Back at home after a 3 day trip to Virginia Beach and Norfolk. I was hoping to see a little history made at the Scope on either Friday or Saturday night, and I did…but not the kind of history I had hoped for, as the Devils became victims #19 and #20 on the Admirals epic winning streak. But after the weekend sweep I think Norfolk is starting to crack a little. Read on and you’ll see what I mean:
3/23: 2-1 L
In the first game, it looked like the Devils were still carrying momentum over from Wednesday night’s win over the Sharks. An apparent short handed goal early on was waved off thanks to our favorite referee Jamie Koharski (yes the #BlameKoharski hashtag made a comeback…quite a few times over the weekend). But with just under 6 minutes left in the first Eric Gelinas notched his league leading 15th goal (for defensemen) on the power play for a 1-0 lead. Sadly, that lead only lasted a total of 18 seconds, as J.P. Cote quickly tied it up at 1. The Devils definitely had an advantage in the first, outshooting the hosts 15-11. Second period the Devils thought they had taken a 2-1 lead, but again Koharski waved it off. It would be Norfolk super rookie Tyler Johnson who would end up with the go ahead goal, getting it past Jeff Frazee with just under 8 minutes left in the second for the 2-1 advantage. Despite four more power play chances after that goal, the Devils could not get that tying goal past Jaroslav Janus, and Norfolk won for the 19th straight time. Despite the setback, Frazee played extremely well, stopping 26 of 28 shots against a powerhouse team, earning a #3 star of the game (Janus naturally was #1). The Virginian Daily Pilot called this the most hard fought game the winning streak has seen so far. Did the Devils have the Admirals right where they wanted them for the rematch?
3/24: 4-3 L
For game 2, a goalie switch up: Keith Kinkaid against the recently returned from Tampa Bay Dustin Tokarski. Ondrej Palat got things started in a hurry, scoring exactly 1 minute into the game. But the Devils had an answer for that…while short handed (thanks to a questionable Peter Harrold roughing call), Vladimir Zharkov broke in alone and shot it past Tokarski to tie the game at 1. Second period the Devils took a 2-1 lead on a Mattias Tedenby power play goal. At this point I’m thinking, if Keith can hold on to the lead and maybe one more goal, no number 20. But then newcomer Alex Killorn (I believe it was his second pro game after finishing a four year run at Harvard) scored with less than 5 minutes left in the period to tie it at 2. In the third, Norfolk pulled away, as Tyler Johnson (on a power play) and Alex Picard scored for a 4-2 advantage. Albany decided to pull Kinkaid with over 2 minutes left in the third for the extra attacker, and the risk paid off. They weren’t done yet, however…Matt Anderson scored with 1:21 left on the clock to pull within 4-3. But Tokarski shut the Devils down after that and there’s win #20 in a row. Kinkaid didn’t fare too badly despite the loss, stopping 35 of 39 shots.
-Playoff Update: Not a good one. When the trip began, the Devils were tied for 9th in the conference. Three days and two losses later, they now sit in a tie for 13th with Worcester, four points behind the current 8th place holder, Syracuse. Thanks to a perfect 3 for 3 weekend for Adirondack, they also find themselves in last place in the division, two points behind the Phantoms. Including Albany, 6 teams are separated by 4 points for that last playoff spot.
-Now for the walking wounded: Matt Corrente made the trip down but did not play (talked with him on Friday night, he wasn’t happy about not getting in). Nathan Perkovich got in Friday night, but then re-injured himself and did not play on Saturday. I’ll have to wait and see on what his status is for the week.
Three games on tap this week, all at home and against teams the Devils have had some success against this season. Wednesday morning (yes you read that right, morning) the Amerks come in for a school day matinee (the only home game I will miss this season…for a variety of reasons). Friday night they host Providence for the first time all season (they are a perfect 2-0 in Rhode Island, however), followed on Saturday with a matchup against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (a team the Devils have fared well against this year, going 2-1 after never beating them ever before the season began). Six huge points on the line, hopefully a little home cooking is what the team needs to get back on track.