Just returned home from a 4th straight Devil team function (yeah I’m probably around them too much…but after Sunday I don’t see them till September, may as well make the most of it). Another weekend of 3-in-3 has passed, and it was all over the place. Blowout game Friday night, late game loss on Saturday, and comeback in the shootout on Sunday.
Let’s start off with Friday night (Day #2) in Adirondack. What I saw was probably one of the worst performances of the season in the second period, but there was a rebound afterwards. What started as a close 3-2 back and forth game after one period turned into 6 unanswered goals by the Phantoms in the second period (including a Mike Testuwide hat trick). However there was some entertaining moments…after beating Zac Rinaldo in a fight (yesssss), Brad Mills skated off and taunted those behind the penalty box (putting his hand to his ear…I can’t hear you…). PL3 and Matt Clackson dropped gloves and just looked at each other, linesmen broke that up before they could start punching. Rookie Cullen Eddy (who is either suicidal or just in the right place at the right time) took on Leblond after he ran Michael Leighton (of course this breaks out far away from my vantage point). But the best of the night goes to Mike McKenna…after being pulled in favor of Jeff Frazee during the second period (and after going into the locker room to collect himself), he exchanged a few verbal insults with some 300 pound moron 2 sections over from us. Third period the Devils woke up a little to make it a game…Adam Henrique scored on a penalty shot and Alex Vasyunov added an unassisted tally to make it 9-5. As for the rough stuff…not much of it in the third, Leblond and Clackson were tossed before they could attempt another round. One more round with these guys on Wednesday in Glens Falls, wonder if it’ll be a tight game or a gong show. We shall see.
Saturday (Day #3) the old tenants came calling. And there was more of the rough stuff (we’re not the most penalized team in the league for nothing you know…), Leblond took on Zack Fitzgerald after Leblond checked (I think; hard to tell from my angle) Michal Jordan into the boards (part of me thinks he did it on purpose so Fitzy would fight him…he was trying to get him to go earlier but to no avail, but as soon as he finished the check there they go). Meanwhile there was some actual hockey played, former Rat Nicolas Blanchard got the Checkers on the board first, Steven Zalewski answered that about 2 minutes later. Cedric McNicoll finished out the first period scoring (all three were power play tallies; Albany went 3 for 7, Charlotte 3 for 8. Not a good night for special teams I must say). Second period the Devils took a one goal lead on scores by Chad Wiseman and David McIntyre, but Jon Matsumoto retied the game on a rare even strength goal (for this game it was rare). Third period Brad Mills throws an elbow at Jordan (not a good night for MJ, he was banged around quite a bit), he was given a 5 minute major for elbowing and a game misconduct, on top of a roughing minor and a fight with Brett Sutter earlier in the night. The Devils successfully killed off the major penalty, but wasn’t able to gain any more ground. Former Rat Matt Pistilli scored the go ahead goal with less than 3 minutes left, then Jacob Micflikier added an empty netter and the Checkers won 5-3, in the process clinching a playoff spot. On a side note, Zack Fitzgerald (who my neighbor in Section 114 still claims was a 3rd man in…had to be there) should seriously consider a stand up comedy career if hockey doesn’t work out for him…
Moving on to Sunday afternoon (Day #4). Afternoon tilt against the Senators, another team on the verge of clinching a playoff berth. Probably one of the faster games I sat through this season because the referees let them play. First period was all zeroes…no score, no penalties, but the B-Sens outshot the hosts 15-6. Very cool first intermission activity on Military Appreciation Day…thanks to Time Warner Cable, a few local families got to talk with loved ones via satellite from Iraq. Also very cool was having some of the American born Devils saying thank you to the troops on the scoreboard at various times during the game. Second period finally saw some action…Patrick Coulombe put the visitors on the board first, then Chad Wiseman gets the first penalty (double minor for high sticking). The B-Sens took a 2-0 lead on recently recalled Dave Caruso early in the third on a Cody Bass goal, then the Comeback Kids started up again. Darcy Zajac broke up Barry Brust’s shutout 6 and a half minutes into the 3rd, then Matt Anderson snagged the tying goal with about 6 minutes left in the period. Nothing doing the rest of regulation and into OT (unless you count Ryan Ginand being held hostage by Barry Brust in his net and not one referee saw it), on to the shootout. And Caruso came up big, stopping all 4 Senator shots while Ginand and Wiseman tallied. With Bingo taking the shootout loss and Worcester winning their game, the Senators still have to wait to punch their Calder Cup playoff ticket.
Now moving on to tonight (Day #5), the End of Season Party for the season ticket holders. A little get together with the team at one of the Crowne Plaza ballrooms, food, drink (read: cash bar) and door prizes (autographed pucks and sticks from New Jersey, team autographed poster, jersey, stick) to be had. There was a 3 minute highlight video shown then Josh the radio guy introduced everyone on the team. I actually got to chat with the newest member of the team, Mike Sislo. He just signed a contract yesterday (per the New Jersey beat writer; no mention of him up here just yet), just arrived in town from the University of New Hampshire mere hours before the event (just throw him right into the fire). A few of the players helped draw the door prize tickets…and of course Louis steals the show. He offers 20 bucks for whoever won the Martin Brodeur autographed stick (then since he paid child support last week ups it to 26 bucks). He draws the number and reads it in French (what nobody knows French in this room?), then nearly offers to raffle the jersey off his back because “I probably won’t be wearing it much the rest of the year.” And I caught Harry Young cracking a smile again (yes he actually can…rare moment indeed).
So what’s left for this team? 4 games left. Wednesday (Day #6) at Adirondack, Friday (Day #7) at Springfield, Saturday (Day #8) the home finale against Portland, and Sunday (Day #9) the season finale at Bridgeport. Basically the boys will be playing for jobs for next year and we’ll get to check out the prospects (Sova, Hoeffel, et al). And lots of travel for me ahead. But after Sunday I’ll likely be staying in town for awhile (unless my trip to New York City the end of April goes through…but there’s still time to plan for that).