Heartbreak, Train Wreck, and an Epic Shootout…

With 3 home games this week and the Devils’ recent success on said home ice, one would think this would be a pretty good week to gain some standings ground. Well, it didn’t exactly work out that way…the boys only earned 2 out of a possible 6 points and could not find their way to the win column. Let’s recap the week:

12/14 vs. Syracuse: 3-2 L (OT)

The Devils began the week with their second matchup of the season against their Thruway rivals, the Crunch. The biggest news of the day came during pregame warmup, when we looked up and saw Nick Palmieri had appeared on the ice, despite no announcement from New Jersey. First period was all Syracuse…they outshot the Devils 14-6 and scored a power play goal halfway through the period. Second period was another story, the Devils woke up and started throwing shots towards Crunch netminder Iiro Tarkki, but nothing could get past him. Jeff Frazee matched him save for save at the other end of the ice. Devils still trailed despite outshooting the Crunch 19-12 for the period. Finally, early in the third, the Devils figured out how to get a puck past Tarkki, taking a quick 2-1 lead on goals from Steve Zalewski and Vladmir Zharkov (just coming back to the lineup after an illness kept him out a couple of games). But less than 2 minutes later, a miscommunication by the net allowed Peter Holland to score the game tying goal. Nothing across through the rest of regulation…then came overtime. The Devils did well, outshooting the Crunch 4-2, but the Crunch’s second shot is one Jeff Frazee and the defense would probably like back. On a turnover with less than 1 second left (the clock read 00.4), Nick Bonino got a shot past Frazee to give the Crunch the win…and a heartbreaking defeat for Albany. Frazee stopped 35 of 38 shots in the loss.

12/16 vs. Worcester: 5-1 L

Another second matchup of the season, this one from an Atlantic Division rival in Worcester. For the first 1:16 of the game, it was all Devils…Steve Zalewski got one past San Jose goaltender Antero Niittymaki (on a conditioning stint) for an early 1-0 lead. Thirteen seconds later, Jack Combs, a recent PTO for the Sharks, tied the game at 1. After that, it was all down the drain for the hosts. Combs got his second of the period 10 minutes later to give Worcester the lead for good. The Sharks outshot the Devils by a 16-6 clip during the first. Second period came some fireworks between Stephane Veilleux and Sena Acolatse, but it didn’t get the offense going. Despite Albany outshooting the visitors 13-10, the Sharks tacked on two more goals (from Tommy Wingels and Marek Viedensky) to take a 4-1 lead. Wingels added one more goal during the 3rd to cap off the scoring…and the Devils simply did not have an answer on offense or defense. Keith Kinkaid took the loss in net, stopping 33 of 38 Worcester shots.

12/17 vs. Springfield: 2-1 L (SO)

The Devils finished up the week with a divisional matchup against the Falcons. First period was a scoreless duel between Jeff Frazee and veteran Manny Legace. Probably because everyone was too busy going in and out of the penalty box…referee Terry Koharski was, shall we say, a little whistle happy, giving the Falcons a 5 on 3 chance just 1 minute into the game and awarding Albany 4 power play opportunities. Second period the Falcons finally broke through and took a 1-0 lead on a Cam Atkinson goal. The Devils could have easily taken a lead, but Legace was up to the challenge, robbing Brad Mills not once, but twice on breakaway chances. Third period the Devils tied it up on a Darcy Zajac power play goal (there was 1 second left on said power play by the way). Then the penalty party started up again (a couple I did have to question…Mills had a clean check on a Falcon player but got called for boarding?), overall a total of 12 combined power plays on the night. Things carried over into overtime (let us pray, let us pray), this time the Devils survived without any last second goals (although I did get a little worried when Eric Gelinas had the puck with 10 seconds left…his turnover was what caused the winning goal on Wednesday), it was on to the shootout. And what an epic shootout it was. Atkinson and Chad Wiseman traded goals in Round 1. No goals in Round 2, then a controversy in Round 3: Alexandre Giroux thought the puck had crossed the line, but Frazee had it under his blocker just inches from going over. It was called no goal…but Giroux “respectfully” disagreed, following Koharski to center ice. Once he finally skated off, Matt Anderson took his turn and scored, 2-1 Devil lead. Scoreless round 4, then Maksim Mayorov scored in Round 5 to tie it up. Stephen Gionta couldn’t score the winner, so it was on to extra rounds. Rounds 6-8 were scoreless, then in Round 9 Ryan Garlock just barely gets one past Frazee to give the Falcons a lead. It was up to Eric Gelinas to keep it going…and he came through! After a scoreless Round 10, Brett Lebda scores to start off Round 11. It was up to Peter Harrold to keep it going…and Legace stopped him. Springfield took the game 2-1, with a 4-3 shootout win. Despite the loss, Frazee was outstanding, stopping 25 of 26 shots and earning #2 star honors (#1 went to his goaltending counterpart Legace, with 26 saves).

Notes:

-Only two roster moves this week. As mentioned earlier Wednesday Nick Palmieri made a surprise appearance in the lineup, New Jersey officially made the announcement Thursday morning. Friday Harry Young was recalled from Kalamazoo to fill in for a slighly depleted defense corps, with Matt Taormina and Alexander Urbom still up in New Jersey and Jay Leach, Matt Corrente, and Dan Kelly out of the lineup.

-Speaking of injuries, the MASH list: Steve Bernier will be out about 1-2 months with a broken hand. Matt Corrente is still out, no word on when he will return. Dan Kelly was sporting a splint on his nose Wednesday night, he could play with a full face shield but is being kept out anyway. Jay Leach did return Friday night but did not play last night. Myles Stoesz has one game to go on his suspension before being eligible to come back on Wednesday night (and I haven’t seen him since the fight, but have heard he has a pretty nasty shiner…)

Looking Ahead:

Only 2 games this week before the Christmas break begins. After today’s STH Holiday Skate, the boys board the bus for a Monday night matchup in Wilkes-Barre Township (as it’s officially called) against the Penguins. Then Wednesday is back home against Binghamton. Could be a tricky week, but I’m hoping for a good finish before the holiday.

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