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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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Calder Cup Recap, Week 3: Northern Split

What really should be a conference final matchup is just a second round one, thanks to the divisional format.  Before this series began, everyone predicted a long, dragged out series between the Devils and Marlies.

And if the first two games…a split at Ricoh Coliseum before shifting to Albany for the next 3…are any indication, we may be in for a long one.

Game 1, 5/4: Albany 2, Toronto 1

The series kicked off on Wednesday north of the border, with just one lineup change from the previous week: Paul Thompson was back in, with Pierre-Luc Leblond sitting out.  The Devils found themselves short a player early on when Jim O’Brien had to leave the game in the early moments due to injury, shaking up the 11 forward lineup.  But it didn’t appear to be an issue nearly midway through the first period…Brian O’Neill, on the first power play chance of the game, would score his first of the postseason to give Albany a 1-0 lead.  Toronto would answer fairly quickly, as a Connor Carrick shot found its way past Scott Wedgewood just over a minute later to tie the game up at 1.  But, just over a minute after that goal, Matt Lorito would pick up his second goal of the postseason to put Albany ahead 2-1.  All three goals were scored in a span of 2:10.

Scott Wedgewood would take care of the rest, finishing with 32 saves on 33 shots.  Mike Sislo assisted on both goals, and Marc Andre Gragnani added a helper.  The Marlies were held to one goal on home ice for the first time since November 29th.  Albany’s penalty kill remained perfect, improving to 17 for 17 during the postseason.

The Lineup:

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

Matt Lorito-Pavel Zacha-Nick Lappin

Blake Pietila-Joe Blandisi-Mike Sislo

Ben Thomson-Rod Pelley-Paul Thompson

Damon Severson/Dan Kelly

Seth Helgeson/Vojtech Mozik

Marc Andre Gragnani/Reece Scarlett

Scott Wedgewood/Yann Danis

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

Power Play: 1 for 4.  Penalty Kill: 3 for 3.  Penalty Minutes: 8.  Shots on Goal: 29.  Shots Allowed: 33.

Highlights:

Game 2, 5/6: Toronto 5, Albany 3

Two lineup changes for the Devils going into Game 2 on Friday night: Jim O’Brien and Pavel Zacha were out due to injuries, in comes Ryan Kujawinski and Pierre-Luc Leblond, causing some lineup switching.  This time, it was Toronto getting on the board first…just as Leblond was exiting the penalty box, Ben Smith would score to give the Marlies the early lead.  But the Devils were quick to respond to that…Dan Kelly would pick up his first goal of the playoffs just over a minute later to tie things up at 1.  Less than 3 minutes later, Nick Lappin would score his first postseason goal to put Albany ahead 2-1 after the first 20 minutes.  Second period, things started getting just a little chippy, as both teams combined for 18 penalty minutes.  While Joe Blandisi was serving a double minor for attempted spearing (Richard Clune sold it well, but was still called for embellishment anyway), T.J. Brennan would be the first player to score a power play goal against the Devils this postseason, tying the game back up at two apiece.  The Marlies would take a 3-2 lead early in the third on a Zach Hyman goal, but just under two minutes later Matt Lorito would answer with his third goal of the playoffs to tie the game up again.  But Brennan’s second goal of the game with just over 13 minutes remaining in regulation would turn out to be the game winner.  The Devils tried in vain to get the fourth tying goal, but Antoine Bibeau was up to the challenge, stopping 18 of 19 third period shots.  Hyman picked up his second goal of the night on a wraparound with 1:45 remaining to put the game away, sending the series back to the Capital District all tied up.

It was not the greatest of nights for Scott Wedgewood, as he stopped 27 of 32 shots.  It was the first game all season where he gave up more than three goals.  Kelly and four other Devils had one assist each.

The Lineup:

Ryan Kujawinski-Joe Blandisi-Mike Sislo

Reid Boucher-Brian O’Neill-Nick Lappin

Matt Lorito-Blake Pietila-Paul Thompson

Ben Thomson-Rod Pelley-Pierre-Luc Leblond

Seth Helgeson/Vojtech Mozik

Damon Severson/Dan Kelly

Marc Andre Gragnani/Reece Scarlett

Scott Wedgewood/Yann Danis

Scratches: Brandon Burlon, Blake Coleman, Max Novak, Jim O’Brien, Chris McKelvie, Graham Black, Raman Hrabarenka, Corbin McPherson, Pavel Zacha

Power Play: 0 for 3.  Penalty Kill: 4 for 5.  Penalty Minutes: 14.  Shots on Goal: 43.  Shots Allowed: 32.

Highlights:

AHL Live has the highlight reel here.

Up North with the Thunder:

Adirondack and South Carolina are tied up at 2 in their second round series, splitting Games 3 and 4 in Glens Falls this week.  In Game 3 on Tuesday, Ken Appleby stopped 28 of 29 shots in a 3-1 win.  Gunnar Hughes scored, and Ben Johnson and Greg Wolfe each had an assist.  The Stingrays would storm back into the series on Thursday, shutting out the Thunder 6-0.  Appleby was pulled after two periods, stopping 12 of 17 shots.  One of the goal scorers for South Carolina?  Former A-Devil Kelly Zajac.

Game 5 will be in Glens Falls on Saturday, then the series shifts back to Charleston for Game 6 on Tuesday.  If needed, Game 7 will be on Wednesday.

What’s Next?

The series shifts back to the Capital Region for the next 3 games: Game 3 Sunday afternoon, Game 4 on Tuesday night, and Game 5 on Thursday night.  If needed, it’s back to Toronto on Saturday afternoon for Game 6.

There will be two special guests on hand for Game 4 on Tuesday: former Devil Ken Daneyko and N.J. Devil will be making the trip north.

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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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Calder Cup Recap, Week 1: A Dominant Start

If the first two games of Albany’s first round series against Utica are any indication…we’re in for a great postseason ride.

Game 1, 4/22: Albany 3, Utica 2

Scott Wedgewood would get the nod as the first round kicked off on Friday night.  And it didn’t take long for Albany to get on the board, courtesy of the fourth line…Ben Thomson would score 6:27 in for a 1-0 Devil lead.  The defense on both sides stepped it up, only allowing 7 shots each in the period.  Second period was all Devils–literally.  On Albany’s third power play opportunity of the game, Reid Boucher would score to double the Devil lead.  As for the Comets?  They managed to get in the Devil defensive zone, but…every shot they attempted was either blocked by an Albany defender, went wide, or was not close to getting to Wedgewood.  The result?  Zero shots on goal for the Comets in the period.  That’s right, a giant goose egg.  But the Comets would not be going away quietly after that…just 27 seconds after the puck dropped for the third, on a screen in front, Darren Archibald would cut the Albany lead in half.  But halfway through the period, Joe Blandisi would restore the two goal cushion with a goal of his own.  Jordan Subban would cut the lead back to one with 4:19 remaining in regulation, but the Comets could not come up with the equalizer late, giving the Devils a 1-0 lead in the best of 5.  Wedgewood did not have much work to deal with, only needing to stop 12 of 14 shots to pick up the win.  Six different Devils–Vojtech Mozik, Nick Lappin, Pavel Zacha, Jim O’Brien, Mike Sislo, and Matt Lorito–all had assists in a very balanced offensive attack.

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

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

Power Play: 1 for 5.  Penalty Kill: 2 for 2.  Penalty Minutes: 4.  Shots on Goal: 29.  Shots Allowed: 14.

Highlights:

Game 2, 4/23: Albany 5, Utica 1

About 20 hours and no Devil lineup changes later, Game 2 got underway.  This time it was the visitors getting off to a good start, as a Cole Cassels goal 9:04 into the contest gave Utica their first lead of the series.  But that lead would only last for 7:23…Ben Thomson’s second goal in as many days would tie the game up at 1.  Second period was all Devils once again, as the hosts broke out for four straight goals.  Jim O’Brien would get things started with his first goal of the series on a power play to put the Devils ahead 2-1.  Reid Boucher would pick up a somewhat questionable shorthanded goal to make it a 3-1 lead–Comets goalie Richard Bachman felt he was interfered with but the referees did not agree.  Barely 40 seconds later, Pavel Zacha would pick up a power play goal to make it 4-1, chasing Bachman out of the net in favor of Joe Cannata.  But the scoring did not stop there…O’Brien would score his second of the period with 3:06 remaining for a 5-1 Devil advantage.  Albany would survive a 4 minute penalty kill early in the third, and held on to take a 2-0 lead in the series.  Another great performance in net from Scott Wedgewood, as he stopped 22 of 23 shots.  Damon Severson would have 3 assists, while Boucher had two helpers.

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

Damon Severson/Dan Kelly

Marc Andre Gragnani/Reece Scarlett

Scott Wedgewood/Yann Danis

Scratches: 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: 2 for 3.  Penalty Kill: 3 for 3.  Penalty Minutes: 8.  Shots on Goal: 28.  Shots Allowed: 23.

Highlights:

Around the Playoff Picture:

So how are the other series going?  After Saturday night, here’s where they stand:

Eastern Conference

(N1) Toronto 1, (A5) Bridgeport 0

(A1) Hershey 1, (A4) Portland 1

(A3) Wilkes-Barre/Scranton sweeps (A2) Providence 3-0

Western Conference

(C2) Lake Erie sweeps (C3) Rockford 3-0

(C4) Grand Rapids 2 (C1) Milwaukee 0

(P1) Ontario 1 (P4) San Jose 1

(P2) San Diego 1 (P3) Texas 1

Up North with the Thunder:

Adirondack finished off Manchester with a 4-1 series win.  The Monarchs would stave off elimination on Monday with a 2-1 win in Glens Falls, as former Albany PTO Doug Carr outdueled Ken Appleby.  Appleby would stop 34 of 36 while Greg Wolfe assisted on the lone Thunder goal.  Appleby would rebound nicely on Wednesday in New Hampshire, stopping all 33 Monarch shots in a 3-0 shutout win.  Adirondack will take on South Carolina in the second round, with the Stingrays getting home ice.  Game 1 will be on Friday, followed by Game 2 on Saturday.  The Thunder will return home for Games 3 and 4 on May 3rd and 5th, and if necessary Game 5 will be May 7th.

What’s Next?

It’s off to Utica, where the Devils can finish off the sweep with a win on Tuesday.  If the Comets win, Game 4 will be at The Aud on Thursday night.  Game 5, also if needed, would be Saturday afternoon in Albany.

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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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Week 27 Recap: Shootout to Shutout

Down to the final six games of the regular season, and with their playoff position cemented in place, it was time for the Devils to start giving the regulars some rest, and give the new guys some playing time.  Despite a 1-2 weekend and just five goals scored all weekend, there is a lot to look forward to now that New Jersey’s season has ended.

4/8 at Syracuse: 4-3 W (SO)

It was off to Syracuse on Friday, as the Devils took on the Crunch for the final time this season.  The teams exchanged goals in the first…on a power play, Yanni Gourde would get the hosts on the board halfway through the period, only to have Brian O’Neill tie it up less than 3 minutes later with his 12th goal of the season.  Syracuse would take the lead back on an Adam Erne goal 5:26 into the second, but just like in the first, Albany would tie it up on a goal by Matt Lorito, his 18th.  The Devils would finally get their first lead early in the third on a Ryan Kujawinski tally, his 5th.  But the Crunch, on the verge of playoff elimination, would tie it up on a Tanner Richard goal with 14 minutes to go in the period.  After a few close calls and nothing across for the remainder of regulation and overtime, it was off to Albany’s fourth shootout of the season.  In the first two shootout rounds, O’Neill, Joel Vermin, Nick Lappin (in his first game back since injury), and Erne could not score.  Paul Thompson would connect on a goal in round 3, and Scott Wedgewood would go 3 for 3 and stop Jeff Tambellini, giving the Devils their second shootout win of the season.  It was another great outing for Wedgewood, who showed no ill effects from Sunday’s shot to the mask as he stopped 22 of 25 shots in picking up win #12.  Lorito and three other Devils each had assists.

The Lineup:

Paul Thompson-Graham Black-Ben Johnson

Brian O’Neill-Matt Lorito-Nick Lappin

Ryan Kujawinski-Kevin Rooney-Max Novak

Ben Thomson-Rod Pelley-Pierre-Luc Leblond

Seth Helgeson/Corbin McPherson

Marc-Andre Gragnani/Reece Scarlett

Brandon Burlon/Raman Hrabarenka

Scott Wedgewood/Yann Danis

Out: Paul Geiger, Dan Kelly, Blake Coleman, Jim O’Brien, Chris McKelvie, Joe Faust, Trevor Mingoia, Blake Pietila, Mike Sislo, Vojtech Mozik

Power Play: 0 for 3.  Penalty Kill: 1 for 2.  Penalty Minutes: 9.  Shots on Goal: 33.  Shots Allowed: 25.

Highlights:

4/9 at Binghamton: 2-1 L

While I was taking in the season finale at The Rock, Albany headed south on Interstate 81 for their last road matchup of the season against Binghamton.  After a scoreless first, Max McCormick would put the hosts on the board 2 minutes into the second with a power play tally.  Graham Black would tie things up later with his 7th goal of the season.  But the Senators would take the lead back late in the period on another power play goal, this one off the stick of Casey Bailey.  Albany tried in vain to get the equalizer in the third, outshooting Binghamton 11-4, but were unable to do so, halting their win streak against Binghamton at 5 games.  Yann Danis played well in the loss, stopping 18 of 20.  Pierre-Luc Leblond had the lone assist.

*The Lineup:

Matt Lorito-Kevin Rooney-Nick Lappin

Paul Thompson-Jim O’Brien-Ben Johnson

Ryan Kujawinski-Trevor Mingoia-Max Novak

Pierre-Luc Leblond-Graham Black-Ben Thomson

Brandon Burlon/Joe Faust

Seth Helgeson/Corbin McPherson

Paul Geiger/Raman Hrabarenka

Yann Danis/Scott Wedgewood

*my guess based on highlights

Out: Dan Kelly, Blake Coleman, Chris McKelvie, Rod Pelley, Marc Andre Gragnani, Brian O’Neill, Reece Scarlett, Josh Jacobs, Blake Pietila, Mike Sislo, Vojtech Mozik

Power Play: 0 for 2.  Penalty Kill: 1 for 3.  Penalty Minutes: 17.  Shots on Goal: 37.  Shots Allowed: 20.

Highlights:

4/10 vs. Toronto: 3-0 L

It was back on home ice Sunday afternoon for the annual Military Appreciation day, and a #1 vs. #2 showdown, as the Marlies came calling.  After a scoreless first period, Toronto would break through 8:42 into the second, thanks to a power play goal by Eric Faille.  The Devils had a golden opportunity to tie things up with six minutes of power play time nearly back to back just after, but were unable to produce a goal.  Just before the second period ended, Richard Clune would double the Toronto lead with a power play goal of his own.  Albany would put up 16 shots in the third on Marlies goaltender Antoine Bibeau, but could not manage to get anything past him.  Zach Hyman would seal the win for Toronto with an empty netter late, and the Devils were shut out for the first time all season on home ice, and fourth overall.  Scott Wedgewood picked up the hard luck loss, stopping 15 of 17 shots.

The Lineup:

Matt Lorito-Brian O’Neill-Nick Lappin

Blake Pietila-Jim O’Brien-Mike Sislo

Graham Black-Kevin Rooney-Paul Thompson

Pierre-Luc Leblond-Rod Pelley-Ben Thomson

Seth Helgeson/Vojtech Mozik

Marc Andre Gragnani/Reece Scarlett

Raman Hrabarenka/Corbin McPherson

Scott Wedgewood/Yann Danis

Out: Paul Geiger, Dan Kelly, Blake Coleman, Max Novak, Chris McKelvie, Ryan Kujawinski, Joe Faust, Trevor Mingoia, Ben Johnson, Josh Jacobs

Power Play: 0 for 4.  Penalty Kill: 3 for 5.  Penalty Minutes: 10.  Shots on Goal: 35.  Shots Allowed: 18.

Highlights:

My Player of the Week:

With not a lot going on this weekend…you can either go with Matt Lorito, who lead all skaters with two points, or just split between everyone that got a goal this week.

Team Leaders:

Goals: Mike Sislo (27)

Assists: Matt Lorito (36)

Points: Matt Lorito (54)

+/-: Vojtech Mozik (+26)

Penalty Minutes: Pierre-Luc Leblond (121)

Wins: Yann Danis (27)

GAA: Scott Wedgewood (1.66)

Save Percentage: Scott Wedgewood (.928)

The Vault:

This week…after Saturday it’s only fitting I dedicate it to former River Rat Patrik Elias.  Just incase this is the end of the line for him…let’s go back to the 2000 Eastern Conference Finals, and a clutch performance that sent New Jersey on the way to their second Stanley Cup.

Up North with the Thunder:

Despite a 1-2 week to close out the regular season, Adirondack clinched a Kelly Cup playoff spot on Friday night, and they will enter the first round as a 6 seed in the Eastern Conference.  Ken Appleby suffered a 6-4 loss at home to Elmira on Tuesday, only stopping 23 of 29 shots.  He would rebound with a 4-3 win in Manchester on Friday evening, stopping 34 of 37.  In the season finale at home on Saturday, a 5-4 loss to the Monarchs, Greg Wolfe, Alex Carrier, and Mathieu Brodeur would all score.  They will face Manchester in a first round best of 7 series beginning on Wednesday in New Hampshire, with Game 2 on Friday.  Games 3 and 4 will be in Glens Falls on Saturday and Monday, April 18th.  If needed, Game 5 is April 20th in Manchester, Game 6 April 22nd in Glens Falls, and Game 7 April 23rd in Manchester.  Final regular season stats for the Thunder can be found here.

This Week’s Schedule:

Three games left to close out the regular season and fine tune the lineup with all the options.  Wednesday they host Binghamton, then the final road trip comes Friday in Rochester.  Then a first round playoff preview to close things out, as Bridgeport pays a visit on Saturday afternoon.

Today marks New Jersey’s break-up day, so once final transactions are posted I will have another entry on who is on their way down…also another ATO has joined the ranks, and there may be other moves involved.

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Week 26 Recap: No April Fooling this Playoff Team

First step of the journey is now complete.  After a 3-1 week that saw a few more franchise records broken, what’s left for the Devils to accomplish as the regular season winds down?

Tuesday: Not long after the pregamer went out, a second ATO signing was announced.  Kevin Rooney, a teammate of Trevor Mingoia at Providence, is another forward who just completed his senior campaign with the Friars.  He appeared in all 38 games, posting 6 goals and 4 assists.

3/29 vs. Hartford: 3-0 W

The week started with another rare Tuesday night matchup, as all the Devils needed was to get to overtime at the least against the Wolfpack and their playoff spot would be booked.  Turns out, they didn’t need the extra time to do so.  Max Novak would get things started less than 5 minutes into the game, picking up his third goal of the season for a 1-0 lead.  Brian O’Neill would pick up his 10th goal during the second to double the lead.  Then Paul Thompson would finish things off halfway through the third with his 13th goal for the 3-0 advantage.  That was all Yann Danis would need, as he stopped all 24 shots in picking up his seventh shutout of the season, third against Hartford.  It’s the second time in three seasons and third time in franchise history that a Devil team has punched a postseason ticket.  Reece Scarlett would add two assists, while Novak and Jim O’Brien had one helper each.  Also of note: it took just a hair over two hours to complete, as both teams combined for just 5 minor penalties, none in the third period.

The Lineup:

Matt Lorito-Brian O’Neill-Max Novak

Ben Johnson-Jim O’Brien-Paul Thompson

Graham Black-Kevin Rooney-Trevor Mingoia

Pierre-Luc Leblond-Rod Pelley-Ben Thomson

Marc Andre Gragnani/Reece Scarlett

Paul Geiger/Corbin McPherson

Brandon Burlon/Raman Hrabarenka

Yann Danis/Ken Appleby

Out: Dan Kelly, Blake Coleman, Chris McKelvie, Ryan Kujawinski, Nick Lappin, Joe Faust, Justin Crandall, Alex Carrier

Power Play: 0 for 3.  Penalty Kill: 2 for 2.  Penalty Minutes: 4.  Shots on Goal: 34.  Shots Allowed: 24.

Highlights:

Wednesday: New Jersey is finally getting healthy as they near the end of the regular season.  With Cory Schneider ready to return to the crease, Scott Wedgewood was sent back to Albany after quite a successful 4 game debut stint.  He finished 2-1-1 with a 1.24 GAA and one shutout.

Thursday: With Wedgewood returning to the fold, Ken Appleby was reassigned to Adirondack.  Also, Justin Crandall was released from his PTO and returned to Reading.

4/1 at Binghamton: 2-1 W (OT)

The Devils kicked off the month of April with a trip west to Binghamton to take on the Senators, who were hanging on to the very last thread to stay in the playoff hunt.  Unfortunately for them, the latest team to get into the postseason was not going to help their cause.  Brian O’Neill would get things started early in the first, picking up his 11th goal of the season for a 1-0 lead.  But, it only took about 90 seconds and a power play for the Senators to tie things up, as a Max McCormick shot just got past Scott Wedgewood, who was making his first appearance in net since returning from New Jersey.  After that, he and Senators goaltender Chris Driedger would settle in for a goaltending duel that would extend to the end of regulation.  But just 22 seconds into overtime, as Driedger tried to clear the puck, Marc Andre Gragnani picked it up, passed it to Paul Thompson, who then passed it to Jim O’Brien, and he would score the game winner, his 18th goal of the season.  The win marked a franchise record for a season with 41, passing the playoff team of 2013-14.  Wedgewood turned aside 25 of 26 shots in his 10th win of the season.  Brandon Burlon would pick up an assist on O’Neill’s goal.

The Lineup:

Brian O’Neill-Matt Lorito-Max Novak

Ben Johnson-Jim O’Brien-Paul Thompson

Trevor Mingoia-Kevin Rooney-Ben Thomson

Pierre-Luc Leblond-Graham Black-Alex Carrier

Marc Andre Gragnani/Reece Scarlett

Paul Geiger/Corbin McPherson

Brandon Burlon/Raman Hrabarenka

Scott Wedgewood/Yann Danis

Out: Dan Kelly, Rod Pelley, Blake Coleman, Chris McKelvie, Ryan Kujawinski, Nick Lappin, Joe Faust

Power Play: 0 for 3.  Penalty Kill: 3 for 4.  Penalty Minutes: 15.  Shots on Goal: 33.  Shots Allowed: 26.

Highlights:

4/2 vs. Springfield: 5-4 L

A quick turnaround back on home ice Saturday afternoon, as the Devils played host to the Falcons.  And it was the visitors who got things started rather quickly, as a Tyler Gaudet goal just 2:27 into the contest gave Springfield a 1-0 advantage.  Then Ben Johnson would singlehandedly take over the next two periods, scoring the next three goals (two of them power play goals, breaking a 1 for 18 dry spell over their last 7 games) to give the Devils a 3-1 lead after two periods.  In the third…the wheels came completely off the wagon, as in a span of 13:40 the Falcons would put a 4 spot on Yann Danis…Michael Bunting (on a power play), Jordan Szwarz, Domenic Monardo, and Matia Marcantuoni would all score to put Springfield ahead 5-3.  Matt Lorito would try to start a late Devil rally with a power play goal, his 17th, with 2:32 to go, and despite a late Devil attack on the Falcons net, they could not get that tying goal in.  The loss marked the first time all season the Devils blew a second period lead (they were 19-0 coming into today).  Danis would stop 16 of 21 shots.  Paul Thompson and Marc Andre Gragnani each had two assists, while 4 others had one assist each.

The Lineup:

Matt Lorito-Brian O’Neill-Max Novak

Ben Johnson-Jim O’Brien-Paul Thompson

Trevor Mingoia-Kevin Rooney-Ben Thomson

Pierre-Luc Leblond-Graham Black-Ryan Kujawinski

Marc Andre Gragnani/Reece Scarlett

Paul Geiger/Corbin McPherson

Brandon Burlon/Raman Hrabarenka

Yann Danis/Scott Wedgewood

Out: Dan Kelly, Rod Pelley, Blake Coleman, Chris McKelvie, Nick Lappin, Joe Faust, Alex Carrier

Power Play: 3 for 4.  Penalty Kill: 4 for 5.  Penalty Minutes: 10.  Shots on Goal: 40.  Shots Allowed: 21.

Highlights:

4/3 vs. Binghamton: 3-0 W

One last home game to close out a busy week, as the Senators came calling for the second time in 3 days.  Scott Wedgewood and Chris Driedger picked up where they left off in their goaltending duel, with the Devils having a clear advantage in shots (18-5 in the first, 13-5 in the second).  It took until late in the second period for someone to finally get a goal…and it was off the stick of Paul Geiger, who picked up his first pro goal for a 1-0 Devil lead. Things were going along fine until a scary moment in the third…a puck hit Wedgewood right in the mask, opening up a cut on the right side of his face.  He left with the trainer to get stitched up, and Yann Danis stepped in.  Not long after that, another first goal of the season for a Devil…Marc Andre Gragnani finally broke a season long goalless drought to provide the hosts an insurance goal.  Graham Black would seal the win late with an empty netter, his sixth of the season.  With the win, two more franchise records were set: points in a season (94) and shutouts in one season (10).  Wedgewood picked up his 10th win, only stopping 15 shots before exiting, while Danis only had to face 4 shots.  Four Devils had assists, including the first pro point for Kevin Rooney.

The Lineup:

Matt Lorito-Brian O’Neill-Max Novak

Ben Johnson-Jim O’Brien-Paul Thompson

Ryan Kujawinski-Kevin Rooney-Graham Black

Pierre-Luc Leblond-Rod Pelley-Ben Thomson

Marc Andre Gragnani/Reece Scarlett

Paul Geiger/Corbin McPherson

Brandon Burlon/Raman Hrabarenka

Scott Wedgewood/Yann Danis

Out: Dan Kelly, Blake Coleman, Chris McKelvie, Nick Lappin, Joe Faust, Trevor Mingoia, Alex Carrier

Power Play: 0 for 4.  Penalty Kill: 4 for 4.  Penalty Minutes: 21.  Shots on Goal: 42. Shots Allowed: 19.

Highlights:

My Player of the Week:

2-0, only one goal given up in those two starts and having the scar to prove it?  A nice return to the lineup for Scott Wedgewood after returning from a whirlwind week in New Jersey.

Team Leaders:

Goals: Jim O’Brien (18)

Assists: Matt Lorito (35)

Points: Matt Lorito (52)

+/-: Matt Lorito (+15)

Penalty Minutes: Pierre-Luc Leblond (115)

Wins: Yann Danis (27)

GAA: Scott Wedgewood (1.56)

Save Percentage: Scott Wedgewood (.933)

The Vault:

In an effort to help everyone learn about the New Guys that have come in…a bonus two videos this week!  First I offer a highlight reel from last season for Kevin Rooney:

And I couldn’t leave out his college teammate Trevor Mingoia:

Up North with the Thunder:

A 2-1 weekend mark has Adirondack on the verge of clinching a playoff spot in the Kelly Cup playoffs, as the regular season winds down.  Friday night in a 5-1 win over Norfolk Greg Wolfe picked up a hat trick and Ken Appleby stopped 22 of 23 shots.  Appleby turned in another strong performance in a 3-1 win over Brampton on Saturday, stopping 27 of 28 shots, while Gunnar Hughes picked up one assist.  Brampton would return the favor on Sunday afternoon with a 4-1 win, Wolfe the only Thunder scorer.  Adirondack finishes off the regular season this week, hosting Elmira on Tuesday before a home and home series with Manchester on Friday and Saturday, their magic number to clinch a spot at 4.

This Week’s Schedule:

One last 3 in 3 weekend for the regular season, and it starts on the road.  Friday night the Devils head west on Interstate 90 to Syracuse to finish off their season series against the Crunch.  Then on Saturday, they head south on Interstate 81 for their second trip to Binghamton in 8 days.  Finally on Sunday, it’s back on home ice and a showdown with the first place Marlies.

Also this week: the annual end of season awards post.  I hope to have that up either Tuesday night after the STH party or during the day on Wednesday.

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