Like virtually every other American Hockey League club, the Albany Devils are right in the thick of the playoff hunt. Much like the other 29 teams bunched together, the race has spurred a roller coaster of emotions. For the Devils, their lone February home stand provided just that kind of ride for Albany fans. A ride that would ultimately finish strong.
Coming off a stellar road trip, where they swept right through the Hamilton Bulldogs, Syracuse Crunch and Providence Bruins, logically some home cooking would serve to push the Devils on their roll. Except that their roll was deflated by a 7-1 midweek pounding by the Crunch. Prompting some to wonder whether they ought to wear their road reds at home, in a series which has seen the road squad capture every contest on the campaign.
Oh but the Devils would dress to impress in their Saturday best, to begin the weekend. Hosting the then East Division leading Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins, Albany was up to the challenge. So too was goaltender Jeff Frazee.
Frazee up and down from New Jersey, was playing like “The Rock” at the Times Union Center. On the evening, Frazee stopped all 32 shots sent his way and was a big reason the Devils held the Pens 0-for-6 on the power-play. It was Frazee’s second shutout on the campaign.
On the offensive side, proving a good defense makes for a good offense was Eric Gelinas. Gelinas and his rocket shot on the blue line, has really stepped up his play in the absence of the injured Jay Leach and the recalled to New Jersey, Matt Taormina and Peter Harrold. Gelinas, who now leads the club for goals by defencemen with ten and is second in plus/minus for defencemen at plus one, netted two goals, including the eventual winner in the second. Albany also used that defense to create an offensive opportunity on their second goal.
Forward Tim Sestito’s penalty had just expired when he got a breakaway out of the box. Awarded a penalty shot, Sestito buried his sixth, beating Brad Thiessen on the penalty shot.
It was an impressive all around outing, as Albany bested Wilkes-Barre Scranton 3-0.
Finalizing their home weekend, Albany had to ward off the Binghamton Senators. An even tougher opponent was “letdown city” and it reared its ugly head in the first frame.
The B-Sens got on the ledger as Pat Cannone slung one past Keith Kinkaid for the 1-0 advantage. Kinkaid, who had a rough outing against Syracuse, getting run and eventually run out, looked as though he would be snake bitten again. Later in the period, Mark Borowiecki shot one off Kinkaid, which hit off the netminder’s chest, popped up and over and into the net, doubling the Binghamton lead.
Yet just like Wednesday and Saturday, the A-Devils wouldn’t let a sour start get in the way of a strong finish.
In the second, a lot of grinding and grit got Albany going. Mike Sislo, who teamed with Darcy Zajac and Kory Nagy for the Devils lone goal against the Crunch, lit the lamp to get the Devils on the board. Albany knotted up the score, when Steve Zalewski backhanded one in for his eleventh of the season. Much like Gelinas the night before, Vladimir Zharkov tallied the eventual winner and an empty netter. Zharkov slid one past former A-Devils keeper Mike McKenna, on a rebound, giving them a lead they’d never relinquish.
Also having a banner game were Joe Whitney with three helpers and Brad Mills with two assists as well.
It was a short lived home schedule for Albany, but one that they finished strong. Albany has now won five-of-six and as a result, finds itself at 24-19-5-3 (56 points) and just one point shy of a playoff spot.
Ah yes, the roller coaster ride continues, but fans just can’t wait for the next ride.