A First Time For Everything…

A very light schedule for the Devils this week–just one game, and a daunting one…a road tilt at the Giant Center in Hershey against the Bears. I said this would be a big test to see if this recent string of success was for real or just luck. After last night, I am definitely convinced it’s for real. Now to look back at last night:

11/19 at Hershey: 6-5 W (SO)

The best way to describe this game? Back and forth. It didn’t exactly start out that way though…on an early power play opportunity Graham Mink put the Bears up early, then about halfway through the first Dmitry Orlov launched a bomb from the red line that starting goalie Keith Kinkaid basically never saw coming. Usually with a 2-0 deficit, the Bears usually shut it down and take it from there. Not on this night…after a quick bout between Myles Stoesz and former Rat Joel Rechlicz, the Devils started to come alive. Nathan Perkovich put the visitors on the board with his third goal in 3 games with less than 5 minutes in the period, then as time started running out in the period Hershey goalie Braden Holtby committed the equivalent of a baseball error and Darcy Zajac capitalized on the opportunity, banging the puck into an open net and tying the game at 2 all. Albany did outshoot Hershey 16-8 in the first. Second period came more fisticuffs…first being Myles Stoesz’s redemption bout against the newest Bear D.J. King (sent down by the Capitals), then a questionable hit turned into Dan Kelly dominating Graham Mink. On the ensuing power play (Mink got an extra 2 minutes for slashing which lead to the fight), rookie Eric Gelinas gave the Devils a 3-2 lead. Then the ping pong match really got started…with Gelinas in the box, Chris Bourque scored on the ensuing power play to retie it at 3. Early in the 3rd period the Devils took the lead back again on a Steve Bernier goal, but just over 2 minutes later with Peter Harrold in the box Graham Mink reties it at 4. Less than 3 minutes later, Tim Sestito scored his second of the season to give the Devils the lead back (again), but of course the Bears answered that a short time later when Boyd Kane retied it at 5. I likened this game to the Giants-Patriots game in New England 2 weeks ago, when the 4th quarter was so up and down it was hard to keep up. The game went into overtime, where the Devils penalty kill finally came up big, killing off a Steve Bernier tripping call (not a good PK night with the Bears going 3 for 5 with a man advantage). In the ensuing shootout, Mike Sislo, Matt Anderson and Steve Bernier all scored on Holtby, while Kinkaid only allowed former Rat Jacob Micflikier to score, giving the Devils a 6-5 win. It was the first ever win in Hershey for this version of the Devils (last franchise win was way back in March 2009 as Lowell), and the first time I can remember any Albany team (including the River Rat days) winning in Hershey in quite some time. It may not have been pretty, especially after how well the team did last weekend, but a win is a win regardless.

Notes:

-The victory pushed the Devils back into a first place tie with Springfield (being idle Friday night slid them back to second place) going into this week. The Northeast Division, looked at by several as probably the weakest division in the AHL, is actually the tightest standings-wise, with all 5 teams (who all have a winning percentage over .500 by the way) separated by just 2 points.

-Forward Bryan Haczyk was recalled from Kalamazoo Sunday before the Devils home game against Toronto. He wound up as a healthy scratch and went right back to the K-Wings on Tuesday.

-On Thursday, New Jersey sent down Vladimir Zharkov after Ilya Kovalchuk returned from his leg injury. He appeared in 4 games and did not register a point.

-Injury update: Stephen Gionta, Jay Leach, Stephane Veilleux, Mike Hoeffel and Matt Corrente remain out with assorted upper and lower body injuries. I believe Hoeffel and Gionta are the closest to returning, no time table has been given for the others.

Looking Ahead:

Another 3 in 3 weekend looms on the road for the Devils. Friday night they travel west to Rochester for the first of 4 meetings with the Amerks. Saturday night is Game 2 of the Time Warner Cable (or as I’ll call it, Sestito) Cup in Glens Falls against the Phantoms, followed by a Sunday afternoon tilt in Springfield against the Falcons. With 2 big divisional games this weekend, it could be huge for the standings.

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