most dominant periods of the season (and usually second period is a weak time for them…go figure). Harri Pesonen, just returning from spending the week in New Jersey training camp, tied the game at 2 halfway through the period. Then Joe Whitney would score twice in a less than 5 minute span to boost the Devil lead to 4-2. And the shot on goal differential? 16-4 for the period, with a total of 31-9 after 40 minutes of play. Third period, the Phantoms suddenly woke up and tried to stage a rally. Tye McGinn would cut the deficit to 1 halfway through the period, but it was all Keith Kinkaid would allow. He went on to stop 20 of 21 Phantom shots in the 3rd, while the Devils only managed 4. The last Phantom shot was thought to have tied the game with just 1.4 seconds left, but it was waved off, and the Devils survived with their fourth win in 5 tries against their upstate rivals. Kinkaid recovered from a shaky first period to stop 27 of 30 shots, including a penalty shot against Matthew Ford in the 3rd. Mike Sislo and Brandon Burlon each contributed two assists.
The road trip continued east down the Mass Pike for the third matchup in less than a month against the first place Falcons. Unlike the night before, both teams played a little more evenly. Nick Drazenovic put the hosts on the board 7 minutes into the first on (what else is new?) a goaltender interference call against Matt Anderson, probably the 4th or 5th time this week a Devil was called for that (when it was really an opposing player shoving said Devil into the net). Barely two minutes later, on a full 2 minute 5 on 3 advantage, Eric Gelinas would tie it up at 1. After that, the goalies took over, particularly Falcons netminder Paul Dainton. The Devils would go on another shot barrage, outshooting the Falcons 22-9 through the second and third periods, but Dainton was practically standing on his head and running a goaltending clinic, stopping everything in his path. And I believe it was because of him that instead of the Devils cruising to another win against Springfield, that the game stayed tied at 1 going into the dreaded overtime. To refresh your memory, the Devils and overtime do not get along well, as they have suffered 1 loss and 6 shootout losses thus far. Despite outshooting the Falcons 4-1 in the extra session, again it was Dainton who rose to the challenge. It was on to the shootout, where once again the Devils would fall short. Phil DeSimone was the only Devil of 5 (Mike Sislo, Harri Pesonen, Eric Gelinas, and Joe Whitney the other participants) to score, while Frazee allowed goals to Sean Collins in round 1 and Wade MacLeod in round 4 to seal the Devils 7th shootout loss of the season. You have to feel for Frazee in this one, as he played outstanding in yet another hard luck defeat, stopping 23 of 24 shots and earning 3rd star of the game honors. Mike Sislo and Joe Whitney each had one assist, and Gelinas actually had 8 shots on goal.
Much like the weekend before, the Devils went back to Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City for a rematch with Adirondack. Unlike Friday night, when the Devils had a huge shot advantage, it was the Phantoms who came to play this time. They outshot Albany 12-6 and despite being in early penalty trouble, it was a power play goal by Jason Akeson late in the first that put the Phantoms up 1-0 (to the delight of what sounded like a good chunk of the city of Philadelphia in house). The Devils would comeback in the second to tie it up, courtesy of a power play goal from Phil DeSimone. Third period the Devils had a great chance to go ahead with a 5 on 3 opportunity, but couldn’t produce. But it was during a 4 on 4 that Marcel Noebels would score to give the Phantoms a 2-1 advantage. But with just over 2 minutes left on the clock, the captain came through in the clutch, as Jay Leach would score just his second goal of the season to tie the game at 2…and salvage at least one standings point, because it was off to overtime (lather, rinse, repeat the night before). During the 5 minute OT session, the Devils had quite a few chances to get the game winner past goaltender Cal Heeter, but he was up to the challenge, stopping all 5 shots. So of course it was off to shootout #8 of the season, maybe today would be the day? Of course not. Akeson and Tye McGinn scored during the first 3 rounds, while only Matt Anderson was able to score for Albany (the other shooters for those who are wondering: Mike Sislo, Phil DeSimone, Steve Zalewski). Danny Syvret scored the deciding goal in the 5th round to give Adirondack the win…and shootout loss #8 for the Devils (is that a league record?). Yet another hard luck defeat for Keith Kinkaid, who turned in a solid day in goal stopping 28 of 30 shots. And Harry Young finally cracked the lineup for the first time all season.
-Finishing off all the roster moves from this week: Bobby Butler cleared waivers on Saturday and was reassigned to Albany. He returned to the lineup on Sunday. Mattias Tedenby was sent down and recalled within a day on paper while Butler’s fate was decided.
-Injury front: very short list. Chad Wiseman and Scott Parse are both out with various lower body injuries (Parse’s I believe is reaggravating his hip injury that kept him out most of last season while in Los Angeles). David Wohlberg sat out both Saturday and Sunday, I’m not sure if it was injury related or not.
The Week Ahead:
Three games this week, and virtually no real travel involved. Wednesday night the Devils return home to host the Falcons, then it’s a home and home with Adirondack to close the week, Friday night in Glens Falls and a Saturday early afternoon tilt. Saturday has the makings of what could be an epic day at the TU Center, as attendance is expected to be over 8000 thanks to a $5/$10 Time Warner Cable ticket promotion…and the game will be followed by college hockey at night, as local teams RPI and Union (Kinkaid and Kelly Zajac’s alma mater) square off.
Wednesday will also mark the official halfway point of the schedule for the Devils, so watch for a first half numbers entry sometime Thursday evening, before the weekend games kick off the second half of the season.