Week 21 Recap: Answering the Bell

We are entering the proverbial homestretch.  And it’s looking like the Devils are putting a disastrous February in the rearview mirror.  Four (which easily could have been six) out of six points on the weekend, including a much needed offensive breakout and the return of a key player to the lineup.

2/27 at Syracuse: 7-6 W

The road trip went back west on the Thruway to Syracuse, where for the second Friday evening in a row Albany visited the Crunch.  And for the first time in quite awhile, it was the Devils who got the offense started first.  On their first power play of the game, Mike Sislo continued his strong February with his 15th of the season for a 1-0 advantage.  Scott Timmins, in his first game back since December 7th, celebrated with a power play goal of his own 5 minutes later to double the lead.  But Syracuse would make things interesting, as Vladislav Namestnikov and Cody Kunyk would tie the game over a 5:02 span.  But just 20 seconds after the Crunch tied it, Sislo would score his second of the period to put the Devils ahead 3-2.  The scoring didn’t stop in the second, as Yanni Gourde would re-tie the game with a power play goal early on.  Kelly Zajac would put the Devils back ahead with his third, also a power play goal.  But the Crunch would take the lead with goals by Jonathan Marchessault and Kunyk in a 38 second span, chasing Scott Wedgewood from the net in favor of Maxime Clermont, making his first appearance since January 31st.  The goaltending switch seemed to help, as Clermont only had to stop 1 shot the rest of the second period.  But Albany was not done just yet, as they would tie the game up at 5 early in the third on a shorthanded goal by David Wohlberg.  Stefan Matteau would give Albany a 6-5 lead with the fourth power play goal of the night, then Darcy Zajac scored a very important insurance goal shortly after for a 7-5 lead, chasing Crunch goaltender Kristers Gudlevskis in favor of Allen York.  Marchessault would score his second of the night to get to within 7-6, but Clermont would shut them down the rest of the way, surviving a late 6-on-4 empty net penalty kill to seal the victory, the first against Syracuse all season and just the second victory in February.  Wedgewood stopped 10 of 15 before leaving in favor of Clermont, who picked up win #5 by stopping 10 of 11.  Eleven Devils had at least one point, with K. Zajac (one goal, two assists) and Seth Helgeson (three assists) leading the way.

Highlights:

Lines:

Joe Whitney-Scott Timmins-Paul Thompson

Reid Boucher-Kelly Zajac-Mike Sislo

Tim Sestito-Rod Pelley-Stefan Matteau

David Wohlberg-Darcy Zajac-Cam Janssen

Extra: Chris McKelvie, Graham Black, Ben Johnson, Ben Thomson

Defense:

Raman Hrabarenka/Corbin McPherson

Seth Helgeson/Dan Kelly

Reece Scarlett/Joe Faust

Extra: Brandon Burlon

2/28 at Hershey: 4-2 L

It was a long drive south down Interstate 81 to Chocolatetown, as the Devils faced Hershey for the final time this season.  Much like Friday night, it was Albany getting things going in the first period.  Joe Whitney scored his 18th late in the first period for a 1-0 lead, the first goal against Hershey goaltending since January 17th.  Albany had a season high 16 first period shots, while only allowing the Bears 6.  Sounds like a very promising start, right?  Well, it looked good going into the second, as Stefan Matteau would score his seventh just 46 seconds after the period got started for a 2-0 Devil lead.  Then…everything went downhill, thanks to a Bears record.  Tim Kennedy and Chris Conner would tie the game up midway through the second in about the same amount of time as literally blinking an eye…5 seconds.  Hershey also woke up during this period, outshooting the Devils 15-5.  The Bears would then pull away in the third, as Garrett Mitchell scored off a turnover in the Devils crease to take the lead.  Joel Broda would add an insurance goal with under 4 minutes remaining to seal it, giving Hershey a season sweep of the Devils.  Maxime Clermont lost his first decision of the season, stopping 22 of 26 shots.  Dan Kelly contributed two assists, while Tim Sestito had one helper.

Highlights:

Lines:

Joe Whitney-Tim Sestito-Paul Thompson

Reid Boucher-Graham Black-Mike Sislo

Stefan Matteau-Rod Pelley-Chris McKelvie

David Wohlberg-Darcy Zajac-Ben Thomson

Extra: Ben Johnson, Kelly Zajac, Scott Timmins, Cam Janssen

Defense:

Dan Kelly/Raman Hrabarenka

Seth Helgeson/Reece Scarlett

Brandon Burlon/Corbin McPherson

Extra: Joe Faust

3/1 vs. Binghamton: 4-3 W (OT)

With February finally over, it was back to the Capital Region for the first time since February 15th, as Albany played host to the Senators for the first time all season, and first since an embarassing 7-0 defeat back in November.  On Binghamton’s first power play of the game (and a questionable one at that), Cole Schneider scored for an early 1-0 Senators lead.  Paul Thompson would tie it up late in the period with his team leading 24th goal, then Darcy Zajac would follow with a tip in 3 and a half minutes later to put the Devils ahead 2-1.  Tim Sestito would give the hosts a two goal cushion just before the second period expired on a power play.  But Binghamton would not go away quietly.  Buddy Robinson would put the Senators to within one on a questionable goal call (it was believed a high stick may have been involved, but the referees still allowed it).  Then just four seconds after Albany killed off a 5 minute major by Cam Janssen for a check to the head call, Carter Camper would tie the game up at 3.  But Albany got a golden opportunity late in the third and going into overtime after Schneider was called for a delay of game.  And they capitalized…Mike Sislo would score the game winner just 33 seconds into overtime to give Albany their second win of the weekend.  Scott Wedgewood rebounded nicely from Friday’s game, stopping 24 of 27 shots and winning his first game since January 29th against Lehigh Valley.   Joe Whitney and Raman Hrabarenka each had two assists, while four other Devils each had a helper.

Highlights:

Lines:

Joe Whitney-Scott Timmins-Paul Thompson

Reid Boucher-Kelly Zajac-Mike Sislo

Stefan Matteau-Rod Pelley-Tim Sestito

Chris McKelvie-Darcy Zajac-Cam Janssen

Extra: Ben Johnson, Graham Black, David Wohlberg, Ben Thomson

Defense:

Seth Helgeson/Reece Scarlett

Brandon Burlon/Corbin McPherson

Dan Kelly/Raman Hrabarenka

Extra: Joe Faust

Sunday: A few hours after the game, it was quietly announced that Scott Clemmensen was reassigned to Albany.  Looks like Keith Kinkaid is ready to go come Tuesday.  Clemmensen was recalled Monday but never saw any playing time.

Monday: Not surprisingly, with Clemmensen returning Maxime Clermont was sent back to Orlando.  But he’s not going down alone, as forward Ben Johnson was also reassigned.  Clermont made two appearances, one in relief and one start, and went 1-1 since being recalled on Thursday.  Johnson has not played since February 15th, and has been a healthy scratch for a majority of the season.  He has one goal and one assist in 25 games.

Conference Standings:

It’s March, so it’s time to bring back where the Devils stand for playoff positioning!

8. Providence–66

9. Portland–64

10. St. John’s–62

11. ALBANY–59

12. Lehigh Valley–57

13. Binghamton–52

So…thanks to the disaster that was February, Albany has some catching up to do to get near that 8th playoff spot.  The magic number to clinch is at 46.

Pop Quiz:  Who holds the individual Albany AHL record for most goals in a season?  Answer upcoming.

Obligatory Fight of the Week:

Waiting for the video to surface…as always stay tuned.

My Player of the Week:

With another strong weekend, Mike Sislo capped off a very successful February with the game winner to kick off March.  9 of his 17 goals this season have all come after the All Star Break.  Honorable mention to Stefan Matteau for a good offensive showing over the weekend as well.

Team Leaders:

Goals: Paul Thompson (24)

Assists: Joe Whitney (26)

Points: Joe Whitney (44)

+/-: Paul Thompson (+10)

Penalty Minutes: Dan Kelly (96)

Wins: Scott Wedgewood (8)

GAA: Scott Clemmensen (2.75)

Save Percentage: Scott Clemmensen (.900)

ECHL Update:

Myles Bell (Evansville): 33 GP, 9 G, 9 A, 18 Pts, -11, 25 PIM

Eric Baier (Orlando): 35 GP, 5 G, 11 A, 16 Pts, +5, 11 PIM

Mike Keenan (Orlando): 27 GP, 0 G, 6 A, 6 Pts, +1, 18 PIM

Alexandre Carrier (Orlando): 10 GP, 0 G, 1 A, 1 Pt, -1, 24 PIM

Injury Update:

With Scott Timmins returning on Friday night, everyone on the roster short of illness is now healthy.

This Week’s Schedule:

It’s a quick two game road trip this week: the Devils will fly to The Rock.  Well, not that quick, and not that Rock. Friday and Saturday evening they will face St. John’s in a two game set, their first visit since being eliminated from the first round of the playoffs back in May.

Pop Quiz Answer: So who holds the Albany record for most goals in a season?  It was Jeff Williams, who in the 1998-99 season had a breakout year offensively, scoring 46 goals for the River Rats.  And he was only the third leading scorer…John Madden lead the way that season, with 98 points.  The Lowell/Albany record holder is Chris Minard, who had 32 in the 2006-07 season.

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