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.

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