Calder Cup Recap, Week 4: So You’re Saying There’s A Chance?

Everyone expected a war between the two best teams in the Eastern Conference in the North Division Finals.  And they got one.  From overtime comebacks to controversial hits to desperation, this series is going the distance.

Game 3, 5/8: Albany 3, Toronto 2 (OT)

It was back to New York for the Devils, as the second round moved to Game 3.  There were a few lineup changes for Albany for this one: Max Novak, Graham Black, and Corbin McPherson were in, while Pierre-Luc Leblond, Reece Scarlett, and Ryan Kujawinski were out.  The Devils special teams came through during the first…with Brian O’Neill serving a slashing minor, Rod Pelley would score his first of the postseason shorthanded for a 1-0 lead.  The Marlies would respond early in the second period, tying things up on a Josh Leivo goal.  Toronto would grab a 2-1 lead with 11:10 left in regulation thanks to William Nylander’s second goal of the postseason.  Toronto looked well on their way to picking up a win and going up 2-1 in the series…then Nick Lappin happened.  With Mike Sislo sitting for a slashing minor, and with just 21 seconds left in regulation, Lappin banged home a rebound to tie things up at 2.  The game shifted into overtime, where it was clear that the Devils had the momentum, outshooting the Marlies 12-4.  And on that 12th shot…Lappin would come through again in the clutch, scoring on a power play off a rebound to complete the Devil comeback and give Albany a 2-1 series lead.  Scott Wedgewood rebounded nicely from his Game 2 performance on Friday, stopping 25 of 27 shots.  Four Devils would each have one assist in another balanced offensive attack.  The penalty kill continued its postseason domination, going a perfect 8 for 8 and scoring twice shorthanded.

The Lineup:

Reid Boucher-Brian O’Neill-Nick Lappin

Matt Lorito-Blake Pietila-Mike Sislo

Graham Black-Joe Blandisi-Paul Thompson

Ben Thomson-Rod Pelley-Max Novak

Damon Severson/Dan Kelly

Seth Helgeson/Vojtech Mozik

Marc Andre Gragnani/Corbin McPherson

Scott Wedgewood/Yann Danis

Scratched: Brandon Burlon, Blake Coleman, Jim O’Brien, Chris McKelvie, Ryan Kujawinski, Pierre-Luc Leblond, Raman Hrabarenka, Pavel Zacha, Reece Scarlett

Power Play: 1 for 4.  Penalty Kill: 8 for 8.  Penalty Minutes: 20.  Shots on Goal: 39.  Shots Allowed: 27.

Highlights:

Game 4, 5/10: Toronto 7, Albany 2

The Devils were hoping to carry over any momentum earned from the comeback win on Sunday and go for a 3-1 series lead in Game 4 on Tuesday.  Only one change: Reece Scarlett went back in after a one game rest for Corbin McPherson.  Things early on looked very much in favor of the hosts…they put up the first 6 shots of the game and Blake Pietila scored his third goal of the postseason just 2:10 into the contest for a 1-0 lead.  But later in the first, Damon Severson was called for a double minor for high sticking…and things would go down the drain from there.  Mark Arcobello would tie the game up 41 seconds into the first half of that double minor.  Later in the period, Brian O’Neill would get called for a trip…and Kasperi Kapanen would cash in with his first postseason goal for a 2-1 Toronto lead.  Severson would find himself in the box again less than a minute into the second for another high stick call…and T.J. Brennan would pick up his fifth playoff goal just seconds later for a 3-1 lead.  Then a slightly scary moment turned into a 15 minute game delay, when Ben Thomson went to hit Rich Clune, missed, and shattered a pane of glass near the penalty box.  Once play resumed…another huge moment that could have an effect on the Devils for the remainder of the series.  Dan Kelly hit Marlies rookie Andreas Johnson with an elbow to the head (video here courtesy of The Leafs Nation), keeping Johnson down on the ice for several minutes before needing help to leave.  Kelly had to answer the bell against Zach Hyman, then he too was done for the night with a match penalty.  With just 23 seconds to go before nearly killing off the full 5 minutes, Brendan Leipsic would pick up power play goal #4 for Toronto, putting them ahead 4-1.  To top off the disastrous second for the Devils, Nikita Soshnikov would score his second of the playoffs with 1:21 to go for a 5-1 advantage.  Scott Wedgewood would get pulled prior to the third, and Yann Danis finally made his first postseason appearance to begin the third.  And to celebrate?  Soshnikov would pick up his second goal of the night for a 6-1 Marlies lead.  Connor Brown would kick the extra point with a 4 on 4 score midway through the third for a 7-1 advantage.  Graham Black, in just his second postseason game, picked up a goal with 21 seconds remaining, but it was too little too late, as the Marlies showed why they were the regular season champions in evening the series at 2.  The 7 goals were the most the Devils had allowed all season, and the five goal deficit their biggest as well.  Wedgewood stopped 12 of 17, while Danis stopped 7 of 9 in relief.  Severson managed two more assists to give him 8 for the postseason.

The Lineup:

Reid Boucher-Brian O’Neill-Nick Lappin

Matt Lorito-Blake Pietila-Mike Sislo

Graham Black-Joe Blandisi-Paul Thompson

Ben Thomson-Rod Pelley-Max Novak

Damon Severson/Dan Kelly

Marc Andre Gragnani/Reece Scarlett

Seth Helgeson/Vojtech Mozik

Scott Wedgewood/Yann Danis

Scratches: Brandon Burlon, Blake Coleman, Jim O’Brien, Chris McKelvie, Ryan Kujawinski, Raman Hrabarenka, Pierre-Luc Leblond, Corbin McPherson, Pavel Zacha

Power Play: 0 for 6.  Penalty Kill: 5 for 9.  Penalty Minutes: 31.  Shots on Goal: 26.  Shots Allowed: 26.

Highlights:

Thursday: The ruling for Dan Kelly came down, and it came down hard.  He was given a 10 game suspension by the AHL as a result of Tuesday’s hit, knocking him out for virtually the remainder of the postseason.

Game 5, 5/12: Toronto 5, Albany 1

The series turned into a best of 3, as the Devils got one last shot on home ice before heading back north of the border.  With Dan Kelly out, Corbin McPherson stepped in for his second appearance, with Raman Hrabarenka taking over the 7th defenseman slot.  Ben Thomson, Max Novak, and Mike Sislo (banged up in Sislo’s case) were out, Pierre-Luc Leblond, Chris McKelvie, and Ryan Kujawinski were in.  Scott Wedgewood was back in net looking to rebound from Tuesday’s disaster.  Things looked good to start in the first, as neither team could get on the board and the Devils only had one penalty to contend with, compared to two for the Marlies.  But in the second, old habits came back to bite the home team…Joe Blandisi would sit 1:18 in for a delay of game call, and Connor Carrick would score 5 seconds later, his 5th goal of the postseason, for a 1-0 Toronto lead.  Connor Brown would double the lead just over five minutes with another power play tally.  Nikita Soshnikov would pick up his 4th goal with just under 5 minutes remaining in the second for a 3-0 lead, then Paul Thompson would finally get Albany on the board with his first postseason goal just over a minute later to cut the lead to 3-1.  The Marlies would put the game away in the third by scoring twice…Brendan Leipsic would pick up his second of the postseason thanks to a bounce off a referee’s skate, then a risk by the Devils to pull Wedgewood for an extra skater early would end up backfiring as Josh Leivo would send it into the empty net with 2:08 remaining to seal the win, putting Albany on the brink of elimination with up to two games left in Canada.  Wedgewood stopped 18 of 22 shots, while Seth Helgeson and Kujawinski had the lone helpers.  The penalty kill struggled once again, giving up two power play goals on 5 opportunities.

The Lineup:

Reid Boucher-Brian O’Neill-Nick Lappin

Matt Lorito-Joe Blandisi-Blake Pietila

Ryan Kujawinski-Graham Black-Paul Thompson

Chris McKelvie-Rod Pelley-Pierre-Luc Leblond

Seth Helgeson/Vojtech Mozik

Reece Scarlett/Damon Severson

Marc Andre Gragnani/Corbin McPherson

Scott Wedgewood/Yann Danis

Scratches: Brandon Burlon, Blake Coleman, Jim O’Brien, Mike Sislo, Ben Thomson, Raman Hrabarenka, Pavel Zacha, Max Novak, Dan Kelly

Power Play: 0 for 3.  Penalty Kill: 3 for 5.  Penalty Minutes: 24.  Shots on Goal: 22.  Shots Allowed: 23.

Highlights:

Game 6, 5/14: Albany 4, Toronto 1

Albany’s backs were against the proverbial wall going into Saturday afternoon and Game 6, facing the daunting task of winning two in a row on Toronto’s home ice.  To add to it, Mike Sislo and Brian O’Neill were unable to play due to injury, putting Max Novak back into the lineup.  Toronto was also missing a main scorer in Nikita Soshnikov, who burned the Devils in Games 4 and 5.  Well…challenge accepted.  Within the first 5:13 of the contest, the Devils were already up 2-0 thanks to Reid Boucher’s fourth goal of the playoffs, followed 49 seconds later by Corbin McPherson’s first goal of the postseason.  The Marlies would try to rally in the second, cutting the lead in half on a Kasperi Kapanen goal halfway through the period.  But instead of rolling over like in Games 4 and 5, the Devils would respond with a Nick Lappin goal to restore the two goal cushion.  Despite the Marlies outshooting Albany 13-5 in the third, Graham Black would put the exclamation point on with his second postseason goal for a 4-1 lead.  And Scott Wedgewood took care of the rest, stopping 34 of 35 shots and rebounding beautifully from his last two starts to extend the Devils season by two more days, setting up a Game 7 showdown on Monday night.  McPherson, Lappin, and Boucher would all have multi point games, while four other Devils had one assist each.  The defensive pair of McPherson and Marc Andre Gragnani finished a +3.  As for special teams?  The penalty kill was back to Albany standards, going a perfect 5 for 5.

The Lineup:

Reid Boucher-Matt Lorito-Nick Lappin

Blake Pietila-Joe Blandisi-Max Novak

Ryan Kujawinski-Graham Black-Paul Thompson

Ben Thomson-Rod Pelley-Chris McKelvie

Seth Helgeson/Vojtech Mozik

Damon Severson/Reece Scarlett

Marc Andre Gragnani/Corbin McPherson

Scott Wedgewood/Yann Danis

Scratched: Brandon Burlon, Dan Kelly, Blake Coleman, Jim O’Brien, Mike Sislo, Brian O’Neill, Raman Hrabarenka, Pierre-Luc Leblond, Pavel Zacha

Power Play: 0 for 3.  Penalty Kill: 5 for 5.  Penalty Minutes: 27.  Shots on Goal: 28.  Shots Allowed: 35.

Highlights:

Around the Calder Cup Playoffs:

Since I haven’t updated on how the rest of the playoff picture is coming together in a couple of weeks…

Ontario became the first team to punch its ticket to the Conference Finals, finishing off San Diego in 5 games (in the ever popular 1-1-1-1-1-1-1 format). Lake Erie was up 3 games to 0 on Grand Rapids, but the Griffins have come back to cut the series deficit to 3-2, with Game 6 coming up in Michigan on Monday.  If there is a Game 7 on Wednesday, it will have to be played in Columbus due to the Cavaliers playoff run (the Monsters share the building). Wilkes-Barre and Hershey will play Game 7 of their series in Hershey on Sunday afternoon.

Up North with the Thunder:

Sadly for Adirondack, their season has come to an end after a second round loss to South Carolina.

The Thunder took a 3-2 series lead on Saturday with a 3-2 overtime win in Glens Falls.  Ben Johnson and Greg Wolfe scored in the first, while Gunnar Hughes scored the game winner 11:21 into overtime.  Ken Appleby rebounded from a rough Game 4 by stopping 28 of 30 shots.  Back in Charleston for Game 6 on Tuesday, the Stingrays forced a Game 7 with a 4-1 win.  It was a very physical game, as both teams combined for 120 penalty minutes, the majority coming during the last 1:50 of the game.  Appleby stopped 26 of 30 shots, while Wolfe had an assist on the lone goal in the first off the stick of Mathieu Brodeur.  Former A-Devil Kelly Zajac had three assists for South Carolina.  In Game 7 on Wednesday, Ben Johnson’s 3rd postseason goal 4:43 into the contest put the Thunder ahead 1-0, but the Stingrays would tie it 36 seconds later.  The Thunder carried a 2-1 lead into the third, only to have South Carolina re-tie the game midway through.  It took nearly two overtimes, but the Stingrays would score the game winner with 4:26 remaining in the second extra period.  Appleby would stop 43 of 46 shots in Game 7, finishing the postseason with a 7-4-1 record, a 2.31 GAA and a .920 save percentage.  Wolfe lead all Adirondack skaters with 14 points (6 goals, 8 assists) in 12 games.

What’s Next?

It all comes down to Game 7 in Toronto on Monday night.  Win, and it’s on to the conference finals against either Wilkes-Barre or Hershey (and home ice!).  Lose, and the season is done.  Next recap will be on Wednesday, where I’ll either have the next round schedule…or the schedule on how I’ll review the season.  And honestly, I’m not quite ready to finish the last two parts yet.

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