The Weekly Primer, Issue 26

Quick Hits:

-Albany begins this week with a 39-17-8-2 record, 88 points, and a .667 points percentage.  They remain in second place in the North, 11 points behind Toronto and 12 points ahead of Utica.  Their magic number to clinch a Calder Cup playoff berth sits at 1, only needing to win or get to overtime to seal the deal.  If the postseason were to begin today, the Devils would face Portland, who would cross over from the Atlantic having a better percentage than 4th place Syracuse (.583 to .537).

-There was a special guest at practice on Monday: Cory Schneider was assigned on Sunday for a one day conditioning stint, practicing here before heading back south to Newark.

-Add another amateur tryout to the roster, in the form of Providence College forward Trevor Mingoia.  He just completed his senior season with the Friars, picking up 37 points in 36 games (14 G, 23 A).  He lead Providence to a NCAA championship last season, and started his collegiate career in 2011-12 with Union.

-Mathieu Brodeur and Gunnar Hughes were both released from their PTOs on Monday, sending them back up the Northway to Adirondack.

Tuesday, 3/29 vs. Hartford

Where: Times Union Center, Albany, NY.

When: 7:00 PM.

Season Series: Albany leads 3-2.

Know Your Opponent:

Record: 36-28-3-0, 75 points, .560 pct, 6th place in Atlantic Division

Leading Scorers/Goaltending: Chad Nehring, 42 points (20 G, 22 A); Marek Hrivik, 39 points (11 G, 28 A); Jayson Megna, 34 points (12 G, 22 A); Magnus Hellberg, 27-17-3, 2.39 GAA; Jeff Malcolm, 7-5-0, 2.41 GAA

Notes: The Wolfpack dropped 2 of 3 last week, keeping them just two points behind Portland for the 5th place Atlantic crossover spot; they are 7-0 in shootouts this season, 7-3 in games decided in overtime; Hartford ranks 30th in the league in penalty minutes per game (9.93); they return home to host Hershey and Portland this weekend.

Listen: AHL Live

Tweet: @trace_1114, @AlbanyDevils, @WolfpackAHL

Friday, 4/1 & Sunday, 4/3 vs. Binghamton

Where: Floyd L. Maines Veterans Memorial Arena, Binghamton, NY (Friday); Times Union Center, Albany, NY (Sunday).

When: 7:00 PM (Friday); 3:00 PM (Sunday).

Season Series: Albany leads 3-1.

Know Your Opponent:

Record: 27-34-5-1, 60 points, .448 pct, 7th place in North Division

Leading Scorers/Goaltending: Phil Varone, 47 points (18 G, 29 A); Jason Akeson, 45 points (11 G, 34 A); Casey Bailey, 32 points (9 G, 23 A); Chris Driedger, 16-13-3, 2.98 GAA; Matt O’Connor, 8-18-3, 3.39 GAA

Notes: The Senators have dropped 3 of their last 4, including a home and home with the Penguins last week; captain Zack Stortini leads the AHL in penalty minutes, with 177 in 64 games; Binghamton will host Utica on Saturday in between the home and home series; 43 different players, including 4 goaltenders, have made at least one appearance this season in a B-Sens sweater.

Listen: AHL Live, US 96.9 FM

Tweet: @trace_1114, @AlbanyDevils, @BSens_Hockey

Saturday, 4/2 vs. Springfield

Where: Times Union Center, Albany, NY.

When: 5:00 PM.

Season Series: Albany leads 3-2.

Know Your Opponent:

Record: 23-35-3-5, 54 points, .409 pct, 8th place in Atlantic Division

Leading Scorers/Goaltending: Greg Carey, 40 points (25 G, 15 A); Craig Cunningham, 37 points (18 G, 19 A); Philip Samuelsson, 31 points (4 G, 27 A); Niklas Treutle, 11-16-5, 2.91 GAA; Marek Langhamer, 6-8-2, 3.80 GAA

Notes: The Falcons are the first Eastern Conference team to officially be eliminated from Calder Cup playoff consideration; they have lost their last six, getting outscored 27-10 during that span; Springfield is halfway through a six game road swing that started in Albany last Tuesday, they go to Wilkes-Barre and Utica before returning to the Capital District; defenseman Alex Grant was recalled by Arizona over the weekend.

Listen: AHL Live, WHYN 560 AM

Tweet: @trace_1114, @AlbanyDevils, @TheFalconsAHL, @KatyLovesHockey

Week 25 Recap: Waiting to Dance

Inching ever closer to that playoff spot, but with half the regulars available that became a daunting task for the boys in red this week as they had one more home matchup before a crucial road trip.  And with just three of six points earned, the team is knocking on the proverbial door, ready to jump into the Calder Cup party.

3/22 vs. Springfield: 4-1 W

The week began with a rare Tuesday night matchup at home against the Falcons…and for the second straight game Albany had to go with an 11/7 lineup, with all healthy hands on deck.  After a scoreless first that saw the Devils hold the visitors to just two shots on goal, the offense would come up big in the second.  Just 59 seconds into the period, Brandon Burlon would score his 4th of the season for a 1-0 Devil lead.  Ben Johnson would add his first Albany goal of the season shorthanded midway through the second, then Jim O’Brien would extend his point streak to seven with his 16th goal later for a 3-0 advantage.  Matt Lorito would add his 16th goal just 42 seconds into the third for a 4-0 lead, chasing Falcons starter Marek Langhamer in favor of Niklas Treutle.  Yann Danis appeared to be well on his way to his seventh shutout of the season…until Tyler Gaudet scored with 1:19 to go in regulation.  Danis barely broke a sweat in his first appearance since swapping places with Scott Wedgewood in New Jersey, stopping 17 of 18 Falcon shots in winning his 26th.  Brian O’Neill, just back from emergency recall, and Paul Thompson picked up two assists apiece.  Four others, including Gunnar Hughes in his AHL debut, had one assist each.  The win lowered the Devils magic number to clinch to 5.

The Lineup:

Matt Lorito-Brian O’Neill-Paul Thompson

Blake Pietila-Jim O’Brien-Max Novak

Pierre-Luc Leblond-Rod Pelley-Ben Thomson

Gunnar Hughes/Ben Johnson

Marc Andre Gragnani/Reece Scarlett

Paul Geiger/Raman Hrabarenka

Brandon Burlon/Corbin McPherson

Joe Faust

Yann Danis/Ken Appleby

Out: Dan Kelly, Blake Coleman, Chris McKelvie, Graham Black, Ryan Kujawinski, Nick Lappin

Power Play: 0 for 1.  Penalty Kill: 3 for 3.  Penalty Minutes: 13.  Shots on Goal: 31.  Shots Allowed: 18.

Highlights:

Wednesday: New Jersey came calling again after an injury to Tyler Kennedy in Sunday’s win against Columbus.  But this call was what I would call a curveball, a plot twist if you will: instead of bringing Brian O’Neill or maybe Jim O’Brien back up, they chose to bring up Blake Pietila, making him the fourth A-Devil this season getting his first callup.

Thursday: Down to 10 healthy forwards going into the road trip, the Devils would dip into the ECHL pool…but instead of Adirondack, they chose to go to Reading, signing Justin Crandall to a PTO.  In 49 games this season with the Royals, the Minnesota native has 51 points (15 G, 36 A).  He also had a 7 game stint with Chicago in late February/early March, picking up a goal and an assist.

Friday: Suddenly missing two defensemen and needing more skaters, it was back to pillaging the Thunder roster, bringing back Alex Carrier for the second time this season and signing defenseman Mathieu Brodeur to a PTO (oh the irony of having a non-goalie Devil with that last name).  In 64 games with Adirondack, Brodeur has 8 goals and 18 assists.  He does have AHL experience, having spent three seasons with Portland and one with Chicago.

3/25 at Syracuse: 3-1 L

The brief road trip started in Syracuse, as Albany looked to extend its 6 game winning streak against the Crunch this season.  With a patchwork lineup in place, the Devils found themselves in a hole midway through the first period, as Dylan Blujus would give the hosts a 1-0 lead 8:41 into the contest.  But Ben Johnson would pick up his second goal in as many games shortly thereafter to tie things up.  But barely two minutes after that, Ryan Martindale’s 3rd would put the Crunch ahead by a goal.  It remained a 2-1 game till early in the third, when Jonathan Drouin would play Devil killer once again and score his 8th (and 3rd in 2 games against Albany) to give Syracuse an insurance goal.  The Devils outshot the Crunch 30-20, but were unable to get any offense going against Kristers Gudlevskis.  Yann Danis would stop 17 of 20 in the loss.  The only other Devil to pick up a point?  Justin Crandall, one of the PTOs making his Albany debut.

The Lineup:

Paul Thompson-Matt Lorito-Brian O’Neill

Max Novak-Jim O’Brien-Ben Thomson

Ben Johnson-Graham Black-Justin Crandall

Gunnar Hughes-Rod Pelley-Alex Carrier

Marc Andre Gragnani/Reece Scarlett

Paul Geiger/Corbin McPherson

Mathieu Brodeur/Joe Faust

Yann Danis/Ken Appleby

Out: Dan Kelly, Brandon Burlon, Blake Coleman, Chris McKelvie, Nick Lappin, Raman Hrabarenka, Ryan Kujawinski, Pierre-Luc Leblond

Power Play: 0 for 2.  Penalty Kill: 3 for 3.  Penalty Minutes: 6.  Shots on Goal: 30.  Shots Allowed: 20.

Highlights:

3/26 at Hershey: 3-2 L (SO)

With Rochester losing in regulation the night before, all that stood between Albany and a playoff berth was one more loss by the Amerks and a win over the Bears, in a building that has not been kind to any Albany team in recent years.  Just like the night before, the visitors found themselves in a 1-0 hole halfway through the opening period on a Travis Boyd goal.  Corbin McPherson would tie things up early in the second period with just his second goal of the season.  Then in a span of 38 seconds, Hershey would retake the lead off a Riley Barber tally, then Jim O’Brien would re-tie the game with his 17th.  After a lot of back and forth play during the third and into overtime, it was on to a shootout.  Matt Lorito and O’Brien would miss in their respective rounds, while Ken Appleby allowed Jakub Vrana to score.  Brian O’Neill would just get one past Dan Ellis to extend it, but Appleby would allow a goal to Barber in the 5th round.  Paul Thompson and Ben Johnson were unable to score, giving Hershey the extra point and forcing the Devils to wait until next week to officially get in the playoffs.  Appleby stopped 21 of 23 during the first 65 minutes of the contest.  Four different Devils added assists, including the first professional point for Paul Geiger.

The Lineup:

Paul Thompson-Jim O’Brien-Ben Johnson

Justin Crandall-Matt Lorito-Brian O’Neill

Ben Thomson-Max Novak-Pierre-Luc Leblond

Gunnar Hughes-Graham Black-Alex Carrier

Marc Andre Gragnani/Reece Scarlett

Paul Geiger/Corbin McPherson

Mathieu Brodeur/Joe Faust

Ken Appleby/Yann Danis

Out: Brandon Burlon, Dan Kelly, Rod Pelley, Chris McKelvie, Ryan Kujawinski, Nick Lappin, Raman Hrabarenka

Power Play: 0 for 4.  Penalty Kill: 2 for 2.  Penalty Minutes: 11.  Shots on Goal: 28.  Shots Allowed: 24.

Highlights:

My Player of the Week:

There was only one player who factored in all three games this week…he may not have seen much playing time until now, but Ben Johnson is taking advantage of getting regular minutes in the lineup.

Team Leaders:

Goals: Jim O’Brien (17)

Assists: Matt Lorito (35)

Points: Matt Lorito (51)

+/-: Matt Lorito (+12)

Penalty Minutes: Pierre-Luc Leblond (104)

Wins: Yann Danis (26)

GAA: Yann Danis (2.27)

Save Percentage: Yann Danis (.907)

The Vault:

Since there are so many new faces…how about getting to know one of them?  The newest Brodeur talks about music back in October…

Up North with the Thunder:

Hey, since we’re pillaging their roster, how well are Adirondack faring without half of their lineup?  They are in the middle of a playoff push of their own, holding down the fifth spot in the Eastern Conference.  And, well, being shut out in both home games this week did not help their cause at all.  Tuesday they dropped a 2-0 final to Kalamazoo, then former Albany PTO Doug Carr, now with Manchester, white washed them 3-0 on Saturday.  A 3 in 3 home weekend is on the agenda this week, as they host Norfolk on Friday, followed by a two game set against Brampton on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon.  Fun fact: 5 of their last 6 regular season games are on home ice.

This Week’s Schedule:

It’s going to be a very busy week as the calendar turns over to April.  Tuesday night the Devils host Hartford with a chance to clinch.  Then it’s a 3 in 3 to start the month of April: on Friday they head west on Interstate 88 to Binghamton to take on the Senators.  Then it’s back home on Saturday afternoon to face Springfield.  Finally on Sunday afternoon, the Senators come in for a visit.

The Weekly Primer, Issue 25

Quick Hits:

-The Devils begin the week with a record of 38-16-8-1, 85 points, and a .675 point percentage.  They remain stuck in second place in the North Division, 12 points behind first place Toronto and 13 points ahead of third place Utica.

-Playoff update: the magic number for Albany to clinch a spot is now down to 7.  If everything goes according to plan, they can clinch by the end of the week, becoming the second AHL team to punch their playoff ticket, joining the Marlies, who clinched on Saturday.  If the playoffs began today, Utica would be the first round opponent.

-The number of callups in New Jersey decreased to six on Monday, as Brian O’Neill was returned after not suiting up for either game over the weekend.  But with two forwards out due to injury/illness, Gunnar Hughes was summoned from Adirondack on a PTO.  He started the year in Albany’s training camp before signing with the Thunder.  In 58 games he has 20 points (11 G, 9 A).

Tuesday, 3/22 vs. Springfield

Where: Times Union Center, Albany, NY.

When: 7:00 PM.

Season Series: Tied at 2.

Know Your Opponent:

Record: 23-32-3-5, 54 points, .429 pct, 8th place in Atlantic Division

Leading Scorers/Goaltending: Alex Grant, 40 points (11 G, 29 A); Greg Carey, 39 points (25 G, 14 A); Craig Cunningham, 36 points (18 G, 18 A); Niklas Treutle, 11-15-5, 2.93 GAA; Marek Langhamer, 6-6-2, 3.46 GAA

Notes: The Falcons have won 3 of their last 10 (3-6-0-1); defenseman Philip Samuelsson was sent down by Arizona on Monday; this is the start of a 7 game road swing for Springfield, with stops in Portland (for 2), Wilkes-Barre, Utica, back to Albany, and then on to Bridgeport; since the last matchup nearly a month ago, the Falcons lost their leading scorer Dustin Jeffrey in a trade with the Penguins, receiving forward Matia Marcantuoni.

Listen: AHL Live, WHYN 560 AM

Tweet: @trace_1114, @AlbanyDevils, @TheFalconsAHL, @KatyLovesHockey

Friday, 3/25 @ Syracuse

Where: Onondaga County War Memorial, Syracuse, NY.

When: 7:00 PM.

Season Series: Albany leads 4-0.

Know Your Opponent:

Record: 27-25-10-3, 67 points, .515 pct, 5th place in North Division

Leading Scorers/Goaltending: Tanner Richard, 48 points (10 G, 38 A); Jeff Tambellini, 42 points (24 G, 18 A); Anthony DeAngelo, 41 points (6 G, 35 A); Kristers Gudlevskis, 11-10-6, 2.99 GAA; Adam Wilcox, 9-10-6, 3.27 GAA

Notes: The Crunch begin the week winners of two straight after sweeping St. John’s on home ice last weekend; they will play 7 of their final 11 games on home ice, with three trips east to Utica and one trip to Lehigh Valley mixed in; former River Rat and captain Mike Angelidis is done for the season due to injury; since returning to the Crunch on March 11th, Jonathan Drouin has 5 goals in 6 games.

Listen: AHL Live, ESPN Radio Syracuse

Tweet: @trace_1114, @AlbanyDevils, @SyracuseCrunch, @syrhockey, @Allovimo, @CrunchSyracuse

Saturday, 3/26 @ Hershey

Where: Giant Center, Hershey, PA.

When: 7:00 PM.

Season Series: Albany leads 1-0.

Know Your Opponent:

Record: 35-18-4-7, 81 points, .633 pct, 2nd place in Atlantic Division

Leading Scorers/Goaltending: Chris Bourque, 68 points (26 G, 42 A); Riley Barber, 47 points (22 G, 25 A); Travis Boyd, 45 points (18 G, 27 A); Dan Ellis, 22-9-4, 2.34 GAA; Justin Peters, 13-8-7, 3.21 GAA

Notes: The Bears are coming off a home and home sweep against Wilkes-Barre over the weekend, pushing them out of the division lead; they travel to Lehigh Valley and Utica this week before coming home on Saturday; forward Chris Bourque continues to lead the league in scoring, sitting 5 points ahead of T.J. Brennan and Seth Griffith; since the last time the two teams faced each other, Scott Gomez moved on to Ottawa after picking up 24 points in 18 games, and Washington acquired the other Bourque, Ryan, from the Rangers.

Listen: AHL Live, Fox Sports 1460

Tweet: @trace_1114, @AlbanyDevils, @TheHersheyBears, @ChocHockey, @ScottStuccio

Week 24 Recap: Dwindling Numbers

Down to just 16 games left in the regular season.  A magic number to clinch a Calder Cup playoff spot in the single digits.  Another three players off to New Jersey.  Three out of six points won this week.  Those are what I mean by dwindling numbers.

Wednesday: A few hours before faceoff, a second ATO was announced: defenseman Paul Geiger has joined the team by way of Clarkson University.  The captain for the Golden Knights the last two seasons, he appeared in 35 games this season, putting up 13 points (5 G, 8 A).  In 140 games overall in his college career, he scored 13 goals and assisted on 38 others.

3/16 vs. Providence: 2-1 L (SO)

To start the week, the Devils played host one more time to the Bruins, who were starting a 7 game road trip.  For the first two periods, it was a goaltending duel between Scott Wedgewood and Jeremy Smith, as neither team could get anything going offensively.  But midway through the third period, it took all of 71 seconds to see something go into a net.  With Vojtech Mozik serving a hooking minor, Jim O’Brien would break the scoreless drought with a shorthanded tally, his 13th of the season, extending his point streak to four games.  But just as quickly, and with 24 seconds left on the Devils penalty kill, Brandon DeFazio would tie things up at 1.  And the goaltending duel would continue on into the extra session, where it appeared no one was letting up.  It was on to just the second shootout of the season for the Devils, and it didn’t end well…O’Brien and Matt Lorito were both denied by Smith, while Wedgewood would give up goals to Brian Ferlin and Alexander Khokhlachev, giving the Bruins the extra point and halting the Devils win streak at 4 games.  Much like that January night in Utica, Wedgewood practically stood on his head to keep Albany in the game, finishing with 23 saves on 24 shots, but not enough for the win.  Blake Pietila had the lone assist.

The Lineup:

Matt Lorito-Brian O’Neill-Nick Lappin

Ryan Kujawinski-Jim O’Brien-Paul Thompson

Blake Pietila-Graham Black-Ben Thomson

Chris McKelvie-Rod Pelley-Pierre-Luc Leblond

Marc-Andre Gragnani/Vojtech Mozik

Reece Scarlett/Raman Hrabarenka

Brandon Burlon/Corbin McPherson

Scott Wedgewood/Ken Appleby

Out: Dan Kelly, Blake Coleman, Max Novak, Joe Faust, Ben Johnson, Paul Geiger

Power Play: 0 for 3.  Penalty Kill: 3 for 4.  Penalty Minutes: 8.  Shots on Goal: 24.  Shots Allowed: 24.

Highlights:

Friday: It may have been an off day on the schedule, but there was some news: Brian O’Neill was recalled on an emergency basis by New Jersey after an apparent injury to Kyle Palmieri in New Jersey’s 7-4 win over Minnesota on Thursday.

3/19 at Utica: 5-1 W

It was back to Utica for one last regular season visit, as the Devils took on a depleted Comets squad that had most of its regulars injured or on recall to Vancouver.  And the visitors took advantage in the first period…Matt Lorito would pick up goal #15 8 minutes in for a 1-0 lead.  While on their third penalty kill (a double minor to Pierre-Luc Leblond was killed off just minutes earlier) Jim O’Brien would pick up his second shorthanded goal of the week (and 14th of the season) to double the Devil lead.  Alex Friesen would cut the lead in half with just over six minutes to play in the second period, but on a late power play Nick Lappin would pick up his third goal in 8 days to restore the two goal advantage.  Albany would put the game away early in the third, as O’Brien would pick up his second goal of the night on a beautiful breakaway to put the Devils ahead 4-1.  Blake Pietila would follow up with his 9th goal later in the period to make it a laugher.  Scott Wedgewood was finally the beneficiary of an offensive attack, only needing to stop 21 of 22 shots in winning his 9th of the season.  O’Brien, Lappin, Pietila, and four others would have one assist apiece.

The Lineup:

Matt Lorito-Jim O’Brien-Nick Lappin

Paul Thompson-Blake Pietila-Ryan Kujawinski

Max Novak-Graham Black-Ben Thomson

Chris McKelvie-Rod Pelley-Pierre-Luc Leblond

Marc Andre Gragnani/Vojtech Mozik

Reece Scarlett/Raman Hrabarenka

Brandon Burlon/Corbin McPherson

Scott Wedgewood/Ken Appleby

Out: Paul Geiger, Dan Kelly, Blake Coleman, Joe Faust, Ben Johnson

Power Play: 1 for 3.  Penalty Kill: 5 for 5.  Penalty Minutes: 12.  Shots on Goal: 32.  Shots Allowed: 22.

Highlights:

Sunday: A plot twist, if you will.  With goaltending up top struggling to keep up after Cory Schneider’s injury, plus injuries to both John Moore and Jon Merrill in a loss to Columbus, Scott Wedgewood and Vojtech Mozik were summoned to make their NHL debuts.  Yann Danis was sent down to take Wedgewood’s place.  In two appearances, all in relief of Keith Kinkaid, Danis went 0-1-0 with a 4.71 GAA.

3/20 at Bridgeport: 4-2 L

With two players off to New Jersey and injuries to two others on the roster, a depleted Devil roster made the trip south to Bridgeport for the last time this season to take on the Sound Tigers.  And early on…it looked like the same old, same old.  Rod Pelley would give the Devils the early lead with his 8th goal of the season.  Connor Jones would tie things up early in the second, but Paul Thompson would take advantage of a Sound Tiger turnover and score his 12th late in the period for a 2-1 Devil lead.  Then came the third…and everything fell apart.  Just 33 seconds after the puck dropped for the third, Bridgeport would tie things up on a Alan Quine goal.  Matt Finn would pick up the go ahead goal on a power play 7 minutes later, then James Wright would seal it with an empty netter late.  The loss marked the first time all season Albany lost in regulation when leading after 2 periods (28-0-3-0 coming into the day).  Ken Appleby played well despite the loss, stopping 24 of 27.  Jim O’Brien would extend his point streak to six games with an assist, while Nick Lappin contributed a helper before leaving the game.  The game also marked the professional debut of defenseman Paul Geiger, who finished even with one shot on goal.

The Lineup:

For the first time this season, an 11/7 lineup was used.

Matt Lorito-Jim O’Brien-Nick Lappin

Paul Thompson-Blake Pietila-Ryan Kujawinski

Max Novak-Rod Pelley-Ben Thomson

Pierre-Luc Leblond/Ben Johnson

Marc Andre Gragnani/Reece Scarlett

Raman Hrabarenka/Joe Faust

Brandon Burlon/Corbin McPherson/Paul Geiger

Ken Appleby/Yann Danis

Out: Dan Kelly, Blake Coleman, Chris McKelvie, Graham Black

Power Play: 0 for 2.  Penalty Kill: 3 for 4.  Penalty Minutes: 8.  Shots on Goal: 27.  Shots Allowed: 28.

Highlights:

No video as of press time.  Every time with Bridgeport…

My Player of the Week:

Lather, rinse, repeat from last week, as two players figured in the boxscore the most again: Jim O’Brien and Nick Lappin.

Team Leaders:

Goals: Matt Lorito/Jim O’Brien (15)

Assists: Matt Lorito (35)

Points: Matt Lorito (50)

+/-: Matt Lorito (+13)

Penalty Minutes: Pierre-Luc Leblond (102)

Wins: Yann Danis (25)

GAA: Yann Danis (2.28)

Save Percentage: Yann Danis (.907)

The Vault:

Pop Quiz: Can you spot the three current A-Devils in this game from January 2014?

Up North with the Thunder:

It wasn’t a fun week in Orlando for Adirondack, as they dropped 2 out of 3 to the Solar Bears.  The week started off very promising with a 6-2 win on Thursday, stick taps to Ryan Lomberg for a 4 goal game and Peter MacArthur for 4 assists.  Alexandre Carrier scored his 4th of the season early in the third, while Greg Wolfe picked up an assist.  Orlando would pick up a 6-3 win on Saturday, then followed up with a 5-3 win on Sunday night.  Former Devil PTO Eric Baier, who captains the Solar Bears,  picked up a goal on Saturday and an assist on Sunday.  Wolfe picked up two more assists in Sunday’s loss.  The Thunder return home for a 6 game homestand, starting Tuesday night against Kalamazoo.  They then host Manchester on Saturday night.

This Week’s Schedule:

A three game week is on tap.  Tuesday the Devils return home to face the Falcons.  Then it’s on the road for a pair, starting Friday night in Syracuse, then south on Interstate 81 on Saturday to face Hershey.

The Weekly Primer, Issue 24

Quick Hits:

-The Devils begin the week with a 37-15-8-0 mark, 82 points and a .683 points percentage.  They remain in second place in the North Division, now just 11 points behind first place Toronto (with three less games played) and 12 points ahead of third place Utica.  Their magic number to clinch a playoff berth is now down to 14 after Sunday’s action.

-Injury update: Brian O’Neill (lower) and Paul Thompson (upper) both returned to practice this week.  Dan Kelly (knee) is out indefinitely.

Wednesday, 3/16 vs. Providence

Where: Times Union Center, Albany, NY.

When: 7:00 PM.

Season Series: Albany leads 3-2.

Know Your Opponent:

Record: 30-19-9-3, 72 points, .590 pct, 3rd place in Atlantic Division

Leading Scorers/Goaltending: Seth Griffith, 63 points (20 G, 43 A); Alexander Khokhlachev, 51 points (18 G, 33 A); Frank Vatrano, 46 points (31 G, 15 A); Jeremy Smith, 10-17-4, 2.76 GAA; Zane McIntyre, 11-7-6, 2.85 GAA

Notes: The Bruins begin a 7 game road trip tonight, not returning to the Dunk until April 2nd; Providence saw a 23 game point streak end on Sunday after with a 5-3 loss to Utica; rookie Frank Vatrano, who has surpassed Mike Sislo for the AHL goal scoring lead with 31, was recalled by Boston on Monday, only to be sent back on Wednesday; Seth Griffith leads the AHL in assists (43) and is 3 points behind Hershey’s Chris Bourque for the overall scoring lead; Zac Rinaldo is expected to return to the lineup after serving a 5 game suspension; the Bruins are #1 in the league in overall power play (21.8%).

Listen: AHL Live

Tweet: @trace_1114, @AlbanyDevils, @AHLBruins

Saturday, 3/19 @ Utica

Where: Utica Memorial Auditorium, Utica, NY.

When: 7:00 PM.

Season Series: Albany leads 5-2.

Know your Opponent:

Record: 31-21-5-3, 70 points, .583 pct, 3rd place in North Division

Leading Scorers/Goaltending: Jordan Subban, 32 points (10 G, 22 A); Carter Bancks, 29 points (9 G, 20 A); T.J. Hensick, 28 points (7 G, 21 A); Richard Bachman, 13-10-4, 2.65 GAA; Joe Cannata, 17-10-3, 2.52 GAA

Notes: 7 of Utica’s next 8 games are on home ice, with a quick trip to Binghamton March 26th the lone road game; they will host St. John’s on Friday and Binghamton on Sunday; the Comets broke a 2 game slide with a win in Providence on Sunday afternoon; with the loss Saturday in Albany, they broke an all time 76 game point streak (72-0-4-0) when leading after two periods; they also have yet to defeat Albany in regulation, with just two overtime wins all time, both coming back in January; Utica’s top two scorers, Brendan Gaunce and Alexandre Grenier, are both on recall to Vancouver.

Listen: AHL Live, K-ROCK 94.9

Tweet: @trace_1114, @AlbanyDevils, @UticaComets, @CometsinGame

Sunday, 3/20 @ Bridgeport

Where: Webster Bank Arena, Bridgeport, CT.

When: 5:00 PM.

Season Series: Albany leads 4-2.

Know Your Opponent:

Record: 33-23-3-3, 72 points, .581 pct, 4th place in Atlantic Division

Leading Scorers/Goaltending: Bracken Kearns, 51 points (22 G, 29 A); Alan Quine, 37 points (13 G, 24 A); Mike Halmo, 31 points (15 G, 16 A); Christopher Gibson, 17-11-6, 2.80 GAA; Stephon Williams, 10-9-0, 2.69 GAA

Notes: The Sound Tigers have won four of their last five games, moving them past Portland into an Atlantic Divisional playoff position; they swept Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in a home and home series over the weekend; Bridgeport travels to Springfield on Wednesday and hosts Portland on Saturday; Bracken Kearns is tied for fifth in the league in scoring; Bridgeport ranks 29th in overall power play (11.8%), but 10th in overall penalty kill (84.4%).

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Tweet: @trace_1114, @AlbanyDevils, @TheSoundTigers, @fornabaioctp

Week 23 Recap: In at the Last Second

How to describe the latest perfect 3 in 3 weekend for the Devils…I wouldn’t know where to begin.  From comebacks, to the new guy immediately making an impact, to beating two potential playoff opponents…this 3 game set had just about everything.

3/11 at Binghamton: 3-2 W (OT)

One last stop on the road trip…and it was in Albany’s personal house of horrors, the Broome County VMA, as the Devils took on the Senators for the first time since allowing 6 shots on Black Friday.  And it was the visitors getting off to a good start, outshooting Binghamton 11-4 in the first and grabbing a 1-0 lead late in the period on Reece Scarlett’s fourth goal of the season.  After an uneventful second period, things fell apart fairly quickly for the Devils in the third.  After a questionable call that lead to a 5 on 3 for the Senators, Jason Akeson would tie the game up at 1.  A mere 8 seconds after the kill ended, and 41 seconds after Akeson’s tying goal, Michael Keranen would put Binghamton ahead 2-1.  Albany was in danger of losing their first game in regulation when leading after two periods (going into Friday they were 25-0-3-0)…but with just 6.8 seconds to go and Ken Appleby pulled for a sixth attacker, Matt Lorito would tie it up with his 14th goal.  It was on to overtime, where Brian O’Neill would end things very quickly, scoring just 12 seconds into the extra frame for his second game winner in 6 days, and giving the Devils their second straight win and a 3-2-1 mark for the road trip.  Appleby stopped 23 of 25 Senator shots in picking up his third win.  Nick Lappin made his pro debut on a line with Lorito and O’Neill, and picked up his first pro point with an assist.  Jim O’Brien assisted on all three goals.

The Lineup:

Max Novak-Jim O’Brien-Ryan Kujawinski

Nick Lappin-Matt Lorito-Brian O’Neill

Ben Johnson-Graham Black-Ben Thomson

Chris McKelvie-Rod Pelley-Pierre-Luc Leblond

Marc Andre Gragnani/Reece Scarlett

Dan Kelly/Vojtech Mozik

Brandon Burlon/Corbin McPherson

Ken Appleby/Scott Wedgewood

Out: Blake Coleman, Paul Thompson, Blake Pietila, Raman Hrabarenka

Power Play: 0 for 5.  Penalty Kill: 3 for 4.  Penalty Minutes: 13.  Shots on Goal: 27.  Shots Allowed: 25.

Highlights:

3/12 vs. Utica: 4-3 W

Finally back in the Capital Region for the first time since February 24th, it was playoff preview part 1 on Saturday as the Devils hosted Utica.  Also back for the first time in what seemed like ages: Scott Wedgewood got his first start since hurting his shoulder back in January.  And he was welcomed back quite rudely by Chris Higgins, as he sneaked one in just 1:15 into the contest for a quick 1-0 Utica lead.  It took until more than midway through the second for the rest of the Devils to get into the contest, as Jim O’Brien’s 11th goal of the season would tie things up.  Utica would take the lead back on a Taylor Fedun goal just under four minutes after that.  But much like the last two games, the Devils would mount a comeback.  In a span of 4:22 early in the third period, Nick Lappin (his first as a pro), O’Brien (with his second of the day), and Ben Thomson (his 5th) would all score and suddenly it was a 4-2 contest.  Utica would get to within one goal with 1:22 remaining in regulation, but could not get the equalizer, giving Albany their third straight victory.  Wedgewood did not have much work in his first start back, only having to stop 16 of 19 shots in picking up the win.  Six different Devils would have helpers.

The Lineup:

Matt Lorito-Brian O’Neill-Nick Lappin

Ryan Kujawinski-Jim O’Brien-Max Novak

Blake Pietila-Graham Black-Ben Thomson

Chris McKelvie-Rod Pelley-Pierre-Luc Leblond

Marc-Andre Gragnani/Vojtech Mozik

Reece Scarlett/Raman Hrabarenka

Brandon Burlon/Corbin McPherson

Scott Wedgewood/Ken Appleby

Out: Blake Coleman, Dan Kelly, Paul Thompson, Ben Johnson

Power Play: 0 for 3.  Penalty Kill: 2 for 2.  Penalty Minutes: 9.  Shots on Goal: 31.  Shots Allowed: 19.

Highlights:

Sunday: With Dan Kelly out for at least a couple of weeks thanks to a knee on knee hit in Binghamton on Friday (a play that ended up giving Binghamton’s Buddy Robinson a 2 game suspension), Joe Faust was summoned back from Adirondack to reassume his 7th defenseman role.

3/13 vs. Toronto: 3-2 W

To round out the weekend, the first place Marlies came in for their first visit since early November.  No goals in the first, but the Devils were forced to kill off 3 separate Toronto power plays while being denied a few chances of their own.  Brendan Leipsic would put the visitors on the board just one minute after the start of the second period.  But things would then slide the Devils way as the period progressed, as finally they received a few power play opportunities…and on two of those Raman Hrabarenka would score twice in a 2:27 span to put Albany ahead 2-1.  Toronto would tie things up early in the third on a Eric Faille goal.  The game looked destined to head into overtime…but the new guy would come to the rescue.  Nick Lappin’s second pro goal came with just 39.5 seconds to go in regulation, giving the Devils a huge win over the top team in the AHL and cap off another perfect weekend, extending their win streak to 4 games.  Another relatively easy day in net for Scott Wedgewood, as he only faced 19 shots, stopping 17 of them.  Marc-Andre Gragnani and Matt Lorito would each add two assists, while Jim O’Brien and Blake Pietila picked up a helper each.

The Lineup:

Matt Lorito-Jim O’Brien-Nick Lappin

Ryan Kujawinski-Blake Pietila-Max Novak

Ben Johnson-Graham Black-Ben Thomson

Chris McKelvie-Rod Pelley-Pierre-Luc Leblond

Marc-Andre Gragnani/Vojtech Mozik

Reece Scarlett/Raman Hrabarenka

Brandon Burlon/Corbin McPherson

Scott Wedgewood/Ken Appleby

Out: Dan Kelly, Blake Coleman, Paul Thompson, Brian O’Neill, Joe Faust

Power Play: 2 for 5.  Penalty Kill: 5 for 5.  Penalty Minutes: 10.  Shots on Goal: 24.  Shots Allowed: 19.

Highlights:

My Player of the Week:

There was an obvious choice out of this weekend…well, actually, two obvious choices.  But I’ll lean more towards Jim O’Brien and his six point performance.  But at the same time…you got to go with the new guy stepping right in and being a game changer in all three games.

Team Leaders:

Goals: Matt Lorito (14)

Assists: Matt Lorito (34)

Points: Matt Lorito (48)

+/-: Vojtech Mozik (+25)

Penalty Minutes: Pierre-Luc Leblond (98)

Wins: Scott Wedgewood (8)

GAA: Scott Wedgewood (1.80)

Save Percentage: Scott Wedgewood (.924)

The Vault:

Friday night Jim O’Brien earned #1 star honors against his former team.  So, here he is 3 years ago with said former team scoring against Pittsburgh:

Up North with the Thunder:

A four game week for Adirondack started out promising, but it didn’t end so well, as they went 1-3.  On Tuesday the Thunder took a 4-3 overtime win over Manchester on the road.  Then they dropped a home and home series to Elmira, 2-0 at home on Thursday and 4-2 in Elmira on Friday.  Then on Sunday night in a special home game in Lake Placid, they were shutout by Reading 1-0.  Greg Wolfe picked up a goal and an assist against Manchester, while Alexandre Carrier was busy in another category, racking up 20 penalty minutes.  It’s off to Florida for the week for the Thunder, as they take on the Solar Bears in a three game set on Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday.

This Week’s Schedule:

Another three games, but at least it’s a spread out schedule.  Wednesday Providence makes their final visit of the season.  Then it’s back on the road for a pair: Saturday the Devils travel to Utica for another first round playoff preview against the Comets.  Then it’s one last trip to southern Connecticut on Sunday afternoon to face Bridgeport.

The Weekly Primer, Issue 23

Quick Hits:

-The Devils begin the week with a 34-15-8-0 record, 76 points, and a percentage of .667.  They remain in second place in the North Division, 14 points behind first place Toronto (but just .083 behind) and 8 points/.071 ahead of 3rd place Utica.

-With New Jersey about to head on a three game California road trip, and Jacob Josefson and newcomer David Warsofsky both injured, Mike Sislo and Seth Helgeson were recalled on Tuesday under emergency conditions.

-We have our first ATO of the season…late last night New Jersey announced the signing of Brown University forward Nick Lappin to a 2 year entry level contract.  A former teammate of Matt Lorito, Lappin appeared in 31 games, leading the Bears in goals (17) and points (33), while serving as an assistant captain.

-Some good and bad news on the injury front: Paul Thompson is out indefinitely after getting injured on Friday in St. John’s.  But Scott Wedgewood returned to practice on Tuesday, and may be back in the lineup over the weekend.  Vojtech Mozik is also slated to return after missing nearly a month.

-With now seven healthy defensemen on the roster, Joe Faust was reassigned to Adirondack on Thursday.  He only made two appearances during his latest recall, last seeing action on February 24th.

-Going into the weekend’s action, Albany’s magic number to clinch a Calder Cup playoff spot stands at 22.

Friday, 3/11 @ Binghamton

Where: Floyd L. Maines Veterans Memorial Arena, Binghamton, NY.

When: 7:00 PM.

Season Series: Albany leads 2-1.

Know Your Opponent:

Record: 23-32-3-1, 50 points, .424 pct, 7th place in North Division

Leading Scorers/Goaltending: Phil Varone, 38 points (14 G, 24 A); Jason Akeson, 36 points (10 G, 26 A); Casey Bailey, 26 points (6 G, 20 A); Matt O’Connor, 6-17-2, 3.42 GAA; Chris Driedger, 14-12-2, 2.98 GAA

Notes: After only facing each other 3 times, the two teams will square off 5 times between now and April 13th, with three of those games in the Southern Tier; this is a very different Binghamton squad since the last meeting in late November, as the top 5 scorers are either on recall to Ottawa or traded; the Senators are ranked last in the Eastern Conference; Binghamton split a two game set with St. John’s earlier in the week before returning home.

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Saturday, 3/12 vs. Utica

Where: Times Union Center, Albany, NY.

When: 5:00 PM.

Season Series: Albany leads 4-2.

Know Your Opponent:

Record: 30-19-5-3, 68 points, .596 pct, 3rd place in North Division

Leading Scorers/Goaltending: Alexandre Grenier, 33 points (12 G, 21 A); Jordan Subban, 31 points (10 G, 21 A); 2 tied with 27 points; Richard Bachman, 12-9-4, 2.66 GAA; Joe Cannata, 17-9-3, 2.47 GAA

Notes: Since the last time the two teams saw each other on February 20th, Utica has lost their leading scorer (Hunter Shinkaruk) due to trade, and their second leading scorer is on recall to Vancouver; the Comets acquired veteran forward T.J. Hensick in a trade with Charlotte at Monday’s AHL trade deadline; Utica is in the midst of a 4 game road trip, defeating Toronto on Sunday; they are in the midst of their own 3 in 3 weekend, traveling to Rochester on Friday then heading to Providence on Sunday; busy day in downtown Albany for the Devils first home game since February 24th: the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade earlier in the day, then it’s Hockey Heritage night and a lunchbox giveaway.

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Sunday, 3/13 vs. Toronto

Where: Times Union Center, Albany, NY.

When: 3:00 PM.

Season Series: Toronto leads 3-1.

Know Your Opponent:

Record: 43-13-4-0, 90 points, .750 pct, 1st place in North Division

Leading Scorers/Goaltending: Mark Arcobello, 46 points (21 G, 25 A); Colin Smith, 41 points (16 G, 25 A); Brendan Leipsic, 39 points (16 G, 23 A); Antoine Bibeau, 20-7-0, 2.90 GAA; Alex Stalock, 2-1-0, 2.32 GAA

Notes: It’s been a struggle for the Marlies since they shut the Devils out on March 1st, dropping three in a row since; Toronto is on a 3 in 3 road swing, starting in Portland on Friday before going to Providence on Saturday; leading scorer T. J. Brennan became the latest Marlie to get a call up to the Maple Leafs on Wednesday before returning on Thursday; sixteen players have played at least one game with the Maple Leafs and the Marlies this season; Toronto will be the first team to clinch a Calder Cup playoff berth at some point, with a magic number of 8; Sunday marks the last postgame team autograph session of the season, and it’s also team poster day.

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