Back to work after Christmas for the Devils, and it was a daunting task…taking on the top two teams in the division, along with dealing with the turmoil up top and the possibility of more callups, not to mention the mumps epidemic showing up. But they persevered, taking three out of four points in two fought out thrillers.
While New Jersey was cleaning house behind the bench, Albany was off to Onondaga County for the second time in 6 days for a rematch with the Crunch, who were looking to extend their winning streak to double digits. First period had no scoring, but a renewal of physical play from Saturday’s matchup, as both teams combined for 22 penalty minutes. Second period saw more scrums…and both teams exchanging goals, as Brandon Burlon gave the visitors a 1-0 advantage just under 5 minutes into the period. After a missed penalty shot by teammate Nikita Nesterov just a minute and a half earlier, Mike Blunden would tie it up with 7 minutes to go. Reid Boucher continued his hot streak early in the third period with his 8th (also his 5th straight game with at least one point) to put Albany ahead 2-1. With the way the team and Scott Wedgewood was playing, the Crunch winning streak was in danger of coming to a halt at 9 games. But…an unlikely hero emerged, as former River Rat Joey Mormina would tie the game at 2 with just 1:27 remaining in regulation. Albany had a chance of ending things with a 4 on 3 power play to start overtime, but no such luck. After another scrum, the teams would go to 3 on 3 early during the extra session…and Vladimir Namestnikov would be the hero, getting the game winner with just under 3 minutes to go to extend the Crunch winning streak to 10…and the overtime woes continue for Albany. Wedgewood played outstanding despite the loss, stopping 34 of 37 shots. Joe Whitney contributed two assists and Joe Faust had his second career point assisting Boucher’s goal.
Joe Whitney-Tim Sestito-Paul Thompson
Reid Boucher-Graham Black-Stefan Matteau
Darcy Zajac-Rod Pelley-Ben Thomson
David Wohlberg-Ben Johnson-Alexandre Carrier
Extra: Kelly Zajac, Chris McKelvie, Scott Timmins, Mike Sislo, Cam Janssen
Brandon Burlon/Corbin McPherson
Mark Fraser/Reece Scarlett
Dan Kelly/Joe Faust
Extra: Raman Hrabarenka, Eric Baier, Mike Keenan
Saturday: After the reveal of the three headed coaching monster behind New Jersey’s bench, Tim Sestito was recalled yet again, and he skated on the fourth line at MSG with Jordin Tootoo and Stephen Gionta in a 3-1 loss to the Rangers.
And the reason for Maxime Clermont’s mysterious recall was also answered: Scott Clemmensen became the fifth Devil to fall victim to the mumps. Let us pray that no one else on the current roster here is next in line.
For the first time in 20 days, Albany was finally back on Times Union Center ice, playing host to the Falcons for just the second time this season. After a relatively uneventful first period that saw both teams stay off the scoresheet, the Devils got on the board in a big way in the second. David Wohlberg (on a nice breakaway shot) and Graham Black would score 32 seconds apart for a 2-0 lead. But the visitors would tie on two straight power play opportunities over a 3 minute span from Josh Anderson and Frederic St. Denis (doing his best Gelinas impression). Reid Boucher extended his scoring streak with a power play goal of his own to put Albany back up by one. Then the penalty kill let the team down again, as Ryan Craig would tie it up at 3 with 12 minutes to go in regulation. It was on to overtime for the second straight night, and things ended in a hurry…Joe Whitney would score the game winner just 34 seconds in for the win, the second OT win for the Devils in 13 days after going almost 3 years without one. Another strong performance in net by Scott Wedgewood, as he stopped 22 of 25 shots in picking up his 5th win. Whitney had two more assists, while Reece Scarlett and Brandon Burlon each had helpers.
Joe Whitney-Graham Black-Paul Thompson
Reid Boucher-Rod Pelley-Stefan Matteau
Chris McKelvie-Darcy Zajac-Alexandre Carrier
Cam Janssen-David Wohlberg-Ben Thomson
Extra: Kelly Zajac, Scott Timmins, Mike Sislo, Ben Johnson
Mark Fraser/Reece Scarlett
Brandon Burl0n/Corbin McPherson
Dan Kelly/Eric Baier
Extra: Raman Hrabarenka, Joe Faust, Mike Keenan
Pop Quiz: If Maxime Clermont gets a start in net during his recall, he will be the 5th goaltender to make an appearance. Which Albany AHL team saw the most goaltenders see action during one season? The answer upcoming.
Obligatory Fight of the Week:
After Mark Fraser raised the roof last Saturday night, this was pretty much expected.
My Player of the Week:
Four assists and the game winning overtime goal on Saturday? A very good two days for Joe Whitney. Honorable mention to Reid Boucher for his continued hot streak.
Goals: Paul Thompson (13)
Assists: Joe Whitney (17)
Points: Joe Whitney (28)
+/-: Paul Thompson (+11)
Penalty Minutes: Darcy Zajac (63)
Wins: Scott Wedgewood (5)
GAA: Scott Clemmensen (2.28)
Save Percentage: Scott Clemmensen (.916)
Myles Bell (Evansville): 23 GP, 8 G, 7 A, 15 Pts, 9 PIM
Chris McKelvie and Cam Janssen rejoined the lineup on Saturday. Kelly Zajac is practicing and close to returning, while Raman Hrabarenka and Scott Timmins remain out. Mike Sislo missed the week due to illness, fingers crossed it’s not the M word.
This Week’s Schedule:
A very busy schedule this week to close out 2014 and ring in 2015. Tuesday night Providence makes their only visit to the Capital Region. Then Syracuse comes calling again on Friday, but this time on home ice. Then it’s off to Bridgeport for matchups on Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon against the Sound Tigers, the last visit to southern Connecticut for the regular season.
Pop Quiz Answer: A whopping 7 different goaltenders appeared in at least 1 game in the River Rats inaugural 1993-94 season: Corey Schwab (51 games), Peter Sidorkiewicz (15), Mike Dunham (5), Matt DelGuidice (5), Chad Erickson (4), Mark Gowans (1), and Brian Langlot (1). Tied for second place are the 1995-96 River Rats (Dunham, Sidorkiewicz, Schwab, DelGuidice, Andre Racicot, Mike Heinke) and the 2005-06 Rats (Frank Doyle, Ari Ahonen, Gregg Naumenko, Scott Clemmensen, Josh Disher, Chris Terreri) with 6 each.