Calder Cup Recap, Week 2: On to the Next Round

Three wins down, 12 more to go on the journey to the Calder Cup.  It may have taken an extra day to finish off the Comets, but now the Devils face the ultimate test…the Marlies await in Round 2.

Game 3, 4/26: Utica 2, Albany 1 (OT)

The series shifted nine exits west on the New York State Thruway on Tuesday, as Utica got their first chance to play on home ice in front of a sellout crowd.  Albany would stick with their lineup, with a chance to put the series away with a sweep.  But, the Comets were not about to go away quietly.  Jordan Subban’s second goal of the series would come 12:36 into the opening period, putting the hosts ahead 1-0.  That lead would not last for too long, however…less than 5 minutes later and just 16 seconds after starting a 4 on 3 power play, Mike Sislo would pick up his first goal of the postseason to tie it up at 1.  After that, the goalies would take over…Scott Wedgewood and Joe Cannata would be tested quite a few times over the remainder of regulation.  The Devils had plenty of chances to take the lead, including some extended power play time midway through the second period, but could not produce.  The Comets also saw many shots either get caught by Wedgewood or go way off the mark.  After 60 minutes, 48 combined shots, and a lot of pushing and shoving on each side, it was on to overtime to settle things.  It was clear from the start that Utica was the better team in the extra frame, outshooting the Devils 7-3, and the seventh shot came off a turnover and a pass from Mike Zalewski to Alexandre Grenier, who would score the game winner 9:13 in to keep Utica alive in the series.  Wedgewood had another excellent performance, stopping 28 of 30 (some of those thanks to some acrobatics) shots.  Damon Severson picked up his fourth assist of the series, and Reid Boucher notched his fifth point with a helper.

The Lineup:

Matt Lorito-Joe Blandisi-Mike Sislo

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

Ryan Kujawinski-Pavel Zacha-Paul Thompson

Ben Thomson-Rod Pelley-Nick Lappin

Seth Helgeson/Vojtech Mozik

Dan Kelly/Damon Severson

Marc Andre Gragnani/Reece Scarlett

Scott Wedgewood/Yann Danis

Scratched: Brandon Burlon, Blake Coleman, Max Novak, Chris McKelvie, Blake Pietila, Graham Black, Raman Hrabarenka, Pierre-Luc Leblond, Josh Jacobs, Ryan Rehill, Colton White, Blake Speers

Power Play: 1 for 4.  Penalty Kill: 3 for 3.  Penalty Minutes: 12.  Shots on Goal: 28.  Shots Allowed: 30.

Highlights:

Thursday: Before Game 4, some roster trimming: Ryan Rehill, Colton White, and Blake Speers were all released from their amateur tryouts.  Rehill was the only one of the three to see any game action, making his professional debut on April 13th against Binghamton.

Game 4, 4/28: Albany 6, Utica 3

It was back to the Aud on Thursday evening, as Albany made their second attempt to close out the Comets.  After Tuesday’s loss featured a lot of chippy play on both sides, a little more grit and sandpaper was needed, and so a lineup change was made…Blake Pietila and Pierre-Luc Leblond were in, Paul Thompson and Ryan Kujawinski were out.  The lines were also shaken up, with Pietila going on the top line and Matt Lorito and Nick Lappin moving to the third line.  And the changes paid off quickly…Lorito and Joe Blandisi would score 13 seconds apart early in the first, and it was 2-0 Devils just 4:06 into the contest.  Mike Sislo would add his second of the series 7 minutes later for a 3-0 lead.  The rout continued into the second, as Reid Boucher scored his third goal just as the special teams killed off an extended penalty kill with 9:05 for a commanding 4-0 lead.  But the Comets still had some life left in them, as Game 3 hero Alexandre Grenier would break up Scott Wedgewood’s shutout bid with 3:27 left in the period to cut the lead to 4-1.  But a late shorthanded goal by Pietila would put the Devils ahead 5-1 entering the final period.  With their proverbial backs against the wall, Utica tried to rally in the third, as Richard Bachman went in place of starter Joe Cannata, and  goals by Alex Friesen and T.J. Hensick would cut the lead to 5-3 midway through the period.  But an empty net goal by Pietila, his second of the game, with 2:17 remaining would be the final nail in the Comets coffin.  Brian O’Neill had a chance to extend the lead to four after being awarded a penalty shot thirteen seconds later, but would be denied by Bachman.  At the end of the day, it didn’t matter…Albany won their first ever playoff series, and it was the first time a New Jersey AHL affiliate would advance to the second round since the 1998 River Rats, who made it to the conference finals that season before being eliminated by eventual Calder Cup winner Philadelphia.  Wedgewood had another outstanding game in net, stopping 32 of 35 shots.  Pietila lead the way with four points, while four other Devils had assists.  The penalty kill finished a perfect 14 for 14 over the four game series, while the power play finished 4 for 16.

The Lineup:

Blake Pietila-Joe Blandisi-Mike Sislo

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

Nick Lappin-Pavel Zacha-Matt Lorito

Ben Thomson-Rod Pelley-Pierre-Luc Leblond

Marc Andre Gragnani/Reece Scarlett

Damon Severson/Dan Kelly

Seth Helgeson/Vojtech Mozik

Scott Wedgewood/Yann Danis

Scratched: Brandon Burlon, Blake Coleman, Max Novak, Paul Thompson, Chris McKelvie, Graham Black, Ryan Kujawinski, Raman Hrabarenka, Corbin McPherson, Josh Jacobs

Power Play: 0 for 4.  Penalty Kill: 6 for 6.  Penalty Minutes: 12.  Shots on Goal: 34.  Shots Allowed: 35.

Highlights:

Postseason Stats (Team Leaders):

Goals: Reid Boucher (3)

Assists: Damon Severson (5)

Points: Reid Boucher (6)

+/-: Dan Kelly/Damon Severson (+4)

Penalty Minutes: 4 tied with 4

Wins: Scott Wedgewood (3)

GAA: Scott Wedgewood (1.93)

Save Percentage: Scott Wedgewood (.922)

Around the Calder Cup Playoffs:

The second round matchups are almost all set, except for the Atlantic Division final…Portland and Hershey will be the only first round series to go the distance, playing Game 5 this afternoon in Chocolatetown.  The winner will take on Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, who have been idle since finishing off a sweep of Providence on April 23rd.

Eastern Conference

North Division Final: (N1) Toronto vs. (N2) Albany

Atlantic Division Final: (A1) Hershey/(A4) Portland vs. (A3) Wilkes-Barre/Scranton

Western Conference

Central Division Final: (C2) Lake Erie vs. (C4) Grand Rapids

Pacific Division Final: (P1) Ontario vs. (P2) San Diego

 

Up North with the Thunder:

Adirondack kicked off their second round series on Friday in South Carolina against the Stingrays, managing a split of the two game weekend matchups.  On Friday night in Game 1, the Thunder picked up a 5-4 win as Ben Johnson and Greg Wolfe each had a goal and an assist, Joe Faust picked up an assist, and Ken Appleby stopped 23 of 27 Stingray shots.  South Carolina would get a 1-0 shutout win in Game 2 on Saturday to even up the series, as Appleby only allowed a second period goal and saved 29 of 30.  He is 5-2-0 so far this postseason, with a 1.96 GAA and a .934 save percentage.  The series shifts to Glens Falls for the next three games: Game 3 on Tuesday, Game 4 on Thursday, and Game 5 on Saturday.  If necessary, Game 6 is May 10th and Game 7 May 11th in South Carolina.

What’s Next?

First up…here is the full second round schedule:

Wednesday: Game 1 @ Toronto, 7:30 PM

Friday: Game 2 @ Toronto, 7:30 PM

May 8th: Game 3 @ Albany, 5:00 PM

May 10th: Game 4 @ Albany, 7:00 PM

*May 12th: Game 5 @ Albany, 7:00 PM

*May 14th: Game 6 @ Toronto, 3:00 PM

*May 16th: Game 7 @ Toronto, 7:30 PM

As far as my coverage goes: I will be able to cover Games 1 & 2 at home.  Due to work obligations, no Game 3 on Sunday.  I will be at the arena for Game 4, hopefully for Game 5 if it is needed.  Game 6 & 7 I will cover from home if it gets that far.  The Round 2 pregamer will be out on Wednesday at noon, with the weekly recap next Sunday.

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