A front of cooler air two weeks ago in the northeastern United States had many hockey fans in the region salivating over the thought that hockey season was getting ever so close. Then last week the American Hockey League released their schedule for the 2013-14 season which only added to their anticipation. For Albany Devils fans, they circled two dates on their calendars, October 6th for the season opener in Hartford against the returning Wolf Pack and October 12th. On this night they will be able to file into the Times Union Center to see their boys on home ice for the first time this season as the Devils battle the newest member of the AHL, the Utica Comets. As the excitement mounts for the fans in the Capital District, let’s relive several highlights from just a season ago. Despite not making the postseason, the Devils still had a successful season. From fighting the Adirondack Phantoms for the rights to the Time Warner Cable Cup to getting red hot during a cold December, the Albany Devils had a season filled with many incredible moments for the organization and their fans.
The First Home Victory
October 26th, 2012 vs. Adirondack Phantoms
The Devils came into this contest having won just one of their opening four games. To make matters tougher for Albany, they fell in all three of their home contests including a dismal performance against the Connecticut Whale just two days prior. Facing a divisional rival for the second time in three days, the Times Union Center crowd finally saw their team prevail. Not only did Albany vanquish the Phantoms, but they did so in impressive fashion.
The Devils opened the scoring with Jacob Josefson continuing his sizzling start to the season. After a one-time blast from the point by Dan Kelly was initially blocked by the net, Josefson buried the loose puck at the doorstep for his fourth goal of the campaign. Matt Anderson put home his first of the season to give the Devils a two goal lead. However, less than three minutes later the crowd would be silenced. Zac Rinaldo, a man already leaving his mark in the NHL for lighting up the PIM column and bruising players of the opposition, scored on a penalty shot to cut the Devils lead in half.
However, the Devils responded in a big away. Almost at the midway point of the contest, Adam Henrique would provide fans of the New Jersey Devils minor-league affiliate a taste of what the Prudential Center crowd experienced just about five months earlier against New Jersey’s own hated rival. He got free in the Phantoms zone before being hooked down by Phantoms defenseman Marc-Andre Bourdon and thus got a penalty shot of his own. He would not disappoint and buried a simple wrist shot down low and put the Devils back ahead by two.
In the third period Phil DeSimone dazzled his way through the neutral zone before schooling both alternate captains for the Phantoms, Danny Syvret and Brandon Manning, and slipping a shot past Cal Heeter. Darcy Zajac finished the scoring with a goal a few minutes later and the Devils finally broke through on home ice much to the excitement of their fans.
For One Afternoon, the Albany Devils were Jersey’s Team
November 25th, 2012 vs. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins
Despite losing to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, the Albany Devils played in a very meaningful game on November 25th, 2012. Less than a month after Hurricane Sandy devastated parts of New York and New Jersey, the Devils would play in a game that counted for a lot more than just two points (well, three actually) in the standings. The Devils returned to Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City for a game for the first time since the 2010-11 season and 2,803 fans would be on hand for this heartfelt matinee. In a city that was still rebuilding itself and proving it would overcome the tragedy that had just recently bore down on its shores, the Devils provided at least a momentary distraction.
They jumped out to an early lead on a goal by Mattias Tedenby before surrendering it on a pair of goals to the Penguins. Bobby Butler knotted the game at two before the Penguins took the lead to end the period on a goal by Trevor Smith. Back playing in New Jersey for the first time since the 2012 Stanley Cup Final, Henrique and Josefson did their part to bring home a victory. Henrique tied the game in the second period with the period’s lone goal and Josefson gave the Devils a 4-3 lead with a shorthanded tally in the third period. The Penguins, however, would prevail by tying the game less than two minutes after Josefson scored and then finished off the Devils in a shootout by a final of 5-4.
A see-saw battle between the boards and glass was almost irrelevant though. All that mattered was that Atlantic City continued to rise from the damage and horror that it felt at the end of October. This game was more than just a hockey game. A professional hockey team from the capital of New York combined with their recouping hosts in Atlantic City; it was proof that together New York and New Jersey were in fact stronger than Hurricane Sandy.
Burning the Ice in the December Cold
December 14th, 2012 at. Connecticut Whale
After a rough opening two months, the Devils turned the tide once the calendar flipped to December. The Devils squeaked by the Phantoms on the road on the first day of the month with Josefson and Tedenby leading the way in a 3-2 victory. They followed that up by defeating the Bridgeport Sound Tigers on home ice before shutting out the Whale by the slimmest of margins in Hartford a day later. After another solid victory by doubling up the Penguins in Albany in a mid-week game, the Devils returned to Hartford two days later. Just five days after their previous matchup, the Whale were ready to avenge being zeroed in the box score.
Just shy of the seven-minute mark of the first period, Rene Bourque made sure the Whale would at least score once in this game by zipping one past Devils goaltender Keith Kinkaid from the slot. Tim Sestito responded at the start of the second period by back handing the puck between the pads of Whale goaltender Cameron Talbot. The two teams would trade goals back and forth through the remainder of the period with Eric Gelinas and Butler lighting up the goal light for the Devils.
Entering the third period deadlocked at three goals the Devils were still searching for their first lead of the game. After outshooting the Whale in each of the first two periods, the Whale upped the pressure throughout the third but they were frustrated each time by Kinkaid. With less than three minutes remaining in regulation, Harri Pesonen broke free of two Whale in the neutral zone and was alone on a breakaway. The Devils forward banked the puck off the left post and behind the goal line to give the Devils a 4-3 lead. They would not relinquish it and their hot streak continued to burn as the Devils had won their fifth consecutive game. This would be their longest winning streak of the 2012-13 season.
Taking a Bite Out of the Sharks and Larsson’s Finale
January 12th 2013 vs. Worcester Sharks
The NHL lockout was lifted on January 6th and the New Jersey Devils would begin tapping into the Albany roster for the start of the parent club’s NHL season at any moment. The first two players to be affected were Josefson and Stephen Gionta and they sat out this game nursing minor injuries. However, Adam Larsson and Tedenby remained in the Albany lineup.
The Sharks took the opening lead but a flurry of pressure by Albany from the outset of the game almost paid off with a laser wrist shot by Pesonen ringing off the crossbar for what would have been the equalizer. The pressure would finally make a difference. In the final minute, Steve Zalewski scored on a partial wraparound to tie the game.
Larsson would register his final point of the season with the Albany Devils in the opening quarter of the second period. After Larsson’s shot from the blueline was stopped by goaltender Alex Stalock, Tedenby buried a rebound into a wide open net. Gelinas scored his third goal of the season late in the period to cushion the Albany lead. Then Darcy Zajac finished off a perfect redirection of a pass by Tedenby by placing the puck beyond the reach of Stalock in the third period for the final goal of the game.
2012-13 Time Warner Cable Cup Champions
January 26th 2013 vs. Adirondack Phantoms
The Devils next win on home ice would be their highlight moment of the 2012-13 season. The Devils would finish their season with eight wins in twelve games against the Adirondack Phantoms and on this night the Devils won the Time Warner Cable Cup. With the victory, the Devils picked up their 13th point in the season series, one more than the Phantoms would have been able to gain had they won the final four games. Also, the Albany Devils broke their all-time attendance record when 10,218 fans entered the Times Union Center to watch the Devils defeat their rivals to the north 5-2.
Zalewski tipped home a Gelinas shot from the point for the first goal of the game. Pesonen picked up his 8th goal of the season by putting home the rebound of a Brandon Burlon shot to give the Devils a 2-0 lead. Shortly thereafter, an odd man rush in the Devils favor helped the Devils build up their lead further when Butler stuffed the puck into the net after Sestito shot the puck towards the goal. The Devils entered the second period with the 3-0 lead and did not look back. A pair of goals in the third period, Pesonen’s second of the game and a goal by Zajac, gave the Devils record crowd two more reasons to stand and scream. The Devils offensive outburst was aided by their own goaltender Kinkaid who stopped 26 of Adirondack’s game-leading 28 shots.
The Devils treated their fans to a season worth remembering despite the result not being what they had hoped. The upcoming season is just around the corner but for one more night let’s remember the memories from just one season ago. Which highlight was your favorite?
Leo is in his second year with THW. He covers the 3-Time Stanley Cup Champion New Jersey Devils and the Albany Devils of the American Hockey League. You can follow Leo on Twitter, @LeoScaglioneJr.