To finish out the month of January and start off the All Star break, the Devils had two familiar opponents on the schedule this week…basically rematches from the weekend before in Springfield and Adirondack. After a dud start, the boys finished off the week on a high note, finishing with another 4 of 6 points this week. Time for the recap:
The week began with a midweek tilt at home against the division leading Falcons. Not much to write home about in this one. Despite the Devils outshooting their guests 13-12 in the first, they were down 1-0 thanks to a Cody Goloubef goal 9 minutes in. Things didn’t get any better in the second period…Michael Chaput (fun fact: he is the younger brother of former River Rat Stefan, now in Hamilton) gave the Falcons a 2-0 cushion 4:39 into the period. Mike Sislo cut the deficit in half with a short handed goal less than a minute later. Then with just over 6 minutes left in the period, an odd double penalty call on rookie defenseman Raman Hrabarenka gave Springfield’s Ryan Russell a penalty shot. Jeff Frazee would deny it thanks to his trusty goalie post. But less than a minute later the defense was caught napping and Scott Howes would capitalize, giving the Falcons the two goal lead right back. Tomas Kubalik would extend the lead to 4-1 on a video reviewed goal (it bounced off the top of the crossbar and dropped just barely over the goal line…we all thought it was cleared out in time but it was not) 90 seconds into the third. Joe Whitney would add his 9th goal of the season 4 minutes later, but that’s as close as the Devils would get. It wasn’t the greatest of nights defensively, as only two Devils (Whitney and Jay Leach) finished with a + rating (Corbin McPherson, normally steady on defense, finished a -3). Frazee finished with 29 saves on 33 chances in the loss, and Bobby Butler had the lone assist.
For the second time in 7 days, the Devils headed north on Interstate 87 to take on the Phantoms, who on this night were sporting very pretty pink jerseys as part of a Pink in the Rink promotion (sadly, no pink ice, just the jerseys). Unlike last week, when the Devils outshot Adirondack by a huge margin, it was the Phantoms who came out shooting in the first period, with a 12-3 advantage. But the Devils made their precious few shots count…on their second of the game, Joe Whitney scored for the early 1-0 advantage. Keith Kinkaid managed to stop all 12 chances. The momentum would shift over in the Devils favor in the second, as they added to the lead on a Matt Anderson goal nearly halfway through the period. Matthew Ford would score on a power play to cut the deficit in half, but that’s all Adirondack would manage to get. Albany took over in the third, scoring twice and outshooting the Phantoms 18-6. After Kinkaid stopped the team’s second consective penalty shot (this one off the stick of Harry Zolnierczyk), Whitney would score his second of the game for a two goal lead, then Kelly Zajac scored his second as a pro with 7 minutes left for some extra insurance. Kinkaid had an excellent showing in net, stopping 26 of 27 and earning second star of the game honors. Steve Zalewski contributed two assists.
The Devils and Phantoms finished off the home and home with an early Saturday afternoon tilt in downtown Albany. I knew it was going to be a big day when I walked in and saw every single upper deck section had the black curtains lifted up. I haven’t seen that for hockey in quite a long time, probably way back in the River Rats days. But more on that in a bit. This game was all Devils from the start, as they put up a 3 spot in the first period against Scott Munroe. Steve Zalewski got the scoring going 4 minutes into the period. Harri Pesonen was next in line, scoring 6 minutes later. Then Bobby Butler would add his team leading 16th with 5 and a half remaining. All of this was on just 6 shots on goal…Keith Kinkaid stopped all 9 Phantom shots. Marcel Noebels would get Adirondack on the board in the second with a power play goal (just 22 seconds into the penalty kill…they either give it up early or completely kill it off it seems). Pesonen would return the favor 4 minutes into the third with his second of the day on a power play for a 4-1 lead. Danny Syvret would cut the lead to 4-2 just before the penalty kill ended. Then Darcy Zajac would seal it with a short handed empty netter with just 13 seconds left to close out the win. Another good day in net for Kinkaid as he stopped 26 of 28 shots. Tim Sestito, Eric Gelinas, and Phil DeSimone would each add two assists. But the biggest story of the day had to be the announced attendance…ready? A whopping 10,218 people witnessed this one, which shatters the old Devils AHL attendance record by over 2000 (this just counts Lowell/Albany). If you really want to dig into attendance records, there hasn’t been a crowd like this since the River Rats heyday in the mid 90s, when 10,000+ crowds almost seemed like the norm, especially when the old Adirondack Red Wings came to town.
-Forward Bryan Haczyk was reassigned to Trenton on Friday, after only appearing in one game since coming up two weeks ago while a few Albany forwards were participating in New Jersey’s training camp.
-Injury update: Only three on the list, all had sat out the week. Chad Wiseman (lower body) and Scott Parse (hip) were both expected to be available, but neither made an appearance. David Wohlberg (lower body) sat out as well, we’ll know more about their return to the lineup once everyone returns to work after the break.
-Yesterday morning the AHL All Star starting lineups were announced, all selected by fan voting…and Bobby Butler was chosen as one of the starting forwards, along with Nino Niederreiter of Bridgeport and Jonathan Audy-Marchessault of Springfield. Lineups for both can be seen here.
The Week Ahead:
After a nice four day vacation for the rest of the Devils, it’s back to work at the end of the week, as they start the month of February with a 6 game road trip. The first two stops come Friday night in Providence and Saturday night in Portland. Looking ahead at the month, the Devils only touch home ice three times (well, four if you count the final stop in Atlantic City on the 24th), with this New England swing the furthest they will travel. Historically this part of the schedule is always heavy on travel for Albany (this goes back to the River Rat days as well), so this is a great time to judge what these guys have got as they make the push to move up in the standings.