Week 24 in Review: Freefall

When there’s only 11 games left on the schedule and you’re in a fight to the death for a playoff spot, now would not be the time to have your offense suddenly go cold.  But in the Devils case, another two goals in three games and just one standings point out of six earned have put them in a situation that they have not been in all season…outside the playoff picture looking in.

3/22 vs. Bridgeport: 3-1 L

The three game homestand began on Wednesday, as the Sound Tigers, also in the hunt for a playoff berth in a tough Atlantic Division race, came to visit for the last time.  Vojtech Mozik would put the Devils up 1-0 late in the first with a power play goal, his 9th of the season, just six seconds after the man advantage began.  Sadly, the first lead Albany had in quite awhile was very shortlived…Bracken Kearns would score his 22nd of the year just 1:02 into the second period.  A Ryan Pulock goal midway through the period would put the Sound Tigers ahead 2-1.  A scary moment for Albany would come up in the third, as Ryan Kujawinski left the game after a hard hit from Bridgeport’s Tanner Fritz that required both trainers.  To add insult to injury, Ben Holmstrom would add an insurance goal late in the third period to extend the Devil winless streak to four.  Ken Appleby was the victim of no offensive support, as he stopped 19 of 22 shots.  Yohann Auvitu and Max Novak were the only other Devils to register points.

Lines:

Ryan Kujawinski-Rod Pelley-Greg Wolfe

Jan Mandat-Kevin Rooney-Petr Straka

Brian Gibbons-Carter Camper-Shane Harper

Ben Thomson-Max Novak-Luke Gazdic

Defense:

Vojtech Mozik/Karl Stollery

Seth Helgeson/Jacob MacDonald

Yohann Auvitu/Viktor Loov

Ken Appleby/Mackenzie Blackwood

Scratches: Ben Sexton, Scott Wedgewood, Andrew MacWilliam, Josh Jacobs, Sam Kurker

Power Play: 1 for 4.  Penalty Kill: 4 for 4.  Penalty Minutes: 13.  Shots on Goal: 27.  Shots Allowed: 22.

3 Stars: 1. Ryan Pulock; 2. Jaroslav Halak; 3. Vojtech Mozik.

Highlight Reel:

3/24 vs. Utica: 2-1 L (SO)

Continuing the final visit tour, Friday night it was Utica’s turn to finish off the season series, one that saw the Comets turn around their fortune against the last four seasons.  Not only that, but the Devils and Comets were jockeying for position in the North Division, as Utica started the night just barely outside the fourth spot.  For the first two periods, it was all about the goaltending, as Mackenzie Blackwood and Thatcher Demko stopped a combined 34 shots.  In the third, a call on Nick Lappin (in his first game back after being sent down by New Jersey) would give the Comets a penalty shot.  Carter Bancks, who has a knack for scoring big goals against the Devils over the past two seasons, would score and put Utica ahead 1-0.  Albany would get a power play opportunity with 1:34 remaining in regulation, and with Blackwood pulled for a 6 on 4 situation, Jacob MacDonald would score with just 24.4 seconds to go to tie the game up at 1.  In overtime, MacDonald was called for interference just 17 seconds in.  The Devils would kill off the power play, and MacDonald sprung out of the penalty box and nearly ended it with a breakaway goal.  A second penalty kill was called with 36 seconds to go, but the Devils would survive that and move on to the shootout round.  Chad Billins would score on Blackwood in round 1, but Brian Gibbons could not match.  Both Curtis Valk and Lappin would be unsuccessful in the second round.  Darren Archibald would score in round 3, giving the Comets the extra important standings point and leaving Albany with another loss.  Blackwood was stellar in defeat, stopping 24 of 25 shots in just under 65 minutes.  Carter Camper and Lappin were the only other Devils with points.

Lines:

Brian Gibbons-Carter Camper-Nick Lappin

Shane Harper-Kevin Rooney-Petr Straka

Ben Thomson-Jan Mandat-Max Novak

Luke Gazdic-Rod Pelley-Greg Wolfe

Defense:

Vojtech Mozik/Karl Stollery

Seth Helgeson/Jacob MacDonald

Andrew MacWilliam/Viktor Loov

Mackenzie Blackwood/Ken Appleby

Scratches: Scott Wedgewood, Josh Jacobs, Ben Sexton, Ryan Kujawinski, Yohann Auvitu, Sam Kurker

Power Play: 1 for 4.  Penalty Kill: 5 for 5.  Penalty Minutes: 10.  Shots on Goal: 34.  Shots Allowed: 26.

3 Stars: 1. Darren Archibald; 2. Thatcher Demko; 3. Mackenzie Blackwood.

Highlight Reel:

3/25 vs. Providence: 5-0 L

If you can’t get anything going as the A-Devils…then why not try to work some River Rat magic?  It was the second and last day of the River Rat throwback series, as they hosted the Bruins.  Albany thought they had a goal early on in the first, but the referees waved it off due to goaltender interference.  Unfortunately, that would be the closest to scoring they could get all afternoon.  Colton Hargrove would score his 8th goal of the season midway through the first for a 1-0 Bruin lead.  In the second…the rout was on, as Providence would strike four times against Ken Appleby.  Alex Grant’s 14th would get things started just 57 seconds into the middle frame for a 2-0 lead.  Austin Czarnik would add a power play goal, his 4th, at the 5:56 mark to triple the Bruin lead.  Peter Cehlarik would add his 19th goal with 5:19 remaining for a 4-0 lead.  Finally, to finish it off, a power play goal by Danton Heinen with 2:38 to go for a commanding 5-0 lead.  Albany tried to answer, but Dan Vladar, pressed into duty after an injury to Malcolm Subban and an emergency callup for Zane McIntyre to Boston, was up to the challenge, and he would stop all 34 Devil/River Rat shots in his first AHL shutout.  Appleby would finish with 24 saves on 29 shots.  Sam Kurker would make his professional debut and finish with an even rating.

Lines:

Brian Gibbons-Carter Camper-Nick Lappin

Shane Harper-Kevin Rooney-Petr Straka

Ben Thomson-Jan Mandat-Greg Wolfe

Sam Kurker-Rod Pelley-Max Novak

Defense:

Karl Stollery/Vojtech Mozik

Seth Helgeson/Jacob MacDonald

Andrew MacWilliam/Viktor Loov

Ken Appleby/Mackenzie Blackwood

Scratches: Scott Wedgewood, Luke Gazdic, Ben Sexton, Ryan Kujawinski, Josh Jacobs, Yohann Auvitu

Power Play: 0 for 2.  Penalty Kill: 3 for 5.  Penalty Minutes: 12.  Shots on Goal: 34.  Shots Allowed: 29.

3 Stars: 1. Dan Vladar; 2. Colton Hargrove; 3. Peter Cehlarik.

Highlight Reel:

My Player of the Week:

Well…um…uh…who did anything this week?

Okay.  We’ll give the nod to Mackenzie Blackwood, who came the closest to getting in the win column this week after a stellar performance on Friday night.

Team Leaders:

Goals: Ben Sexton (19)

Assists: Carter Camper (22)

Points: Ben Sexton (31)

+/-: Vojtech Mozik (+12)

Penalty Minutes: Andrew MacWilliam (90)

Wins: Ken Appleby (16)

GAA: Scott Wedgewood (2.18)

Save Percentage: Scott Wedgewood (.912)

Division Playoff Update:

When the smoke cleared after Saturday night’s action, here’s where everyone stands:

  1. Syracuse, 77 points, .583
  2. Toronto, 77 points, .575
  3. St. John’s, 74 points, .552
  4. Albany, 73 points, .545
  5. Utica, 71 points, .538

The magic number to clinch a playoff spot sits at 19 with 9 games left.  Of course, this all could change by Sunday night, since all teams but Albany are in action in the afternoon.

Up North with the Thunder:

It was polar opposites for the boys from Adirondack this week, as they came within one overtime minute of having a perfect week.  It started on Tuesday night at home with a 4-2 win over Orlando.  J.P. Anderson picked up the win with an astounding 52 saves on 54 shots.  The Thunder would then head to Reading, where they split a weekend series with the Royals.  Friday the Thunder would win 2-1 in overtime, then Reading would return the favor on Saturday with a 3-2 overtime win, getting the game winner with just 1:00 remaining.

The 2-0-1-0 week puts the Thunder in first place in the ECHL’s North Division, just one point ahead of second place Brampton.  They can clinch a spot in the Kelly Cup playoffs with a win on Tuesday against Orlando.  Also on the docket this week: the Thunder host Elmira on Friday and Norfolk on Saturday.

This Week’s Schedule:

It’s the final 3 in 3 weekend of the season as the calendar turns to April.  On Friday, it’s a rematch with the Bruins, but this time in Rhode Island.  Then April kicks off with a pair of home games, Saturday afternoon against Hartford and Sunday afternoon against Rochester.

Also this week: the rescheduled because of Stella awards banquet on Tuesday.  Expect a midweek update with the recipients.

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