We have reached March, only a little over a month to go in the regular season. After an extended road trip, the Devils returned home for three straight. They ended up with 3 out of 6 points, but it easily could have been more if not for a few incidents. Read along and you’ll see what I mean:
3/2 vs. Bridgeport: 5-2 W
The weekend began with the third matchup against the Sound Tigers in 11 days, but this time not in Connecticut. The first period was all about Steve Zalewski and the power play, thanks to some early Bridgeport penalty trouble. With a 1:52 5 on 3 advantage, Zalewski cashed in and scored twice in a 1:17 span for a 2-0 Albany lead. Sunday’s game in Bridgeport also started out with a 2-0 Devil lead, till the Sound Tigers started to chip away. And on this night it almost started out that way. Rhett Rakhshani got Bridgeport on the board just one minute into the second period. But unlike Sunday, Albany stepped it up and put the game away. Brad Mills and Joe Whitney scored 1:40 apart later in the second for a 4-1 Albany advantage. Mattias Tedenby added the 5th goal early in the third period for a 4 goal advantage. Bridgeport showed a little life at the end and got to within 5-2, but no more. Despite a scary moment when a Sound Tiger crashed his net and shook him up, Jeff Frazee turned in a strong performance between the pipes, stopping 26 of 28 shots. Mike Sislo and Dan Kelly each contributed 2 assists, while 4 others had at least one helper.
3/3 vs. Adirondack: 3-2 L (OT)
The Time Warner Cable Cup resumed for the first time since late January with a visit from our neighbors to the north, the Phantoms. Albany got the edge early on with a Nathan Perkovich goal 5 minutes into the first period, while Keith Kinkaid stopped all 10 Phantom shots. Shane Harper scored early in the second period to tie things up, but Eric Gelinas would break the tie with a resounding ping shot from the blue line, off the iron and in past Michael Leighton (fact: that goal tied Gelinas for second on the team in goal scoring and first in the league among AHL defensemen). Penalty trouble in the 3rd period would cost the Devils the lead. Shane Harper would score his second of the game with under 7 minutes left in the third as Darcy Zajac was serving an interference call to tie it up at 2. Gelinas took a very late cross check call with 1 minute left in the third, putting the Devils a man down to finish regulation and starting overtime. They managed to kill that off, then gained a chance to get the win when Matthew Ford was called for slashing. They could not…and 11 seconds after leaving the box, Ford managed to get the game winner past Kinkaid for a 3-2 Adirondack win and a 4-3 lead in the season series. Kinkaid had an otherwise solid day, stopping 31 of 34 shots in a losing cause.
3/4 vs. Syracuse: 2-1 L
The weekend ended with another matchup against Syracuse, first of three in the next seven days. Syracuse got on the board early on in the first period with a Riley Holzapfel goal. Albany had a couple good chances against Crunch goaltender Iiro Tarkki but could not get anything going, other than hitting the crossbar once. Second period Tarkki and Jeff Frazee held everyone scoreless, but the story of the day was starting to unfold (at least in my opinion anyway)…our old friend Jamie Koharski was reffing today. The Devils didn’t even get their first power play till late in the second period after being shorthanded three times to start out. Third period was more of the same, and it may have cost the Devils a standings point at least. It appeared the Devils had tied it up at 1 (I couldn’t tell who tapped it in due to my vantage point), but Koharski waved it off because Joe Whitney (who, mind you, is 5’6″) supposedly high sticked a Crunch player as the puck went in. Later on, an unidentified Crunch went right into Frazee’s net and nearly took him out, knocking off his helmet. Despite a scrum in the corner, still nothing called. Then a slash to Matt Corrente was also not whistled. Really, Koharski? Then finally he gets his act together and calls J.F. Jacques for boarding. On the ensuing power play, Peter Harrold scored (and yes we’re sure this time) to tie it up at 1. But the tie only lasted less than 2 minutes, as Brandon McMillan scored the eventual game winner with less than 3 minutes remaining to give Syracuse a 2-1 win. Despite everything, Frazee did pretty well, stopping 21 of 23 shots in a losing cause and earning #3 star of the game honors.
-Only one transaction this week, and technically it was on paper: defenseman Matt Taormina was temporarily reassigned and then recalled on Monday just to be eligible to be placed on the Clear Day roster, which is tomorrow (planning to have more about that when I see said roster).
-The walking wounded list is growing, especially after the last two visits to Bridgeport. Jay Leach, Matt Anderson, Tim Sestito, Chad Wiseman, Alexander Urbom, Harry Young, Myles Stoesz, and Mike Banwell are all out with assorted ailments. The only timetable I know for sure is Banwell, he told me Friday night about 2-3 weeks (he is currently sporting a walking boot after blocking a shot with his foot). Young did skate in warmup today, but did not play. He had thought he’d play over the weekend but didn’t get a game in (spoke to him Friday night as well).
If you remember back when the schedule came out late summer there was one weekend in March I had a problem with because of the back and forth travel. Well folks, that weekend is now here. Friday night it starts down the Thruway in Syracuse with a Crunch rematch (and there better not be a Koharski in sight). Saturday night it’s northbound to Adirondack for the next Time Warner Cable Cup installment against the Phantoms (methinks no more Sestito Cup since both brothers are out injured). Then it’s back out on the Thruway Sunday afternoon to face the Crunch again. To summarize, it’s Syracuse-Adirondack-Syracuse. It probably would have made more sense to have the Crunch games back to back and have everyone stay overnight, but I don’t pick the schedule. Albany is still holding down a playoff spot, hanging on to 7th place in the Eastern Conference. Adirondack and Syracuse are two teams on the outside looking in. These are points that are well within reach.