Week 20 in Review: More Rallies and Blown Leads

This week’s weather wasn’t the only roller coaster happening this week.

A 1-2 week for the Devils had the potential to be so much more, but holding a lead in the third period is suddenly becoming an adventure.  And as we get later in the season, the pressure is on more than ever as the fight for playoff positioning continues.

2/20 vs. Utica: 3-2 L

Before hitting the road for the next three weeks, the Devils had one last game on their week-long homestand, a Monday afternoon holiday special against a struggling Comets team.  The home team would get off to a good start late in the first period, as Carter Camper’s fifth goal of the season would put Albany up 1-0.  In a span of 21 seconds midway through the second, the Comets would tie it up courtesy of Borna Rendulic, only to have Ryan Kujawinski put the Devils back up 2-1 with his fourth goal.  A possible third Devil goal went so fast in and out of the net, it was only noticeable by those near the net, and was never reviewed.  But the Devils special teams would fail them in the final period, and the Comets would take advantage.  Darren Archibald would score on a shorthanded breakaway–his second shorty against Albany this season, in a similar fashion–early in the third to tie the game up at 2.  Then with Andrew MacWilliam serving a boarding penalty (that was on Archibald, ironically enough), Jordan Subban would score on the power play to put the Comets ahead 3-2 with 6:37 remaining in regulation.  The Devils were unable to come up with a tying goal late, and would end the homestand 2-2 after a promising start.  Mackenzie Blackwood had a good day in net, but took the hard luck loss, stopping 32 of 35 shots.  Three Devils had one assist each, but Nick Lappin saw his point streak come to an end at 10 games.

Lines:

John Quenneville-Carter Camper-Ben Sexton

Brian Gibbons-Blake Coleman-Nick Lappin

Ryan Kujawinski-Kevin Rooney-Petr Straka

Luke Gazdic-Rod Pelley-Ben Thomson

Defense:

Reece Scarlett/Yohann Auvitu

Andrew MacWilliam/Josh Jacobs

Karl Stollery/Vojtech Mozik

Mackenzie Blackwood/Ken Appleby

Scratches: Viktor Loov, Max Novak, Blake Pietila, Scott Wedgewood, Brandon Gormley, Jacob MacDonald

Power Play: 0 for 6.  Penalty Kill: 5 for 6.  Penalty Minutes: 17. Shots on Goal: 35.  Shots Allowed: 35.

3 Stars: 1. Jordan Subban; 2. Darren Archibald; 3. Carter Camper.

Highlight Reel:

2/24 at St. John’s: 3-2 W (OT)

The road trip began on Friday night way up north in Newfoundland, as the Devils and IceCaps kicked off a two game weekend series.  And it was obvious through the first 40 minutes who was the better team.  St. John’s would take a 2-0 lead in the first off goals from Charles Hudon (his 19th) and a gift tally for Mark MacMillan (his 4th) after Ken Appleby tried to play the puck outside the crease, turned it over and left the net wide open. As for shots?  Albany could only manage 8 total shots for the first 40 minutes, while giving up 27 to the IceCaps, with 18 of those coming in the first period.  So at this point, it was a foregone conclusion that the Devils were on their way to a third straight defeat and possibly a fall out of second place in the division.  Well…not so fast, folks.  In the third, Albany would begin their comeback.  Ryan Kujawinski would score for the second straight contest and fifth of the season 2:03 into the period to cut the lead in half.  Then with only 2:41 remaining in regulation, Ben Thomson would score his 5th of the season to tie the game up at 2 all.  The game would carry over into overtime, where for the first 3:51 it was all Charlie Lindgren, as the IceCaps goaltender would make several acrobatic stops to keep the game going.  But the seventh shot off of Kevin Rooney’s stick at the 3:52 mark would make it into the net, completing an improbable comeback win for the Devils.  In the third and overtime, Albany would outshoot St. John’s 18-7, 7-0 in the extra session.  Appleby picked up a much needed win, stopping 32 of 34 shots. Karl Stollery had two assists, while Rooney and Jan Mandat would have one helper each.

Lines:

Brian Gibbons-Blake Coleman-Nick Lappin

John Quenneville-Max Novak-Petr Straka

Ryan Kujawinski-Kevin Rooney-Jan Mandat

Luke Gazdic-Rod Pelley-Ben Thomson

Defense:

Karl Stollery/Reece Scarlett

Andrew MacWilliam/Brandon Gormley

Yohann Auvitu/Jacob MacDonald

Ken Appleby/Mackenzie Blackwood

Scratches: Viktor Loov, Josh Jacobs, Ben Sexton, Blake Pietila, Carter Camper, Vojtech Mozik, Scott Wedgewood

Power Play: 0 for 2.  Penalty Kill: 2 for 2.  Penalty Minutes: 4.  Shots On Goal: 26.  Shots Allowed: 34.

3 Stars: 1. Kevin Rooney; 2. Charlie Lindgren; 3. Ken Appleby.

Highlight Reel:

2/25 at St. John’s: 5-4 L

In the rematch on Saturday, a couple of lineup changes: Mackenzie Blackwood would get the nod in net, while Blake Pietila made a return to the lineup, subbing for John Quenneville.  Josh Jacobs would come in for Yohann Auvitu.  In a much better first period than the previous night, both teams would match goals: Brett Lernout’s second would open the scoring three minutes in, then Reece Scarlett would pick up his fourth to tie it up.  The IceCaps would jump ahead 3-1 with goals 4:27 apart from Charles Hudon and former Devil Stefan Matteau.  But in the third, the Devils would go on another rally, and it was started by the least likely of men: Luke Gazdic’s first goal of the season 40 seconds in would cut the lead to 3-2.  Then in a 3:29 stretch midway through the final frame, Albany would tie it up and take the lead on goals by Petr Straka (4th) and Nick Lappin (8th).  But on this night, it would be St. John’s with the last word.  It took just 33 seconds for Hudon’s second of the game to tie it, and Chris Terry’s 21st goal to put the IceCaps back on top with 4:20 left in regulation.  What a way to remember your last ever trip to Newfoundland.

Blackwood stopped 29 of 34 shots in the loss, while Gazdic and four other Devils had assists.

Lines:

Brian Gibbons-Blake Coleman-Nick Lappin

Blake Pietila-Max Novak-Petr Straka

Ryan Kujawinski-Kevin Rooney-Jan Mandat

Luke Gazdic-Rod Pelley-Ben Thomson

Defense:

Reece Scarlett/Jacob MacDonald

Andrew MacWilliam/Josh Jacobs

Karl Stollery/Brandon Gormley

Mackenzie Blackwood/Ken Appleby

Scratches: Viktor Loov, Ben Sexton, John Quenneville, Carter Camper, Vojtech Mozik, Scott Wedgewood, Yohann Auvitu

Power Play: 0 for 4.  Penalty Kill: 2 for 2.  Penalty Minutes: 13.  Shots on Goal: 33.  Shots Allowed: 33.

3 Stars: 1. Charles Hudon; 2. Chris Terry; 3. Luke Gazdic.

Highlight Reel:

My Player of the Week:

This is a hard one this week, as quite a few players had contributions.  But I’ll have to give the edge to…the man who finally found the second column on the scoresheet this week.  Yes, Luke Gazdic, I mean you.

Honorable mentions to Ryan Kujawinski (2 goals in 2 games), Kevin Rooney for his performance on Friday, and Karl Stollery (3 assists on the week).

Team Leaders:

Goals: Ben Sexton (19)

Assists: John Quenneville (26)

Points: John Quenneville (37)

+/-: Blake Coleman (+16)

Penalty Minutes: Andrew MacWilliam (83)

Wins: Ken Appleby (15)

GAA: Scott Wedgewood (2.18)

Save Percentage: Scott Wedgewood (.912)

Up North with the Thunder:

After a 0-3 week last week, the other team in red had a much improved performance this week, winning all three games. It started with a 5-2 win in South Carolina on Sunday afternoon to sweep the season series with the Stingrays, and finish off the southern road swing on a high note.  Back on home ice Friday night, they defeated Reading 4-2.  Saturday night they would defeat Brampton 4-3 in a shootout, with rookie Stepan Falkovsky scoring all three Thunder goals in regulation, and picking up the only goal in the shootout.

The Thunder finish February in Brampton with an 11 AM faceoff against the Beast, then head to the Midwest for a 2 game set against Cincinnati on Thursday and Saturday.

This Week’s Schedule:

Back on the mainland, the Devils only have games 3 and 4 of their six game road swing this week to start the March portion of the schedule.  Friday night they make their first visit to Providence since October to face the Bruins.  Then it’s the final visit of the season to Utica on Saturday to face the Comets.

Also coming up next weekend?  The postseason countdown!  I’ll keep the divisional race up to date as the Farewell Tour continues.

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