Firing out of the starting gate, the Albany Devils jumped out to a historically great October. The Devils’ 5-0 start is the best in Albany American Hockey League history. Prior to that, the 1993-94, 1996-97 and 1998-99 Albany River Rats had all started 3-0, while the 1994-95 squad began with a 4-0-3 mark. Their predecessors, the Capital District Islanders, had a 7-0-3 start in 1991-92, although that streak began with a tie.
Albany finished October with a ledger of 6-2-0-0 (12 points), good for a .750 winning percentage. The A-Devils rank second in the North Division, behind the Toronto Marlies. If the Calder Cup playoffs began today, Albany would qualify. Last season, Albany started with a mark of 4-3-1-0 (9 points) in October. Albany is ahead of last year’s pace and that team finished with 102 points.
Is this edition of the A-Devils a better version than the squad from a year ago? Well, it is a much different mix with the current squad.
This kid has the moves, the swagger and quite the shot. Among AHL rookies, Quenneville’s four markers are tied with Charlotte’s Andrew Poturalski for the league lead. Quenneville’s six points are tied with Blake Pietila for first on Albany.
Grit and Edge
As mentioned above, a lot of the names and faces have changed in Albany. What hasn’t changed in the grit and edge displayed by the likes of Ben Thomson and Pietila. Both have been playing inspired hockey since the second half of last season, through the playoffs and into this season. When the team appears to be dragging or going through the motions, these guys raise the tempo. I place Blake Coleman in this category as well.
His name doesn’t always show up on the scoresheet but Mozik is silently consistent. The Prague-born defenseman always seems to be in the right place at the right time. Mozik is tied with fellow defenseman Karl Stollery with a team-leading plus-4 rating.
Last season Albany finished third on the penalty kill. Not much has fallen off in this regard. Thus far the A-Devils are tied for sixth (88.9%) in the league.
Coming off two consecutive losses, including a 3-0 blanking by the Marlies the night before, Albany showed its resiliency the next evening against Toronto. Trailing 3-1, the Devils stormed back, as a Ben Sexton equalizer sent the game to overtime. Albany would close out the month with a 4-3 shootout victory. It was hardly their most dominant win but it showed a lot of resolve and character.
Last season Albany ranked eighth with the extra attacker. This season the Devils rank No. 21 (14.3%). While it is still early, Albany may be missing Mike Sislo’s 14 power play tallies from last season.
Chalk it up to the eye test, but this unit tends to get caught back too often, leaving the goalies to bail them out. Outside of Stollery and Reece Scarlett, there’s not a lot of speed out there.
Lack of Enforcer
No, this team doesn’t shy away from a scrap. That said, in an odd twist, given the new AHL rules, where a player can get tossed after two fights, it may be more useful to carry a guy to keep the peace. Players are going to have to learn the new rules but when your teammate takes a shot to the head, your instincts take over and it’s easy to get tossed if you already had a fight earlier in the game.
Suffering their first home loss, the Devils looked listless against the Marlies, being out shot 17-5 in the first frame. The rematch of the 2016 North Division Final went to Toronto, as Antione Bibeau made 37 stops in a 3-0 shutout victory.
Much like their parent club, the A-Devils will start November on the road with contests at Bridgeport and Hershey. Albany returns home against the Bears and divisional opponent St. John’s IceCaps. The A-Devils will also give their E-ZPass a workout on the Thruway, playing Empire State foes in Rochester, Binghamton and Syracuse. Albany finishes out with alternating games at home and away, facing Toronto, Hartford, Rochester and Bridgeport.
Michael Gwizdala covers the New York Islanders for The Hockey Writers. Michael is also an Associate Producer at WNYT NewsChannel 13. Additionally, Michael was once a Media Relations intern for the AHL Albany River Rats. Michael is a graduate of The College of Saint Rose in Albany, NY.