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Week 21 Recap: Answering the Bell

We are entering the proverbial homestretch.  And it’s looking like the Devils are putting a disastrous February in the rearview mirror.  Four (which easily could have been six) out of six points on the weekend, including a much needed offensive breakout and the return of a key player to the lineup.

2/27 at Syracuse: 7-6 W

The road trip went back west on the Thruway to Syracuse, where for the second Friday evening in a row Albany visited the Crunch.  And for the first time in quite awhile, it was the Devils who got the offense started first.  On their first power play of the game, Mike Sislo continued his strong February with his 15th of the season for a 1-0 advantage.  Scott Timmins, in his first game back since December 7th, celebrated with a power play goal of his own 5 minutes later to double the lead.  But Syracuse would make things interesting, as Vladislav Namestnikov and Cody Kunyk would tie the game over a 5:02 span.  But just 20 seconds after the Crunch tied it, Sislo would score his second of the period to put the Devils ahead 3-2.  The scoring didn’t stop in the second, as Yanni Gourde would re-tie the game with a power play goal early on.  Kelly Zajac would put the Devils back ahead with his third, also a power play goal.  But the Crunch would take the lead with goals by Jonathan Marchessault and Kunyk in a 38 second span, chasing Scott Wedgewood from the net in favor of Maxime Clermont, making his first appearance since January 31st.  The goaltending switch seemed to help, as Clermont only had to stop 1 shot the rest of the second period.  But Albany was not done just yet, as they would tie the game up at 5 early in the third on a shorthanded goal by David Wohlberg.  Stefan Matteau would give Albany a 6-5 lead with the fourth power play goal of the night, then Darcy Zajac scored a very important insurance goal shortly after for a 7-5 lead, chasing Crunch goaltender Kristers Gudlevskis in favor of Allen York.  Marchessault would score his second of the night to get to within 7-6, but Clermont would shut them down the rest of the way, surviving a late 6-on-4 empty net penalty kill to seal the victory, the first against Syracuse all season and just the second victory in February.  Wedgewood stopped 10 of 15 before leaving in favor of Clermont, who picked up win #5 by stopping 10 of 11.  Eleven Devils had at least one point, with K. Zajac (one goal, two assists) and Seth Helgeson (three assists) leading the way.

Highlights:

Lines:

Joe Whitney-Scott Timmins-Paul Thompson

Reid Boucher-Kelly Zajac-Mike Sislo

Tim Sestito-Rod Pelley-Stefan Matteau

David Wohlberg-Darcy Zajac-Cam Janssen

Extra: Chris McKelvie, Graham Black, Ben Johnson, Ben Thomson

Defense:

Raman Hrabarenka/Corbin McPherson

Seth Helgeson/Dan Kelly

Reece Scarlett/Joe Faust

Extra: Brandon Burlon

2/28 at Hershey: 4-2 L

It was a long drive south down Interstate 81 to Chocolatetown, as the Devils faced Hershey for the final time this season.  Much like Friday night, it was Albany getting things going in the first period.  Joe Whitney scored his 18th late in the first period for a 1-0 lead, the first goal against Hershey goaltending since January 17th.  Albany had a season high 16 first period shots, while only allowing the Bears 6.  Sounds like a very promising start, right?  Well, it looked good going into the second, as Stefan Matteau would score his seventh just 46 seconds after the period got started for a 2-0 Devil lead.  Then…everything went downhill, thanks to a Bears record.  Tim Kennedy and Chris Conner would tie the game up midway through the second in about the same amount of time as literally blinking an eye…5 seconds.  Hershey also woke up during this period, outshooting the Devils 15-5.  The Bears would then pull away in the third, as Garrett Mitchell scored off a turnover in the Devils crease to take the lead.  Joel Broda would add an insurance goal with under 4 minutes remaining to seal it, giving Hershey a season sweep of the Devils.  Maxime Clermont lost his first decision of the season, stopping 22 of 26 shots.  Dan Kelly contributed two assists, while Tim Sestito had one helper.

Highlights:

Lines:

Joe Whitney-Tim Sestito-Paul Thompson

Reid Boucher-Graham Black-Mike Sislo

Stefan Matteau-Rod Pelley-Chris McKelvie

David Wohlberg-Darcy Zajac-Ben Thomson

Extra: Ben Johnson, Kelly Zajac, Scott Timmins, Cam Janssen

Defense:

Dan Kelly/Raman Hrabarenka

Seth Helgeson/Reece Scarlett

Brandon Burlon/Corbin McPherson

Extra: Joe Faust

3/1 vs. Binghamton: 4-3 W (OT)

With February finally over, it was back to the Capital Region for the first time since February 15th, as Albany played host to the Senators for the first time all season, and first since an embarassing 7-0 defeat back in November.  On Binghamton’s first power play of the game (and a questionable one at that), Cole Schneider scored for an early 1-0 Senators lead.  Paul Thompson would tie it up late in the period with his team leading 24th goal, then Darcy Zajac would follow with a tip in 3 and a half minutes later to put the Devils ahead 2-1.  Tim Sestito would give the hosts a two goal cushion just before the second period expired on a power play.  But Binghamton would not go away quietly.  Buddy Robinson would put the Senators to within one on a questionable goal call (it was believed a high stick may have been involved, but the referees still allowed it).  Then just four seconds after Albany killed off a 5 minute major by Cam Janssen for a check to the head call, Carter Camper would tie the game up at 3.  But Albany got a golden opportunity late in the third and going into overtime after Schneider was called for a delay of game.  And they capitalized…Mike Sislo would score the game winner just 33 seconds into overtime to give Albany their second win of the weekend.  Scott Wedgewood rebounded nicely from Friday’s game, stopping 24 of 27 shots and winning his first game since January 29th against Lehigh Valley.   Joe Whitney and Raman Hrabarenka each had two assists, while four other Devils each had a helper.

Highlights:

Lines:

Joe Whitney-Scott Timmins-Paul Thompson

Reid Boucher-Kelly Zajac-Mike Sislo

Stefan Matteau-Rod Pelley-Tim Sestito

Chris McKelvie-Darcy Zajac-Cam Janssen

Extra: Ben Johnson, Graham Black, David Wohlberg, Ben Thomson

Defense:

Seth Helgeson/Reece Scarlett

Brandon Burlon/Corbin McPherson

Dan Kelly/Raman Hrabarenka

Extra: Joe Faust

Sunday: A few hours after the game, it was quietly announced that Scott Clemmensen was reassigned to Albany.  Looks like Keith Kinkaid is ready to go come Tuesday.  Clemmensen was recalled Monday but never saw any playing time.

Monday: Not surprisingly, with Clemmensen returning Maxime Clermont was sent back to Orlando.  But he’s not going down alone, as forward Ben Johnson was also reassigned.  Clermont made two appearances, one in relief and one start, and went 1-1 since being recalled on Thursday.  Johnson has not played since February 15th, and has been a healthy scratch for a majority of the season.  He has one goal and one assist in 25 games.

Conference Standings:

It’s March, so it’s time to bring back where the Devils stand for playoff positioning!

8. Providence–66

9. Portland–64

10. St. John’s–62

11. ALBANY–59

12. Lehigh Valley–57

13. Binghamton–52

So…thanks to the disaster that was February, Albany has some catching up to do to get near that 8th playoff spot.  The magic number to clinch is at 46.

Pop Quiz:  Who holds the individual Albany AHL record for most goals in a season?  Answer upcoming.

Obligatory Fight of the Week:

Waiting for the video to surface…as always stay tuned.

My Player of the Week:

With another strong weekend, Mike Sislo capped off a very successful February with the game winner to kick off March.  9 of his 17 goals this season have all come after the All Star Break.  Honorable mention to Stefan Matteau for a good offensive showing over the weekend as well.

Team Leaders:

Goals: Paul Thompson (24)

Assists: Joe Whitney (26)

Points: Joe Whitney (44)

+/-: Paul Thompson (+10)

Penalty Minutes: Dan Kelly (96)

Wins: Scott Wedgewood (8)

GAA: Scott Clemmensen (2.75)

Save Percentage: Scott Clemmensen (.900)

ECHL Update:

Myles Bell (Evansville): 33 GP, 9 G, 9 A, 18 Pts, -11, 25 PIM

Eric Baier (Orlando): 35 GP, 5 G, 11 A, 16 Pts, +5, 11 PIM

Mike Keenan (Orlando): 27 GP, 0 G, 6 A, 6 Pts, +1, 18 PIM

Alexandre Carrier (Orlando): 10 GP, 0 G, 1 A, 1 Pt, -1, 24 PIM

Injury Update:

With Scott Timmins returning on Friday night, everyone on the roster short of illness is now healthy.

This Week’s Schedule:

It’s a quick two game road trip this week: the Devils will fly to The Rock.  Well, not that quick, and not that Rock. Friday and Saturday evening they will face St. John’s in a two game set, their first visit since being eliminated from the first round of the playoffs back in May.

Pop Quiz Answer: So who holds the Albany record for most goals in a season?  It was Jeff Williams, who in the 1998-99 season had a breakout year offensively, scoring 46 goals for the River Rats.  And he was only the third leading scorer…John Madden lead the way that season, with 98 points.  The Lowell/Albany record holder is Chris Minard, who had 32 in the 2006-07 season.

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Week 21 Primer

Devils Quick Hits:

-Albany begins the week with a 23-22-4-5 record and 55 points.  They stand in 4th place in the Northeast Division and 12th in the Eastern Conference.  Looking at the first Playoff Primer of the season, released last night, the boys have some work to do to catch up.

-With Scott Clemmensen staying up top with the parent Devils to backup Cory Schneider this weekend, Maxime Clermont was summoned back from Orlando yesterday.  With another 3 in 3 weekend looming, I would not be surprised to see him get at least one start.

2/27, Game #55 at Syracuse

Where: Onondaga County War Memorial at Oncenter, Syracuse, NY.

When: 7:00 PM.

Season Series: Syracuse leads 5-0.

Standings:

Syracuse: 32-14-8-0, 72 points, 1st place in Northeast Division, 1st place in Eastern Conference

Crunch Leading Scorers/Goaltending:

Jonathan Marchessault, 43 points (13 G, 30 A); Yanni Gourde, 40 points (19 G, 21 A); 2 tied with 32 points

Kristers Gudlevskis, 17-8-2, 2.70 GAA; Allen York, 1-0-1, 4.23 GAA

Notes:

-After a disastrous Valentines week, the Crunch rebounded nicely with a 3 game sweep of last weekend’s games, catapulting them to the top of the league standings.  A one goal loss to Rochester has them tied with Oklahoma City for the league’s best going into this weekend.

-Tonight marks the start of a 3 game homestand for the Crunch, who host Utica on Saturday and Portland next Friday.

-Goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy made a one game appearance on Wednesday after coming down from Tampa, only to lose 4-3 to Rochester before being recalled.

Listen: AHL Live, ESPN Radio Syracuse

Watch: TWC Sports is carrying the game (Albany channel 50/323).

Twitter: @trace_1114, @AlbanyDevils, @SyracuseCrunch, @syrhockey, @CrunchSyracuse, @Allovimo

2/28, Game #56 at Hershey

Where: Giant Center, Hershey, PA.

When: 7:00 PM.

Season Series: Hershey leads 3-0.

Standings:

Hershey: 32-14-5-2, 71 points, 1st place in East Division, 3rd in Eastern Conference

Bears Leading Scorers/Goaltending:

Tim Kennedy, 44 points (5 G, 39 A); 2 tied with 37 points

Philipp Grubauer, 21-10-4, 2.11 GAA; Pheonix Copley, 9-3-3, 2.15 GAA

Notes:

-Hershey is riding a modest 2 game winning streak heading into a 3 in 3 weekend of their own, traveling to Binghamton on Friday and hosting Lehigh Valley on Sunday afternoon.

-Things got a little heated on Saturday night against Bridgeport…as a result, forward Liam O’Brien was suspended for 3 games, the last one coming on Saturday.

-At the start of the weekend, the Bears sit just one point behind Syracuse for 1st in the conference (and first overall in the league).

Listen: AHL Live, The Ticket 1460 AM

Twitter: @trace_1114, @AlbanyDevils, @TheHersheyBears, @ChocHockey, @timleone

3/1, Game #57 vs. Binghamton

Where: Times Union Center, Albany, NY.

When: 3:00 PM.

Season Series: Binghamton leads 1-0.

Standings:

Binghamton: 22-25-5-1, 50 points, 4th place in East Division, 13th in Eastern Conference

Senators Leading Scorers/Goaltending:

2 tied with 42 points

Peter Mannino, 3-7-2, 3.78 GAA; Scott Greenham, 10-6-2, 2.51 GAA

Notes:

-After hosting Hershey on Friday evening, the B-Sens embark on a 4 game road trip, starting in Lehigh Valley on Saturday before coming to the Capital Region on Sunday.  They finish the trip in Norfolk the following weekend.

-2015 has not been kind to Binghamton, as they have had two separate 5 game winless streaks since the start of the calendar year and have fallen to the bottom of the East Division standings, tied with Norfolk for last place.

-Albany returns to home ice for the first time since February 15th.  After only having two home games for all of February, the Devils will have 7 of their next 11 games at the Times Union Center.

Listen: AHL Live, US 96.9 FM

Twitter: @trace_1114, @AlbanyDevils, @BSens_Hockey

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Week 20 Recap: Streak’s Over, But…

Another 3 in 3 weekend has come and gone, and the February struggles continue.  But at least there was finally a win, and maybe some signs of life, albeit too late, in another game.

Friday: With most everyone back healthy and in the lineup, Mike Keenan and Alexandre Carrier were reassigned to Orlando.  Keenan started out on a PTO in early December and played himself into an AHL deal.  In 20 games he had one assist and finished a -3.  Carrier appeared in 12 games and was scoreless, but did have two fights against former Devils (PL3 and Matt Corrente) under his belt.

2/20 at Syracuse: 3-1 L

The road trip began west down the New York State Thruway, as Albany made its third visit of the season to the Oncenter to take on the Crunch, who was also in the midst of a 5 game winless streak (but had three OT loss points to show for it).  Yanni Gourde would get the hosts on the board first with a tip in past Scott Wedgewood midway through the first period.  Jonathan Marchessault would double the lead early in the second period when he managed to drag the puck past Wedgewood and into the net.  But there was good news this period…an actual power play goal from Albany!  Kelly Zajac finally scores his first of the season to cut the lead in half.  But that would be as close as they would get, as Vladislav Namesntnikov would capitalize on a turnover and score alone on a breakaway to make it 3-1, pushing the losing streak to six games.  Wedgewood stopped 21 of 24 shots, including a few spectacular saves, but it was not enough as he took his 12th loss of the season.  Paul Thompson and Brandon Burlon had helpers, while Cam Janssen returned to the lineup for the first time since mid January.

Highlights:

Lines:

Paul Thompson-Tim Sestito-Stefan Matteau

Joe Whitney-Kelly Zajac-Mike Sislo

Reid Boucher-Graham Black-Chris McKelvie

Darcy Zajac-Rod Pelley-Cam Janssen

Extra: Scott Timmins, Ben Johnson, David Wohlberg, Ben Thomson

Defense:

Dan Kelly/Raman Hrabarenka

Seth Helgeson/Reece Scarlett

Brandon Burlon/Corbin McPherson

Extra: Joe Faust

2/21 at Utica: 2-1 W

The middle game of the weekend saw the Devils make their only visit of the season to Utica to take on the Comets.  Utica got on the board first midway through the opening period on a Brandon DeFazio goal.  Albany caught a break later when a second Comets goal was disallowed due to an offsides call.  And that would be a game changer…Ben Thomson would tie the game up at 1 late in the second period with his 7th of the season.  Reece Scarlett would break the tie early in the third with his second of the season.  Despite being outshot 10-4 in the third, Albany would manage to hold on for the win, breaking a 6 game losing streak and extending their win streak against Utica to 6 games.  Scott Clemmensen picked up his 5th win and first since beating Bridgeport in Newark exactly one month earlier, stopping 31 of 32 shots.  Thomson and 3 other Devils each had assists.

Highlights:

Lines:

Joe Whitney-Kelly Zajac-Mike Sislo

Reid Boucher-Tim Sestito-Paul Thompson

Chris McKelvie-Graham Black-Ben Thomson*

David Wohlberg-Rod Pelley-Cam Janssen*

Extra: Scott Timmins, Stefan Matteau, Ben Johnson, Darcy Zajac

Defense:

Seth Helgeson/Reece Scarlett

Dan Kelly/Raman Hrabarenka

Brandon Burlon/Corbin McPherson

Extra: Joe Faust

*Since I was in New Jersey and didn’t see the game, the last two lines are at best a guess.

2/22 at Springfield: 4-2 L

17 hours and about 160 miles later, it was off to western Massachusetts to finish off the weekend against the Falcons.  And Springfield got things going in a hurry, as Thomas Larkin scored 42 seconds in for a 1-0 lead.  Then with Mike Sislo sitting 4 minutes on a questionable spearing call, Sean Collins would double the lead.  Brian Gibbons, just recently reassigned by Columbus to the Falcons, would score his second of the year on a power play early in the second for a 3-0 advantage.  But the Devils were not about to go away quietly, as they made an attempt to rally in the third.  Raman Hrabarenka and Kelly Zajac would score on back to back power plays 1:16 apart late in the third to get to within one goal.  But Gibbons would put an end to the comeback with his second power play goal of the game for a 2 goal lead.  Then at the final whistle…

A total of 80 combined penalty minutes were handed out as a result, mostly game misconducts from abuse of officials.  Albany reached two season highs: penalty minutes (77) and shots (41).  Scott Clemmensen started in back to back games and stopped 17 of 21 shots.  Four different Devils had assists.

Highlights:

(sadly the video cuts out just the end of game festivities were starting)

Lines:

Joe Whitney-Kelly Zajac-Mike Sislo

Reid Boucher-Tim Sestito-Paul Thompson

Chris McKelvie-Graham Black-Stefan Matteau

David Wohlberg-Rod Pelley-Ben Thomson

Extra: Scott Timmins, Cam Janssen, Darcy Zajac, Ben Johnson

Defense:

Seth Helgeson/Reece Scarlett

Dan Kelly/Raman Hrabarenka

Brandon Burlon/Corbin McPherson

Monday: With Keith Kinkaid getting injured halfway through Saturday’s win over Carolina at The Rock, Scott Clemmensen was recalled to New Jersey to play door man…er, back up Cory Schneider under emergency conditions.

Pop Quiz: Who holds the Albany AHL record for most penalty minutes in one season?  The answer is coming up.

Obligatory Fight of the Week:

YouTube has seriously been dropping the ball lately.  Two good candidates but no video up.  You could always just review the Utica game tape for Dan Kelly avenging Raman Hrabarenka’s absence from the lineup…

My Player of the Week:

Very happy to finally see Kelly Zajac get on the board twice this weekend.  It’s been a lost season for the third Zajac brother, good to see him back and contributing.

Team Leaders:

Goals: Paul Thompson (23)

Assists: Joe Whitney (24)

Points: Paul Thompson/Joe Whitney (41)

+/-: Paul Thompson (+10)

Penalty Minutes: Dan Kelly (94)

Wins: Scott Wedgewood (7)

GAA: Scott Clemmensen (2.75)

Save Percentage: Scott Wedgewood/Scott Clemmensen (.900)

ECHL Update:

Myles Bell (Evansville): 33 GP, 9 G, 9 A, 18 Pts, -11, 25 PIM

Eric Baier (Orlando): 32 GP, 5 G, 8 A, 13 Pts, +6, 11 PIM

Alexandre Carrier (Orlando): 7 GP, 0 G, 1 A, 1 Pt, -2, 2 PIM

Mike Keenan (Orlando): 23 GP, 0 G, 6 A, 6 Pts, Even, 16 PIM

Maxime Clermont (Orlando): 12 GP, 6-4-0, 3.63 GAA, .877 Save Pct.

Injury Update:

Last one standing is Scott Timmins (lower), he is expected to return this weekend.  Darcy Zajac did sit out Saturday and Sunday, not sure if injury related or not.

This Week’s Schedule:

As if the month of February wasn’t already punishing…another 3 in 3 weekend to close the month out is up next.  Friday it’s one last visit to Syracuse to take on the now league leading Crunch.  Saturday they travel south on Interstate 81 to pay Hershey one last visit.  Then the month of March kicks off on home ice, as Binghamton visits for the first time all season.

Also back next weekend: conference seeding updates!

Pop Quiz Answer: The man with the most penalty minutes in one season while wearing an Albany uniform?  It was Matt Ruchty, who set the record during the  River Rats Calder Cup winning 1994-95 season with 348 minutes.  Pierre-Luc Leblond holds the Lowell/Albany franchise record with 334 in the 2010-11 season, incase anyone was wondering.

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Week 19 Recap: Getting Frigid

The February flop continues.  3 games, 3 days, 3 straight losses.  But at least players are getting healthy…and someone other than Mike Sislo can score a goal.  Baby steps!

Friday: Albany is back down to two goaltenders on the roster as Maxime Clermont was reassigned to Orlando.  He did very well since his recall on Christmas Eve, going 4-0 with a 1.94 GAA and a .921 save percentage.  He is also the only goalie to win a shootout this season.

2/13 vs. Hershey: 1-0 L

After a 7 day layoff, it was back to work to start a 3 in 3 weekend, hosting the Bears on home ice.  The game marked the return of four players from injury: Raman Hrabarenka (out since late November), Graham Black (out since early January), Kelly Zajac, and Rod Pelley.  And Tim Sestito was back skating after a scary moment last Friday in Springfield.  It was a relatively uneventful first period…Albany outshot Hershey 12-8 and managed to kill off a 5 on 3 Bears power play chance.  Albany had a golden opportunity to get on the board early in the second thanks to a full 5 on 3 power play early in the second.  But the special teams continued their recent struggle, not getting anything past Bears goaltender Philipp Grubauer.  Stanislav Galiev finally broke the scoreless tie 13 minutes into the second period for a 1-0 Bears lead.  Albany tried to get the equalizer, but simply could not get anything past Grubauer, and were shut out for the 5th time this season.  Scott Wedgewood was feeling like Cory Schneider in net, playing very well but getting stuck with the loss, stopping 26 of 27 shots.  The Devils also amassed a season low 4 penalty minutes, all in the first period.

Highlights:

Lines:

Reid Boucher-Kelly Zajac-Stefan Matteau

Joe Whitney-Tim Sestito-Mike Sislo

David Wohlberg-Graham Black-Ben Thomson

Chris McKelvie-Rod Pelley-Darcy Zajac

Extra: Paul Thompson (personal), Scott Timmins, Cam Janssen, Ben Johnson, Alexandre Carrier

Defense:

Seth Helgeson/Reece Scarlett

Dan Kelly/Raman Hrabarenka

Brandon Burlon/Corbin McPherson

Extra: Joe Faust, Mike Keenan

2/14 at Hartford: 5-2 L

It was off to Connecticut’s state capital for the first time since December as Albany kicked off a Valentine’s home and home weekend series with the Wolfpack.  Mike Sislo finally broke a cold spell for the special teams play, scoring on a power play in the first to get the Devils on the board.  With Joe Whitney serving a cross check call (one of 5 Devil penalties called in the first alone), Rod Pelley became the first Devil other than Sislo to score a goal in February, getting one shorthanded for a 2-0 lead.  But all those calls would catch up to Albany, as the Wolfpack got on the board late in the first with a Chris Mueller power play tally.  Hartford would tie the game up midway through the second on a Danny Kristo goal.  The game stayed tied and very tight…until 5 minutes left in the third period, when everything for the visitors would just fall apart.  During a full 4 on 4, Tyler Brown and Mueller would score 18 seconds apart to give the Wolfpack their first lead of the night.  Kristo would add an empty netter with 1:15 remaining for the exclamation point, giving Albany their fourth straight loss.  Up until that last 5 minutes, Scott Clemmensen played great in net, but would get tagged with the loss in stopping 26 of 30 shots.  Darcy Zajac had the lone helper.

Highlights:

Lines:

Joe Whitney-Tim Sestito-Paul Thompson

Reid Boucher-Kelly Zajac-Mike Sislo

Stefan Matteau-Graham Black-Ben Thomson

Chris McKelvie-Rod Pelley-Darcy Zajac

Extra: Scott Timmins, Cam Janssen, Ben Johnson, David Wohlberg, Alexandre Carrier

Defense:

Dan Kelly/Raman Hrabarenka

Seth Helgeson/Reece Scarlett

Brandon Burlon/Corbin McPherson

Extra: Joe Faust, Mike Keenan

2/15 vs. Hartford: 4-3 L

Roughly 17 hours after the final horn in Hartford, the two teams resumed the home and home series, this time in the Capital Region.  Hartford got on the board twice in a 13 second span in the first, as Danny Kristo and Conor Allen each scored on Scott Wedgewood for a 2-0 lead.  Mike Sislo would continue his hot February with his 13th goal less than 3 minutes later to cut the lead in half.  But Ryan Bourque would restore the two goal lead just over a minute after that.  Paul Thompson would score his 23rd (and first goal since January 24th) to make it a 3-2 game.  Albany thought they tied the game early in the third, but after a video review it was believed the shot off Seth Helgeson’s stick hit the iron.  But Sislo would come through again, tying the game up with his second of the day.  Just as it looked like this game could go into overtime…not to be.  Chris Mueller would score the game winner with 3:47 remaining in regulation, giving Hartford the weekend sweep and extending Albany’s losing streak to 5 games.  Wedgewood stopped 19 of 23 shots in taking the loss.  Joe Whitney added two assists, while Kelly Zajac and David Wohlberg each had a helper.

Highlights:

Lines:

Joe Whitney-Kelly Zajac-Mike Sislo

Stefan Matteau-Tim Sestito-Paul Thompson

David Wohlberg-Rod Pelley-Chris McKelvie

Ben Johnson-Darcy Zajac-Ben Thomson

Extra: Scott Timmins, Cam Janssen, Graham Black, Reid Boucher, Alexandre Carrier

Defense:

Seth Helgeson/Reece Scarlett

Brandon Burlon/Corbin McPherson

Dan Kelly/Raman Hrabarenka

Extra: Joe Faust, Mike Keenan

Pop Quiz: What is the Albany AHL record for most times shut out in a season?  Stay tuned for the answer.

Obligatory Fight of the Week:

One fight, but no video proof.  Stay tuned…

My Player of the Week:

Apparently again Mike Sislo seems to be the only goal scorer this month, adding three more to his season total and moving up the franchise career list.  He is now tied with Tim Sestito for second with 59, but it may take awhile to catch Joe Whitney, with 80 and counting.

Team Leaders:

Goals: Paul Thompson (23)

Assists: Joe Whitney (23)

Points: Joe Whitney (40)

+/-: Paul Thompson (+12)

Penalty Minutes: Dan Kelly (89)

Wins: Scott Wedgewood (7)

GAA: Scott Clemmensen (2.79)

Save Percentage: Scott Wedgewood (.900)

ECHL Update:

Myles Bell (Evansville): 33 GP, 9 G, 9 A, 18 Pts, -11, 25 PIM

Eric Baier (Orlando): 28 GP, 5 G, 8 A, 13 Pts, +8, 11 PIM

Maxime Clermont (Orlando): 10 GP, 5-4-0, 3.69 GAA, .874 Save Pct.

Injury Update: After the weekend, only two remain on the indefinitely list: Scott Timmins (lower) and Cam Janssen (upper).

This Week’s Schedule:

The month of February is not going to get any easier for this group, as they begin a 5 game road trip, starting with another 3 in 3 weekend.  Friday night they travel to Syracuse to take on the suddenly slumping Crunch.  Saturday night they make their one visit on the season to Utica to face the Comets.  Then a quick turnaround and back east to Springfield on Sunday afternoon to face the Falcons.

And I will be making my return to New Jersey for the Carolina game on Saturday!

Pop Quiz Answer: The record for most times shutout in a season?  It’s the 2003-04 River Rats, who were shut out 13 times.  The top 5 leading scorers that year, incase you’re wondering: Craig Darby (69 points), Steve Kariya (48), Joe Hulbig (45), Jiri Bicek (30) and Tuomas Pihlman (29).  Remember them?  The Lowell/Albany franchise record stands at 8, the 08-09 Lowell Devils and in 2012-13.  Fun fact: the 09-10, 98-99, and the Calder Cup winning 94-95 teams were only shut out once the entire regular season.

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Week 17 Primer

Devils Quick Hits:

-Albany returns from the All Star Break with a 20-14-4-5 mark, good for 49 points and 4th place in the Northeast Division (9th in the Eastern Conference).

-On Monday, Tim Sestito was placed on waivers by New Jersey.  Tuesday he cleared and was returned to Albany.  He appeared in 15 games with two assists and 33 penalty minutes.

-The AHL announced Wednesday that defenseman Seth Helgeson will sit out Thursday’s game in Lehigh Valley due to suspension, thanks to an elbowing incident in Worcester on Friday night.

-Defenseman Mike Keenan, on a PTO since December 4th, was officially signed to an AHL contract on Wednesday.  He has one assist in 15 games and 15 penalty minutes.

1/29, Game #44 at Lehigh Valley

Where: PPL Center, Allentown, PA.

When: 7:00 PM.

Season Series: Albany leads 3-0.

Standings:

Lehigh Valley: 20-16-4-1, 45 points, 3rd place in East Division

Phantoms Leading Scorers/Goaltending:

Nick Cousins, 30 points (13 G, 17 A); Brandon Manning, 26 points (7 G, 19 A); Andrew Gordon, 25 points (13 G, 12 A)

Rob Zepp, 11-5-4, 2.57 GAA; Anthony Stolarz, 6-9-1, 2.91 GAA

Notes:

-The Phantoms broke a 3 game losing streak just before the break with a win at home against St. John’s on Saturday.

-Lehigh Valley is also starting a 3 in 3 week, hosting Hershey on Friday before traveling to Wilkes-Barre on Saturday.

-The Phantoms got a boost in goal when Philadelphia sent Rob Zepp back on Wednesday.

Listen: AHL Live, The Fox 1470 AM

Twitter: @trace_1114, @AlbanyDevils, @LVPhantoms, @BobRotruck

1/30 & 1/31, Game #45 & #46 vs. St. John’s

Where: Times Union Center, Albany, NY.

When: 7:00 PM (1/30), 5:00 PM (1/31).

Season Series: First 2 meetings of 4.  Future matchups: March 6th & 7th @ St. John’s

Standings:

St. John’s: 18-21-5-1, 40 points, 5th place in Atlantic Division

IceCaps Leading Scorers/Goaltending:

John Albert, 28 points (10 G, 18 A); Carl Klingberg, 26 points (14 G, 12 A); Chase Balisy, 25 points (10 G, 15 A)

Connor Hellebuyck, 18-13-2, 2.48 GAA; Peter Budaj, 0-7-4, 3.69 GAA

Notes:

-This is a rematch of last year’s first round Calder Cup playoff series, won by the IceCaps in 4 games.  They would make it all the way to the Calder Cup Finals before losing to Texas in 5 games.

-The IceCaps are finishing off a 5 game road swing, so far going 1-2 against East Division opponents with their only win in Binghamton on Friday evening.

-Connor Hellebuyck, the lone St. John’s representative at Monday’s AHL All Star Classic, got the starting nod for the Eastern Conference and stopped 9 of 13 West shots in his one period of work.

-Local ties: Former River Rats forward Nicolas Blanchard is in his first season with St. John’s and first outside of the Carolina organization.

-The first 1500 in attendance on Saturday get their very own Dan Kelly bobblehead doll.

Listen: AHL Live, stjohnsicecaps.com

Twitter: @trace_1114, @AlbanyDevils, @IceCapsAHL

 

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Week 16 Primer

Devils Quick Hits:

-Albany begins the week with a 18-14-3-5 record, good for 44 points and 4th place in the Northeast Division (8th in the Eastern Conference).

-With New Jersey starting their All Star Break on Tuesday, Joe Whitney has been sent back to Albany.  In his latest callup he appeared in two games and was scoreless.  In turn, Myles Bell was returned to Evansville, where he will particpate in tonight’s ECHL All Star Game in Orlando.  He was recalled on December 30th but never saw game action.

1/21, Game #41 vs. Bridgeport

Where: Prudential Center, Newark, NJ.

When: 7:30 PM.

Season Series: Bridgeport leads 5-4.

Standings:

Bridgeport: 19-16-4-1, 43 points, 5th place in Northeast Division

Sound Tigers Leading Scorers/Goaltending:

3 players with 32 points

Kevin Poulin, 13-8-5, 2.39 GAA; David Leggio, 6-8-0, 3.74 GAA

Notes:

-Bridgeport is coming off a 1-1-1 weekend, losing to Providence in overtime then splitting a 2 game set with Syracuse on home ice.

-After seeing the Sound Tigers for nearly 1/3 of the first half, this is the final regular season matchup between the two teams.

-This is Albany’s third visit to New Jersey for a home game this season.  They won the first two in Atlantic City against Lehigh Valley on November 28th and December 14th.

-This is also the first appearance for a Devil AHL team in Prudential Center since February 3, 2010, when Lowell dropped a 3-2 overtime decision to Hartford.  The goal scorers that night? Tim Sestito and Nathan Perkovich.  Current Portland goaltender Mike McKenna took the loss in net.

Listen: AHL Live

Twitter: @trace_1114, @AlbanyDevils, @TheSoundTigers

1/23, Game #42 at Worcester; 1/24, Game #43 vs. Worcester

Where: DCU Center, Worcester, MA (1/23); Times Union Center, Albany, NY (1/24)

When: 7:30 PM (1/23); 2:00 PM (1/24)

Season Series: First meetings of 4.  Future matchups: March 13th @Albany; April 12th @ Worcester

Standings:

Worcester: 20-14-3-2, 45 points, 3rd place in Atlantic Division

Sharks Leading Scorers/Goaltending:

Freddie Hamilton, 24 points (8 G, 16 A); Daniil Tarasov, 23 points (10 G, 13 A); Jeremy Langlois, 21 points (11 G, 10 A)

Troy Grosenick, 15-6-3, 2.67 GAA; J.P. Anderson, 4-6-1, 2.71 GAA

Notes:

-The Sharks start the week the hottest team in the AHL, rattling off seven straight wins.  They travel to Portland on Wednesday before the weekend series with the Devils.

-Local ties: Former Devils defenseman Matt Taormina is the Sharks’ lone AHL All Star representative.  Troy Grosenick, former Union goaltender, is in his second professional season.

-Saturday is a busy day in downtown Albany for the home half of the series: it’s GE Kids in Free Day and Devil Dawg’s birthday (meaning multiple mascots around the building).  It’s also the first half of a hockey doubleheader at the Times Union Center, as RPI takes on Union for the annual Mayor’s Cup in the nightcap.

Listen: AHL LiveWTAG 580 AM

Twitter: @trace_1114, @AlbanyDevils, @WorcesterSharks, @WSharksRadio

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Week 15 Recap: An Almost Perfect Rally

The way things had started in all three games for the Devils this week, this potentially could have been a disastrous recap.

But finally doing something that hadn’t happened all season–coming back when trailing after two periods–in back to back games helped springboard Albany to a 5 out of 6 point week, a very nice recovery, getting them out of the Northeast Division basement and back in the playoff race.

1/14 vs. Springfield: 2-1 W (OT)

The week began with the back end of a home and home series against the first place Falcons.  A rematch in net between Scott Wedgewood and All Star Anton Forsberg started out the same way as Sunday in Massachusetts, keeping both teams off the scoreboard in the first period.  Kerby Rychel put the visitors on the board with just over three minutes remaining in the second.  And that looked like all Forsberg would need, as he cruised into the third period.  But then something miraculous happened.  With Wedgewood pulled for the extra attacker, Paul Thompson would find the back of the net with just 56.8 seconds to go in regulation, tying the game up and getting Albany at least one very important standings point.  Just as both teams switched over to 3 on 3 during overtime, Dan Kelly (originally credited to Darcy Zajac) managed to poke the puck past Forsberg, giving Albany an improbable come from behind win, their first all season when trailing after two periods.  Wedgewood played well in net, stopping 29 of 30 shots and picking up his sixth win.  Four Devils added assists.

Highlights:

Lines:

Reid Boucher-Kelly Zajac-Paul Thompson

Ben Thomson-Darcy Zajac-Mike Sislo

Stefan Matteau-David Wohlberg-Chris McKelvie

Ben Johnson-Rod Pelley-Cam Janssen

Extra: Scott Timmins, Graham Black, Myles Bell, Alexandre Carrier

Defense:

Seth Helgeson/Reece Scarlett

Dan Kelly/Joe Faust

Brandon Burlon/Corbin McPherson

Extra: Raman Hrabarenka, Eric Baier, Mike Keenan

Friday: Good news and bad news for Eric Baier.  Good: His PTO turned into an AHL contract for the remainder of the season.  Bad: With Seth Helgeson back on the roster, he was reassigned to Orlando.  In 12 games he had one goal (in his season debut on November 23rd) and two assists, finishing at a -3.

1/16 at Lehigh Valley: 3-2 W

It was off to Allentown to start a two game Pennsylvania road swing, as the Devils visited the Phantoms for the first time in the regular season (if you recall, they traveled there in the preseason, skating away with a victory on October 4th).  Albany was lucky to escape the first period without giving up a goal, getting outshot 10-5 and having to kill off 3 separate power plays.  During a 4 on 4 early in the second, Nick Cousins would get a goal just over the glove of Scott Clemmensen to put the hosts up 1-0.  Albany did wake up a little in the second with 19 shots on goal, but nothing got past rookie goaltender Anthony Stolarz.  But the rally began in the third, thanks to more whistles.  Just after a power play expired, Rod Pelley would tie the game up at 1.  Midway through the period, just 23 seconds into another power play, Paul Thompson would put the visitors ahead with his 19th of the season.  But Andrew Gordon would re-tie the game just over a minute later.  Then on power play #9 of the night, Stefan Matteau would score the go ahead goal for a 3-2 win.  Scott Clemmensen stopped 32 of 34 shots in picking up his third win, his first since returning from the mumps, and even got an assist.  Albany went 2 for 10 on the power play and killed off all 7 shorthanded situations.  Matteau, Dan Kelly, Reece Scarlett, Seth Helgeson, and David Wohlberg all had helpers.

Highlights:

Lines:

Stefan Matteau-Darcy Zajac-Mike Sislo

Reid Boucher-Kelly Zajac-Paul Thompson

Alexandre Carrier-Rod Pelley-Ben Thomson

Chris McKelvie-David Wohlberg-Cam Janssen

Extra: Scott Timmins, Graham Black, Ben Johnson, Myles Bell

Defense:

Seth Helgeson/Reece Scarlett

Dan Kelly/Joe Faust

Brandon Burlon/Corbin McPherson

Extra: Raman Hrabarenka, Mike Keenan

1/17 at Hershey: 5-4 L (OT)

It was off to Chocolatetown for the first time this season as Albany faced off against the Bears.  And things didn’t get off to a great start–Casey Wellman scored just 10 seconds into the contest.  Tomas Kundratek would add a power play goal three minutes later, putting the visitors in a very early hole.  But Albany would rally to tie it up on a Stefan Matteau power play goal (his second in two games) and Reece Scarlett’s first goal of the season (doing his best Eric Gelinas impression in the process).  The Bears would retake the lead on a Stanislav Galiev goal.  Did I mention this was all during the first period?  The back and forth continued during the second period, as the Devils rallied yet again.  Darcy Zajac would score his 4th on a power play to re-tie the game, only to have Chris Conner take the lead back on a power play breakaway chance.  But on a 5 on 3 opportunity, Reid Boucher would tie things up again with his 11th.  Things would get quite physical after that, as both Chris McKelvie (two fighting majors) and Dan Kelly (elbowing major) all were tossed from the game, while Seth Helgeson (continuing altercation) spent most of the third in the penalty box.  Albany did manage to kill off the five minute major midway through the third, and made it to overtime.  But a perfect week was not in the cards.  With Rod Pelley in the penalty box on a questionable slashing call, Galiev (on his birthday no less) would score the game winner in a 4 on 3 situation with 3:14 remaining in overtime to give the Bears the extra point.  Scott Wedgewood recovered from a shaky first to stop 24 of 29 shots.  Scarlett added two assists, while Matteau and three others each had helpers.  Both teams combined for 113 penalty minutes, with Albany amassing a season high of 65.

Highlights:

Lines:

Stefan Matteau-Darcy Zajac-Mike Sislo

Reid Boucher-Kelly Zajac-Paul Thompson

Ben Johnson-Rod Pelley-Ben Thomson

Chris McKelvie-David Wohlberg-Cam Janssen

Extra: Scott Timmins, Graham Black, Myles Bell, Alexandre Carrier

Defense:

Seth Helgeson/Reece Scarlett

Corbin McPherson/Mike Keenan

Brandon Burlon/Dan Kelly

Extra: Raman Hrabarenka, Joe Faust

Pop Quiz: In the Albany Devil era, what is the biggest deficit the team has faced before coming from behind to win?  The answer coming up.

Obligatory Fight of the Week:

Darcy Zajac reminding everyone of the old Albany-Adirondack days with this one.

My Player of the Week:

Nice to finally see Stefan Matteau have a breakout week.  Assist on the game winning goal on Wednesday, followed up by multi point efforts in both road contests, including two power play goals.

Team Leaders:

Goals: Paul Thompson (19)

Assists: Paul Thompson (14)

Points: Paul Thompson (33)

+/-: Paul Thompson (+13)

Penalty Minutes: Dan Kelly (73)

Wins: Scott Wedgewood (6)

GAA: Scott Clemmensen (2.45)

Save Percentage: Scott Clemmensen/Maxime Clermont (.912)

ECHL Update:

Eric Baier (Orlando): 17 GP, 4 G, 5 A, 9 points, 11 PIM, +7

Injury Report: Raman Hrabarenka (facial) is practicing, but no word on when he will return.  Graham Black (upper) and Scott Timmins (lower) remain out.

This Week’s Schedule: Three games leading up to the AHL All Star Break.  Wednesday the Devils finish up their season series against Bridgeport on home ice.  New Jersey’s home ice, that is, as the game is at Prudential Center (and I will be in attendance!).  Friday and Saturday sees a home and home against Worcester, with Friday night in central Massachusetts and a quick turnaround at home early Saturday afternoon, as the front end of a local hockey doubleheader (RPI and Union will play the nightcap in the annual Mayor’s Cup matchup).

Pop Quiz Answer: The biggest deficit overcome by an A-Devils team?  Four goals.  On January 6, 2012, Albany entered the third period trailing Norfolk 4-0.  But in a span of 11 minutes and 47 seconds, Nick Palmieri, Mike Hoeffel, Matt Anderson, and Eric Gelinas would all score, forcing overtime.  And Joe Whitney finished off the comeback 3 and a half minutes in, giving Albany a 5-4 win.  Back in 2011, they overcame a 4-1 deficit in the third on two different occasions, winning 5-4 against Worcester on February 18 (no one remind coach David Cunniff about that night, his pen throwing incident late in the third lead up to the winning goal), and a 5-4 win against Bridgeport on March 9 (the Chad Wiseman 4 goal game).

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