Week 28 Recap: Postseason Preparations

Three games left to tune up for the postseason.  Three ways to see just what this huge group of Devils can do.

And after the way this week went…watch out everyone.

4/13 vs. Binghamton: 2-1 W

The week began with a Wednesday night matchup against the Senators, who basically just had pride to play for.  This game also marked the AHL debuts of 2015 first rounder Pavel Zacha and 2014 5th rounder Ryan Rehill.  Damon Severson also made his first AHL appearance since a brief 2 game stint at the end of the 2012-13 season.  But it was another New Jersey reinforcement that would get things going for Albany early in the first period…during the first penalty kill of the night, Reid Boucher would breakaway, go in all alone and pick up a shorthanded goal, his 18th of the season, and put the hosts ahead 1-0.  Joseph Blandisi would also make an impact in his first game back since being sent down, picking up his 8th goal midway through the second period to double the lead.  Binghamton would break up Scott Wedgewood’s shutout bid midway through the third period with both teams each down a man to cut the lead in half.  But Wedgewood and the Devils would shut it down the rest of the way, rebounding nicely from a shutout loss to the Marlies three days earlier.  Wedgewood picked up his 13th win, stopping 23 of 24 shots.  Boucher and Mike Sislo would contribute assists.

The Lineup:

Mike Sislo-Joe Blandisi-Ryan Kujawinski

Reid Boucher-Jim O’Brien-Brian O’Neill

Blake Pietila-Pavel Zacha-Nick Lappin

Pierre-Luc Leblond-Rod Pelley-Ben Thomson

Marc Andre Gragnani/Reece Scarlett

Damon Severson/Vojtech Mozik

Seth Helgeson/Ryan Rehill

Scott Wedgewood/Yann Danis

Out: Brandon Burlon, Dan Kelly, Blake Coleman, Max Novak, Paul Thompson, Chris McKelvie, Graham Black, Matt Lorito, Raman Hrabarenka, Corbin McPherson, Kevin Rooney, Josh Jacobs

Power Play: 0 for 7.  Penalty Kill: 4 for 4.  Penalty Minutes: 10.  Shots on Goal: 41.  Shots Allowed: 24.

Highlights:

Thursday: The roster decreased by one as forward Kevin Rooney was released from his amateur tryout.  He played well in coming over from Providence College, appearing in 7 games and picking up 3 assists.

4/15 at Rochester: 5-0 W

Friday saw one last road trip, as the Devils headed west on Interstate 90 to Rochester to take on the Amerks in their home finale.  And it was no contest from the beginning.  Jim O’Brien would get things going in the first with his 19th goal of the season for a 1-0 lead.  After a scoreless second period, Albany’s offense would blow up in the third.  Ryan Kujawinski got things started just 29 seconds in with his 6th goal of the season to double the Devil lead.  Ben Thomson would add his 6th goal nearly 5 minutes later to triple the advantage.  Joseph Blandisi would score his second straight while on a power play midway through the period for a 4-0 lead.  Finally, the exclamation point: the first professional goal for Pavel Zacha with 4:03 remaining to seal the win.  Yann Danis picked up his 8th shutout of the season, stopping all 27 Amerk shots.  Vojtech Mozik added two assists, while Kujawinski and three others had one helper each.  Josh Jacobs made his professional debut and finished with a +2 and 4 shots.  The win also got Albany to 100 points on the season, the first Albany AHL team to accomplish the feat since the 1998-99 River Rats had 100 points even.  It was also the third straight shutout win over the Amerks, extending the scoreless streak to 222:09.

The Lineup:

Paul Thompson-Jim O’Brien-Ryan Kujawinski

Matt Lorito-Joseph Blandisi-Nick Lappin

Max Novak-Pavel Zacha-Blake Pietila

Ben Thomson-Graham Black-Pierre Luc Leblond

Damon Severson/Vojtech Mozik

Raman Hrabarenka/Corbin McPherson

Brandon Burlon/Josh Jacobs

Yann Danis/Scott Wedgewood

Out: Seth Helgeson, Dan Kelly, Rod Pelley, Blake Coleman, Reid Boucher, Chris McKelvie, Marc Andre Gragnani, Mike Sislo, Brian O’Neill, Reece Scarlett, Ryan Rehill

Power Play: 1 for 4.  Penalty Kill: 4 for 4.  Penalty Minutes: 23.  Shots on Goal: 43.  Shots Allowed: 27.

Highlights:

4/16 vs. Bridgeport: 3-0 W

To finish off the regular season, Albany played host to a potential first round opponent in the Sound Tigers, who clinched the last available Eastern Conference playoff spot the night before with a win against Portland.  And…well…if this was a preview of the first round, buckle up.  Things started out rather calmly and in the Devils favor in the first period, as Brian O’Neill (13th) and Blake Pietila (10th) would score within 3 minutes of each other for a 2-0 Devil advantage.  A third goal later in the period was called off after Joseph Blandisi was called for yet another diving call (which really wasn’t).  Another attempt at a third goal was waved off after an Albany player took out Bridgeport goaltender Stephan Williams in the crease (he was ok).  But Reid Boucher would make the third time a charm, picking up a shorthanded goal (and a little girl got a new pet!) to make it 3-0.  Then late in the second…let the games begin.

So to review…Damon Severson showed his evil side (the old raise the roof act at the end the icing on the cake I might add), and Dan Kelly (in his first game back from injury to boot), Paul Thompson, and Rick Kowalsky all exited stage left.  Kowalsky was tossed after a shouting match ensued between him and the Bridgeport coaching staff (assistant coach Eric Boguniecki was also tossed).  It was so out of hand that the second period was halted with 43.4 seconds left in the period so things could be sorted out.  Once intermission ended, the period resumed.  And apparently nobody cooled off.

Nineteen game seconds after the first incident, only Blake Pietila was shown the exit after running into Williams, while Reece Scarlett, Rod Pelley, and Nick Lappin sat out for most of the third period, which eventually did get underway.  After a few more questionable calls (it was very obvious that the lone referee had zero control of this game), peace was mostly restored.  Well, almost… Seth Helgeson had to get in on the action with a fight of his own late in the third.  And as the final whistle of the regular season blew, Severson nearly went for a third fight with Mike Halmo, but it was broken up.  Lost in all of the mayhem was another stellar performance from Scott Wedgewood in net, as he stopped all 23 shots in his first full shutout of the season.  Pavel Zacha picked up two assists, while two others had one assist each.  As for the final combined carnage?  280 combined minutes, Albany had 128 of them.

The Lineup:

Matt Lorito-Joseph Blandisi-Mike Sislo

Reid Boucher-Jim O’Brien-Brian O’Neill

Blake Pietila-Pavel Zacha-Paul Thompson

Ben Thomson-Rod Pelley-Nick Lappin

Seth Helgeson/Vojtech Mozik

Damon Severson/Dan Kelly

Marc Andre Gragnani/Reece Scarlett

Out: Brandon Burlon, Blake Coleman, Max Novak, Chris McKelvie, Graham Black, Ryan Kujawinski, Raman Hrabarenka, Pierre-Luc Leblond, Corbin McPherson, Josh Jacobs, Ryan Rehill

Power Play: 0 for 6.  Penalty Kill: 5 for 5.  Penalty Minutes: 128. Shots on Goal: 26.  Shots Allowed: 23.

Highlights:

My Player of the Week:

This was a hard one…so I’m splitting it between Pavel Zacha and his 3 point week in his AHL debut and the goaltending tandem of Scott Wedgewood and Yann Danis, who only allowed one goal all week.

Team Leaders:

I will have the final stats on Monday in Part 1 of my annual Year in Review series.

The Vault:

Saturday’s brawl brings to mind another incident that happened eight years ago this week…one of the more memorable playoff series in Albany between the River Rats and the then-Philadelphia Phantoms.  And this was just the beginning.

Up North with the Thunder:

A very good start for Adirondack in their first round series against Manchester, as they are ahead of the Monarchs 3-0 in their first round best of 7 series, taking the first two games on the road in New Hampshire before taking Game 3 on home ice.  In Game 1 on Wednesday, Greg Wolfe scored twice and assisted on another goal,  and Ken Appleby stopped 25 of 27 shots in a 3-2 win.  Mathieu Brodeur added an assist, and former Albany PTO Doug Carr took the loss in net for Manchester (oh the irony).  In Game 2 on Friday, Wolfe scored his third goal and picked up another assist, Ben Johnson and Joe Faust each had helpers, and Appleby stopped 23 of 26 in a come from behind 4-3 overtime win.  On Saturday in Glens Falls, Appleby stopped 30 of 32 shots, Wolfe picked up another goal, and Johnson had an assist in a 4-2 Thunder win.  They can wrap up the mild upset sweep with a win on Monday night in the North Country.

This Week’s Schedule:

Well…your guess is as good as mine, since no playoff opponent has been determined as of press time.  If Utica defeats Binghamton Sunday afternoon, the Comets are the opponent.  If Utica loses, Bridgeport wins, and Portland loses…the Sound Tigers are it.  If Utica loses, Bridgeport wins and Portland loses…the Pirates are the draw.  I think.  My brain hurts…

But do expect Games 1 and 2 on Friday and Saturday.  Once the schedule is finalized I’ll have a separate post up.  Also coming this week: Part 1 of the Year in Review on Monday, with all final stats, and a preview of the first round playoff series.

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